Sundays in the Kitchen

The glory of the Sunday fridge is undisputed.

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you know that each Sunday I post a list of my Sunday achievements in the kitchen. Sunday mornings are my time to get up early, walk the dog on the beach while making my mental list of to-dos for the morning. By 8am, I’m at the grocery to pick up any last needed items for the week, and by 9am, I’m in the kitchen. My weekly goal is to have all breakfasts, lunches, snacks and 2 dinners for the week prepped by 1pm in the afternoon…sometimes I’m a little quicker, sometimes a little slower. The important thing is that nothing intrudes on this block of time.

A morning in the kitchen sets me up for a successful week at work, where all I have to do is grab breakfast, lunch and snacks from the fridge and toss it in my lunchbag on my way out the door. Having a couple of dinners prepped ahead, and Sunday dinner leftovers for another night make it easy to get dinner on the table quickly, even after a long day in the office.

When I’m done with cooking and prepping Sunday afternoons, there is nothing more glorious than opening the fridge and seeing that wall of storage containers and know that I’m ready for whatever the week ahead brings. Friends often ask how I plan and get all the cooking done each weekend, so here’s how the magic happens (of course, there really is no magic, just some Type A organizational mojo and a teensy bit of help from my younger years spent in professional kitchens as a prep cook).

Lunches, breakfasts and snacks live on the top shelf – red lentil soup, pesto quinoa salad, sliced jicama and bags of veggies for snacks

Breakfasts: 

  • Baked oatmeal with with sour cherries (you can add any favorite fruit to this recipe – about 2 c of fresh fruit)
  • Granola bars for mid-morning snack

Dinners: 

  • Sunday: Mushroom Chorizo tacos w onions and bell peppers and jicama taco shells (similar to what I wrote for the Mushroom Council (client) – full recipe coming soon)
  • Monday: Leftover red lentil soup w roasted red peppers and Italian sausage from last Sunday
  • Tuesday: Grilled hamburgers, fresh sweet corn & cucumber salad
  • Wednesday: Leftover mushroom chorizo tacos & kohlrabi slaw
  • Thursday: Grilled Italian sausage & cabbage salad
  • Friday: Fresh sweet corn pesto pasta with bacon and basil (make this NOW)

Lunches: 

  • Green monster summer veggie quinoa salad with basil pesto vinaigrette
  • Leftover red lentil soup with roasted red peppers and Italian Sausage

Snacks:

  • Baggies of blanched fresh green beans and peeled and sliced carrots (I hate those slimy bags of baby carrots, and they’re 2-3x more expensive than whole carrots)
  • Nectarines and apples from the farmer’s market
  • Granola Bars

Second shelf: cabbage for salads, salsa for snacks, and fixins for chorizo mushroom tacos.

The Plan of attack:

Friday night: 

  • Take inventory of pantry and fridge
  • Menu planning, cruise blogs/Pinterest for inspiration
  • Start the farmer’s market & grocery list

Saturday:

  • Hit up the farmer’s market for local, fresh goodies
  • Make a batch of quinoa (1 1/2 cups + 3 cups water + salt) & stash in the fridge
  • Make granola bars (1 batch lasts us 2+ weeks) & stash in the fridge in a large storage container with parchment paper between layers
  • Night: Prep the baked oatmeal by putting the oats in the almond milk/egg mixture to soak overnight in the fridge

Sunday: 

  • 7am: Preheat the oven and bake the oatmeal. Walk the dog, bring the phone along to add to the grocery list on my list app.
  • 8am: Let the oatmeal cool, and raid Whole Foods or Rogers Park Fruit Market for any items needed for the week
  • 9am: Cooking begins…the trick here is to multi-task as much as possible for maximum efficiency – have something working in the oven or on the stovetop while you’re chopping. Turn on some upbeat tunes and be diligent in setting timers so nothing burns as you multitask.
    • Note: while you get down in the kitchen, this is a perfect time for your spouse/partner/SO to do some cleaning around the house
  • 12pm: Done cooking, and time to relax – perhaps with my favorite margarita.

This morning’s session went something like this: 

  • Preheat oven to broil.
    • Meanwhile: scoop baked oatmeal into storage containers for the week ahead & stash in fridge.
  • Roast red bell peppers for quinoa salad, turning peppers every five minutes.
    • Meanwhile: boil water and blanch green beans, drain beans and chill in an ice water bath
  • Shuck 3 ears of fresh sweet corn & slice kernels off cob. Heat a large, non-stick pan over medium heat, add 1 T olive oil and saute for 5 minutes
    • Meanwhile: Dump cooked quinoa in a large mixing bowl. Dice leftover grilled steak from Friday’s dinner for deployment in quinoa salad. Peel & chop roasted bell peppers & chop a handful of beans for quinoa salad. Add chopped veggies & steak to quinoa bowl. Set aside rest of green beans for snack baggies.
    • Add sauteed corn to the bowl of quinoa, meat and veggies. Gently stir to combine.
  • Make pesto vinaigrette in the food processor: 2 handfuls of fresh basil, stems removed, 3 T marcona almonds, 1 garlic clove, juice of 1/2 lemon, zest of 1 lemon & 1/4 cup olive oil. Process until smooth, add salt & pepper to taste.
  • Scrape the pesto vinaigrette onto the quinoa salad mixture. Use a spatula to gently stir until all quinoa is lightly dressed in pesto dressing. Crumble a handful of feta into the salad and stir a final time. Scoop into storage containers and stash in the fridge.
  • Peel & slice 1lb of carrots and portion into snack baggies along with the rest of the green beans, and place all baggies of veggies into an open storage container in the fridge for easy grabbing.
  • Make watermelon lemonade sorbet base: slice and cube watermelon and dump into the blender. De-seed and juice 3 lemons. Make lemon simple syrup with sugar and lemon juice – add finished syrup to the watermelon, and puree. Stash the sorbet base in the fridge to chill before churning around dinner time.
  • Wash 1.5 lbs of mushrooms in a salad spinner filled with cold water. Swish the mushrooms around a bit to shake all the dirt loose, then pick up the basket to drain. Dump the filthy water, and spin gently.  (Now, I know washing mushrooms is taboo, but people – these things grow in manure, and that’s just not good eats, as Alton Brown would say. So if you’re planning to use mushrooms the same day you wash them, there’s truly no harm in it so far as I’ve experienced.)
  • De-stem the mushrooms (save the stems for stock in a bag in the freezer, since you’ve already washed them) and dice into 1/2” cubes. Store in a large storage container for use in mushroom chorizo tacos for dinner.
  • Dice 1/2 white onion and 1 large red bell pepper for the mushroom tacos. Store in a separate storage container in the fridge.
  • Make Salsa: dump 1/4 of an onion, a handful of cilantro, pinch of salt & garlic powder in a mini-prep processor with 1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes and 1 T chipotle puree. Whizz & jar. Done.

And that, my friends, is roughly what happens in my kitchen every Sunday morning.  What are your prep-ahead secrets? How do you tackle menu planning for the week?  Share your tips for weekday culinary success in the comments below! 

Spicy Buffalo Quinoa Salad

ImageSo….hey.  I’ve been away for a few months, and I’m really sorry about that. I owe you all a few posts about my travels, but let’s get real…it probably won’t happen, even though it’s been a pretty epic season.  I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference (check that one off in the “career dreams” category), attended and spoke at the Eat, Write, Retreat conference (definitely my favorite food blogger conference), and just returned from the Evo conference, where I soaked in the amazing conversations with so many smart, savvy women in between client commitments. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen….

Friends, we eat a LOT of quinoa in our house, in salads of all varieties. Quinoa has higher protein than other grains (technically, it’s not a grain, it’s a seed), is fairly neutral in flavor, cooks up quickly and makes some fantastic salads that can chill for days in the fridge. I love all of these qualities, which makes quinoa one of my go-to pantry staples. I’ve shared many a quinoa salad here, like the standard quinoa salad with black beans and lime-cumin vinaigrette, curried quinoa salad with mango and cilantro chutney, and roasted vegetable quinoa salad.

But with all of those variations, I’ve been getting bored. Quinoa had really lost that new-grain-on-the-block shine, and my attention has been captivated by millet, and experimenting with cooking all varieties of dried beans as inexpensive main dishes ( a la smoky bean tacos). Last week, a friend invited me to join her at Protein Bar for lunch.

For those of you not in Chicago, Protein Bar has been the HOT go-to lunch destination for Loop workers for the last year or so. It’s always packed, and they claim to do “healthy food…healthier.”  I don’t get out of my office much to take a lunch break, so I’d never been. And after eating there, I’m kind of kicking myself for the neglect, because not only do they handle gluten-free food very well, they have some interesting takes on quinoa that have reignited my love.

I enjoyed Protein Bar’s Buffalo Bowl – a generous serving of quinoa, chicken, celery, carrot, blue cheese and cucumber laced with their own buffalo sauce. I was hooked. It was amazing. I couldn’t stop thinking about the salad all afternoon, and couldn’t wait for the weekend to come, so I could try my hand at my own version.

This salad doesn’t disappoint. I added a few more veggies, and spiced it up a couple more levels over the Protein Bar salad, and I can tell you I am quite excited about lunches this week, and looking forward to a few more riffs on Protein Bar offerings. Consider me, re-pumped about cooking up a pot of quinoa!

ImageSpicy Buffalo Quinoa Salad
Serves 7 as a main lunch course
Inspired by Protein Bar

Like all quinoa salads, you can toss in any veggie you have on hand, or your personal favorites. If sweet corn happens to be in season where you are, do add in a couple cooked ears’ worth – it’s super tasty and a nice contrast against the spicy dressing.

1 ½ cups dry quinoa, cooked and chilled
1 batch of GF/DF Buffalo Sauce (note: I increased the amount of cayenne and used about ½ cup of hot sauce) 
2 cups cooked chicken, diced (optional)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 green onions, minced
3 stalks celery, minced
1 cup fresh sweet corn, cut off the cob (or thawed and drained frozen corn
3 carrots, sliced wafer thin
1 handful cilantro, de-stemmed, and roughly chopped
⅓ cup gorgonzola, crumbled
Extra Frank’s Original Hot Sauce, to taste

  1. Cook the quinoa according to the instructions (I make mine in the rice cooker, so am not one to advise on stovetop cooking), then chill completely.
  2. Make Nancy’s vegan buffalo sauce, and set aside. 
  3. Chop all of the veggies and set aside. 
  4. Mince the chicken, and place in a small mixing bowl. Add a few splashes of Frank’s Hot Sauce and toss to lightly coat the chicken, to give the protein a little extra kick. 
  5. Place the quinoa in a large mixing bowl, and break up the quinoa into individual grains with a fork or spatula. Add the black beans, red bell pepper, green onions, celery, sweet corn, cilantro and carrots and gently stir with a rubber spatula to combine. 
  6. Drizzle about half of the buffalo sauce over the salad, and gently stir to coat all of the quinoa. Taste. If you like it a little spicier (as I do), drizzle on the rest of the sauce, and stir again. You may find that you need a little extra kick, so don’t be shy, and shake a little more Frank’s Hot Sauce on there, and stir a bit more. 
  7. Finally, add the crumbled gorgonzola, and fold into the salad just before serving.  This salad also keeps very well in the fridge, and leftovers make a most delicious lunch! As the quinoa salad sits in the fridge, the spice level mutes considerably, so keep a bottle of hot sauce handy to spice it up. 

What are you favorite variations on qunioa salad?  Inspire me!  

Harissa Curried Quinoa Salad

Walking through this city with friends or family from other places always helps me see and appreciate my home with fresh eyes. My parents spent last weekend with us, and we did what Sutherlands do best – spent time cooking, eating, and shopping for the next cooking/eating experience. It’s what we do.

When my parents visit, I choose a Chicago neighborhood for a day of casual exploration, peeking into any shop that looks interesting and hitting a few of my favorite foodie haunts. This year, I decided it was high-time I took Mom & Dad to Old Town.

Old Town is both hip and cozy, so far as city ‘hoods go. There’s lots of interesting little boutiques, but the highlights for me are a trio of shops where my wallet seems to empty of its own accord, without my noticing or caring what the total tab comes to. Old Town Oil, The Spice House and Fleet Feet Sports are snuggled up together on Wells Street, with another favorite foodie spot, Adobo Grill right next door. It’s two blocks of heaven for me.

The ladies at Old Town Oil can always talk me into another bottle of oil or vinegar, and the gleaming casks free for sampling make it an easy sale…this trip I walked out with spicy Harissa oil – not knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it, just knowing that I HAD to have it.

We’ve since decided that the killer application for this spicy treat is to brush it on some fresh, farm stand sweet corn with a sprinkling of sea salt…the contrast of the HOT oil with the sweet kernels popping against my teeth may be my favorite summer treat so far. I think you should definitely have a bottle of this oil in your pantry.

The quinoa salad uses some harissa oil which plays beautifully against the curried quinoa and the orange juice in the vinaigrette gives it just a hint of sweetness to bring it back from the fiery brink. Toss in whatever summer veggies you have lingering in the crisper – don’t get hung up on the list below – use what you’ve got. The salad is light and filling enough for a perfect summer picnic.

Harissa Curried Quinoa Salad
Serves 7

Quinoa:
1 1/2 cups dried quinoa
3 cups water
1 T hot curry powder
1/2 tsp salt

Salad:
1 cup dried chickpeas, cooked (or 1 can chickpeas)
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced,
1 jalepeno, finely diced
4 ears fresh sweet corn, cooked & sliced off the cob
handful of cilantro, chopped
fennel fronds, chopped (optional – I just had some on hand)

Dressing:
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (from 1-2 oranges)
1/4 cup harissa olive oil (or a spoonful of harissa paste + reg olive oil)
1 T whole grain mustard
salt to taste

  1. Cook the quinoa in your rice cooker (or on the stove), with 3 cups water, 1 T hot curry powder and 1/2 tsp salt. When the quinoa is done, scoop it into a large mixing bowl and fluff it with a fork. Let it cool to room temperature.
  2. To make the salad, chop all of the peppers, slice the corn off the cob, chop the cilantro & fennel fronds (if using), and add them to the cooled quinoa along with the rinsed and drained chickpeas. Gently stir everything together with a spatula.
  3. Make the dressing. Squeeze the oranges into a measuring cup until you have a 1/2 cup of juice. Pour in 1/4 cup of harissa olive oil (or 1/4 cup regular olive oil + a spoonful or two of harissa paste) and a good dollop of whole grain mustard and whisk together with a fork. Add salt to taste – the dressing should be pretty highly seasoned, as it will be flavoring the whole vat of salad. Pour the dressing over the quinoa mixture and gently stir together with a spatula. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve, or scoop into storage containers for lots of great lunch leftovers!

314 cal per 1 1/2 cups, 11g fat, 150mg sodium, 450mg potassium, 46g carbs, 8g fiber, 3g sugars, 10g protein

    Sunday morning Sunrise from our balcony before breakfast with my parents…another reason I love my home.

    Quinoa Salad with Cilantro Chutney Dressing


    Sorry for the lack of posts lately on the Whole Kitchen – we’re heading into the high-season at work – the American Cancer Society in Illinois has over 200 events in the next three months, so my plate gets stacked pretty high in working with the local offices on marketing and design support so that we keep raising the funds we need to fight cancer. That, and my training for the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in Chicago is taking a lot of time too. But, the good news is that I’m learning to love running. It’s a great way to take a mental break and clear the cobwebs out. I’m still doing my 22 mile daily bike commute too, but am finding that running is much more relaxing than tangling with taxis and traffic on two wheels.  Anyway…back to the regularly scheduled food talk – and pay attention – you’re going to want to make this salad – trust me!

    Indian food is definitely the “new Mexican” in our house. For the last several years, anytime I’ve been stumped about what to cook, I’ve grabbed one of the Rick Bayless books on our shelf to get a little inspiration in meal planning. Making Mexican dishes is a snap living in a neighborhood with several good hispanic markets. Lately though, I’ve been reaching for Indian flavors more and more…and why not?! The Indian/Pakistani neighborhood is a mere 3 miles away, with several good Indian groceries to select from.

    After our weekend in NYC and my ensuing addiction to dosas with chutney, I found myself back in the kitchen reaching for all the things I would need to make Indian cilantro chutney for grilled chicken thighs. But as I was prepping, the heavens opened up and the rain came down, so I switched gears and decided to make a quinoa salad with a chutney-like dressing. I’m glad that the rain changed my plans, because this salad may be my new favorite way to eat quinoa. The dressing hits all the right notes for Indian chutney – a nice balance of heat and acid, a bunch of cilantro for the herbal note and a nice hit of black mustard seed and cumin for the Indian spice kick. You could drizzle the dressing over just about anything and it would taste good. I used a little of the leftover dressing to make a greek yogurt sauce to garnish lentil soup, and later as a dip for blanched asparagus spears.

    The first time I made the salad, I used some broiled chicken for the protein. I made it a second time with 2 cups of cooked chickpeas and I think I like it even better with the beans, which is nice for a vegan option. Also, if you don’t have cashews on hand, peanuts work equally well. This salad is perfect for lunches, and the salad magically tastes even better the next day – give it a try.

    What’s your favorite way to eat quinoa – share your quinoa love in the comments section below!

    Quinoa Salad with Cilantro Chutney Dressing
    Serves 6-7 as a main course

    1 lb chicken thighs, boneless, skinless (or 2 cups cooked chickpeas to kick it vegan-style)
    2 cups dried quinoa (cook with 4 cups water + 1 T of the curry powder)
    1/3 c grapeseed oil
    1 T brown mustard seeds
    1 tsp cumin, whole
    4 T madras curry powder, divided
    1/3 cup lime juice
    1/2 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
    1/3 cup cashew pieces, divided
    1/2 cup packed cilantro
    1 T honey
    4 green onions, sliced
    4 poblano peppers, whole
    1 red bell pepper, whole
    3 jalepenos, whole
    1 champagne (manila) mango, peeled & diced
    more cilantro for garnish

    1. Cook the quinoa: Cook the quinoa in your rice cooker (or on the stovetop) with 1 T curry powder and 1/2 tsp kosher salt. When the quinoa is done, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool. You can make the quinoa a day or two ahead if you want to.
    2. Make the salad dressing/chutney: Juice 5-6 limes, or until you have 1/3 cup juice. Add 2 T of the curry powder and 1/2 tsp kosher salt to the lime juice. Pour the lime juice/curry into a small mini-prep food processor or your blender. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, and when it’s hot and almost shimmering, carefully add the whole cumin and brown mustard seeds to the oil. Cook for about 30 seconds until the mustard seeds just begin to pop. Pour the hot oil mixture into the mini-prep (or blender) with the lime juice. Add 1/2 cup of cilantro, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1 T honey and the half of the cashews. Puree the mixture until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning – the dressing should be highly seasoned to flavor the quinoa. Store the dressing in the fridge until you’re ready to put the salad together.
    3. Preheat the broiler, setting the top shelf close to the broiler. While it’s preheating, season your boneless, skinless chicken thighs with kosher salt and the remaining 1 T of curry powder. Set aside.
    4. Roasting the peppers: When the broiler is preheated, put all the peppers on a sheet pan, and broil for 6 minutes per side until all sides are charred and blistering. Remove the peppers from the broiler and use tongs to move the peppers to a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate or saran wrap and let the peppers rest/steam for a few minutes so that the skins will be easy to remove.
    5. While the peppers are resting, cook the chicken. Place the seasoned chicken thighs on the now empty sheet pan in one layer, leaving a little room between them. Place the pan under the broiler and broil for 4 minutes. Remove the pan and flip each thigh over, then broil for another 3 minutes. Remove the chicken from the broiler and turn the oven off. Set the thighs aside to cool for a minute or two, and peel the roasted peppers while you wait.
    6. Chop the cleaned peppers and chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces. Slice the green onions thinly, and roughly chop another handful of cilantro for garnishing. Peel and cube the mango.
    7. Place the quinoa in a large mixing bowl and add the chicken, peppers, green onions and cilantro. Using a spatula, gently fold all the ingredients together. Drizzle on about half of the dressing and gently stir the salad together, adding more dressing as needed. I had about 1/4 cup of dressing leftover for later use. Spoon the salad into serving bowls and garnish with a few cubes of chopped mango and the rest of the cashew pieces.

    Note: The salad is fantastic (maybe even better) as leftovers the next day. Don’t mix the mango into the salad you’ll be saving for the next day – it will get sad and mushy.

    510 cal per 1.75 cups, 200 cal from fat, 23g fat, 3g sat fat, 70mg cholesterol, 390mg sodium, 190mg potassium, 55g carbs, 7g fiber, 5g sugars, 26g protein (note: cal counts are probably a little off, as this assumes that you use all of the salad dressing on the salad.)