Category Archives: Share Our Strength

Southwest Quinoa Salad

There are just a few more days to submit posts for this month’s Kitchen Bootcamp challenge… This month is all about cooking grains and legumes, so the possibilites are endless! If you’re interested in participating, be sure to check out all of the details!

So, since I’ve had grains and legumes on the brain with this month’s challenge, I thought I’d share one of my new favorite salads… A quinoa salad!

I only started making quinoa a few months ago, but I have found that I really love it.  I’ve played around with bulgur wheat in the past, but I never really loved the texture… It was always a bit too coarse for me. The quinoa, though, has a nice light texture even though it is whole grain… So, it’s a win – win!

Much like rice, quinoa is pretty versatile and lends itself well to lots of different flavors.  This time around, I decided to use some Southwest flavors – black beans, fresh veggies, and a citrus vinaigrette. This salad is easy to throw together for lunch, and it keeps well in the fridge for a few days. Feel free to swap out the veggies I’ve used for your favorites!

Southwest Quinoa Salad
(Serves 4 – 6)

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 15 ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
    (or about 2 cups cooked black beans)
  • 3 ears of steamed corn, cut off the cob
    (or 2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Mixed greens (optional)
  • Avocado slices (optional)

Combine the quinoa and water in a saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat, and let sit for an additional 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the back beans, corn, bell pepper, onion, and cilantro in a large mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, prepare the dressing by combining the zest and juice from the lime, olive oil, red wine vinegar, chili powder, and agave syrup.  Whisk until smooth.

Once the quinoa has cooled slightly, add it to the bean and vegetable mixture.  Add the dressing, and gently toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chilled or at room temperature.  I like to serve mine on a bed of greens topped with avocado slices.

Cranberry Pomegranate Brussels with Gorgonzola (Share Our Holiday Table)

I enjoy the way everyone comes about the holidays from a different perspective.  We each have our favorite recipes, family get togethers, and other special traditions that make the holidays special.  The one thing that almost everyone can agree on, though, is giving. Whether you choose names for a Secret Santa exchange, spend weeks at the mall shopping for a perfect gift for everyone on your list, or spend the week baking homemade goodies, my guess is that giving is a big part of your holiday celebration.

I have always enjoyed exchanging Christmas gifts. I love searching for the perfect gift for the loved ones on my list, and I do lots of baking to prepare cookies and other homemade gifts for my friends and family.  I enjoy the hustle and the bustle and love the long days working iin my kitchen and assembling and wrapping gifts.  Lately, however, I find that I have less and less enthusiasm about spending a lot of time at the mall.  I feel like many of the people on my list really don’t need anything.  It’s fun to pick out small gifts that they will enjoy, but I can’t get excited about spending money on extravagant gifts just for the sake of saying we spent money.  Can you relate?

Instead, the last few years, my husband and I have really scaled back our Christmas shopping and have tried to focus on smaller, meaningful gifts that our friends and family will enjoy and cherish.  Instead of pouring out my energy shopping at the mall, I’ve taken more time to put together assortments of homemade jams, jellies, and baked goods that I know everyone will enjoy.

As a result, our holiday spending has been considerably less than in previous years, and we have had the good fortunate to be able to share our blessings with those less fortunate. While we do our best to give throughout the year, we like to do a little bit more at Christmas time.  Many of our relatives have started to do the same, and I am truly thankful for that. I would much rather know that someone less fortunate will get a warm meal on Christmas day than add another sweater to my wardrobe.

So, this year, I would ask you to take a step back and really think about the gifts you give this year. I will be supporting Share Our Strength in their fight to end childhood hunger, and I would encourage you to consider doing the same.  As a food blogger, fighting hunger is close to my heart.  Food is a big part of the holidays in my family, and I honestly can’t imagine it any other way.  It breaks my heart when I think of those who can’t afford to put food on the table for their families.

As a part of my holidays this year, I am also participating in Share Our Holiday Table, a virtual progressive dinner party designed to raise awareness about hunger in America and encourage others to help join the No Kid Hungry fight. It seemed like a perfect addition to my 12 Days of Christmas blog post extravaganza!

Today bloggers (myself included) will be sharing side dishes as a part of the dinner party…

To see a list of all of the courses and bloggers who have participated in the progressive dinner party, please visit the Share Our Holiday Table site!  To make a donation and join us in supporting Share Our Strength in their fight against hunger, please visit the No Kid Hungry site.

For my vegetarian side dish, I decided to use one of my favorite winter veggies – Brussels sprouts! I just can’t get enough of them. I had a few stalks of Brussels Sprouts from a local farm stand that were just waiting to be used in a fun new recipe. To jazz things up (this is a holiday recipe, after all), I added a few of my favorite flavors – cranberry, pomegranate, walnuts, and gorgonzola!

Cranberry Pomegranate Brussels Sprouts with Gorgonzola
(Serves 4-6)

  • 1 cup cranberry pomegranate juice
    (plain pomegranate juice would be fine, as well)
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Bring the cranberry pomegranate juice to a simmer in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Reduce to approximately 1/2 cup. Whisk in the dijon mustard and brown sugar, and continue to cook over low heat, whisking occasionally, while preparing the rest of the dish.

Heat the tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  When the butter has melted, add the chopped walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon.  Stir to evenly coat the walnuts.  Toast the walnuts, stirring contantly, until fragrant – for about 4-5 minutes. Transfer the walnuts to a bowl and set aside.

Turn the heat up to medium, and add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the hot skillet.  Add in the Brussels sprouts, and saute until they are tender and caramelized, for about 5-6 minutes. Pour the cranberry pomegranate sauce into the pan and stir in the reserved walnuts and the dried cranberries.  Cook for an additional minute or two to let the dish come together.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with hte crumbled gorgonzola cheese. Serve immediately.

Gratitude and Giving

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle this time of year, isn’t it?

Whether it’s trying to get the house cleaned and decorated for company, developing an elaborate holiday dinner menu, or searching for the perfect gifts for friends and family, there always seems to be something that needs to be done. If you’re like me, you may even enjoy all of the hustle and bustle.  I kind of love running last minute errands on cold nights when I can see my breath and almost smell the snow in the air.

But, as I grasp my steaming latte while I shop in the cold or settle in to my cozy house, I find that my mind often drifts off to those who are less fortunate than I have been. My husband and I are very blessed and fortunate to live the way we do.  Though we do our best to give back throughout the whole year, it really tugs on my heart a bit mroe around the holidays.

Hunger is one of the issues that is particularly close to my heart. As someone who loves to cook, bake, and eat, it is hard for me to comprehend what it must be like to be truly hungry – to not be able to afford to put food on the table for my family. As I settle in to a Thanksgiving dinner with more than enough food to go around, I know that there are many who may not even have a decent meal on Thanksgiving day.

I’m not trying to dampen your spirits or ruin your Thanksgiving.  Quite the contrary.  Instead, let’s take this opportunity to express our gratitude by giving back.  What could be a better way to brighten our own Thanksgiving celebrations by taking a moment to share what we’ve been blessed with to brighten the day for someone less fortunate.

I sometimes feel that the fight against hunger can be so huge that my small efforts hardly make a difference.  I was starting to feel that way this year when I got an email from Jennie from In Jennie’s Kitchen asking if I would like to participate in writing a post this Thanksgiving about hunger.  She had the right idea… If we all do a little bit, we can make a huge difference.

Please join us in our fight against hunger and help to fill an empty plate for those less fortunate this Thanksgiving.

Central PA Bake Sale Recap

Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale is now in full swing for 2010… Food bloggers all over the country took part in the National Bake Sale Challenge on Saturday with the National Food Bloggers Bake Sale.  You’ve heard me talk about the sale quite a bit lately, so I thought I would share a few pictures and a quick recap of the sale!

I dedicated a large part of last week to my bake sale preparations.  The week started out with quite a few errands.  In addition to the bake sale necessities (flour, sugar, and about 5 pounds of butter!), I found some fun Fourth of July decorations on sale a bit early, so I picked them up to help decorate the bake sale tables and stick with the patriotic theme.

After I was done with all of the errands, I got started on all of my goodies for the bake sale.  I made roasted almonds (cocoa and cinnamon), chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate marshmallow peanut clusters, toffee pretzel bark, chocolate chip cookies, cranberry oatmeal cookies, vanilla cupcakes, and cinnamon rolls! It may sound like a lot, but I actually enjoyed spending a few days in the kitchen… Hard to believe, I know!

In addition to the baking that I did, I had quite a bit of help from my family! My aunt made lots of cookies (chocolate chip, peanut butter blossoms, and brownies), my grandmother brought an assortment of goodies (biscotti, chocolate peanut butter fudge, cinnamon muffins, and rice krispy treats), and my mom brought some bread and cakes (homemade whole wheat banana bread, blueberry coffee cake, and pound cake). And, even though he didn’t bake, my hubby helped out with the sale quite a bit, helping transport baked goods, set up tables, and provide moral support!

I also had the opportunity to meet two new bloggers from the area, who both contributed to the sale.  Ashley from The Cookie Sheet Bakery brought some beautifully decorated cookies (cupcake shaped cookies decorated like the Great American Bake Sale logo and blue patriotic star cookies).  Christin from Oh It Is Love brought some gorgeous cupcakes (vanilla with pretty “tiffany blue” icing and chocolate with peanut butter icing).  It was a lot of fun to meet them, and I look forward to getting to know both of them better… They have even offered to help with future bake sales!

On Saturday, we arrived at the Outlets at Hershey around 9am to start setting up for the sale.  Unfortunately, we had a cold front come through on Friday (complete with heavy storms and power outages, although I managed to escape that part of it), and it was quite cold and windy. We braved the cold and wind from 10am – 3pm for the sale, but there wasn’t nearly as much shopping traffic as I had hoped! I’m afraid the unseasonably cool weather kept people away!

The good news is… Despite the cool weather, we still managed to make $270 at the sale on Saturday.  When combined with generous online donations, the total for the Central PA sale was $400! It wasn’t quite as much as I had hoped, but I am still happy that I was able to help.  And, I’m looking forward to my annual bake sale at our neighborhood yard sale coming up in a few weeks!

While the $400 we raised in Central PA may not seem like a lot, every little bit helps in the fight against childhood hunger. The Food Bloggers Bake Sale proved that over the weekend. As individuals, our efforts may seem small, but combined, we were able to raise over $16,500 for Share Our Strength! And, hopefully we have inspired you to hold a bake sale of your own this year!

1 Week To Go… Food Bloggers Bake Sale!

The Food Bloggers Bake Sale is just one week away… Can you believe it? It seems like the time has flown by, but I’m also really excited for the sale!

If you stop by here often, you may have noticed that I added a new Fighting Hunger section to the site. You also probably know that I am passionate about fighting hunger in America.  So, in that section, I will be sharing information about the events that I am participating in to help spread the word and give you the opportunity to get involved, as well!

Get Involved with the Food Bloggers Bake Sale

Since I am heading up the Central PA sale for the Food Bloggers Bake Sale, I decided to add a Food Bloggers Bake Sale page within the Fighting Hunger section to provide all of the sale details for you.  You can also view the official press release for the sale!

Now that you have all of the info, you can get involved!  If you are from Central PA, I’d love for you to stop by my bake sale or even consider donating some baked goods for the sale.

Please Note – The giveaway originally announced in this post was cancelled due to lack of interest and donations.