A question of quinoa

I hope we have gotten past quinoa’s trendy phase and can settle down and fully accept it for how great it really is—stellar nutritional virtues and all.  Judging from most market shelves, quinoa has definitely secured a presence and has moved from novelty to staple status.

We know quinoa is incredibly versatile; its slight nuttiness blends well with just about anything. I’ve gotten in the habit of cooking up a batch and incorporating it in meals during the week.  It works in a salad, maybe a grain bowl, part of a dinner, and even for breakfast.

Another personal motive is to hold back enough for my precious Quinoa Bars, an old favorite. I’m always glad to have them in the fridge. There will be times in the course of a week that I’ll be in a wild rush, and know I can reach in and grab one without missing a  beat.

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Quinoa Fruit Bars

The moisture from the pre-cooked quinoa seems to keep these bars moist but not soggy—they hold very well without drying out after a few days, and the slight nuttiness blends well with the oat flakes and dried fruits. This last time, I went for a combo of dates and dried cranberries then topped them with bits of sliced candied oranges stashed away from a Trader Joe’s offering.

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There’s still a lot of discussion about rinsing quinoa to remove a natural bitter coating from the seeds. I buy mine in bulk and have no idea whether this has been done. I usually forget to rinse, but as or yet have not noticed any pervasive off taste.

So here is the latest “new and improved” version of Quinoa Fruit Bars. They are even easier to make and enjoy!

Quinoa Fruit Bars  

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, or half whole wheat or other flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp each allspice and dried ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup quick oats flakes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 cup agave or honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cooked white quinoa
  • 3/4 cup dried fruit: chopped dates, dried cranberries, raisins, apricots or candied ginger

Garnish: 1 Tbsp Demerara or other coarse sugar or candied fruit garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8”x8″ pan with non-stick foil or spray with non-stick oil.
  2. In medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt.  Mix in the oats. Add the dried fruit.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the egg, then stir in yogurt, agave, vanilla, and cooked quinoa.
  4. With spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet just to incorporate.  Spread evenly into pan and sprinkle Demerara sugar over the top.
  5. Bake 30-35 minutes, until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the top begins to brown.  Cool on rack and slice. Yield: 16-18 bars

Sunday Brunch with Croque Madames

Sunday brunch was on my mind, something easy… and different.  Friends would be stopping by for a quick bite before it got too hot, then we would head up to the Hill Country for a hike.

First, I considered croque monsieur, a fancy grilled ham and cheese sandwich on steroids.  In France it is frequently grilled in butter, then finished off with béchamel sauce and more cheese.

Since we would still be within breakfast range, I settled on its counterpart, the croque madame, which is further embellished with a fried egg.  Certainly not your standard breakfast fare, but I rationalized we would be getting plenty of exercise and would surely walk this off.  So if not now, when?crroque mad cut

I had a delicious loaf of mild Swedish rye which would work beautifully with the ham and Gruyere cheese. I passed on the idea of buttering and grilling the sandwiches—far too rich—instead it would go directly into the oven.  I started by toasting the bread slices, since the béchamel sauce could soften the bread into a soggy mess. There was little left to do but assemble the sandwiches and place them on a baking sheet, ready to finish once guests arrived.croque sand

Before popping the croque madames in the oven, I liberally spread the tops with béchamel sauce and added a healthy dusting of grated cheese.  When they were thoroughly heated, about 5 minutes, I ran them under the broiler until they were bubbly and toasted.

Meanwhile, I quickly fried the eggs then momentarily covered them with a lid, ready and waiting to crown the croque madames when removed from the oven.  Of course, there was plenty of fresh fruit and more peach chutney (see previous post).

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Ingredients

  • 8 slices sandwich bread, ½” slices, crusts trimmed if hard (I used a mild Swedish rye)
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ lb Black Forest ham, thinly sliced
  • 12 oz grated Gruyere cheese, (3 cups), divided
  •  4 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp butter, or more

Béchamel Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups milk, warmed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Prepare sauce: In small saucepan melt butter, add flour, and stir for about 1 minute to cook the flour;  slowly add the milk, whisking to form a smooth thick sauce.  Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and remove from heat.   Stir in ½ cup of the grated Gruyere until melted.
  3. Lay out the bread slices on baking sheet lined with foil and toast bread on both sides, about 5 minutes.
  4. Spread one side of the bread with a light coating of Dijon. On 4 of the slices layer on equal slices of the ham, sprinkle with cheese, and top with the second slice of bread faced with Dijon. Spoon the béchamel sauce over the top, allowing some to drizzle down the sides and then sprinkle with more cheese.
  5. Bake until heated through, 5-10 minutes, and switch to broil. Run under the broiler to toast until golden brown, about 3 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile heat medium size skillet to medium heat and add butter. When it is bubbling, drop in the eggs and fry according to preference. Remove sandwiches from broiler, top each with an egg and serve.  Serves 4.

How to Fry an Egg 

Place a skillet over medium heat. Add a teaspoon of butter per egg,  and allow it to sizzle. Crack the egg into the pan and allow the white to cook until it becomes white and set.

Basted:  Spoon some of the butter/oil over the yolk to set it and change its color to a lighter pink shade.

Sunny Side Up:  When the egg white begins to set add a teaspoon of water to the pan, cover it with a lid to create enough steam to set and change the yolk to a lighter pink color.

Over Easy/Over Hard:  For over easy, when white begins to hold its shape, turn the egg over with a spatula and cook a minute longer.  For over hard, break the yolk before turning and allow the yolk to cook until well-done.