Coconut Quinoa with Seared Sausage and Peaches

Peaches, Sausage and Coconut Oil Quinoa
This is a healthy, filling and tasty meal that is easy to throw together in thirty minutes. It’s nearing the end of peach season and it’s with sadness that we say goodbye to one of the best years I’ve witnessed for this magical fruit. There was something truly special about the peaches on our tiny tree in the backyard. Matt brought one in to me a couple weeks ago and when I tasted it, the first thing I said was, “This tastes like a Jolly Rancher!” The summer peach is like the summer tomato – neither fruit can be reproduced in full effect and glory throughout the rest of the year. So we ate our modest harvest directly from the tree while standing in the yard and I cooked up the rest in a couple different meals.

The quinoa is nearly the show-stealer for this meal, though. Our good friend posted a quick tip on her Facebook feed a few weeks ago, mentioning that she loved to stir coconut oil into her quinoa at the end of cooking and top it with avocado. We tried that exact recipe and swooned. I made it again as quickly as possible and created this meal. The coconut quinoa and the sweet spice of the sausage and peaches paired perfectly together and tasted like summer. There’s not much time left to make meals like this, so hop to it!

Sausage, Peaches and Quinoa

Coconut Quinoa with Grilled Sausage and Peaches

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 cup pearl quinoa
2 cups water
2 TBS extra virgin coconut oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 cooked sausage links (to serve 4)
1 TBS unsalted butter
1-2 ripe summer peaches, sliced

Rinse the quinoa for about a minute under cold running water. This may seem unnecessary to you, as it did to me the first time, but it’s the difference between good tasting quinoa and extremely bitter tasting quinoa. How ’bout I write “quinoa” one more time?

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil and add in the quinoa and lower to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes until water is absorbed. Or just follow the package instructions! When it’s done, stir in the coconut oil and salt and pepper and adjust seasoning to taste. If you want to go vegetarian, simply substitute avocado for the sausage and serve with seared peaches. For the sausage, add a tablespoon of butter into a clean skillet and sear the sausage until browned on both sides. Remove the sausage and add the peaches and saute until warmed through. Serve on top of quinoa along with the sausage.

 

 

Carrots and Celery: A Colorful Spin on Steak House Sides

Steak, Roasted Carrots and Celery Salad
Summer hasn’t felt very summery until these past two weeks. The rains finally stopped and the heat finally reached into the upper 90’s and it’s starting to feel like Lubbock, again. We weren’t sure what to do with all that rain and all that…not watering our lawns, so we sorta forgot how. I was so used to my garden looking like Swamp Thing that I honestly forgot to keep watering about a week after it quit raining so heavily. Then when things started to wilt, I realized that everything might be thirsty. So I’m back in the swing of watering every other day and I’m enjoying seeing things grow. However, if we had to survive off of what I have growing in my garden, we’d have all died a few weeks ago. I want to be better and grow enough to sustain us year round, but I’m not there, yet. I grew up in a family of farmers but I am not one of them.

We benefit from families of farmers in this town, however, and one of those families is Holy Cow Beef, a family that produces amazing beef products right here in Lubbock, TX. They run an honest, humane, grass-fed beef corporation and their products are extremely high-quality. We bought a New York strip from them, among other cuts, when they were at the Lubbock Downtown Farmer’s Market last weekend and happily made this weeknight meal for our family last week. Matt seared the steak in butter on the stove and finished it in the oven – a favorite and classic way we like to cook a steak. The three of us ate dinner from just one portion!  I roasted orange and purple carrots along with parsnips and served that and the beef along with a blue cheese celery salad. Yes, this plate was served to our three-year-old (no short-order cooking around here) and here’s how it went:

“I only like the orange carrots.”
“I will only eat one celery.”
“More meat, please.”

So I’d highly recommend if you’re in this area, to stop by the farmer’s market on Saturdays and check out what Holy Cow Beef has to offer! We’ve been eating less meat in general, and so buying high quality products from local producers helps us value the days we do have meat a little more. Quality over quantity is a good idea, especially if you, like me, are a carnivore.

 

Blue Cheese Celery Salad
I wanted to share the recipe for the blue cheese and celery salad with you, today. It was so refreshing and different as a side for the steak. I think it would make an amazing topping for a burger, a different dish during football season, or as a side for BBQ!

Blue Cheese Celery Salad*
serves 4

¼ cup mayonnaise
4 cups celery, cut into ⅛-inch-thick half moons (about 8 stalks)
¼ cup fresh orange juice
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons chile oil
¼ cup celery leaves
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
½ cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese

Spread the mayonnaise among 4 plates. In a medium mixing bowl, toss the celery with the orange juice and season generously with salt. Drizzle with the chile oil (you could also use olive oil and crushed red pepper), then toss in the celery leaves. Scatter the dressed celery on top of the mayonnaise, then top with the chives and lots of blue cheese, and serve.

*adapted from Tasting Table

 

Roasted Carrots
And instead of the classic fries or a baked potato that you typically see alongside a steak, I did a colorful trio of roasted carrots. I simply peeled and sliced three of each orange and purple carrots and parsnips and coated them in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper and then roasted them at 400 until soft when pierced with a knife. Then I browned one tablespoon of butter and tossed them right before serving.

 

Blue Cheese Celery Salad with Seared Steak

Chilled Strawberry Soup

Chilled Strawberry Soup
I ran across this interesting recipe last week and wanted desperately to try it.  A chilled strawberry soup!  What could be more summery or fun?

The original recipe called for Riesling and a garnish of black pepper and olive oil and next time I do it, I really want to try that version.  Since I would be serving it to Olive and wouldn’t be cooking the alcohol out, I decided to alter the 1/2 cup of Riesling for lime juice and I think the results were so refreshing.  Some might call this a smoothie, and it basically is, but it’s thinner and if you go the adult version route, it would certainly be more elevated than a smoothie.  Olive loved this different snack and I loved it for breakfast this morning!  I garnished the soup with a bit of chocolate mint from my plant out back.  Did you know there was such a thing as chocolate mint?!  I didn’t but was intrigued and I think there is a subtle smooth difference between it and basic sweet mint (which has the quintessential “gum” flavor).  I thought mint and hints of chocolate would be great on a strawberry soup and it was – next time I may even add some dark chocolate shavings as a garnish!

Enjoy!  It’s a hot one out there, today!

Chilled Strawberry Soup
makes about 3 cups

3 cups strawberries, hulled
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Juice from two large limes (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup raw honey
Garnish: mint, chocolate, cracked pepper

Put all ingredients except the garnish in a blender or food processor and blend for about a minute, scraping down the sides.  If you want to go the extra mile, strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds. Chill for at least an hour and garnish as you wish!  (I didn’t chill ours at all and it was great).

Ginger Ale Poached Apricots over Warm Cinnamon Rice Pudding

Apricots Poached in Ginger Ale Poached Apricots with Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean
Simplicity.  I crave it, lately.  Maybe because I’m in a world filled with a bouncing-off-the-wall toddler and red-headed drama, or maybe it’s because the summer is heating up and I’m busy shooting weddings, all the while wondering who this little baby growing inside me will turn out to be.  I forget I’m pregnant most days.  Other than my sudden urge to rearrange all the furniture and the hair tie holding my pants together, it’s easy to forget while dealing with everything else.  That’s why I love cooking so much – it forces you to slow down and spend some time in thought.  Even if for just five minutes – there will be some point in meal prep where you must wait.  And in that waiting usually comes contemplation (if you can keep your phone out of reach).

Last week when I stood over my stove and smelled the tart sweetness of apricots stewing, I was transported back to the very first time I made jam.  It was about this time four years ago and the (now gone) huge, old apricot tree in our front yard decided to dump about 10 lbs of fruit on our lawn for a week straight.  I didn’t know what to do with all that fruit and I’d never made jam before, but I just started to create.  Took a base recipe and made all kinds of flavors: Vietnamese Cinnamon, Vanilla Bean, Red Pepper, Bourbon, Chinese 5 Spice – they were all amazing and I felt so good about not letting any of that fruit go to waste.  I also learned the simplicity of jamming.  The joy of tasting that fruit completely come ALIVE with just the addition of some sugar and a squeeze of lemon.  I never cared about apricots before that year, but since then, they’ve become one of my favorite fruits.
Poached Apricots in Ginger Syrup
I didn’t make jam with these store-bought apricots, but I did let them poach in some leftover ginger ale and a stick of cinnamon and vanilla bean.  The scent in my kitchen was as bright as the summer sun.  When the apricots were done poaching, I removed them from the liquid and let the ginger ale reduce until it was a syrup.  The apricots are sitting in that syrup in my fridge, now.  Waiting to be poured over ice cream or spooned over a warm biscuit with butter.  Or maybe just eaten straight out of the jar. Last week I made a cinnamon vanilla bean rice pudding for Olive’s snack time and added some poached apricots on top.  The combination was so comforting and for a few minutes, we both just ate and smiled at each other.

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Poached Apricots

Ginger Ale Poached Apricots with Cinnamon Rice Pudding

2 lbs of apricots, halved, pits removed
1 liter of ginger ale
two cinnamon sticks (or a tsp of ground cinnamon)
1 vanilla bean, split
1/4 cup sugar

Place the apricot halves in a large, non-reactive pot over medium-high heat.  Add the ginger ale, cinnamon, vanilla bean and sugar and let the mixture come to a boil.  After 10 minutes, remove the apricots with a slotted spoon and set them in a large bowl.  Allow the liquid to reduce to about 1-2 cups of liquid and pour over the apricots in the bowl.  Spoon apricots and syrup over rice pudding, ice cream, waffles, whatever you want!

Cinnamon Rice Pudding*
makes about 2 cups

1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup arborio rice (short grain rice)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
pinch of salt
1 egg

In a medium saucepan, heat the milks, rice and salt until the mixture boils.  Reduce heat and let the mixture cook about 20-25 minutes, stirring often, until the rice absorbs most of the liquid.  Remove from heat and in a smaller bowl, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean paste and egg and whip until smooth.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of the hot rice mixture to the egg mixture, stirring quickly to temper the egg.  Then, while whisking, add the egg/sugar mixture back into the pot of rice and let it cook over low heat until slightly thickened, about 10 more minutes.

Serve with poached apricots!

*adapted from this lovely recipe off Simply Recipes

Rustic Tortellini Soup

Tortellini Soup
I love this recipe because it first evokes memories of eating at a very dear friend’s house, second, it is incredibly flavorful and hearty and third, it is SO very simple to throw together.  It also makes enough for 8-10 people!  AND it tastes better and better the longer it sits in your fridge!  The glories of a good soup.

I had this soup for the first time at our friend, Rod and Jill’s house.  Rod and Jill were our travel buddies on our awesome road trip to Seattle last summer and besides sharing a love of recreational vehicles, we share a love of food and cooking!  Jill made this soup on a fall afternoon and invited us over last minute to share it.  No one in their right mind turns down a free meal and we have even been known to cancel our plans if we receive a dinner invitation last-minute.  Yes, I think it’s that important to take someone up on their offer to share a meal with you.  Drop what you’re doing, don’t worry about the details and just say “when can we be there and what can we bring?” (although I’m of the belief that you should not bring a dish to a dinner invitation unless you ask first!  If they say “nothing” then by golly, bring nothing! If you must bring something, bring wine!)

We may be exiting out of soup season with the coming of warmer weather, but since this could basically double as a pasta dish, I think a nice, crisp salad and some bread would turn it into an amazing summer-patio meal as well!  The tomato/basil/celery flavors are certainly reminiscent of summer!  Whenever you make it, I know you’ll love it and keep it in your recipe arsenal for future use!

Tortellini and Sausage Soup

Rustic Tortellini Soup*
serves 8-10

1 lb ground sausage (I used Wright’s hot and spicy)
1 onion, chopped fine
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
2-14 oz. cans fire roasted tomatoes
2-14 oz. cans white beans (cannelini or great northern – drain one can and puree the other can in its juices)
1/2 cup red wine
2 cups beef broth
2 lbs tortellini (any flavor – I found mine in the refrigerator section near the cheese)
a small bunch of fresh basil

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the sausage and then set aside to drain on paper towels.  Pour out all but a tablespoon of oil and saute the onion and celery until they begin to soften. Add the two cans of tomatoes (with juices) and the drained and pureed beans.  Stir to combine everything and then add the broth and wine and bring to a boil, tasting for salt, pepper and adjust your tastes with more wine if you want.  Add in several of the basil leaves and let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes.

Cook the tortellini to the package instructions and put about a 1/2 cup in each bowl and then top with the tomato/sausage soup.  Garnish with some chopped basil and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese if you like.

*I would like to note that Jill’s recipe is better than mine.  I asked her via email if she knew it by heart and she said things like, “I think it was this much” and “I sometimes do this instead” and while I LOVED the way this version turned out, I have fonder memories of hers.  So this soup can be altered and flavored to your tastes!