Quinoa Crust Pizza

A few weeks ago one of my healthy-food-loving friends tagged me in a link on Facebook to a Cooking Light video for quinoa pizza crust and asked what I thought of it. I’ve done the labor-intensive cauliflower crust pizza with good results, but had never considered quinoa an option.

Intrigued, I opened the link and had to try it. The original recipe uses a 9” round pan and looked to produce a crust thicker than my preference, so the first time I followed the recipe, but used a 10” cast iron skillet. It wasn’t thin enough, so next time, I upped the amount of quinoa to a cup and did the round free-form on parchment over a pizza stone, resulting in a bigger and thinner crust that gets perfectly crisp. You could do it the same way on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

The outcome is a nicely-thin 11-12 inch pizza, just right as a full meal for two or a lighter meal for three. You’ll have to plan ahead a bit because the quinoa needs a good eight hours or more soaking time (I start the soaking in the morning before leaving for work), but once that’s done, the recipe is quick and incredibly easy. Sometimes I add flavor-enhancers like nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and/or dried oregano before whirring the batter up in the food processor, but it’s good without as well.

Having recently come across and made some recipes for vegan, nut-based cheeses, a few vegan quinoa crust pizzas have come out of my kitchen and that’s the kind of frequent pizza eating I can get behind. Regardless of whether you use conventional toppings, go gourmet, or do a vegan pie, you’ll like this recipe and it just happens to be gluten-free.

It’s not going to 100% replace the authentic yeast-risen, flour laden, carb bombs I so love, but this protein and fiber filled version has us eating homemade pizza more often and more pizza is always a good thing! Enjoy!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A quick mention on the quinoa—any color works. I first made a white quinoa crust, after that used red quinoa and then got all excited when I saw multi-colored quinoa at Trader Joe’s cuz I knew it would make a pretty crust.

Quinoa Crust Pizza

Adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup uncooked quinoa (any color)

1/3 cup water

1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional, but gives a bit of a cheesy taste)

½ teaspoon garlic powder (optional)

½ teaspoon dried oregano (optional)

Place quinoa in a bowl and add enough water to cover it. Cover bowl with a tea towel or paper towel and let soak at least 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray paper with cooking spray.

Drain quinoa and rinse thoroughly (rinsing removes any bitter taste from the quinoa).

In the bowl of a food processor place quinoa, 1/3 cup water, baking powder, salt, and if using, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and oregano.

Run the food processor for several minutes (2-3), stopping to scrape the sides down a few times, until you have a smooth batter.

Pour batter onto parchment and, using a spatula, form the batter into an 11-12 inch round. Bake for 15 minutes, remove pan from oven and invert the crust onto baking sheet and peel off parchment. Return to oven for about 5 more minutes.

Remove from oven and add toppings of your choice (you may want to turn the original top side of the crust up, it will be prettier). Return to oven for 5-7 minutes until desired level of doneness/crispness. You can turn your oven to broil the last minute or two, but watch it carefully if you do.

Remove from oven and cut into wedges. Serves 2-3.


Pavlovas with Chambord Cream, Raspberries Two Ways and Chocolate Sauce

Until last summer, when checking out the blog of Amy Thielen, chef, writer, and host of the Food Channel’s Heartland Table, I had not heard of the dessert pavlova. Her recipe was for individual pavlovas with whipped cream and a passion fruit sauce that sounded amazing.

I sort of filed the recipe in my mind as one to maybe make one day. Similar to meringue, but better, pavlova has a somewhat soft, almost marshmallowy inside under the palest of ivory crusts—this discovered shortly afterward when we went to Pete’s parents’ for a party, and guess what his mom made for dessert? Yep, pavlova. One large plate-sized pavlova, the center filled with whipped cream and topped with plump, ripe strawberries. I assumed it would be dry all the way through like meringue, but was so pleasantly surprised to find the exterior crunch give way to a softer, delectable texture. How wonderful!

Last week when planning the menu for a girls’ night dinner party celebrating one of my best friend’s birthdays, I remembered Amy’s recipe and decided to give it a whirl. With passion fruit not exactly being in abundance during a Minnesota winter, I decided to take it in a different direction with vegan whipped cream made from coconut milk that I’ve made many times before, to rave reviews, and incorporate raspberries two ways. And with the way raspberries get along with chocolate, why not make a little chocolate sauce for the final drizzle?

The end result was a swoon-worthy dessert and one I will make again and again. With the different components involved, it may seem too putzy, but the Chambord cream and sauces are quick and easy and can be made ahead of time, with all but the pavlovas able to be made a day or two before. Valentine’s day is only a month away–this would be the perfect dessert to share with someone you love!

MixedBefore bakingBakedPavlova plated

Pavlovas with Chambord Cream, Raspberries Two Ways and Chocolate Sauce

Pavlovas by Nicky Major, as posted on Amy Thielen’s blog

For the Pavlovas:
Scant 3/4 cup egg whites (from 5-6 large eggs), totally yolk-free

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

A pinch of salt

1 2/3 cups superfine sugar*

5 teaspoons cornstarch or arrowroot, more for the baking sheet

2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chambord Cream (recipe follows)
Raspberry Sauce (recipe follows)
Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)
Fresh raspberries

*If you don’t have superfine sugar, just pulse sugar in a food processor for a minute, and measure it afterward.

Position the oven rack just below the middle of the oven, and preheat to 275 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment, sticking down the corners with dabs of honey. Dust the sheet with cornstarch or arrowroot to help the meringue come off easily after baking.

Run a large, stainless-steel mixing bowl under hot water to warm it. Dry the inside thoroughly, add the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt.

Whip the whites at medium-high speed until they’re stiff and start to pull away from the sides of the bowl; they’ll look like they’re about to separate. Immediately start adding the superfine sugar by sprinkling it in slowly, about 1 tablespoon at a time; incorporating the whole 1 2/3 cups should take about 10 minutes. Combine the cornstarch with the last 2 tablespoons sugar and add them together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, continue whipping, and slowly add the vinegar and vanilla. Whip for another few minutes. The mixtures should be extremely glossy and fluffy.

For individual pavlovas, use a 3-oz. ice-cream scoop and stack two scoops, snowman-style, for each one. Make a depression in the center.

To bake, put the pavlovas in the heated oven and immediately turn down the heat to 250 degrees F. Bake, without opening the door for at least the first 45 minutes, until they’re crisp and dry looking on the outside with just a hint of ivory color.

To serve, place a big spoonful of the Chambord Cream into the divot in the center of each pavlova, drizzle with Raspberry Sauce, Chocolate Sauce, and top with fresh raspberries.

Chambord Cream
Solids from one can of coconut milk (not light), (chill can overnight; don’t shake can before opening)
¼ cup powdered sugar (or more to taste)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons Chambord

Chill a bowl and beaters in the freezer for 30 minutes. Place coconut solids (solids only–none of the liquid) in bowl and beat until smooth and thick. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and Chambord and beat to incorporate. Refrigerate at least two hours. Give it a whisk just before serving. You may want to add another teaspoon of Chambord at that time. This keeps in the fridge for several days.

Simple Raspberry Sauce
2 cups fresh raspberries, rinsed and patted dry
¼ cup organic sugar

Place raspberries and sugar in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve or strainer, over a dish. Push sauce with back of a spoon until nothing remains in strainer but the seeds. Sauce keeps several days in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Sauce
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Guittard)
1 ½ tablespoons coffee liqueur
1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Place all sauce ingredients in a double boiler and stir until the chocolate chips are melted. Whisk until smooth. Alternately, you can melt the chocolate chips in the microwave and whisk the remaining ingredients into the melted chocolate. If not serving right away, you’ll need to reheat it over low heat because it thickens up as it cools.


Whole Wheat Pita Bread

Pita stack
A while back I was looking for a whole wheat bloomer recipe and a couple of those I came across included malt. Since I didn’t have any, I moved on to the next recipe. Then one day I was looking at the ingredients in the artisan bread we really like from a local bakery and it listed malt. Hmmm…is that the secret ingredient to outstanding homemade bread, I wondered. So I did a little research.

Turns out there are two types of malt (a derivative of barley) powder used in bread baking, diastatic and non-diastatic. Diastatic gives your bread a stronger rise, better texture, nicer crust color, and even extends the shelf life. Non-diastatic is used mostly for flavor, but it’s also what gives bagels their shiny crust (and elevates a plain old milkshake to rock star malt status).

Sounded to me like the diastatic was what I was looking for, and after trying in vain to find it at local stores, I ordered a bag from King Arthur Flour. You only use ½ to 1 teaspoon per three cups of flour, but it really makes a difference. Whole wheat bread loaves that were previously a little too dense for sandwiches were much lighter and fluffier. English muffins cooked up thicker with the same amount of dough. Every yeast bread I’ve made using this malt powder has turned out even better than before.

And now I’ve used it in pita bread (pocket bread). I forgot it in the first batch I made and they were good, but wow, everything was just better in the batch with malt powder. The dough rose higher, it was easier to roll, it puffed higher in the oven, and the pitas stayed puffed much longer after they were out of the oven, resulting in perfect pockets when cut in half for stuffing.

Speaking of stuffing, pita bread is the perfect sandwich vehicle. Gyros and falafel are traditionally served in pitas, but anything you would normally put between two slices of bread is pita-appropriate. You can also cut them into wedges and serve with hummus—oh my, I’m getting hungry just thinking of the possibilities! On to the recipe—I’m off to make some hummus. Enjoy!

Gyro sandwich

Pita dough rolled
Pita in oven
Pitas puffed

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

1 tablespoon active dry yeast (about 1 ½ envelopes)

1 tablespoon honey (use organic sugar or pure maple syrup for a vegan version)

2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F.)

3 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached bread flour

1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt

1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk the yeast into the warm water. Stir in the honey. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours and salt. With a wooden spoon, stir in yeast mixture until you have a stiff dough. You can use your hands for the final mixing—you want the flour to be fully incorporated. Dough will be fairly sticky. Cover bowl with a damp tea towel and place in a warm, draft-free place and let rise until double in size (about an hour).

Punch down dough and turn it out onto a flour-dusted surface. Knead a few times and shape into a round. Cover again with tea towel and let rise for about a half hour.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Lightly oil two large baking sheets.

Using a sharp knife, cut round of dough into 8 equal wedges. Take one wedge in your hand and tuck dough underneath as you turn it to shape into a ball. Place ball onto a well-floured surface and flatten into a round and sprinkle with a little flour. Using a rolling pin, roll into a 6-7 inch round and place on baking sheet. Repeat with another wedge of dough. Bake 8-10 minutes, turning pan once halfway through. Rounds will puff up like a pillow during baking. Remove to racks to cool.

While first two pitas are baking, repeat process with two more wedges of dough. Continue until all are baked. If pitas don’t deflate on their own while cooling, gently press them down. Once they are cool, you can stack them and that will flatten them as well. Makes 8 pitas.

Pita short stack

Spicy Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Spicy Curried Sweet Potato Soup
The cooling temperatures, shorter days and changing leaves have got me craving soup. A fall soup, of course! In years past squash soup has been my go-to when the chilly weather arrives. Thinking I might switch that up a bit, I considered a beet soup, but then I spied some beautiful sweet potatoes at the farmers’ market. Decision made!

This soup was our first course when Pete’s parents came for lunch last weekend. It was so good, I had to cook up another batch for this week’s lunches and added a little kick with cayenne pepper, making a really good soup downright fabulous. You can vary the amount depending on your heat preference, or leave it out altogether if you prefer.

Topping off the soup Monday was a little dollop of Greek yogurt and fennel fronds. Today, I threw in some leftover cooked wild rice before I heated it up and it was a great combination. Use your imagination or just have the soup plain, regardless, the flavors will be like a warm blanket snuggling you through the change of seasons. Enjoy!

Spicy Curried Sweet Potato Soup

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon good quality curry powder (I used Madras-style curry)

¼ – ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into ½” size pieces

4 cups vegetable broth

1 cup coconut milk (regular or light)

Salt & pepper to taste

Greek yogurt, fennel fronds, toasted pumpkin seeds or almonds, for garnish

Cooked wild rice makes a good addition for a more filling version (stir in wild rice after soup is done and heat through)

Heat oil in stock pot over medium heat. Cook onion until it starts to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add curry and cayenne and stir, cooking for about 30 seconds, until spices are fragrant. Add sweet potatoes and vegetable broth. Bring soup to a low boil and reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender.

Turn off heat and blend soup, using an immersion blender, until completely smooth and velvety. Add coconut milk and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with a small dollop of Greek yogurt and fennel fronds and/or mix in some cooked wild rice for a more filling soup. Makes about 6 good size servings.



Spring Roll Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce Wrap
A twist on a spring roll, this recipe was inspired by a
Spring Roll Salad in Kowalski’s Market most recent magazine. Fresh herbs, summer veggies, cold rice noodles and spicy peanut sauce all rolled up in a crisp lettuce leaf—the perfect appetizer or first course with cocktails on the patio as the weather proclaims it’s just about June! Gluten-free and vegan too, and totally delicious. Enjoy!
Lettuce leaves

Spring Roll Lettuce Wraps

8 oz. rice noodles or vermicelli, broken half or quarters
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup chopped cucumber
¾ cup sliced green onions
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup chopped mint
¼ cup chopped basil

½ cup grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons, smooth, natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon Thai sweet chili sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon Asian chili-garlic paste
A dash of salt

¾ cup salted peanuts, salted
8-10 romaine lettuce leaves

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water and drain again.

In large bowl, combine carrot, cucumber, green onions, cilantro, mint and basil. Add well-drained noodles and use a tongs to mix the noodles into the veggie-herb mixture.

In a small bowl, whisk together the grapeseed oil, lime juice, peanut butter, Thai sweet chili sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup, chili-garlic paste, and salt. Pour half the sauce over the noodle mixture and gently use the tongs to incorporate it. Add about half the peanuts and toss again.

To assemble, place a romaine leaf on a plate and, using the tongs, set some of the noodle mixture in the middle. Drizzle with a little more sauce and top with chopped peanuts. Fold leaf over the filling. If the leaf is extra-large, you may want to cut the wrap in half to make it easier to pick up and eat. Makes 8-10 wraps.

Portabella Piccata

Piccata Plated2
Last week my online newspaper skimming led me to a recipe I couldn’t get out of my mind, even though it wasn’t vegetarian. This happens frequently–a dish makes my mouth water while my brain goes into conversion mode, mulling over ways to make it meatless. Such was the case with this recipe from the fabulous Sarah and Tony Nasello of Sarello’s Restaurant in Moorhead, MN.

At first I was thinking of using mock duck in place of the pork. Then I thought maybe tofu, but ultimately settled on the meaty portabella. I made the right choice. Both Pete and I declared this absolutely delicious and definitely blog-worthy. Because we were starving, I served it over whole-wheat spaghetti, but for a lighter dish, you could top cooked greens such as kale with this tasty concoction. And I bet it would be great over baked or mashed potatoes too. Enjoy!

Portabella Piccata

4 portabella mushrooms, stems removed and gills scraped off with a spoon
Half to ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (or your favorite gluten-free flour), seasoned with salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons butter or non-hydrogenated margarine (like Earth Balance), divided
1/4 cup minced shallot
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons capers, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped flat-leaf parsley

If your mushrooms are thick, slice them horizontally to create thinner mushroom slices. Place seasoned flour in a large zip-lock bag. Sprinkle half of the mushrooms with a little bit of water and put them in the zip-lock bag, seal, and shake until mushrooms are coated with flour.

Heat one tablespoon oil and one tablespoon butter or margarine in a cast iron or sauté pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add dredged mushrooms. Cook three minutes, then turn with tongs and cook three more minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat process with remaining mushrooms.

After the second batch of mushrooms is out of the pan, reduce heat to medium and add another tablespoon of olive oil and of butter. When hot, add garlic and shallots and cook about 30 seconds, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen those yummy brown bits left by the mushrooms. Carefully pour in stock, wine, lemon juice, and sugar. Whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook until it’s reduced by about half. If the sauce doesn’t thicken up enough, sprinkle a little of the leftover flour mixture over sauce and whisk to combine. When sauce is thick, return cooked mushrooms to the pan and reduce heat to low. Add the capers and last tablespoon of butter, stirring until the butter melts and is mixed in. Taste and season with salt & pepper.

Serve over whole wheat pasta, cooked greens (like kale or spinach), or potatoes, either baked or mashed, or whatever strikes your fancy. Sprinkle with parsley. Serves 2-4.
Piccata Plated

Spinach Eggs Benedict with Coral Pepper “Hollandaise”

Spinach Eggs Benedict
Even though Valentine’s Day is just one day, with it falling on a Friday this year, I say make it a weekend long celebration! To carry the festivities through to Saturday, Sunday or even Monday (if you’re fortunate to have off Presidents Day), here’s a great brunch recipe that conjures up the fanciness of Eggs Benedict minus a lot of the saturated fat and heaviness. Without that overstuffed feeling, you just may feel like venturing out for a post-brunch snowshoe or cross-country ski with your valentine(s).

Last Saturday we had a morning with no commitments so I decided to make something special for breakfast. Having never made hollandaise sauce, I googled some recipes. After only looking at a couple, with both calling for a full stick of butter, that idea was tossed. Then I remembered a sauce I’ve made before that’s much lighter, yet still flavor packed, and thought it would make a great hollandaise substitute. The sauce portion of the recipe is from a 2008 issue of local grocers Lunds and Byerly’s Real Food magazine. It’s extremely versatile; I’ve served it over crepes, frittatas, wild rice, potatoes, etc., plus it’s really delicious. As you can see from the photos, my sauce is more orange than coral in color, and that’s due to not having two red bell peppers on hand. I used one red and one orange—the taste is still divine!

You’ll have more sauce than you need, so if you’re cooking for more than two, increase the other ingredients proportionately, but keep the sauce as is. Enjoy! And happy Valentine’s Day!! 

Spinach Eggs Benedict with Coral Pepper Hollandaise

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 large organic large red bell peppers, cut into 1” chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
½ cup water
1 ½ tablespoons butter or vegan, trans-fat free, margarine

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
A pinch or two of sea salt (smoked salt, if you’ve got it)
A couple splashes dry white wine
4 big handfuls of fresh spinach
Freshly ground black pepper

2 whole wheat English muffins, split and toasted
2-4 eggs
2 tablespoons white vinegar

Salt & pepper, to taste
A couple pickled peppadews, thinly sliced, for garnish (optional)

To make coral pepper “hollandaise,” place pepper chunks, garlic slices, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer pepper mixture to a blender or food processor and add butter or margarine. Process until smooth. Return to saucepan and keep warm (you can also make this a day ahead of time and reheat just before serving).

In a medium skillet, preferably cast iron, heat olive oil until it shimmers. Add shallots and sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes until shallots have softened. Add a couple splashes white wine to pan and deglaze, scraping any brown bits from bottom of pan. Let wine reduce until it’s almost gone and add spinach. Add a few grinds of black pepper and stir. Continue cooking until spinach wilts.

To poach eggs, crack each egg into individual small bowls. Add the vinegar to a large saucepan of water and bring to a boil. Gently drop each egg from bowl into water. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and cover pot. Cook until eggs are done to your liking, 4-5 minutes for runny yolks, 6-7 minutes for a more solid yolk. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Top toasted (and buttered, if you like) English muffin halves with some of the spinach mixture. Place an egg (or eggs) over spinach. Drizzle with coral pepper “hollandaise.” Sprinkle with sliced, pickled peppadews (which I forgot to do before taking the photos, but they add a great piquant flavor!) Serves two.