Archive | April, 2012

Quinoa, Feta, and Ham Lettuce Wraps

10 Apr

As I glanced into the Svendsen kitchen, it seemed that our party of 20 had barely put a dent into the delicious Easter ham prepared by Christopher’s great-cook-of-an aunt, Gail. Atticus had gobbled the slices up without protest (that’s always a wonderful sight for parents who are constantly coaxing and enticing their toddler to take ‘just one more bite’), so Christopher and I jumped at the chance to take home some of the leftovers.

I overheard someone mention a Denver omelette as a favorite way to use up the ham, and began to wonder how many families in the United States might be in a similar predicament– what to do with the leftover ham.

Recently, as many other foodies everywhere, I’ve been caught with the quinoa bug. Not only is quinoa a superfood, it’s also very easy and quick to prepare.

I used tri-color quinoa for this one, but any variety will do.

So, I’ve been using quinoa in everything from veggie patties to green salads. I’m even going to try using it instead of granola in the near future. One of my favorite things to make is a risotto-like dish. And, here’s what I came up with yesterday:

Quinoa, Feta, and Ham Lettuce Wraps

2 c quinoa, prepared in vegetable broth (1 c quinoa and 2 c liquid)
1 c roasted corn
3-4 slices roasted ham
1 large carrot, shredded
2 T goat feta, cubed
1 T olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, roasted (brushed with olive oil) and sliced
1 tsp Spike seasoning (found in natural food stores)
1/3 c Curtido (El Salvadoran Slaw), optional

4-6 T hummus

6-8 red or green-leaf lettuce leaves, whole, washed, and dried

Heat oven or toaster oven to broil. Prepare quinoa as directed in a medium-large shallow pan. Add the roasted corn kernels after the first 5 minutes that the quinoa is on a low boil. Meanwhile, set the garlic on a baking sheet and broil for about 7 minutes, or when garlic reaches desired golden brown. Turn the garlic over once about halfway through.

Keep quinoa and corn on low heat, making sure that the bottom does not stick to the pan. Add roasted garlic.
Remove from heat. Add ham, carrot, feta, and slaw. Mix in olive oil and sprinkle with Spike seasoning to taste.

Serve with a side of hummus and leaf lettuce.

Spread hummus on each leaf and fill with quinoa mixture.

Next time I have a ripe avocado at hand, I might try to use smashed avocado instead of hummus for the spread.

Happy eating!


Macaroon Nests

8 Apr

In 2010 a friend of mine asked me to prepare some baked goods for what she called a collaborative Mother’s Day boutique. It was an incredible amount of work; but, while the labor and the finances didn’t quite match up, I did end up with a very satisfying coconut macaroon recipe. At the time, I had scoured recipe upon recipe that I found on the internet and in my own collection of cookbooks, and here’s what I came up with:

Chocolate-dipped macaroons from 2010

I don’t like the idea of using anything artificial, and I continue to lean more and more to fresh, pesticide-free ingredients.
These almond-y mounds fit the bill and were a big hit with all us coconut freaks.

Earlier this month I decided that for Easter I would turn my macaroons into little nests, an idea that I had been toying with for over a year. It’s really a very logical next-step– I love all things bird-nest-like. Besides, coconut is the perfect edible nest ingredient.

I guess deep-down I knew that someone must have already thought of this, but I must admit that when I spotted the Coconut Macaroon Nutella Nests on the Two Peas & Their Pod blog, my heart sank ever-so-slightly.

Nutella nests. I secretly like mine better– no condensed milk! Also, the organic semi-sweet chocolate chips in my recipe solidify and make the job of transporting these cookies much less messy.

Luckily, I got over my heart break long enough to read the Two Peas & Their Pod recipe, decide I still preferred my original idea, and give this experiment a go, with 20 minutes to spare before our family Easter lunch.

Kosher Coconut Macaroon Nests

Place 3 chocolate chips in the center dimple of the nest before baking in a 350-degree oven until cookies are slightly golden. I like my macaroons to be tender.


4 egg whites, large
3/4 c sugar, raw
3 c shredded coconut, lightly packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

1/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips, enough to put 3 chips in each nest

1/3 c mini egg candies, I used Boston baked beans

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a cookie tray with parchment paper and light brushing (or spraying) of oil to prevent cookies from sticking.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites for 3 minutes, until stiff. Gradually add sugar and extracts. Continue to mix at low speed until raw sugar crystals are no longer obvious.
With a wooden spoon or spatula, blend the coconut with the egg white mixture. Use a tablespoon to create tightly packed mounds. Set mounds relatively close together on the cookie tray, about 1/2-inch apart. Remember, these cookies won’t spread in the oven.
Create dimples in the center of the mound with your index finger dipped in fresh water. Dip finger in water with each new dimple. (This should make your job less messy.)

Put 3 chocolate chips in the center, inside each ‘dimple.’
Bake for 7-12 minutes, until desired golden color.
Place tray on stove top and place 1-3 mini egg candies, using the melted chocolate chips as an adhesive.

Cool cookies completely in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Remove from freezer and allow cookies to sit at room temperature. Chocolate should be solidified at this point.

I am so happy with how these turned out. There’s no reason these nests should be confined to Easter use. I envision a spring or garden-themed birthday party and, of course, a baby shower.

Happy eating!

Poached Eggs al Ranchero with Curtido

1 Apr

There are few things about moving into an apartment in the OC to which Atticus, Christopher, and I have had some difficulty adjusting. We can’t complain about the amenities, and we certainly do not regret our proximity to the ocean (sigh). But, as the primary household cook, I had been accustomed to snipping a little of this along with a fistful of that to complete any planned or impromptu meal at home.

In short, I miss my garden. So, yesterday I spent some time gathering information and seeking inspirational images. It turns out that there’s quite a collection of apartment gardening “out there.”  I already have potted plants, but my enthusiasm is renewed by the thought of vertical gardens or ‘living walls.’ There’s hope for my spring and summer!


Oh, there is another thing– I miss my parents and brother. Christopher and I invited them over for brunch. And, as I did manage to transport some of my favorite potted herbs from our former yard to our present patio, I decided I ought to highlight the plants that remind me of home. I came up with this one. It’s Mexican-inspired with an El Salvadoran twist. Thyme and oregano were the humble heroes of our meal today, my take on huevos rancheros.

Poached Eggs al Ranchero

Curtido Cabbage Salad (the El Salvadoran part):

1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, grated
1 quart boiling water
1 bunch green onions (white part or bulb, saving the green for dressing), sliced
1 C vinegar, (I use apple cider)
1/2 C water
1 tsp oregano
3-5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp sea salt
1 serrano pepper, sliced and de-seeded (optional)

Combine the cabbage and carrots in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over the mixture. Allow the mixture to steep for 5 minutes; drain well. Return the cabbage and carrots to the bowl. Mix in the green onion bulbs, vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, oregano, thyme, and salt. Toss until all ingredients are combined. Chill for 20 minutes before serving.

Poached Eggs in Salsa Molcajete:
16-18 oz. roasted molcajete salsa (sometimes found in the deli or international cheese section in markets)
1 can whole black beans, rinsed and drained
1 C roasted corn
4-6 large organic eggs
8-12 yellow corn tortillas, toasted on a cast iron griddle (or ‘tostadas’)
1/2 bunch spinach
green onions, remaining green part for garnish
additional molcajete salsa

In a wide covered saucepan, simmer salsa, beans, and corn for 10 minutes. Turn heat to medium-low and add eggs. It might help to use a wooden spoon to make “holes” in the salsa mixture for each individual egg. Cover and cook just until egg whites as no longer translucent.
Place two tostadas on each plate. Smear with extra molcajete salsa. Layer with a few spinach leaves, hot salsa mixture, and one poached egg. Garnish with green onions. Serve with Curtido Cabbage Salad.

Oh, and next time, just because they are in season, please add one ripe avocado, sliced. I forgot to use the one I had! It seems I will have the burden of finding some other use for that creamy deliciousness.

Happy eating!