Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Basa, Curried Quinoa and Stir-fried Vegetables

Mrs. Urban Eater came up the stairs the other night with a basa fillet. "I think you should cook this guy for dinner tonight." How could I argue? I like the taste of them, they cook quickly and they are easy to pair up with other healthy ingredients. I took inventory in the fridge and we were loaded up with lots of veggies, so there was the meal all planned out and it didn't take long to figure out. I love it when that happens.

As I've mentioned in earlier posts my mother suffers from Alzheimer's, so I will do anything I can to protect myself from this disease. I was thinking about adding curry powder to the stir-fry as it is supposed to help release some of the plaque from your brain which causes the dreaded disease, but I thought it was a good idea to add another color and texture to the plate as well. We have lots of quinoa on hand, so adding curry powder to the quinoa was a better idea. This way, O can have some of the vegetables without her little palate getting overloaded with spices. She can eat the quinoa if she wants, but I think her eating the vegetables is more important right now.

Ingredients

- 1 basa fillet
- 1 cup (237 ml) red onion, diced
- 1/2 head of broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 carrots, sliced thinly on the bias (angled)
- 4 asparagus spears, sliced using a rolling cut, meaning cut it at an angle, give it a 1/4 turn and cut it at an angle again, and so on.
- 1/2 of a red pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 celery stick, thinly cut at an angle
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) quinoa
- 1 cup (237 ml) water
- 1 tsp curry powder
- EVOO
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

1) Prepare the vegetables and garlic first. Allowing garlic to sit for a minute or two after being crushed stimulates it's health properties.


2) Pour the quinoa into a pan over medium-high heat and let it toast until it starts to pop.


When this happens, add the water and the curry powder and stir. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low and cover.



Cook for 15 minutes, take off the heat and let stand for 5 minutes and then fluff it with a fork so it doesn't all stick together.
3) While the quinoa starts to cook, place a non-stick frying pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Add a little EVOO when the pan is hot, start cooking the carrots and stir. When they start to change color, add the onions, garlic and pepper. Keep stirring.
4) When the onions start to turn color, add the asparagus and rep pepper. Add a little salt now to help the green vegetables stay green and to bring out some of the vegetables juices. Stir all the veggies around the pan, add a little water (2 Tbsp) to the pan and put the lid on. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 6-7 minutes.
5) Prepare the fish by cutting it in half and seasoning it lightly with salt and pepper


6) The basa will only take about 6 minutes to cook, so to save on washing up more pots and pans, I wait for the stir-fry to finish cooking and use the same pan. This will also add extra flavor to the fish. Spoon the quinoa onto your plate, place the vegetables on top and quickly put the stir-fry pan back on the stove over medium heat. place the fillets into the pan (there should be enough oil left over from the vegetables).


7) Cook the fish for 3 minutes on each side. They are thin fillets, so they will cook very fast. If they don't brown, that's fine. I find fish to be better eating when they aren't cooked over high heat, rather cooked over a little lower heat. They come out a lot nicer this way. Place over top of the vegetables and serve.
Yield: Serves 2


If you look at the picture with the vegetables on the cutting board, I had a tomato there along with the other vegetables. Normally I add it at the end of the cooking process of the stir-fry, but I forgot. So, add a tomato if you want. It won't hurt but only add to the dish.

Despite this dish being nice to look at and very tasty, the health properties are extensive. For starters, broccoli is full of fibre, vitamins C, K and A and helps your body detoxify itself. It is best eaten when cooked, but not overcooked. You still want it to be a little crunchy. Carrots give you a blast of vitamin A and are full of antioxidant properties. They also help your eyes maintain their good health. Asparagus adds to your vitamin K experience and is an excellent source of folate. This is a good vegetable for all of us to eat, especially pregnant women. Folate will help your baby grow and stay healthy in the womb. Just  make sure you eat it as soon as you can after buying it. It's health properties start to diminish rather quickly after being picked and stored in your fridge. And onions, well you know what they say, "Eat an onion a day to keep the doctor away." This doesn't mean he won't come close to you because you stink, rather you won't need to see him due to the fact onions are the almost perfect health food. Never underestimate the power of an onion, really.

Quinoa is something we are eating more and more of now as well. It's a great source of protein and plays well with others on your plate. We should all start eating a little more of these seed as it's easy to cook, you can have it on your plate in about 20 minutes and it's far healthier for you than white rice.

Little O's Menu

When we have quinoa, I always make extra because now we will sometimes add a little bit to her oatmeal. She took a little bit of time to get used to the texture, but has taken to it nicely since. She has eaten some of the curried quinoa I've made, but she puts her hand up after a couple of small spoonfuls to let us know she's done with it. This will give her that shot of protein she needs as she doesn't like to eat a lot of meat.

Quote Of The Day

"An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable to make them laugh."

~ Will Rogers (1879-1935) American cowboy, comedian, vaudeville performer and actor.


Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dinner For The Weary Travellers

This weekend our little family unit spent a couple of days out in Banff, about an hour west of here at The Fairmont Banff Springs. What did you do??

What a great way to get away from it all. The place is so big, we could roam around most of the day and not leave the building. We took O to the pool and realized there was an outdoor pool as well. If you've never been in a outdoor swimming pool in the winter, you have to try it at some point. Fantastic! It's like being in a hot tub without the jets, just not quite as warm. I will talk about the big trip next time, but here's a shot of that pool first. Nothing like swimming in a warm body of water next to the mountains.


Our neighbors, who have spent the last little while in Yuma, Arizona, came home yesterday afternoon after making their way through Montana and some inclement weather on the last leg of their journey. It's spring in the northern hemisphere but you'd never know it here in Calgary. It's still snowing, lots, and it's hasn't been very warm yet. In Prague (Czech Republic) they're enjoying 25 C (77 F) weather while we're still digging our way out of the blast of snow we had this weekend. It's just not fair I tell you!

After they pulled up in front of their house with the travel trailer in tow, we thought it may be a good idea if we had them over for dinner as they didn't have any food in the house. They were all too happy to get the invite so dinner was on. Chuck is a meat and potatoes kind of guy and Reina will eat almost anything. We don't eat that way very often, but I had an idea. I looked in the fridge and we had a few potatoes and a sweet potato. We also had a couple of zucchinis, carrots and a purple onion. I went and bought a few chicken breasts and the menu was set.

Ingredients

Chicken alla Mark

- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 4 slices fresh mozzarella
- 4 Tbsp (59 ml) salsa
- EVOO
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Smashed Potatoes With Roasted Garlic

- 4 yellow fleshed potatoes (organic), cleaned and diced. Leave as much of the skin on as you can as this is where most of the nutrients are in regular potatoes.
- 1 sweet potato (organic). Again, leave as much of the skin on as you can.
- 1 head of roasted garlic and the cloves picked out when cooled
- 2 green onions, finely sliced
- EVOO, the good stuff
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Pan Fried Vegetables

- 1 1/2 cups zucchini, halved and sliced at an angle, This will expose more of the inner part of the vegetable, making it cook faster.
- 1 cups carrots, peeled and sliced at an angle
- 1/2 cup red onion, sliced into chunks
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, pulled off of the stem
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- EVOO
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

1) Prepare zucchini, carrots and onion. Set aside.


2) Prepare potatoes and place in a steamer. Set heat to high until it begins to boil. When this happens, set to medium-high and steam until fork tender.
3) Pre-heat oven to 350 F (177C). Prepare chicken breasts for cooking. I cut out the tendons from the tenderloin and any blood spots or bone from where the joint used to be.


Salt and pepper each one.
4) Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and add EVOO. When hot enough, place the chicken in the pan seasoned side down and season the other side. Cook for 2 minutes and flip them over. Pour 1 Tbsp salsa on each breast and place the pan in the oven.


5) Heat another frying pan over medium heat. Pour a little EVOO into the pan and when hot add cumin and swirl around in the oil. Frying it in the oil will add a little extra flavor. Add carrots and a little pepper. Stir.
6) After 20 minutes in the oven, the chicken should almost be done. Pull the pan out of the oven and place mozzarella on top of the salsa. Put pan back in oven and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
7) When the carrots start to brown, add the onions and herbs and stir again. When onions start to become translucent, add zucchinis. Add a little more pepper and sprinkle a little salt over top to get the juices coming out of the vegetables. This will help them not to burn.


8) When potatoes are done, put them in a bowl with a little of your good EVOO and season with salt and pepper. Smush the roasted garlic up with a fork and add it as well.


Press the spuds with a potato masher. You want leave some chunks of potatoes in there. Remember, they're smashed, not mashed. Add the green onions and mix with a spatula. Serve.
9) The chicken should be done now, so take the pan out of the oven and place each breast on a plate.
10) The vegetables should be done now too, so find the sprigs of thyme and pull them out. Place the vegetables in a bowl. Serve.
Yield: Serves 4


I wrote the directions in real time in regards to this whole meal, so I hope I didn't confuse anyone.

Someone before me has to have made a chicken dish like this before but I don't know if there's a name for it or not, so it's pretty much Chicken alla Mark right now. If anyone knows what the name of this dish is, feel free to let me know.

This is a filling meal, but there are also a few health benefits coming out of it. First, the sweet potato is loaded with beta-carotene and vitamin's A and C. Adding a little fat, such as EVOO, helps your body absorb more of the beta-carotene as well. Plus, steaming it doesn't make you GI (Glycemic Index) shoot up like it would when you bake it. The zucchini's are full of vitamin's C and A and other important minerals, and the carrots are also full of the same, as well as vitamin K, among other healthy attributes. Chicken is full of tryptophan, vitamin B3, protein and is also a good source of selenium. The salsa it was topped with (homemade by my wonderful mother-in-law, by the way) helps this meal along by being made mainly with tomatoes. We all know how good the are for you, especially home grown ones.

Little O's Menu

This weekend, she made a statement by eating far more than she normally does. At one sitting, she ate 2 individual cups of yogurt with fruit (blackberry and raspberry). She continued to do this and even eat more after that. Stunning as she usually eats one and calls it quits. We went for breakfast on Saturday in Banff, and she ate a couple of artichokes from my frittata, and a couple of mouth fulls of Mrs. Urban Eater's French Toast. We are very lucky and thankful she eats what we do. This makes eating, especially when we're out, a lot easier.

Quote Of The Day

"After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations."

~ Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, novelist, dramtist and critic


Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark