October 25, 2010

Against Pumpkin: A Polemic

Each fall, I find myself getting annoyed with everyone's obsession with pumpkin. I read a lot of food blogs, and almost every single one has featured at least one post about how it really feels like autumn when you can start cooking with pumpkin. They then feature pumpkin recipes, including pumpkin yumkins (???), pumpkin tortellini,  pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin gnocchi---anything that can be remotely pumpkin-ized has been pumpkin-ized here in 2010.

Now, I do like some pumpkin foods. Pumpkin pie is in fact one of my all-time favorite foods. But I eat it on Thanksgiving and I eat it on Christmas and I keep my mouth shut about it at other times. From September to November, the pumpkin talk and the pumpkin love in the world is just overkill. Every coffeeshop or restaurant features "special" pumpkin goods, and I've just had enough. I don't want to hear any more about pumpkin lattes, pumpkin scones or pumpkin ale.

I can't believe I typed pumpkin that many times; the word looks totally weird to me now.

If you too are fed up with the pumpkin-centric world, tell me in the comments. Or, if you completely disagree with me and you can't get enough of pumpkin, tell me that too.

More posts later this week, including a feature on a soup party I attended this weekend, and Robbie on blackberry brownies!

October 14, 2010

MFA Controversies, Food Links, What Should I Cook For Workshop?

Recently there has been quite a bit of controversy in the lit-blog world about the value and necessity of MFA programs. If you're interested, check out some of the links:

-The MFA Question Mark on the Poetry Foundation's Harriet blog
-The Rumpus' take
-Montevidayo on Seth Abramson's MFA rankings, and then Montevidayo's MFA controversy roundup

Un-MFA related:

-Seven tips to stop wasting food.
-Got a food related question? Tweet it to Foodpickle.
-My question about how to eat more protein at breakfast was featured on one of my favorite food blogs, The Kitchn!
-I failed horribly TWICE when making this seemingly easy dessert. I will try again.

MFA-related again, but also related to me:

I am now blogging at the NMSU Creative Writing program blog; check it out if you're a prospective MFA student, or if you just want to know more about what we're doing and writing here in southern NM.

Also, I'm cooking for workshop again this Tuesday. Any suggestions on what might be good?

October 11, 2010

Quinoa Fiend Stuffed Peppers

So, I'm a quinoa fiend.  I generally try as hard as I can to eat as healthfully as I can, and I find that quinoa allows me to do that while also allowing me to make meals that actually taste good. It truly is a magical grain---a complete protein (I am also a protein fiend!), tasty, and versatile. It's also totally gluten-free, which is an added bonus for some people.

I like all the varieties I've tried including red, white, and black, and I also really like quinoa pasta. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a bit expensive (and can be hard to find if you're not in a bigger city), but it fills you up without making you have that awful stuffed-to-the-gills feeling you can get with pasta, rice, or other grains. I don't mind spending the extra money to buy quinoa, even on a graduate student salary, because its nutritional value and versatility are really valuable to me. I know that sounds so, like, organic and snobby, but it's true for me. At least with quinoa; there are a ton of foodstuffs I'm happy to take the cheap route on, like cheese or cereal. But anyway!

I seriously eat quinoa all the time: with eggs and salsa for breakfast, in salads, as a companion to chicken and shrimp, with stir-frys, mixed up with crunchy tortilla chips, salsa and melty cheese for lunch.

This recipe is designed to use up whatever random half-used-up vegetables and/or cheese you've got laying around. I used onions, black beans, tomatoes, and feta cheese, but you could easily add in or substitute zucchini, squash, leeks, spinach, whatever.  It's easy to manipulate the flavor here: this recipe can be tweaked to have more a Mexican, Italian, or Greek flavor, depending on the type of cheese and seasonings used.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
serves 2
hands-on time: 15 minutes
total time: 45 min

1 cup of quinoa (I used black here)
1/2 a can of black beans
1/2 an onion
1 small tomato
small handful of feta cheese
2 red or green peppers
couple tbsps of olive oil
salt, pepper, and seasoning to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Cook your quinoa. If you're using boxed, follow the directions on the box. If not, generally follow the rule of 2 parts water to one part quinoa. Rinse the quinoa then bring to a boil in a pot with two cups of chicken or vegetable broth. When the mixture is boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and cover until all liquid is absorbed (usually 10-15 minutes).

3. You'll also need to steam the peppers a little bit before you cook them in the oven. My lazy shortcut way is to slice the tops off, pull out the seeds, and microwave for about 4 minutes, until soft.

4. While the quinoa is cooking, dice your onions and tomatoes. You'll want to dice them smaller than what I did here (see picture). The vegetable pieces were kind of a little bit too big to put inside the peppers, but I am a lazy dicer. I hope you aren't.

5. Throw your onions in a pan with some olive oil and saute until translucent; then add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and seasoning (I used a Mexican one). Once this mixture is a little bit bubbly, add in the black beans. Cook for 3-5 minutes.

6. Once the vegetable mixture is done, add it to the cooked quinoa. Stir, and add in your handful of feta.

7. Carefully scoop the quinoa mixture into the peppers, sprinkle a little bit more cheese on top, and bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes.

8. You'll want to let these cool before serving them, as they retain quite a bit of heat.

You'll probably have a good amount of the quinoa mixture leftover, which can be used in another meal....maybe as a side dish to beef or chicken, or rolled up in a burrito. The pepper I had leftover was equally as good the next day with eggs for breakfast, as you can see below.

For some awesome quinoa recipes, check out Rebecca Woolf's blog.


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