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!

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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!

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.

Summertime

There’s just something about watermelon that loudly announces the start of summer. Think about it, you wouldn’t lug around a container of turnips at the beach, you most likely would not serve cabbage at a picnic, and I don’t think onion slices would be a very tasty poolside snack. When it comes to summertime snacks, watermelon is tops!

But don’t neglect the other guys in the produce aisle, with the turn of the season comes fresh new summer produce. One of the wonderful things about Texas in July (definitely not the humidity) is the colorful array of seasonal produce it offers. Shopping seasonally not only saves your hard-earned cash, but gives you the opportunity to purchase your fruits and vegetables at their peak of freshness. And if you choose to buy local, you can also feel good about the fact that you’re supporting local agriculture and boosting the business of your “neighbors”. Being neighborly is what being a Texan is all about right?!

Here is a list of seasonal produce for the month of July:

Apples,
Blueberries,
Cabbage,
Cantaloupes,
Carrots ,
Cucumber,
Herbs,
Honeydew Melon,
Mushrooms ,
Nectarines,
Onions ,
Peaches,
Pears,
Peppers,
Plums,
Potatoes,
Summer squash,
Tomatoes,
Turnips,
Watermelon

*If you’re not a native of the Lone Star State, you can find your states produce calendar on the NRDC website, simply follow this link and enter your state.

http://www.nrdc.org/health/foodmiles/fullyear.asp?state=45

Rainy Day Picnic

Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. This is a principle I have learned to adapt as my life motto. I mention this because this is exactly what I had to do Mother’s Day weekend. With greatest aspirations, I planned a Mother’s Day picnic for my mother and new mother-in-law. This being my first holiday to officially celebrate having two mothers, I had to make this special. The idea of a spring picnic was very appealing to me. I couldn’t think of anything better than my two families gathering together, eating fried chicken with a beautiful park or garden as the background. We would all eat and play games, and drink in the beauty of spring. Doesn’t this sound like a dream? Well unfortunately it was. On Sunday morning I was awoken with the harsh reality that rain was on the forecast. A bit crushed, but not defeated I decided to create an indoor picnic. It was surprisingly easy thanks to my love of flowers and nature. A few terracotta pots and a red Geranium strategically placed on the patio, vibrant yellow Forsythia and Willow branches in a giant vase on the hearth of the fireplace, and a charming Orchid display on the dining room table brought in much-needed color and the nature element. A nice scrub down and dusting session of the apartment, then opening all of the windows and raising the shades, and lit candles brought in an amazing element of light and an open airy feel. And last but surely not least, I brought down my fancy China that I’m afraid to use, and it polished up quite nicely. (It was way better than paper plates and plastic cups!) There you go, instant indoor picnic. To think, all of the ingredients for a perfect day were hidden in my third-floor apartment.

Now I know what you’re all thinking, what about lunch? Well my friends that was the best part. My Mother’s Day menu included Rosemary Fried Chicken, The Best Basic Potato Salad, and Mediterranean Garbanzo Salad served with Southern style Iced Tea with Lemon. For dessert I whipped up a homemade Berry Cobbler and served it alongside Vanilla Ice Cream and Coffee. I revamped my Southern favorites with a little help from www.wholefoodsmarket.com and Sprouts Farmers Market (they have affordable local produce and a great bulk and whole wheat flour selection). Everything got rave reviews from my family, so I think it’s safe to say my Mother’s Day Picnic was a success. I hope your Mother’s Day was special and memorable as well! I would love to hear all about it.

***Stay tuned for a Mother’s Day Photo Gallery!

Cooking Class 1.20.10

On January 20th, 2010 I was obliged to accept an offer to teach a cooking class for a group of young ladies at my church. This being my first experience teaching, I will admit I was a little nervous. I chose Asian cuisine as a primary focus, namely because of my great love for the food and culture of Asia. Upon much toil and research, I prepared a menu that would give a small taste of the staple flavors and cooking techniques from China. Why China specifically? Well, it is known as the root of all Asian cuisine, so I thought it best to start at the beginning. This is a sample menu, and highlights of my class.

~Menu~

Yum Cha – Spring Onion Pancakes form Northern China, served with Jasmine Green Tea.

(I taught the Cantonese tea house traditions of drinking tea and eating Dim Sum.)

Soup- Chinese Chicken& Mushroom Soup

(My students learned traditional soup techniques that are used in countless Chinese recipes and are still utilized today.)

Entree- Bok Choy& Chicken Stir-fry in Five Senses Sauce, served with brown rice

(I taught the stir-fry technique, as well as the balancing of flavors using the “five senses”, which are hot, sour, salty, sweet, and bitter. This method helps develop the palette and create the harmony and balance found in Asian food. )

Dessert- Chilled Chocolate Mousse cups with Orange

(Dessert was a surprise for my students. It was gone in a flash!)

~I would like to give a special thanks to Ms. Olivia McClendon for sharing her charming photos for this post! Check out the Photo Gallery page at the top for more photos. Enjoy!

Much ado about Curry

I have a confession to make. I have just bought (and tasted) curry powder for the very first time.

As a native Texan I grew up with the food and flavors of the South. I have absolutely no regrets about that, in fact I’m working on revisiting some of my favorite dishes from childhood in a new somewhat modern way (stay tuned for that one). However, I love learning about other cultures from around the world especially when that pursuit of knowledge leads to fascinating new food. Thus began my new experiences with Indian spices. I have been a long time fan of the loose-leaf teas of India, but I can honestly admit I have very little (if any) practice cooking traditional Indian food. So I decided to push my intimidation aside and start introducing these new flavors into my cooking and to my husband (who is very brave and honest). I’m dabbling to say the least, with Curry and also Turmeric powders and digging into any Indian cookbook I can get my hands on. Trite as my efforts may be, I hope they will inspire you to try something new.

my orange curry couscous