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I made these tasty morsels for a friend who’s in the hospital. Hospital food is just dreadful and it’s unfortunate that hospitals don’t seem to make the connection between nutritious food and healing. This guy is recovering from a major illness and they’re serving him super-processed, unappetizing, vegetables from a can, white rice, corn syrup-laced food that he can barely choke down. Isn’t that horrible? So he made a request for visitors to bring him healthy dinners. When I first visited (with a serving of autumn harvest chili in tow), one thing that stood out in my conversation with him was that breakfasts at the hospital are terrible, too. You’d think breakfast would be relatively easy to do well, but they’re not – horrible pancakes with disgusting maple-flavored corn syrup, cold cereals with minimal whole grain but plenty of sugar, that sort of thing. And one can only take so many days of oatmeal.
So I looked in my Power Foods cookbook for something nutritious and wholesome that would work for breakfast and that would keep well at room temperature for a few days. These fit the bill perfectly – they’re full of whole grains in the form of oats and quinoa, plus nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, and lightly sweetened with honey.
They’re tasty, chewy, nutty (the quinoa, oats and sunflower seeds are all toasted in the oven to give them all a nice nutty flavor), and above all nutritious. I hope my friend enjoyed these, I’ve been loving the leftovers! These make a great snack, too, and would be a perfect addition to a lunch box. I’ve been enjoying them crumbled over plain nonfat Greek yogurt for lunch.
Quinoa Granola Clusters
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Power Foods
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cups white quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cups raw cashews (or other nut), coarsely chopped
1 cup dried fruit, coarsely chopped (I used dried apricot, mango, and cranberries)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds (I used Trader Joe’s Golden Roasted Flax Seeds)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons neutral-tasting oil, such as canola
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add quinoa; return to a boil. Stir once; cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until quinoa is slightly underdone (it will finish cooking in the oven) and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer quinoa to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, fluffing with a for occasionally, until pale golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
- Spread oats evenly on the baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add oats to bowl with quinoa. Spread sunflower seeds on baking sheet; bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 7 minutes. Add to quinoa mixture; let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
- Toss nuts, fruit, sugar and salt in with quinoa mixture. Mix honey, oil, vanilla and eggs together; stir into quinoa mixture.
- Line an unrimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; lightly coat with cooking spray. Place 1/4 cup mixture onto sheet for each cluster, spacing them 3 inches apart. Flatten to 1/4-inch thick. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until crisp, about 25 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.
There are many great things about living in New England, but the Mexican food is not one of them. My husband grew up in central California and we lived in Los Angeles for two years before moving to Massachusetts, so we (especially James) are used to good authentic Mexican food. We knew it would be hard, living in Massachusetts, to find good Mexican food, but we didn’t think it would be impossible. We asked around, got suggestions from people who live here, and hit up the local Mexican joints.
The salsa is the first indication of the quality of the food. The Mexican-ness of it, if you will. So when we get served up a dish of ketchup that the waitress proudly declares is their house-made salsa, we know. New Englanders, it seems, have no idea what real salsa is like: fiery and bright, zinging with cilantro and lime, pureed nearly smooth, spicy but not just spicy – complex and interesting.
There are very, very few restaurants that serve this sort of salsa in New England.
So when this recipe appeared in my google reader, I knew I had to try it. James is a salsa fiend. And it’s a winner. Ree Drummond, AKA the Pioneer Woman, may live on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma, but sister knows her salsa.
It’s everything that salsa should be, it’s as close to true Mexican salsa that we can get out here. And best of all, it’s easy to put together. It uses canned tomatoes, which are consistently tasty year round, so your salsa consumption doesn’t have to be relegated to the few weeks in summer when local tomatoes are ripe. And it makes probably four or five cups of salsa, which is a whole lot of salsa (unless you’re James).
If you’re looking for a dip to bring to a Superbowl game this weekend, trust me: bring this.
Pioneer Woman’s Salsa
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes in juice
2 cans (10 oz) diced tomatoes and chiles (Rotel, if you can find it)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, chopped (with seeds)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup cilantro (I tend to lean more towards 1 cup)
Juice of half of a lime
Put all of the ingredients in your food processor or blender and pulse to achieve your desired consistency. PW recommends 10 to 15 pulses, so that’s pretty much what I do, too. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary, and serve with tortilla chips.