Amaranth Breakfast Bowl with Seeds and Warm Maple Apples

It’s another gray stormy weekend here in the Northeast. It’s an insular overcast morning of warm breakfasts and lingering coffee. A porridge morning.

Bored with the idea of oatmeal, I decided to make my morning cereal bowl with a lesser known whole grain, Amaranth. To add some depth and character, I found on my fruit plate an apple, which had reached its peak and did not promise good out of hand eating. A fine dice and a quick sautee in some butter and maple syrup added the sweetness and richness that rounded out my porridge. A sprinkle of Chia seeds and pepitas provided some crunch, and a quick toss of some dried cranberries provided more color. At the last some warm milk floated around the edges and coddled it all together.

You don’t hear about Amaranth very often. It is a seed, indigenous to Central and South America. Like quinoa, it is high in protein and fiber and quite good for you. For those who are refraining from gluten, this is another great alternative. Amaranth seeds are much tinier than quinoa, I would say at least half the size, which makes these babies quite petite. They cook up the same, and have a much milder flavor, sort of mellow and neutral. If you find quinoa too crunchy and grainy for you, I invite you to try this.

Because the seeds are so teeny, the texture similar to that of farina, which to me is very satisfying and comforting. It’s less stick-to-your-ribs hearty as compared to steel cut oats. It’s not nearly as gummy and chewy, but rather a silkier  mush with a refined character.

Amaranth Porridge with Warm Maple Apples
As with any hot cereal the possibilities are endless. Pears, dried apricots or fresh berries would be divine, and feel free to let any spare nuts tumble into your bowl too.
serves 2
.66c Amaranth seeds
2c water
pinch of salt
1 small apple cut into small dice
1T unsalted butter
2T maple syrup
4T warmed milk
A few tablespoons of assorted nuts and seeds
In a medium sized saucepan over medium/low heat, combine seeds, water and salt. Bring to the boil and gently simmer until the water is absorbed and the seeds are tender. About 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter and then toss in the apples. Saute gently for 2-3 minutes, then stir in the syrup and cook together for another 2-3 minutes until the sauce is bubbly and slightly thickened.
When the porridge is cooked, divide between two bowls. Spoon the warm apples and sauce over each and sprinkle with nuts and seeds of your choosing.
Stay warm and cozy!

Roasted Acorn Squash with Grilled Tofu and Quinoa {And My New Approach to Change}

Welcome to the New Year! I too have joined the masses of the “New Year, new me” campaign. I will not bore you with my enthusiastic promises and misty eyed visions of the improved me- but rather I wanted to share with you my new approach.

Are you like me? I get all jazzed up and rally myself to take on my new improved way of life. I start quick out of the box, full of determination and vigor, and then in short order start stumbling and tripping, and eventually face plant into a heap. The result is another year goes by and nothing has changed. *sigh*

So now that I know what doesn’t work, I decided to try a new approach. The truth be told I’ve been incorporating my new concept since my last birthday, 2 months ago, and it’s been working very well. The inspiration for this really came from my pal, Winnie, from Healthy Green Kitchen. The idea is not to attempt a total makeover- but to focus on one small positive thing I can do for myself, at least once a week. If I can add one positive small shift a week, by the end of the year I would have made 52 easy and gentle improvements. Isn’t that an amazing thought?!!

I say banish self control! Do away with the struggle and the guilt!

*Just do one small good and nice thing for yourself a week* Now isn’t that so much nicer? And even if I don’t compile 52 changes, at least I’m moving in the right direction.

To give an example: I have reduced the amount of sweeteners in my latte and drinks by a bunch. No real science, I’ve just dialed it down by a small amount and I continue to do that each week. The result is I have lowered my sweetness threshold without my really noticing. I’m a little concerned about putting chemicals into my body, as well as natural sugar, but I really love sweet so much! So a smidge of change over time and now I am at about half of what I was consuming 2 months ago.

Another small change I’ve made is to eat one or two more pieces of fruit a week- in my case specifically, citrus. In the past I would run out and fill a beautiful bowl of fruited bounty, all gung-ho about it. The result would be a slow degradation of my display into a wrinkly and mossy science project. The worst part is the double guilt that the sad display taunts me with- both the failed attempt at my new “way” and the terrible waste of good food.

Instead I’ve taken to buying one or two oranges and then I eat them! I don’t keep them in a pretty bowl on the counter, because it turns out I like mine cold. I perch them on the shelf in the fridge so they are right there when I open the door. This way, when I go foraging for that afternoon pick-me-up snack, my orange is right there for the grabbing.

They say that it takes 3 weeks to create a new habit and I can attest that this is true for me.

The recipe I have for you today is a delicious and healthy meatless meal. I love this dish and often make several at a time and freeze them. They reheat beautifully. The squash is Vitamin A rich, there is great protein in the quinoa and tofu, and there are healthy complex carbs and lovely fiber.

I’ve gotten word back that not everyone is keen on quinoa or can readily find it. Feel free to switch it with Amaranth- HA! just kidding-That’s another grain I’ll be getting to in the near future- You can exchange any other grain or rice that you prefer, and leftovers are perfect.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Grilled Tofu and Quinoa
This dish looks complicated but it really is not. Make extra and freeze for another day.
serves 6
3 medium sized acorn squash
2c of cooked quinoa, or other grain of choice
half a package of firm tofu
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
.25c red onion, diced
1 orange pepper, diced
6 handfuls of baby arugula
.25c pomegranate arils 
3T fresh lemon juice
.5c olive oil
and oil to sautee
Preheat oven to 350˚. Slice the squash in half, scrape out the seeds. Lightly coat the flesh with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt.
Place squash face down on a lined baking sheet and roast until the skin looks a little wrinkly and the flesh is soft. Depending on the size of the squash this should take about 35-40 minutes. When cool slice into quarters- you will have 12 pieces in all.
Remove tofu from the package and place onto a clean kitchen towel and press firmly to release some of the moisture. You can also place a plate on top of the tofu with a heavy object and leave for a few minutes to press out the liquid.
Heat a grill pan and lightly oil. Slice the tofu into quarter inch slices and grill on each side. Remove from the heat and cut into small dice.
In a sautee pan warm some oil on medium high heat. Add the garlic and sautee for 2-3 minutes to release the fragrance. Add the onions, celery and peppers and sautee for just another few minutes leaving the vegetables tender crisp.
Transfer the vegetables and the tofu into a large bowl and add the quinoa. Gently stir to combine. Add S&P to taste.
Mix the lemon juice and oil to make a dressing. Add a few tablespoons into the quinoa mixture then use the rest to dress the arugula.
Lay down a nice layer of arugula for each serving, top with the squash and then fill with the quinoa. Finally sprinkle the pomegranate arils over the top and serve 2 quarters per person.

Beluga Lentil and Quinoa Salad With Meyer Lemon and Cornichon Dressing

Finally cooking! These past few weeks has been a whirlwind. I have been caught up in a vortex that has whisked me along and spun me around much like Dorothy and the Wizard. I can happily say that I have finally touched down and yes- it is dancy and pretty and sunshiny.  In the midst of all the scheduled mayhem I was able to attend the Cookbook Conference at the last minute. What a wonderful and fantastic time it was!

I was able to meet and connect with all sorts of incredible food people- some after my own heart and others that I would have never met otherwise. Seriously, I would never have met people like Carolina Capehart, who I am told is one of the best food historians out there. She regularly cooks foods from the 1850’s over open fires- IN BROOKLYN! Then there was Carole Murka from Heirloom Meals who interviews and records regular people about their heritage and family recipes. I made some new friends that I am sure I will carry with me long and joyfully- but I also got such a tremendous insight as to how so many of us toil separately and similarly. Maggie Battista from EatBoutique!, Winnie Abromson from Healthy Green Kitchen, Cathy Barrow-the famous Mrs Wheelbarrow, Gail Dosik from One Tough Cookie– all of these amazing women and others my kindred spirits!

And now I am finally settling down. The conference put a fire in my heart that I cannot begin to explain- and it’s all so deliciously yummy and wonderful.

So now I am finally back at my own stove. The new stove that I am making a slow and cordial relationship with thus far. I am learning it’s temperaments and enjoying the creation of a new workspace for myself. Thus far it feels wonderful and works very well.

I will be bringing lunch to a friend tomorrow and the direction I got was “try to keep it healthy” and “no capers”. Not a bad suggestion and so my mind went quickly to this recipe I developed awhile ago. It is earthy, nutritious and satisfying without being too heavy for a midday meal, and an easy flavor profile that she should enjoy.

I am not a tremendous lentil fan- they can be wonderful and they have their place, but I typically don’t swoon. The Beluga Lentils however, not only look gorgeous, but they keep their shape and bite. No mush here. The quinoa and lentils are high in fiber and rich in protein, making this a power food dish.  A generous toss of minced cornichons give this salad a sprite snap while the mellow Meyer lemon softens it all out.

I am serving ours over shredded red cabbage, but this is also wonderful over lettuces such as Bibb.

Now to go think of a good dessert….

Lentil Quinoa Salad w Meyer Lemon Dressing
serves 4 nicely
.5 c beluga lentils- rinsed
.5 c tricolor quinoa
1 clove of garlic-half left whole the other half finely minced
4T minced cornichons
zest and juice from one meyer lemon
3T minced red onion
2T minced fresh tarragon
olive oil to balance out lemon juice ~.25c (taste!)
In one small saucepan combine lentils and 1c water. Add half of garlic and pinch of salt and simmer until tender ~20mins
In separate small saucepan combine quinoa and 1c water and a pinch of salt and simmer until tender ~15mins
While the lentils and quinoa are cooking prepare the dressing.
In a large bowl add the minced garlic, zest and juice of lemon, onion, cornichons and tarragon. Whisk in olive oil a bit at a time. Taste as you go. Meyer lemons are less tart and require less oil to balance.
When the quinoa and lentils are cooked, and still warm, toss into the dressing.
Continue to occasionally toss the salad until cool to get all the dressing pooled at the bottom soaked in.
When cool check for balance and season with S&P