If you don't already own a rice cooker, promise me that you will buy one. (You can buy a cute model that sings when the rice is done, or one that doesn't sing. It won't matter.) You will make great rice with it, of course, and you'll make the best quinoa ever. I didn't cook quinoa very often before learning the super-easy rice cooker method from Karina, the Gluten-Free Goddess. This salad combines quinoa with avocado, tomato, cucumber, black beans and onion, tossed with a dressing that gets its kick from canned chipotle chiles in adobo. Start with one chipotle, and add a second one if you dare.
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When the temperature inches above 55°F here in New England for more than two days in a row, people jump into full-on summer mode: shorts, T-shirts and sandals, garden planting, and cookouts. Don't be caught unprepared when the invitations start arriving. Have a few good picnic and potluck dishes, like this shrimp, couscous, feta and herb salad, in your repertoire. There's no mayonnaise or egg, which makes this perfect picnic fare, and vegetarians can adapt this easily by omitting the shrimp and adding more chopped vegetables. You can substitute grandanina pasta or fregula sarda for the Israeli couscous; follow the package directions to cook before adding to the rest of the dish. What really makes the salad is the dressing, and for that, you need either your own slow-roasted tomatoes made with garlic, thyme and olive oil, or oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes plus a bit of extra garlic and herbs.
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As good as this broccoli slaw salad would be on your Spring holiday table, it would be even better at a picnic. I am ready for eat-outside-in-the-sun weather. Oh, yes I am. This salad, with sweetness from both the dried cranberries and agave nectar or honey in the dressing, will win over reluctant broccoli eaters of all ages. I start with a bag of pre-shredded broccoli slaw from the supermarket; if you can't find it, julienne your own mix of peeled broccoli stems, carrots, and red cabbage or radicchio. If you have sliced raw almonds in your freezer (and you should), toss a large handful directly into a hot, dry frying pan, and let them crisp up. That's the only cooking involved.
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You can never have too many brunch-style dishes in your culinary repertoire. Even if you're not a brunch person, in ten minutes you can get an egg and cheese casserole into the oven for lunch or dinner (with a salad and some crusty bread), or make it in the evening and reheat for breakfast the next day. And, like vanilla ice cream, a basic egg and cheese casserole loves mix-ins: fresh or leftover cooked vegetables, sausage, fresh herbs, whatever you have on hand. In this version, I've used a bit of crumbled bacon, but if you'd prefer a vegetarian dish, omit the bacon or substitute some tofu scramble. Quick and easy egg and cheese casseroles are my go-to for any meal, at any time of day.
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