Tuesday, May 22, 2007


In Sacramento, our ex-hometown, I am always inspired to experiment with new recipes. Here I know where the "ususual" ingredients can be found: Trader Joe's, the Sacramento Food Co-op, and the best of the grocery stores. Here I know where and when to find the farmer's markets.

Here we socialize with family and friends - around food. Claire and Patrick, my teenage niece and nephew, are vegetarians, while all the men in the family are carnivores, so planning for family gatherings inspires a bit more creativity than usual.

AND, here in the urban environment, we have broadband access on our aircard, so surfing the web for new recipes is fast and fun.

Time, access, and socializing: all the ingredients for creativity in the kitchen.

Not long ago, I began experimenting with quinoa, a quick-cooking grain similar in size to couscous (which is a pasta). Quinoa cooks in 15 minutes, and has a chewy, nutty texture and taste that both Odel and I like - and great nutritional attributes: a complete protein (unusual in the grain world) that is lower in carbs than other grains. Quinoa is available in both red and white - the red is more chewy (like other whole grains); the white is more tender (similar to pastas). I prefer the red.

My favorite new recipe using quinoa, named Aztec Platter, came from a website I had not explored before: Fabulous Foods.

Aztec Platter - isn't it a great name? Easy, quick, delicious, vegetarian, and potluck friendly: makes plenty, good looking (see the photo above), served at room temperature, and containing nothing to incubate bacteria if it sits out for a few hours.

Last night's dinner was Aztec Platter accompanied by Aidells Chicken Teriyaki & Pineapple Meatballs (you buy 'em fully cooked) heated in a saucepan with Trader Joe's Thai Yellow Curry Sauce. Yum! And quick. If you want to try Aztec Platter, I've posted a link to the recipe in my FAVORITE RECIPES section on the left of the blog.

Fish sauce is another exotic ingredient that I keep it on hand for a shrimp soup we like. Though the soup uses very little of the fish sauce, there is absolutely no substitute for the flavorful, pungent, aromatic liquid. So I wondered... what else can I use this for?

I found the answer on the website for Eating Well magazine, which I immediately added to my "Favorites" list. Tropical Cucumber Salad mixes three yummy ingredients - "seedless" English cucumber, mango and avocado - with a quick, easy dressing. If you want to try this unusual, refreshing, quick salad, click on the new recipe link I added to FAVORITE RECIPES (left side of the blog). By the way, you can find Thai Kitchen brand fish sauce in any well-stocked grocery store in the Asian food section.

Oh, and one more recipe... We first tried the Tropical Cucumber Salad with a delicious crockpot dish that uses yet another unusual ingredient: ginger preserves. I had to wait until we returned to California and found an upscale supermarket before I found the preserves. The recipe (posted) calls for Robertson's brand; I found and used James Keiller "Dundee Ginger Preserves". The Ginger Chicken (served on brown rice) and Tropical Cucumber Salad were a perfect pair.


  1. Laurie -- this is FABULOUS!!!!! Mom is all excited about the new recipes which I have already printed off, and I am excited about being the "taste tester." tee hee Wish we were close enough to "participate" in the "family gatherings." Claire and Patrick would have company!

  2. Thanks for posting more recipes. Can't wait to try the Ginger Chicken. The oat muffin recipe I have made so many variations I JUST LOVE THOSE MUFFINS right now in my oven is Lemon Blueberry muffins, can't wait to try those in the morning. I was surprised in the grocery store how many different kinds of flavorings there are- you have sparked my imagination :) By the way loved the lemon sauce used in on salmon & chicken.

  3. Laurie - You're the first person I've run into that knows what quinoa is! I've not seen the red, though. I bought a 25-pound bag of regular from Bob's Red Mill, and it has lasted a couple of years. We eat it fairly often.

    I've been getting smaller quantities, but still reasonably priced, from


    They are near Portland, Oregon, but will ship via UPS anywhere. Check out their site because if you are anywhere near their truck route, you can get any of their products, which include fresh produce. I'm not sure if it extends to Sacramento, but have a look at their site to find out.

    They have the best dried cranberries that I have found anywhere, and at the most reasonable price.

    Virtual hugs,