Modern Wife Test Kitchen: Quinoa flour

Welcome to the Modern Wife Test Kitchen! Today I will share with you some of my most recent happenings in the kitchen, this is where I test out new recipes and techniques just before turning out the final product. I guess you can call it an experiment of sorts. Well without further ado…

Did you know that you can make your own Gluten-free flours? This thought kind of hit me today. I’ve been working on a recipe to combine Quinoa, shrimp, and grapefruit in a unique way that wouldn’t be extremely complicated. And it hit me like a bolt of lightning, why not toast the Quinoa, then add in some oats and almonds and grind everything in a food processor to create a mealy type of flour to coat the shrimp in? Sounds easy enough right? I think the flavors will balance very well together, the nuttiness of the Quinoa will compliment the almonds and the oats will bring a sweet kind of mellowness to the mix. This new development has brought on several new possibilities to the current recipe I’m working on. I will leave you without any further details (I know how mean of me), but if you were in my kitchen at the moment you could expect to see grapefruit, oranges, lemon ginger loose-leaf tea, and various spices including crushed red pepper. That’s all for now,  stay tuned to see what this Modern Wife has up her sleeve!

Featuring Spotlight!

As I have previously mentioned, this year I will be sharing some of my behind-the-scenes work on how I do what I do. A large part of what inspires my cooking is the ingredients I use. That may seem very simplistic and well..obvious but it’s true. Something will catch my eye at the market and before I know it I am loading my cart with squash or apples or some kind of interesting green and dreaming up all the different ways that I can use that particular ingredient. I think this partly stems from the fact that my husband used to be a very picky eater in the vegetable department, and so I spent the first several months of my marriage learning every single way to cook the vegetables he enjoyed. I think I can say with confidence that I have prepared Butternut squash at least 10 different ways, maybe more! It really has helped broaden my cooking experience quite a bit. I digress..today I will introduce to you “Spotlight!” a feature I have been testing for a while now. The Spotlight feature will show you my current favorite ingredient to work with, and will hopefully encourage you to maybe try something new. When you see the featured ingredient updated, you will also know what to expect in the upcoming recipe, so you can be on the lookout for it when you’re shopping. You are also able to request Spotlight ingredients, simply leave a comment in the most recent post and it will be submitted for consideration. Stay tuned!

2010 In Review

Speaking of nostalgia, do you remember way back when you were in grade school, and your teacher would send you home with a progress report? Well my friends at WordPress have done just that. Here’s a recap of My Life As a Modern Wife in the year 2010. Not bad for the first year eh? I think this review is fridge worthy if it is polite to say so myself. As always a special thank you for reading! ~ D.

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2010. That’s about 4 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 25 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 116 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 142mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was March 15th with 126 views. The most popular post that day was Photo Gallery .

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, hannahtallo.blogspot.com, likeawarmcupofcoffee.com, mail.yahoo.com, and mommypotamus.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for homemade tomato sauce recipe, sweet potato quinoa bake, and “my life as a modern wife”.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

Photo Gallery March 2010
8 comments

2

Current Foodie Reading February 2010
7 comments

3

Homemade Tomato Sauce November 2010
2 comments

4

10-10-10 October 2010
6 comments

5

Smoothie Love September 2010
6 comments

Holiday Nostalgia & Traditions

The wonderful and slightly romantic thing about being newly married is that your life experiences are intermingled in such a way that each new memory you create is a shared one. Each person in a marriage grew up with some sort of family tradition (albeit good or bad) that they have somehow kept alive over the years and now as an “adult” (we use that term pretty loosely around here) they continue to light that torch of family tradition into their marriage. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of being propped up on a kitchen chair to help my mother with her holiday baking. I remember feeling so grown up, though I could hardly see over the counter, as I carefully mixed the pecan halves into the pecan pie filling and pouring it into the pie crust. Pecan pie, is and always will be a Thanksgiving tradition for me. When Sam &I first started dating, (just before Christmas of 2008) the Linvilles invited me over for dinner and I brought them my mother’s famous pecan pie…and the rest as they say is history! I have been baking it for them ever since. And who can forget Christmas cookies. I’ll never forget the way my mother patiently instructed me to roll peanut butter cookie dough, and then dust the cookie balls in sugar, and finally smash the formed dough crosswise with the tines of a fork (as an artistic kid I loved that part). So last year in all my newlywed zeal, I set out to experiment with several different kinds of holiday cookies and lined the kitchen counter tops with dozens and dozens of cookies. The hubs, of course, loved this as he got to be the executive taste tester (who wouldn’t love that job?!). And this year I hopelessly continued the tradition, adding new and different recipes to the arsenal. They were the perfect holiday party tray and worked very well in gift baskets (don’t worry the hubs still got first tasting privileges). I love the thought of combining each of our favorite holiday traditions and also adding some new ones of our own. This Christmas I was able to visit my husband’s home town in Oklahoma, and see the famous Chickasha Festival of Lights, one of his families annual traditions. It was really beautiful. We also got our first Christmas tree this year, a beautiful Douglas Fir (which I am sad to say will meet his untimely fate with the wood chipper very soon) and have started a new tradition of buying Christmas ornaments each year to decorate the tree with little by little. So despite the holiday rush, it really has been a wonderful Holiday season. I can only smile at the year to come and hold the ones that I love close to me as time pulls us forward.

Thoughts and something new

As followers of My Life As a Modern Wife, you have a front row seat in my tiny crawl space of a kitchen. You get an up close look at some of my favorite creations. You see the final product after it has been  brought through a number of processes and are given the opportunity to try it for yourself (I hope you do!). This is usually how the process works… I brainstorm new ideas from several different sources:keeping tabs on each seasons fresh produce, reading tons and tons of cookbooks from different cultures& eating styles, staying current with new trends in gourmet cooking, eating dangerously (you can’t be afraid to try new things, being adventurous really makes life sweeter), learning as much as I can about nutrition, and last but not least, reinventing old recipes that I have previously made and thinking of old standbys in a completely new way. Then once I have the creativity percolating, I will start to experiment. This is the best and sometimes most frustrating part. Sometimes the end result is surprisingly good, and sometimes well..not so good. So then I formulate my new recipe based on the results of said experiment and continue to tweak and adjust it until I am exhausted satisfied with the end result. Then my dear readers, I will graciously share my findings with you. And that is how I do what I do. As I go through this process I am continually reminded that success in the kitchen can be such a fleeting thing. One day the souffle rises and the next it falls flat, one day you create something wonderful and new and the next day you can’t remember how you did it. So I have learned to embrace this natural ebb and flow and also be very grateful when things work out in the end. So all of that to say there is a lot more happening in the “modern kitchen” than you may think. If you would be so brave as to follow me on this,  I will give you a closer look into the everyday happenings of my kitchen and let you in on all the in-between kind of things that you miss out on. Just trust me on this, it’s gonna be fun. Have a Happy Holiday & I’ll see you in the New Year!

PS: Speaking of something new…I have decided to make a resolution (I know, how original) to join the WordPress community Post A Week 2011 challenge. It is a community of bloggers joining together via The Daily Post actively working to improve your reading experience (in a nutshell). I am hoping this next year your in-box (or Google reader etc.) will be filled with weekly snippets of inspiration straight from my kitchen to yours. Why? Because you deserve it. Thanks for reading!

The Wonders of Oatmeal

Sometimes even the most mundane things can become pretty extraordinary. This philosophy is one that inspires my daily cooking (and living for that matter). It’s one that has fostered (in my opinion) some of my best ideas. Start with one simple ingredient, add a little of this to compliment it, and a little of that for a nutrition boost, and always add a bit of something unexpected..something to contrast what you’re working with but in a pleasant way. And there you go! Today’s recipe uses old fashioned rolled oats as the main ingredient, think of the kind your mother (or grandmother) used to cook on the stove-top. These are a pantry staple of mine for several reasons: they are inexpensive, easily available, they are multi-purpose, packed with nutritional benefits, minimally processed, natural and they keep very well. I’ve researched & tried many baked oatmeal recipes and frequently run into two major problems. One  is that the recipe is very simple on the prep end but uses low-quality (health-wise) ingredients, in other words, it uses loads of butter& white sugar without offering any healthful substance. And the second  conundrum is that the ingredients are healthful but not easily available to me and the process to prepare it is usually somewhat complicated. So as a solution to this I created my own version. I think it strikes the perfect balance between wholesome,versatile, and simple. And if that isn’t enough of a sales pitch let me also mention that they can be made ahead, portioned into little oatmeal squares, and tucked into your purse, bag, kiddos lunchbox etc. for those days when you are in a rush to get out the door. Pretty clever for a tiny little oat huh?

Baked Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Bars

My recipe states that you should soak the oatmeal mixture over night before baking, I know this may seem strange or unnecessary, but the soaking time is very important to ensure the final texture is moist and together and not crumbly. If you are pressed for time another option is to make it early in the morning and allow it to soak during the daytime, then bake later that night. I have tried both, and in my experience both soaking methods work well.

–  1/4 c. unsalted butter
– 3 or more large eggs (I personally like the Omega3 enriched eggs because of their added nutrition, but regular eggs are great too)
– 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
– 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
– 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla
– 2 tsp. cinnamon
-1/4 tsp. sea salt
– 1 c. raisins
– 1c. + 2 Tbsp. whole milk
– 3 c. Old Fashioned Rolled Oats (slightly larger than “quick oats”)
– Pure Maple Syrup
*Optional add-ins: crumbles of lean bacon,dried fruit pieces, banana slices, finely chopped apples, walnuts, nutmeg, allspice etc.
1) Melt butter in a Pyrex style glass measuring cup or bowl and set aside.
2) Grease baking dish & drop in eggs. Beat them well.
3) In the same baking dish, add brown sugar, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well so the mixture is blended consistently.
4) Whisk in the melted butter, all of the milk, the raisins and any other add-ins you wish. Then add oats the the mixture. Equally combine all ingredients. Refrigerate overnight or for several consecutive hours.
5) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Just before baking, drizzle the top with a bit of maple syrup if you desire to add a bit of extra sweetness. Bake for 35 minutes or until fully cooked. When completely cool, you may create individual portable portions, simply divide into squares and wrap in parchment, then refrigerate to store. You will then be able to take these with you on-the-go, or enjoy them warmed as an effortless sit-down breakfast. I like to enjoy mine warmed with a bit of milk or plain yogurt, it’s delicious!

Thank You Mr. Bird

There’s a skeleton in my icebox..and in my freezer. I guess you can say I’ve had a habit of collecting them for quite some time now.

Okay no need to fear, I haven’t committed any crime. My only offense is making rich and delicious stock. For the better part of a year I’ve been studying, cooking, and tasting anything and everything regarding the skill of making homemade stock. I truly believe it is one of the most useful skills that can be learned in the kitchen, and it is worth every minute of the work it requires. So that being said and with the holiday season in full swing I know many of you will be stalking your local grocery store to buy those last-minute ingredients for your families Thanksgiving meal. Well I am here for you! With my user-friendly recipe and tips you can save yourself a trip to the grocery store, some major cash (commercial stock can be up to $5 per quart!), and best of all your sanity. And for that you can be truly thankful this Thanksgiving!

So why go through all of the trouble? I realize this may be a completely new venture for some of you. I am always a bit surprised and flattered by the reaction I get when I mention my stock-making to friends and acquaintances. The end result sounds like it should be extremely complicated and difficult. I know I was a bit overwhelmed with the thought of it before I actually tried it. The truth is when you learn the basics of it, it is actually pretty simple. It does take some time in the preparation department, but the yield makes it completely worth it. Cynthia Lair states in her book Feeding the Whole Family that, “Stock is the secret elixir that can change soup from a humble lunch to fine dining, from meal to medicine.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. So without delay, here is my simple tips on how to make the perfect stock.

1) Use the bones/carcass of a previously cooked turkey or chicken. This not only utilizes every part of the bird and saves prep time, but using cooked bones gives your stock a darker color and stronger flavor. This is what you are looking for in a good quality stock. I recommend roasting (I’m not a fan of the boiling method) your bird a couple of days ahead of time, serve it for dinner, refrigerate leftovers and then the next day separate the remaining meat& bones. You would then have cooked and sliced chicken/turkey to use for a second meal and the bones you need for stock. That’s a lot of value for one bird.

2) Maximize the flavor of your stock by using  Alliums. Alliums are vegetables like onion, garlic, leeks, shallots, and chives. They are known for their strong flavor, nutritional benefits, and versatility. The addition of these will really enhance your stock in many ways.

3) Use vinegar to add calcium and other beneficial minerals to your stock. When you add a bit of vinegar (I use Rice Vinegar) to your stock as it is cooking, the beneficial minerals will slowly leech from the bones of your chicken/turkey to your stock broth. You won’t even be able to detect its flavor as it will be lost in the stock, and you will get the added bonus of nutrition that you cannot receive from boxed stock.

4) If possible, use whole spices. This is optional, but using whole spices are great because they are more concentrated than ground spices and can give a stronger flavor and make straining the liquid much easier.

5) Leave it on the stove. It’s very important to simmer the stock for at least a couple of hours. The longer you allow it to simmer, the darker, richer, and more flavorful it will become. It requires no supervision, just leave it on the stove and check back occasionally. Patience is a virtue.

Anise Spiked- Chicken Stock

I love the depth that star anise gives my classic chicken stock, but if you do not care for it’s flavor or do not have it readily available, feel free to use the spices you enjoy. Turkey bones can also be substituted to make a turkey stock.

– olive oil
– 1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
– 10 cloves garlic (2 Tbsp. minced), peeled and smashed open with a knife
– sea salt
– bones& carcass of a cooked chicken (previously roasted, meat and fats removed)
–  2Tbsp. Rice Vinegar (or other clear vinegar)
– additional spices: 2-3 bay leaves, 3 star anise, & small handful black peppercorns (ground black pepper also works)
1) Heat olive oil in a deep soup pot. Salt then saute onion wedges and garlic for a few seconds till they render their juices and become softened. Fill pot with water leaving a little room at the top. Add the chicken bones/carcass, rice vinegar, and all other spices. Bring pot to a slow boil, then reduce to a simmer.
2) Allow to simmer, undisturbed for a minimum of two hours. Then check, salt, and taste. If you wish for a darker more flavorful stock, keep it on the stove until you are satisfied.
3) When stock is to your liking, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Strain well (several times) into a gallon pitcher or large container or several glass pint jars. The stock will keep refrigerated for a week or more, but if you wish to freeze it keeps much longer.
My method for freezing is to pour stock into plastic ice cube trays and when stock cubes are completely frozen, pop them into a large gallon sized freezer bag. The ice cubes melt quickly and don’t require defrosting. (In case you’re wondering how they measure out, 8 cubes= 1 c. stock.) This method has proved successful for me, but feel free to explore other options that are more convenient for you.