Sunday, March 6, 2011

Enjoying the city of Austin!

     Austin is such a cool city! I am really enjoying it here! On Friday, I decided to ride my bike to school (trying to reduce my carbon footprint :-)) - it only took me about 45 minutes to get there (8.6 miles). It was a fantastic ride - I plan on doing it with one of my classmates 3x/week...saves on gas AND it's my exercise for the day! YAY! Even though I'm attending a health-minded cooking school, I still have to taste things to ensure it tastes just right - this means more calories IN - gotta keep my body movin!

    On Saturday night, I went to the Snack Bar in downtown Austin with a few friends. It's such a neat little lounge place! The waiter was so friendly and didn't rush us at all. We enjoyed the crudites & lavash with a wonderfully blended hummus for an appetizer and I delighted in the Andean Quinoa served with arugula, avocado, and a lemon pepper & pineapple dressing...mmm...delicious.

     This weekend was full of treats - many wonderful conversations and yummy & healthful food of course! Today I made a chowder we made in class last week. I made a few substitutions of course, but I was SO pleased with the outcome. It was a Quinoa & Corn Chowder - one of my new favorites! Creamy, yet hearty & filling, and made with fresh corn! Try the recipe below - you'll be glad you did!

Quinoa & Corn Chowder – 2 quarts
2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1.5 cups shallots, small diced
1 cup celery, small diced (I used carrots instead)
½ cup red bell pepper, small diced
1 tsp salt
¼ cup amaranth (rinsed)
½ cup quinoa (rinsed)
¼ bunch cilantro, minced
4 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup cashew milk (check out my previous blog for a homemade recipe)
2 Tbsp red pepper, brunois (aka small dice)
1 avocado, sliced thin
1. In a large pot, sweat the shallots, celery, and bell pepper in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add salt.
2. Stir in the amaranth with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the quinoa and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, puree 3 cups of the corn with 1 cup of water in a blender or food processor. When the quinoa has cooked for 10 minutes, stir the corn puree and remaining whole corn kernels into the soup. Add salt to taste. Reduce the heat and simmer until the quinoa and amaranth are tender, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the cashew milk.
4. Divide into portions and garnish each with chopped cilantro, red pepper brunois, and avocado slices.
*Adapted from Lorna Sass’ Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way.

     Wow, this is quite the long post. Anyway, I couldn't leave out the Seasonal Menu Challenge we did in class on Friday. We were presented with a beautiful variety of fresh & local foods and in groups we had to design a menu. It had to include a soup, a salad, a roasted dish, & a bean or grain dish. Everyone's creativity SHINED! It was inspiring! Below is the picture of my group's presentation.

Creamy Carrot Soup topped with fresh cilantro; Roasted Brussels sprouts & onions with a balsamic vinaigrette; Brown Rice/Quinoa Combination graced with tomatoes & green onions served over blanched collard greens; Roasted turnip fries/croutons with tarragon & white truffle oil; Orange-Ginger salad with golden raisins & toasted pecans (salad not pictured).

     Now before you start calling me to cater your next party :-) - remember, this is only my first month of culinary school and all of these beautiful & delicious are the results of several talented people working together. However, it's comin! ;-) I'm tapping into the creativity & thought processes of my instructors & classmates to continue to build a strong culinary foundation for myself.

     Thanks for life to the fullest...and be joyful.

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