Thursday, June 27, 2013

Quinoa, Avocado and Nectarine Salad

The cup of red quinoa doubles in volume when cooked, but is still trumped by all the veggies, herbs, fruit and nuts in this delicious salad. Sub mangoes or cantaloup for nectarines. 
As a carb avoider, I try to mitigate starchy stuff, such as brown rice or quinoa, by adding loads of flavorful-vitamin-and-fiber-rich veggies and fruits, the idea being that fiber slows down weight-gain-inducing blood sugar spikes. Quinoa is a tad more virtuous than brown rice, and is much less sticky, hence I've been experimenting with a variety of quinoa salads inspired, in part, by a recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod. The quinoa salad recipe below is about one part quinoa to three parts veggies, fruit and nuts. It tastes divine and, with all the veggies, is relatively low carb.
Just two cups of quinoa (one cup uncooked) and piles of veggies and fruit dressed in lime, mint, cumin and olive oil make enough salad to please a potluck crowd.

Quinoa, Avocado, and Nectarine Salad

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa. I like the nuttier flavor of red or black, but white is OK
  • 2 cups water
  • Pinch of salt

Cooking the quinoa

I've learned that most quinoa sold in the USA is already rinsed, but just in case, I rinse it anyway. Dump it into a fine strainer and swish it around in a bowl of water. Transfer into a pot with a lid, add the 2 cups of water and a dash of salt, heat covered over medium to a gentle boil, turn the heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes, or until water has disappeared. (If you start on high heat, the quinoa boils up and sticks to the side of the pan. you won't like it.) Remove lid and fluff with a fork. It works well to cook the quinoa ahead and let it cool before adding all the stuff below.

Warning: This recipe is designed for a crowd—it'll feed up to 12 people. Cut by a half or two-thirds for four servings or less. Most quinoa salads will keep well for a few days, but the avocados and nectarines give this salad a shorter life. 
Don't be scared off by all the ingredients, and do NOT run to the store if you're missing something. (Running to the garden is permitted.) You really can't go wrong. Substitute what you have on hand, or leave things out.  


  • 3 medium to large ripe nectarines or peaches, cut into chunks. They should be ripe but not soft. Mangoes are a great alternative in this salad. Add these and the avocados last.
  • 2 large red, yellow or orange sweet peppers, or enough small sweet peppers to equal 1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped into medium-sized pieces.
  • 1 medium sweet onion or four or five green onions, diced.
  • large handful of fresh pea pods, cut into pieces. (I used these only because they're going crazy in the garden. If you don't have them, no worries.) 
  • 2-3 medium avocados, cut into chunks and drizzled with lime juice. Set aside and add last. Slice a half of an avocado to decorate the top, if you want a jazzy presentation. Be sure to sluice slices with lime so they don't turn blackish and look like turds.
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 6 or 7 chard leaves, center stem removed. Roll and slice into thin strips, then cut strips in half.
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh spearmint, minced. Cilantro or basil are good substitutes.
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh  flat Italian parsley, minced.


  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mid-June Garden is Messy. But Good

These cabbage plants were started from seed in the solarium months ago. I wish I had a photo of when they were transplanted because they looked sick, sad and saggy and I feared for their survival. After a month of clinging to life, I gave them a good shot of organic fertilizer, the sun decided to help out, and now they're prize specimens, despite the weeds nipping at their heels. We already have enough homemade sauerkraut to create gas for the entire neighborhood, so we'll likely eat these in salads and soups. They'll stay crisp and pretty in the garage refrigerator for a few months. In the background, peppers cry out for sun and heat, which we haven't had much of for several days.  
This is a mess of perennials. The yellow flowers were planted at least 25 years ago. The lilies, just emerging, are more recent, maybe 10 years. So much of what's out there has its own life, its own mind, its own mess. Especially the pernicious weeds, which are currently overcome by the perennials. Despite the appearance that the flowers are victorious over the weeds, I spend several hours a year beating back the invaders. 
Oh the joy! The first zukes create a big culinary
hot flash, but it's over quickly—as soon as 
production outpaces pent-up demand. This 
happens quickly.
We planted five or six onions varieties, some sweets to eat right away
and keepers that will last until next spring. Garlic is in the background.

Blueberries planted five years ago are coming on strong. The
challenge is keeping them picked before the birds swoop in. 
The first raspberries of 2013. Goldens are super sweet, the best!
Lowly chard protected from evil finches with wire fencing AND wire mesh. We've left the poor beets uncovered, and they're being ravaged by those little bastards. Early chard is a miracle of tender sweetness and super productivity. This small patch can be harvested every other day!
 We eat it all in salads, stir fries and smoothies. Yes, smoothies. 

The peas have passed their peak and I noticed some yellowing leaves today as I was picking. (I also noticed slugs. See below) We planted too many peas. I quit freezing them because they just don't taste that good. But residents and caregivers at my mom's assisted living place love em fresh from the garden. The ability to give produce away is part of the fun of gardening. Did I say "fun"? Hmmm. Not quite. Let's say pleasure, satisfaction, gratification. What is fun? Dancing.
I rustled these juicy slugs from beneath the peas after today's rain 
flushed them out of hiding. They're about to die. No salt. 
Garden shears do the deed quickly. 
Every plant in this photo is a volunteer or a perennial. The birds "plant" sunflowers all around, perhaps in thanks for all the sunflower seeds they devour in their fall frenzy. 
A lot more labor intensive than the flower bed is the main garden: peppers, onions, peas, beans, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchinis, winter squash, melons, potatoes, cabbage, kale, chard, cucumbers. Weeds.
My second favorite volunteer after sunflowers—cosmos. I give them
 an assist by relocating them into clusters. 
We're having a cool wet spell, which is fine for the garden. When summer returns it will explode with growth, and ripe tomatoes will soon appear. I can't wait for the first Caprese salad. The basil and tomatoes are going to quiver with juiciness and joy, ecstatic when the sun comes back. Me too, as on my way to harvest tomatoes and basil, the lilies and poppies will shimmer with light and we will all smile in our own way.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Camp Cooking on the River

This simple but delicious camp meal was a breeze. I marinated the London broil and made the quinoa, avocado and mango salad at home. Our garden peas were stir fried tender crisp with butter and spring onions. 
I wasn't always a food Nazi, but now that I am, kinda, I see no reason to eat anything camping that I wouldn't ordinarily consume. PK and I are moving toward "later life", but we still sleep on the ground in a tent, stumble outside in the dark seeking nighttime bladder relief, and cook under what some might consider primitive conditions so we can spend a few days rafting and camping on the banks of Oregon's Wild and Scenic Rogue River, which is literally in our backyard. We've also done self-guided trips on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, on the Snake River between Oregon and Idaho, and on Idaho's Middle Fork of the Salmon through the Frank Church Wilderness. Every trip, we have to cook, and, most often, enjoy (or endure) the cooking of our companions. 
 A few of you may have read a post I wrote in August 2009 in which I declared a hiatus from river trips. Obviously I have come around. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip described here. Of course, we had benevolent weather and there were just four of us. It was heaven. It will be my one river trip this year. More than that, and I could get sick of river trips for the reasons described in the earlier post.

But back to camp cooking. We do not suffer. Through the years we've developed a proper kitchen that weighs a ton and is getting harder to sling around as the years accumulate. However, once it's set up, it's deluxe.
This custom-made aluminum box holds enough cookware, cutlery and
dinnerware for preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner for about 16 people. 
But eeeuuwww. I don't like those big groups anymore.
Fellow camper and friend of 30-some years, Linda Shonk, is up at the crack heating water for our morning beverages in the camp kitchen. The rectangular thing on the ground by the camp chairs is a fire pan, a mandated piece of equipment to save beaches from fire rings. We barbecued our London broil over it, using a portable grill. The small boat between the rafts got away from another group. We secured it on the beach for them to find. Hope they did!
We haul a giant cooler packed with anything we want to eat or drink. And I mean anything. On one trip, another couple prepared a salt-encrusted prime rib roast on a 100-degree day! (They later divorced, and that may have been the reason.) We've had stuffed cornish game hens, eggs Benedict with hollandaise made from scratch, pork roast, lasagna, cherry cobbler, chocolate cake—whatever will fit into a Dutch oven, over a grill or into industrial-sized cooking pots or fry pans.
The homemade table folds up as does the muslin utensil organizer.
As usual, rocks become part of the kitchen. 
Here's PK, always ready to ply his companions with quality tequila.
After the big rapids, of course. 
Cocktail hour after a tough day of floating class 2 and 3 rapids. Linda and I also hiked several miles on the Rogue River Trail. Note the crowds. For an appetizer we made fresh guacamole with plenty of lime, salt and chopped sweet onion eaten with blue corn chips. 
Our home for the night in our vintage Moss tent. Ahhhh.
PK packing up the kitchen on day two as we prepare to move downstream.
Here I am at our second and last camp enjoying a cold drink and cool river on a hot day.
My bikini days are long over, by the way. I'm now a cover-up girl.