Craisin Walnut Quinoa Salad

When I first heard about quinoa, the new "superfood", I wanted to find ways to incorporate it into our diet, but I didn't really know how. I tried some quinoa-stuffed peppers that were just okay, and a salad that was pretty all right. But when I tried this sweet salad, I was in love. This is the best way to eat quinoa. The flavors are so delicious together - the sweetness of the craisin, the nutty toasted walnuts, and the onion all come together to make something magical. And really, really addicting.

I never would have thought I would say this about a quinoa salad. But you guys, I am OBSESSED with this dish. It is so good. A friend served it at a Sunday lunch and I loved it so much, I bought the ingredients the following day and made it that night. After tasting it, I knew I would want more than just one batch, and I wiped out the pot and immediately made another batch (it's so easy and quick that you can do that!). We ate this for lunch all that week, and then I made it AGAIN the following week because I still wasn't tired of it and was craving more!

I love that this is a pretty guilt-free obsession, I know I'm feeding my body whole grains and plant-based protein while also having something that tastes delicious. But I also love how customizable this is. The first time I made it, I used walnuts (which I think is best), but the second time (pictured above) I used toasted almonds, and also added chopped broccoli, and it turned out amazing. You could also add chopped celery or grapes, or really any chopped greens you desire. I mixed this with baby spinach a few times and it was great as well. Do your body and your tastebuds a favor and make this!

Craisin Walnut Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
1 cup water
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

3 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs honey
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper

{Disclaimer: I do not have exact amounts for any of these ingredients except the quinoa and cooking liquid. Everything else, I guesstimated the amounts shown above. I just threw enough in until it looked about right. Use the amounts in my ingredient list as a guide, but if it looks like it needs a little more craisins, nuts, onion, whatever, adjust the amounts to your liking.}

Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat, add dry quinoa and toast for a minute or two, stirring frequently, until quinoa smells nutty. Add water and chicken broth (I use two cups of water and throw in a chicken boullion cube) and bring to a boil. Stir in the craisins. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmer for 15 minutes until quinoa is fluffy and liquid is absorbed.

While quinoa is cooking, spread chopped nuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 400 degrees for a few minutes, taking care not to burn.

Toss cooked quinoa with nuts, chopped onion, and any other desired ingredients (chopped broccoli, celery, grapes, etc). Whisk dressing ingredients in a small bowl, adjusting amounts to desired taste. Pour over salad and stir.

This can be served warm, which is delicious, or chilled and served cold. If serving later, it's best to mix in the chopped nuts right before serving. They do keep in the fridge for several days, but they're best mixed in right before serving.

Recipe from Abby Curran.

Double Coconut Samoa Ice Cream

It's Girl Scout cookie time once again, and this year I ordered a couple boxes each of Samoas and Thin Mints (which, by the way, when did we stop calling those Grasshopper cookies? That was a much more fun name). I love the flavors of coconut, caramel and chocolate in the Samoas, as well as the chewy texture from the caramel and coconut. When I heard about a limited-time-only Samoa ice cream made by Edy's, I knew I had to make some myself!

After looking around online and consulting my Ben and Jerry's recipe book, I came up with a recipe I thought would work. I decided to go all the way with the coconut flavor, with a coconut flavored ice cream, toasted coconut mixed in, and the coconut in the cookies. Many recipes suggested using canned coconut cream, which I've never used and didn't have on hand. But I usually have a can of coconut milk in the cupboard and I figured that would work. Luckily I was right!

If I had more prep time, I would have added a fudge or caramel ribbon (or both?) by spreading a layer of fudge between the churned ice cream before freezing. In this case, I just decided to top the ice cream with chocolate and caramel syrup afterward. The result was very coconutty and just fantastic. A great way to enjoy my favorite Girl Scout cookie flavor!

Double Coconut Samoa Ice Cream

2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup canned coconut milk (shake well before opening)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup shredded coconut flakes
7 Girl Scout Samoa cookies

Make sure all ingredients are chilled, taken directly from the fridge before use. In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer on medium-high speed to beat eggs until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in sugar until well blended, 30 seconds more. Blend in the cream, coconut milk, vanilla and salt.

Pour mixture into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Usually this means churning about 20-30 minutes.

While ice cream is churning, heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut flakes evenly on a baking sheet, then toast in oven until fragrant and light brown, about 5-7 minutes. Stir it around at least once to ensure even toasting, and keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn!

Chop Samoa cookies into bite sized pieces, about 8-10 pieces for each cookie.

When ice cream is finished churning, fold in 3/4 cup of coconut flakes along with chopped cookies. Pour soft ice cream into plastic containers and put in freezer to harden for at least 4 hours. (If you choose to add a fudge or caramel ribbon, pour 1/3 of soft ice cream into container, then drizzle or spread fudge sauce, then pour 1/3 of ice cream, layer more fudge, and top with last of ice cream.)

To serve, top with additional toasted coconut and chocolate and caramel syrup, if desired.

Recipe adapted from Ben and Jerry's.


Asparagus Feta Quinoa Salad w/ Toasted Almonds

Another delicious way to get your daily servings of whole grains, plant-based protein and a few veggies too. I love these kinds of dishes because they are filling without including meat. I really loved this salad.

Asparagus Feta Quinoa Salad w/ Toasted Almonds

2 cups quinoa
4 cups water
1 pound asparagus
olive oil
1 cup sliced toasted almonds
3/4 cup feta cheese
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon agave nectar or 2 Tbs honey
Salt and pepper

Cook the quinoa in a large saucepan according to package directions (about 15 minutes).

Snap off the ends of the asparagus and cut each spear into a 2-inch piece. Rinse out the large saucepan and dry. Heat a little olive oil over medium heat, and cook the asparagus until just barely crisp-tender – about 1-2 minutes. Add to the grains and toss.
Also toss in the sliced toasted almonds, feta cheese and lemon zest.
Mix the lemon juice with the oil and honey, taste, and adjust. Pour over grain salad and toss, along with salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe inspiration from Eating for England.

Ridiculous Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am not kidding. These are ridiculous. So, so, so good. They remind me of Levain, which is a very good thing, if not for the taste, at least because they are very substantial cookies. They are huge and perfectly crispy on the outside while being chewy and gooey on the inside. They have tons of chocolate inside, which is a huge plus if you ask me. And that touch of salt on the top just adds that special something and brings out the flavors of the cookie. I am in LOVE with these!! They're amazing.

Ridiculous Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet or milk chocolate chips
kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets (don't be tempted to make them smaller, they aren't as good (texture is compromised) and trust, you will want them big). Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt or kosher salt on each cookie immediately after removing from oven. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Recipe from Amy Furstenau.