Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Quinoa Wrap... The Obligatory Diet Post/ Trader Joe's post #3

Ok I lied last week. I'm going to post this one healthy diet recipe. 2 reasons #1- I haven't done a Trader Joe's post in awhile and this features some great TJ's products that I need you to get obsessed with #2 it's actually really delicious, well balanced, easy, & fast to make when you just need a grab and go dinner. Aaaaaaaand only about 300 calories. So, cool here we go!

Along with a lot of things I was a late adopter to the quinoa (pronounced Keen- wah) obsession. My first couple times tasting it I just couldn't get down with the texture. I feel like maybe it was a little too sprouted or something? Additionally I just really didn't care about the health benefits at the time. But one day a couple months ago I was strolling around my local TJ's checking out the frozen veggie section for some inspiration and saw the Quinoa Duo with Vegetable melange and thought- alright it's time let's try this again.
I took it home followed the directions to heat it up in the microwave (microwave safe bowl cover with plastic wrap, wave on high for a minute, fluff with a fork, wave another 1-2 minutes, done!) and the first thing to hit me was the spicy savory aroma. Reminiscent of some Indian curries but not as overwhelming it was flavor packed. The little quinoa grains were much closer to the texture of couscous than sprouts (winning) and the veggies were tender and plentiful. I'm lovin' it. I had recently been having an after work snack of a tortilla with hummus and spinach and inspirations struck, if I added a half cup of this quinoa mix I could make that into a pretty delicious and way healthy "burrito". At first I was adding strips of grilled or poached chicken breast but after a couple times decided it didn't really need it. Quinoa is actually what is considered a "complete protein" which means that it has correct amounts of all 9 amino acids to sustain human functions. So for my vegan vegetarian buddies out there if you haven't gotten on board yet do it!

So now for the " Recipe"

  • Start by nuking your 1/2 cup of quinoa, during the first minute...
  • Take 1 flour Tortilla and Spread down the center with 2-3 Tablespoons of Roasted Garlic Hummus (TJ's Brand is delish) I leave about an inch at the bottom to fold
  • Next add your 1/2 cup of Quinoa (the Hummus helps it stick)

  •  Lastly pile on as much fresh spinach as you possibly can, fold up the bottom fold in the two sides as tightly as possible and there you go! A happy healthy dinner in 5 minutes!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Thai Coconut Curry Steamed Mussels- Because Dieting is boring

As you may or may not have noticed I pretty much stopped posting this summer. I guess it's probably for a lot of reasons, being busy at work etc. But when I really think about it the biggest reason is- I've been on a diet. Now you all know how much I love food so obviously I still find ways to eat small portions of my favorite things but when you are sticking to 1,200 calories a day there isn't a lot of wiggle room. Have I come up with some great healthy recipes? Absolutely! I make a really yummy spinach, hummus, and herbed quinoa wrap all the time for dinner. But I am not a diet blogger, nor am I a health food blogger. I blog about indulgent restaurants and my attempts at making fancy dishes at home. Sure some of it isn't calorie laden but my point on here isn't nutrition, you can find PLENTY of other blogs for that. My point in blogging is passion and sharing the things that get me really excited. So while I've been satisfied in what I have been eating lately, I haven't exactly been excited. Well it's time I share something that I recently made that was exciting for me.

Shellfish have really been an adult favorite for me. When I was a kid through late teen about the closest I could get were shrimp (already out of their shell) or maybe imitation crab. I think a lot of my distaste was a texture thing with maybe a 30% presentation thing (shells were like bones and that kinda freaked me out). As I get older however and try more things I have enjoyed a growing passion for fresh seafood particularly the shelled varieties. I'm obsessed with oysters on the half shell thanks to my man. After finally trying them in a new menu item waaaaaay back when I worked at Macaroni Grill I can't get enough Scallops. Similarly I had never had much desire to try mussels until, while as a new staff trainer at Pizza Antica, I had to do a tasting of our white wine and fennel steamed mussels as part of menu training. It was one of those revelations where you feel slightly sheepish- why had I been avoiding these? While I don't eat them often I have a new affinity for steamed mussels that had finally manifested in a desire to cook them at home. A daunting task in that I had been haunted by the need to "debeard" the mussels prior to cooking them. After making this dish last night.... I'm still not sure what it entails. I really wanted to make this post about over coming my fear and giving you all hints on how to do it. Well I guess I can still do that I found a great step by step description HERE on AllRecipes.com When it came time for me to do it however on my pound of Black Mussels I procured at Whole Foods.... there wasn't a Beard to be detached. At least not as far as I could see. Maybe 3 or 4 (out of about 25) had a little tiny bit still stuck on that was easily pulled off but other than that- nada. Was I blind? Did I not understand what I was looking for? Honestly I still don't know. My guess is that Whole Foods debeards them for you. I guess I should have asked (their staff is always happy to talk in depth about their products and preparing them especially with first timers) but I didn't. No harm no foul they came out awesome!

There are lots of different combinations of liquids you can steam mussels in traditionally white wine based. However I was craving something a little more exotic. I found this recipe on good old Epicurious from the August 1999 issue of Gourmet Magazine. Not being a big cilantro fan I skipped that and added fresh lemon grass stalks to the steaming liquid. I also added some sliced green bell pepper and vermicelli noodles to make this more of an entree vs an appetizer. Lastly because I was only making them for myself I only used 1 lb of mussels vs the 5 the recipe calls for. I still used the full amount of steaming liquid.

Thai Coconut Curry Steamed Mussels


  • 5 pounds mussels (preferably cultivated)
  • 3 limes
  • a 13 1/2-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 Stalks Fresh Lemon Grass
  • 1 Medium Green Bell Pepper, quartered and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • Vermicelli Noodles or rice noodles (as mush as you would like)

  • Directions
    As soon as you get home from the store open up packaging the mussels are in so they can breath. Fill a bowl with cool water and let them soak for 20 minutes, this should expel any sand left in the shells.

    Scrub mussels well and remove beards. (or in my case just inspect them and realize there are no beards to remove...for a few minutes wonder if you are blind or just stupid, proceed to finish scrubbing and just hope for the best).

    In a separate bowl soak noodles in hot water for 5-10 minutes to soften. Place drained noodles at the bottom of serving bowl.
      Squeeze enough juice from limes to measure 1/3 cup. In an 8-quart kettle boil lime juice, coconut milk, wine, curry paste, garlic, fish sauce, Lemon grass (cut in 1 inch pieces) and sugar over medium high heat, stirring, 2 minutes. Add bell pepper slices & mussels, tossing to combine. Cook mussels, covered, stirring occasionally, until opened, about 5 to 8 minutes. (Discard any unopened mussels.)
    Serve mussels over noodles with lime wedges. 

    Enjoy this treat with your favorite crisp white wine!