I like to collect cookbooks. Mostly pretty ones. Often written by bloggers I enjoy and famous chefs.
Yet, like everyone in my generation, when I want to figure out what is for dinner, I usually ask Pinterest.
Which is why it’s so weird that I have been cooking lately from magazine clippings and *gasp* the actual pages of the books on my shelves!
When I found this grain salad as I was idly flipping through a magazine one morning, I immediately wrote all of the ingredients on my grocery list and purchased them the next day. I love whole grain salads, and you should, too!
Mind, prepare to be blown:
Yes…it’s the solution to my weekly pleadings with my family to name something other than pizza (Jake) or meatloaf (Dave) when I ask what to cook for dinner. Stir Friday.
I love it for so many reasons: 1) it still allows room for creativity, because “stir-fry” is a huge, broad category…but it does give me somewhere to start with the meal planning; 2) it makes a beautiful peace treaty for the taste bud cold war Dave and I are waging…no more can he tell me that I never eat Asian food with him!; 3) it has an awesome name—always a bonus; and 4) it’s so easy to make large amounts of stir-fry, so easy to accommodate different dietary needs, that Stir Friday is the perfect way to kick off one of our major family goals: becoming better hosts.
So, friends who live in the greater DC area, consider this your open invitation.
It’s Stir Friday. Are you coming?
When I was a kid, my family went out to eat about once a month, and for a long time, we almost always went to Red Lobster.
I learned quite young that crab meat dripping with drawn butter is amazing. My parents graciously let me steal chunks of crab from their plates and didn’t complain when I dipped more finger than crab into the warm butter.
Let’s all agree that we love crabs and we love butter, okay?
As Sarah and I were thinking about what to cook this week, we just knew that throwing some sweet crab meat into a bowl of mixed quinoa would result in something delicious! This quinoa salad is full of buttery, lemony pieces of King crab legs, garlic, creamy avocado, and fresh herbs. It will make your house smell unmistakeably like Red Lobster, and it will put a smile on your face!
Warning: I am about to get a little dorky.
You know how professional chefs on cooking shows are always saying things like, “And then we add a little honey for a touch of sweetness” to perfectly savory dishes? Um, why would I care if my salad is sweet—it’s not dessert…
They are aiming for presence and balance of the five tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (savory). (Okay, spicy isn’t one of the sensory tastes, but it’s pretty important to throw heat into the mix, too.) Balance is a key trait of delicious food, which trained chefs learn early on. Another key trait of excellent food is diversity of textures: creamy, soft, chewy, crisp/crunchy.
I know this. You probably know this. Well balanced food is hard not to love!
So there is really no explanation for the doubts I had when I first found this recipe. I was just so skeptical…but thank God I followed it to a T, because folks, this wheatberry salad is simply perfect. There is no other word for it. Don’t you turn your nose up at adding chopped dates or think about skipping the pickled shallots. The first mouthful will win you over, no question.
Can I please just riff for a moment about things going wrong? Because you know that happens to you when you are making dinner, too.
Like…sometimes I get all set and purchase all the ingredients I need to make a delicious gluten-free, vegan meal with my mom…and then when I open the pantry, my chickpeas are mysteriously not there. And I’m forced to use black beans. (Deep breath. It’s okay. Beans are beans, right? So what if the meal no longer seems like a fun play on hummus. It’ll still be delicious.)
Like…I whip my tahini sauce into a pale, thick, delicious frenzy. And then instead of being able to drizzle it elegantly over my pretty eggplants, it falls off my spoon in horrifying globs. (Deep breath. Globby-looking sauces aren’t the end of the world.)
But then. My son. Has some kind of allergic reaction to eggplant. While he is happily eating something that is not grilled cheese for the first time in a week. AUUUGHHHH! (Don’t worry, he was fine! I don’t think he even noticed his golf-ball lip or rash. It just made for a stressed-out mommy.)
You may be wondering why I am even bothering to share this meal with you. But seriously, it was so good. And so easy to make! You really should try it. And just remember to take deep breaths! And maybe stock some Benadryl for the under-3 set. You know. Just in case.
When I was a kid, I remember hearing this fantastical tale about neighborliness. You know the one I mean. About knocking on their door and asking to borrow a cup of sugar?
I was always sure this kind of thing could never happen in the modern world.
Until I met a fantastic young mom who lives down the block from me. She went grocery shopping for me after Jake was born. We take our kids on walks together. And…we totally raid each other’s kitchens. She borrows a lemon, I borrow 7 cups of flour (yeah, yeah…); she buys farro to serve her family at my suggestion, she promptly gives the rest of the dry farro to me after her family rejects it…you know. Real neighborly stuff!
My friend Sarah from Well Dined decided to help me use up some of this farro (guys, there’s like two pounds…good thing I like grain salads), and we got very excited about roasting up some mushrooms, stuffing them inside of more mushrooms, and topping it off with our very favorite: goat cheese.
Do you ever buy things while you are grocery shopping and have no idea what you are going to do with them? I often find myself throwing greens and pickled peppers and hunks of cheese into my cart, even though they weren’t on my list and I have no specific plans for them. Impulse shopping can be an expensive character flaw.
Worse yet, sometimes I buy ingredients to put together a meal that I end up not making because it doesn’t strike my fancy when I get around to it (I can be a fickle meal planner)! Then I am left with sad little ginger roots and carrots wilting at the bottom of my crisper.
But my husband and I are on a mission to let no food go to waste, which means I have to become a little more diligent and creative about emptying out the fridge each week or so.
I am so glad that this week when I looked through my drawers and shelves, I found a bag of orphaned kale and a huge, lonely sweet potato, because this lunch was warm and tasty! What a happy accident!
I have a lot of squash in my house.
Like. A lot.
And one of the easiest ever ways to use up fall squash is to roast it and toss it into a grain salad with some greens and cheese. I have been a little reluctant to share this with you, because I feel like this particular combination isn’t terribly original. Quinoa salad. Been there, done that.
But you know what? Sometimes the familiar is just what we need. Sometimes simple food with bright colors and flavors is comforting.
Sarah of Well Dined came over and made this lunch with me. We added in things that are delicious and left out things that are not. Easy peasy.
Sometimes I look in my fridge and think, “Why is there nothing to eat!?” As I am staring at the shelves piled high with perfectly good food, nothing seems like it would come together quickly, and none of my produce and dairy products and leftovers seem even remotely able to work together.
Does that ever happen to you?
Earlier this week when I found myself facing just such a dilemma, I forbade myself to eat cereal for dinner and reluctantly pulled some of my CSA goodies out and set them on the counter.
So let’s talk about winging it. Because the perfect recipe isn’t always sitting right in front of you!
The key to winging it is thinking back to what you have made and liked in the past. We are smack dab in the middle of fall, so of course we need to use up some fall squash. I love squash roasted, with a little bit of spice, tossed into a grain or green salad, with a hefty dose of yummy cheese. How do you like your squash? Maybe stuffed? or turned into soup? or sliced and sautéed?
The beautiful thing about cooking is that you don’t have to stress over the proportions the same way you must with baking. You can tinker with it until it works! Just rely on familiar methods, add things you know you like, and everything will work out fine!
I love food. I especially love good food…stuffed inside of other good food! (No. I am NOT talking about a tur-duck-en. Gross.)
These stuffed peppers are tangy and spiced (not spicy, but full of bold flavors). I used tri-color quinoa, mixed in with corn, black beans, a small chili pepper, and cilantro. I love that this recipe uses sweet potatoes for an unexpected sweetness to contrast with the Southwestern spices. Yum! In short…they are amazing.