Kale and Quinoa for Meatless Monday

Quinoa pronounced keen-wah. What the heck is that? Well, it is a grain, a very small grain that can be very diversified from breakfast, to lunch, to dinner, and even dessert. It can be difficult to find, especially for those in the Midwest (at least when I lived there it was or when I did find it, it was very expensive).  Don't let this discourage you. I substituted (oh yes, as I usually do).

 I happened upon this recipe a year ago from Food52 (click the link for the original recipe) when I was wanting to try Kale, but didn't really know what to do with it. I couldn't find quinoa, so like I stated above I substituted. I used barley. Yep, good old cheap barley for 97 cents a pound. It worked and it was good. The original recipe called for walnut oil. I was not spending that kind of money on walnut oil, that I would use just a few times for it to sit on my pantry shelf. Now, I would MAYBE buy walnut oil, because I would use it as a substitute for some other oil that a recipe called for. Just use olive oil, I still do for this recipe. Oh and the pine nuts that the original recipe called for, yes they were substituted too. I used chopped almonds. Actually the only original ingredients I used for this recipe were the kale, goat cheese, salt and pepper (for this time and photos I did use Quinoa). Guess what it still turns out magnificent each and every time.

Did I mention how easy this was? It is. And it is all cooked in ONE pot. Clean up is easy. In the end you have a great delicious and nutritious dinner waiting for you to enjoy.


2c. salted water
1c. quinoa or quick cooking barley
1 bunch of kale, washed and chopped into 1" length
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 onion, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3Tbsp. almonds or other nut
3-4 oz. goat cheese
salt and pepper

     Bring the water to a boil in a LARGE covered pot. Add the quinoa or barley, onions, and garlic, cover, and lower the heat until it is just enough to maintain a simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then top with the kale and re-cover. Simmer another 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to steam for 5 more minutes.
     While the grain are cooking, take a large serving bowl and combine half of the lemon juice (reserving the other half), all of the lemon zest, olive oil, nuts, and goat cheese.
     Check the quinoa and kale when the cooking time has completed -- the water should have absorbed, and the quinoa will be tender but firm, and the kale tender and bright green. If the quinoa still has a hard white center, you can steam a bit longer (adding more water if needed). When the quinoa and kale are done, fluff and transfer it into the waiting bowl with the remaining ingredients.    Toss to combine, seasoning with salt and pepper, and the remaining lemon juice if needed.                                                     


Italy remembered with a Rocciata Assisana pastry

     A few months ago I went to Italy, mainly Rome. Let me tell you there are A LOT of churches in Rome. I think that I seen them all...twice. They were nice, but it was too much and way too many churches; they were actually running together. Did I mention that I also seen a lot of Crypts? I had fun don't get me wrong. I met some amazing girls whom I had a lot of fun with, from what I remember anyhow (kidding). I wanted to see the sites, but I really went for the food (and the wine).

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Did I mention that I went for the wine? And NO, that is not my pack of cigarettes.
     While on a day trip to Assisi I had this amazing pastry. I tasted it, I dissected it, I made notes about it, I even dreamed about it. It was lovely. Rocciata Assisana, Dolce tipico con mele e frutta secca. A sweet pastry with dried fruits and nuts. This was one of the first things I tried to replicate when I returned.

    I did some research before setting out to conquer this magnificent sweet concoction and discovered that the pastry dough was made with olive oil. I tried and tried to make mine as they would in Italy with just the oil as the fat. It didn't work for me. The dough was very greasy. I tried reducing the amount that I added, but no luck. I was getting discouraged. I needed to taste my sweet memory and share with others what I was fortunate enough to have tickle my taste-buds. I went with a standard pie dough recipe. It was good, but just not as flaky as I remembered. I researched again, this time on pie dough and came up with a recipe from Cooks Illustrated via Serious Eats, it contains vodka (click HERE for the recipe). The responses were positive and claim that it was the flakiest pie dough that they had ever made. It was worth a try. I tried. I liked it. I will use it again and again and again. My results were fantastic. For a fluffier, chewier texture try using puffed pastry, rolled to about an 1/8" thick.

     I had my dough, now for the filling. This was easy. I looked back over my notes and my photos. Reminisced sitting atop of the hill, looking down upon the fields and farmhouses of the Umbian countryside, sipping my cappuccino and reveling in the taste of my Rocciata. I remembered the apples, the pinenuts, the almonds, the raisins, and the apricot glaze all kissed with a touch of cinnamon. These were all layered and rollup, strudel style, baked until golden, cooled and then sliced into rounds.

     My mouth salivating I went to work and created what I remembered in my dreams. Flaky pastry, moist filling, and a satisfied palate. This was my trip remembered. Sweet and tasteful.


3 c. apples, sliced thin (I leave the skins on)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 lemon juiced
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 c. pine nuts
1/4 c. almonds (walnuts, pecans, etc...)
1/4 c. dried fruit (prunes/plums, apricots, cranberries, etc...)
1/4 c. raisins
small jar of apricot jam

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix the apples, cinnamon, and lemon juice together in a large bowl. Sprinkle with flour and toss to coat. Roll out the dough into a large oval about 1/8" thick if using puffed pastry or 1/4" thick if using pie dough on lightly floured surface.
Apply the entire jar of jam on top of the dough covering the surface, except for 1/2" around the edges. Spread apple mixture on top. Layer with the nuts and dried fruit (raisins too), scattering on top of the apples.
Starting at a tapered end, gently start to roll up the dough, jelly roll style (or like making cinnamon rolls). Once rolled up, place seem side down on a piece of parchment paper (it is not absolutly necessary, but will make life and clean up so much easier expecially because there may be oozing). Brush the top and sides with an egg wash and sprinkle with course sugar if desired. Bake 35 minutes until golden brown, checking occassionally.

The following pictures of the Rocciata were made using a basic pie dough recipe. The above pictures were with puffed pastry.



Meatball Madness and a little guidance


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Cheese Please

Very simple cheese tray thrown together in a matter of minutes
  I love cheese! I don't want to marry it or anything, but I really like it. It is so versatile. You can add it to anything or just eat it on its own. I really like to entertain with it. It is so easy and fun. Thus enters the Cheese plate.
  A cheese plate is a great way to share a snack with your guests. You may have it as an appetizer or as a course by itself (usually after dinner before dessert or in place of dessert). This is always my go-to pre-dinner choice.
   You go to the market or your cheese monger, taste a few samples (this is a must), make a few selections (usually 3 to 5 ((normally an odd number)), add some fruit, nuts, meats, olives, crackers/bread...etc (options are endless), and you are good to go. 
 Here lately I have been adding jams to my cheese plates, they are great with Parmesan or other hard cheeses. Blue or goat cheese drizzled with honey is always good too. Eat what you like but definitely next time you have guests over, make a cheese plate, you won't regret it!