Wednesday, February 27, 2013

For the birds- Sweet potato, mushroom, parmesan quinoa

It's been snowing off and on, but mostly on, for over 24 hours now. Nobody saw this storm coming, so no one thought to get the plows ready or cancel school. Yesterday we all showed up at work and were sent home early.

Right now I just want to put on the tinniest shirt I can squeeze into and go stick my round belly in the sun. I keep telling my baby that the world isn't always like this. Spring is coming! But my arms are sore from shoveling snow and my abdomen clenches up when I go outside and get hit by the cold wind. I went out to check on the chickens yesterday and found 22 eggs hidden in the back of the coop. My husband had said that he thought the chickens were finally slowing down their production for the winter. Apparently they're just getting better at hiding their eggs. Usually, chickens need about 13 hours of sunlight a day to keep producing on a regular basis. In the dead of Iowa winter, we can get about 9. And I refuse to make my girls work overtime by putting a light in their coop. But, my girls continue to lay 5-6 eggs every day.

Enough about the depressing weather. As my morning sickness slowly fades now that I'm 18 weeks, I've been able to start making dinner again. Monday, we had sweet potato, mushroom, and parmesan quinoa for dinner. We started eating quinoa about six months ago and I'm in love with it. A friend suggested quinoa and frozen veggies as a quick supper when I was too nauseous to cook and she was right! Quinoa blows my mind. In college bio, I was taught that the only way to get all of the amino acids (protein bits) my body needed in one source was to eat meat. Not that I have anything agains meat (when it's organic and raised on pasture), but that's not true. Quinoa has all of the amino acids that humans need, which makes it a complete protein. And since I went months without being able to digest meat, it was my hero. We treat quinoa a lot like pasta. If you can do it with pasta, you can do it with quinoa. And my favorite way to eat quinoa is with LOTS of parm!

Tiny quinoa grains

Start by dicing half an onion. I used white, but you could use yellow.

Next, dice your sweet potato. I give mine a good scrub with the steal wool to get any tough bits and dirt off, but I leave the skin on. Cut it into disks, cut the disks into sticks, and cut the sticks into cubes. It helps to buy a skinny and long sweet potato instead of a fat one. Your knife will go through it easier. Try and chop all of your veg into the same size so it will cook at about the same rate.

Next, chop up the old, sad mushrooms you have in the back of the fridge. You could certainly use more than I have pictured here. I'd say up to a half cup.

When your veg is chopped, hit a pan with some olive oil over medium heat and throw everyone in. We're looking for the sweet potatoes to get some browning around the edges and the onions to become translucent. Give it an occasional stir.

While that's cooking, grate up 1 cup, not packed, of good parm. Don't cut corners and buy pre shredded, or worse, parm in a plastic can. Use the good stuff. It's worth it! I use the small "fancy" shred side of my box grater.

When you're veg is cooked, throw in your quinoa. I use a coffee mug to measure because I'm lazy like that, but this is about 1 cup. The important thing is to use a 1 to 2 ratio when adding your water. Some people feel the need to rinse their quinoa before cooking it. It can have a bitter outer coating that is easily removed in a mesh strainer under some cold water. I buy the quinoa out of the bulk bins at my local grocery and have never had any issues with it tasting bitter. Either way, throw the quinoa into the pan and toast it for a minute.

Add 2 cups, or twice the amount of quinoa, of water, salt and pepper. Remember that we're adding a cup of salty parmesan later, so don't go overboard on the salt. Cover your pan and turn up the heat until you've reached a boil. When it's boiling, turn the heat down so nothing scorches, and continue to cook for about 10 minutes until the quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid.

When there's no water left in the pan, the consistency will feel somewhat like cooked rice, add your parm and give everything a good stir to coat with the cheese. And you're done.

I crumbled some parsley that I picked from my garden and dried this fall, as a garnish. It would also be good with some fresh basil.

One thing that I've noticed about quinoa is that it's filling! I have to limit my serving size or I end up full way before I've cleaned my plate. This recipe was enough to feed both of us dinner with LOTS of leftovers. And it keeps well in the fridge so we can easily reheat it for a fast, healthy lunch.

Black capped chickadees getting some brunch on my feeder. They wish it was quinoa.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

This one's for you AB

Welcome back? What do you say on a blog when you haven't written anything for six months? Or more.

"The newest member of our family, Sirius Black"

I'm pregnant. I'm using that as my excuse, even though I haven't been pregnant the entire time I've been away. It's my story and I'm sticking to it. I have been genuinely sick. As in I spent 6 entire days in bed, puked so hard I literally sprained my foot, got to the point where I couldn't keep down anything solid or liquid, almost went to the hospital (and should have!) then discovered the miracle drug Zofran. After my midwife doubled my dose, I was able to rejoin the world of the living. Due to the ass-kickingness of this pregnancy, I've dropped to part time at work. Which has allowed me enough time to post here. I can't promise that I will go back to posting on a regular basis, but I would like to. Especially with spring coming.

And speaking of spring, it's February in Iowa. So we're covered in 12 inches of snow and nothing is growing. Or not! It's 40 today, and I have fresh carrots, spinach, and kale in my garden. No really!

In August I planted my winter garden. Then the cats and various animals dug it up. So in September and October I replanted my winter garden. My amazing husband built us a cold frame. We went to the nearby used building materials store and bought us a window for $5. He then used a pallet we had lying around and built a frame for the window to sit on using some spare screws and hinges. On the opposite side, he attached 2 handles, and voila, cold frame!

We outlined the winter bed in bricks and set the cold frame on top. For more insulation agains the winter winds, we surrounded the wooden frame with another layer of bricks on top of the original layer. I placed several bricks and stones inside the bed to absorb heat during the day which helps to keep the temperatures up at night.

When I started to get nauseous around Christmas, we had a blizzard. We got about 13 inches of snow. I was too sick and tired to go outside and deal with the cold frame. In January, we had a couple of days with -20 wind chills. I figured since I had ignored the winter garden for so long, there was no way anything was still alive, so I didn't bother to do anything. I was sure everything was dead, and I just didn't have the energy to deal with it. Then today, the weather was nice, and when I went to put the dog out this morning I decided to step over and look. And sure enough everything I had planted was still alive and kicking!




See the orange bit around the base? That's carrot baby! I tried to pull one up, but the ground was so mucky it stuck and just ripped in half. I gave that carrot to the chickens. They were happy to eat it. It wasn't huge. About 3 inches long. But DUDE, I'm growing carrots in the middle of the winter!

It's not just my garden that's productive this winter either. Our chickens, which have no additional light source besides the sun, are continuing to lay about an egg a day. I had frozen some eggs this fall in anticipation of the shortage to come. And now we're overflowing in eggs. They continue to move their nest around the coop, so sometimes they find a cold corner and we lose a few to freezing and cracking. Mostly, I've been giving eggs away to anyone who will take them.

Enjoy the gorgeous weather!