101 Cookbooks’ Quinoa with Currants, Dill & Zucchini

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Last weekend I hosted a baby shower for my friend, Meredith, who’s expecting a little boy in August.  My jobs for the shower included making gluten-free blondies and a quinoa salad.

Last summer I made this quinoa salad for another baby shower, but when I saw the following recipe on Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101 Cookbooks, I couldn’t resist.  I love random ingredient combinations and this recipe fits that description.  I was a little nervous about the dill in the salad but I really enjoyed it, especially with the feta cheese.

I tripled the recipe below since I was making it for a crowd.  There were plenty of leftovers too!Quinoa with Currants, Dill and Zucchini (from 101 Cookbooks)


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup dried currants (you could use dried cranberries too)
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 medium zucchini, grated
  • 4 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds*
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • Feta cheese, crumbled

*To toast sesame seeds, I put a dry pan on medium heat on the stove top, added the sesame seeds and toasted for about five minutes, tossing a couple of times during the cooking process.  They will brown and start to smell yummy.  That’s how you know they’re ready.  Toasted sesame seeds are quite possibly my new favorite thing!

For quinoa: Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add most of the green onions, a pinch of salt, and cook until onions soften, a couple of minutes.  Add the quinoa and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grains toast a little bit, about 3 minutes.

Add the water, currants, and remaining salt.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, decrease heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is cooked, about 15 minutes.  (Even with tripling the recipe, I didn’t need to cook any longer so you might want to check on it after about 10 minutes.)

While quinoa is cooking, zest the lemon and squeeze 2 tablespoons of lemon juice into a small bowl.  When quinoa is cooked, remove pan from heat.  Stir in zucchini, lemon juice and zest, most of the sesame seeds, and most of the dill.  Add salt as needed.

Put quinoa into a serving bowl.  I refrigerated it for awhile before adding the feta cheese.  Add as much feta as you’d like.  (When eating leftovers, I’ve been adding a little more.)  Refrigerate and serve cold or at room temperature.

This dish is great if your hosting a shower, summer cookout or any other warm weather event.  It would go perfectly with this grilled chicken.


PS: My friend, Mary Stuart, made this amazing (GF) popsicles, with cool flavors like mango, watermelon mint, and blueberry lemon.

Whole Foods Buckhead Hosting Gluten-Free Expo

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I just learned from the Gluten-Free Examiner, Jennifer Harris, that there will be a gluten-free expo on Saturday, August 7 from 12-4, at the Buckhead Whole Foods.  There will be demonstrations and gluten-free vendors so you should definitely check out this GF event.

Whole Foods has been a very successful grocery chain, with mixed reviews.  Some criticize it for pushing out smaller, local, natural food stores while others applaud it for bringing quality ingredients to communities and supporting some (not all) local farms.  A January article in the New Yorker entitled, “Food Fighter” featured Whole Foods’ founder and CEO, John Mackey.  This article provides an interesting perspective on the store and Mackey.  It’s worth the read.

Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey

Despite the controversy associated with this high-end grocery store, I always appreciate Whole Foods’ large selection of gluten-free foods, and random ingredients like quinoa, almond flour, bean sprouts, and every nut you can imagine.

Here are some of my favorite things about Whole Foods:

  • Great selection and prices on wine (10% off if you buy in bulk.)
  • Whole Foods Gluten-Free Bakehouse Pie Crust (Great for Tomato Pie & Quiche)
  • Each item in salad bar is clearly labeled with ingredients
  • Amazing cheese selection
  • The best store bought gluten-free cupcakes, ever.
  • People say Whole Foods is expensive (and it is) but there are good deals to be found.  Cedar’s hummus is often “Bo-Go” and Lara Bars are often the best price in town.  (You get an extra 10% off if you buy the whole box.)
  • Whole Foods meets all of the shopping needs for the contestants on Top Chef.  (Sometimes the tilapia’s frozen or one contestant buys out all of the lamb chops before his opponent can get to them, but for the most part Whole Foods has everything.)

Thoughts on Whole Foods?  Favorite Saturday splurge when wandering the aisles?

“We’ll Always Have Baltimore:” Homemade Crab Cakes

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“Crabcakes and football! That’s what Maryland does.” As a former Baltimore resident myself, I couldn’t help but chuckle when I heard this line in the great comedy, Wedding Crashers. I don’t know if I agree with the football part, but Marylanders definitely take great pride in their crab cakes, and rightfully so.  After two years of living in Maryland, David and I remain quite biased in favor of the Commonwealth of Virginia since that’s where we were born and raised.  We even tend to be a bit tough on the state of Maryland.  We do have fond memories of our first two years of marriage in Baltimore, our friends, students, favorite local spots (Nacho’s Mama’s!), and of course, crab cakes.

You probably don’t know this, but the 2006 Miss USA Pageant was actually filmed in Baltimore.  (Isn’t that exciting?)  I think David and I might have been the only people to watch the pageant at all, let alone it’s entirety.  Seeing the host, Carson Kressley (remember, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?) prancing around Baltimore, enthusiastically shouting about all of the beautiful sights and tourist attractions was mind numbing, yet we couldn’t stop watching.  (Who knew Baltimore had so many things to see?)  While I might not be moving back to Baltimore in the near future,  to quote the 2006 Miss USA Pageant Host, Carson’s comment to co-host, Nancy O’Dell of Access Hollywood, “We’ll Always Have Baltimore.”  Yes, we’ll always have Baltimore.

Last week, Jen (a Baltimore native and avid fan of The Wire), invited David and me over for homemade crab cakes, using fresh Chesapeake Bay crab meat sent by her mom.  Since restaurant-made crab cakes contain breadcrumbs as the binder for the crab meat, I was so excited about the rare opportunity to enjoy a gluten-free crab cake, triggering Baltimore and Eastern Shore nostalgia. Jen’s family recipe calls for Saltines but she used Glutino crackers instead. Absolutely delicious. Even the gluten eaters didn’t notice a difference. I love the use of Old Bay in this recipe.  It just wouldn’t be right to not include this great seasoning spice in a Maryland crab recipe.

The Lalley’s Maryland Crab Cakes:

  • 1 lb jumbo lump crab meat
  • 3 T mayonnaise
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 t Old Bay seasoning
  • 6 crumbled Glutino Crackers
  • Fresh chopped parsley

Pick out any pieces of shell in crab cakes. (It wouldn’t be authentic if there wasn’t a little bit of shell. Mix all of ingredients together and mold into crab cakes.

Sautee cakes in butter on medium heat until slightly browned on both sides. You could alternatively broil them. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

We enjoyed our crab cakes with asparagus and a delicious salad made by Maury, the salad expert. Such a great spring meal!  We’ll always have Baltimore…

Jamie Oliver’s Chicken, Potatoes and Tomatoes

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While the name of this dish  isn’t all that exciting, I find Jamie Oliver’s “Chicken Potatoes and Tomatoes” to be a delicious and flavorful meal to share with others.  My sister-in-law, Alden, and I made this delicious meal when I visited them in Newport, RI a couple of weeks ago.  Both Alden and my mom discovered this Jamie Oliver recipe in The Week Magazine a while ago.  I appreciate that my family members are always on the lookout for naturally gluten-free recipes to make.

I love that there are so many meals and recipes that don’t need any changes made to make them gluten-free and this is one of those meals.  It seems that more and more in the cooking world, chefs are realizing that gluten-free food is better and more flavorful.  So when you’re looking for recipes to make, don’t feel like you have to look for meals and recipes labeled gluten-free.  I use ‘real’ cookbooks all the time and I’m always amazed at how many dishes are naturally gluten free.

This is a great recipe for entertaining because all of the hard work can be done in advance so when your guests arrive, the meal’s in the oven and most of the dishes are already done.  I also like this meal because it’s truly a ‘family-style’ dinner.  One dish in the middle of the table that everyone uses to serve themselves.

When Alden pulled out the recipe card, she described the recipe as easier than it looks and she was definitely right.  It seems like there are a lot of steps, especially browning the chicken in the dutch oven and boiling the potatoes before you bake, but it’s really pretty simple.  Don’t be intimidated!  I made this meal again last week once I got back to Atlanta and I was able to recreate it mostly from memory.  When I made it most recently, David was late getting home so I had to let the meal sit for a while before I baked it and it didn’t affect the dish at all.

Jamie Oliver’s Chicken, Potatoes and Tomatoes (Serves 4-6)


1 ¾ lb. new potatoes (I used small red potatoes and cut them in half)

12 chicken thighs, skin on (I left the bone in because I think it makes for nicer cooking…a little messier eating but that’s alright)

1 ½ lb. cherry tomatoes

Fresh oregano (I’ve used rosemary instead both times I made this and it was delicious)

3 T. Olive oil

1 T. Red wine vinegar

Salt & Pepper


Preheat over to 400

Boil potatoes until cooked.  Cut each chicken thigh into 3 strips.  (Again, I left the bone in on one of the strips so mine weren’t evenly cut…it didn’t seem to make any difference).  Place in a bowl and toss with 1 T. olive oil, salt and pepper.

Heat a large frying pan or dutch oven on medium high heat and brown chicken, skin side down.  Turn chicken so you brown both sides.  This should take about 8-10 minutes total.  Remove and put chicken in oven safe dish.  (You might need to cook chicken in two batches if it doesn’t all lie flat in the pan.)

Drain cooked potatoes and lights mash them.  Add to chicken.  Add tomatoes.  Mash oregano/rosemary with salt and olive oil and red wine vinegar and pepper.  Pour over chicken.  Toss.  Make sure that you use a big enough dish so that all of the ingredients should fit in one layer.  I used a Pyrex casserole dish.  (Jamie Oliver uses a dutch oven, but it would have to be a huge dutch oven.

Bake for 40 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve at table.  We also served a simple arugula salad with a homemade vinaigrette at our dinner table.  You don’t need to worry about making lots of side dishes with this one.  Chicken, Tomatoes and Potatoes is a hearty meal but very light and healthy.  It feels like ‘comfort food’ without the post-dinner discomfort.  We had lots of leftovers both times I made this and it’s great for lunch the next day.

A versatile, easy and yummy meal…if only we could just come up with a better name for it.