Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

Have you ever noticed how much your taste changes as you get older?  I used to loathe cilantro, parsley, and carrots when I was younger.  Loathe is a pretty strong, and that’s exactly how I felt about those *things*.  The taste of cilantro used to make me gag.  The thought of carrots would send me running into the other room.  My Mom used to relate to me by telling me stories of how much she hated cilantro, too, when she was younger.  But she’d follow the story with telling me how my taste would change as I matured, but I didn’t believe a word that came out of her mouth!

I ate my words.  My Mom was completely right… “Mothers know best,” right?  I love cilantro now.  My affinity for it changed when I had my first tasting of Tom Kha Gai at my first Thai dining experience.  It was love at first bite.  However, it hasn’t been that easy for acquiring the tastes of parsley or carrots.  I don’t recall when exactly I started to come around enjoying carrots, but it definitely has been in the recent years.  I hate raw carrots, but I don’t mind stewed or roasted carrots.

Enjoying flat-leaf parsley has been a tougher challenge for me.  Flat-leaf parsley has such an overwhelming flavor to begin with.  I initially needed other stronger flavors to mask the taste of parsley, like basil pesto.  This has since changed as we’ve been eating and cooking more  Mediterranean foods that call for flat-leaf parsley.  We recently dined at one of our favorite local Mediterranean restaurants and sampled their vegetarian Meze plate, which included tabbouleh.  OMG, how could I have been missing this all these years?!  I’ve become addicted.  So much so that I made a LARGE batch a few days ago.  We’ve had quinoa tabbouleh several days in a row for lunch AND dinner :)

Quinoa Tabouleh Salad

2 1/2 large bunches flat leaf parsley, stems removed, finely chopped
3 roma tomatoes, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dices
3″ inches small English cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch dices
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
1/4 cup quinoa, cooked
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste

In a large bowl, combine everything except for the lemon juice, oil, and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt, to taste.

Toss the salad with the lemon vinaigrette.

Serve with falafels, hummus, pocket bread, and anything else you’d like.

Makes 4 servings.

Spam Musubi… the ultimate comfort food.

Spam is such an underrated meat.  It really deserves more attention than how much credit it’s given.  It’s such a versatile meat, just like it’s salty counterpart, bacon.  If I could, I would eat it all day long.  I love Spam.  And I’m not afraid to admit it either.  I love the combination of white rice and Spam.  Yum.  But my most favorite way to consume Spam is when it’s pan-fried in a teriyaki glaze, pressed against white rice, and wrapped tightly with nori.  Double yum.

When we were in Hawaii, we spent an entire day driving and exploring the Big Island.  And by exploring, I mean eating our way through the Big Island.  Forget the beaches, give me the food!  I was determined to find the best Spam Musubi on the drive.  After a few disappointments, we stumbled across a little store that had the BEST fruit smoothies and Spam Musubi.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you where it was because I didn’t even think to write down the name.  I was too busy gorging myself on the Spam Musubi and chasing it down with a fruit smoothie.

Spam Musubi

1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
4 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons mirin
1 can lite Spam, sliced into 8 equal pieces
2 cups white rice, cooked
3 sheets of nori, cut into thirds lengthwise
Furikake
Spam musubi mold

In a small glass bowl, combine the sugar, mirin, and soy sauce. Microwave the marinade for about 45 seconds. Whisk to dissolve sugar completely.

In a shallow square baking dish, lay the slices of the Spam at the bottom and cover completely with the marinade. Set aside to marinate for about 1 hour.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, and lay the slices of Spam to pan fry. After about two to three minutes or until the bottom has caramelized, flip onto the other side to finish cooking. Repeat until all slices of Spam have been cooked. Transfer cooked Spam onto a plate.

While you are cooking the Spam, in a small saucepan, cook to thicken the marinade as a dipping sauce. Once it has thickened, pour into a small bowl. Set aside until ready to serve.

On a clean cutting board, lay down one strip of the nori sheet. Lay the musubi mold on the middle of the nori sheet. Scoop a generous amount of the white rice into the mold. Press down hard on the rice with the handle of the mold. Remove the handle carefully, and gently lift the mold from the rice. Sprinkle with furikake, and lay a slice of the Spam on top. Wrap the nori tightly around the rice, and seal the edge with a little water.

Serve with dipping sauce and devour immediately.

Makes 8 Spam musubis.

Life Changes and Mexican (aka, Spanish) Rice

It seems like forever since the last time I was in the kitchen or  blogged.  Life has gotten in the way.  It’s been busy and filled with lots of changes, all for the better, of course.

I had been experiencing this quarter-life existential crises over the last six months, and I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was causing all this turmoil within myself.  After some serious soul searching, I realized that I was feeling unchallenged and bored with my current job.  My dream job.  The job that challenged me.  Excited me.  I actually looked forward to going to work.  I’m not kidding.  The job was perfect for me.  I get bored easily, it’s just my personality.  But this job kept me on my toes, and challenged me minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, and day-to-day.  It was a fast-paced environment with very little down time.  I didn’t think I was ever wanted to leave this job.  Ever.  If you asked me five years ago what my five year career goal was going to be, I’d quickly respond with my current job.  Patient care was my thing.

So as you can see, I really struggled with the idea of no longer feeling satisfied by my job.  I felt like I was (and still am) letting down my mentor who I admire, and helped mold me into the clinician that I am today.  I didn’t want to accept the idea of needing to find another job.  I thought this unsettled feeling of my career would pass with time, and so I let time pass.

Well, time didn’t resolve my problem.  As my lucky stars would have it, while at a mutual friend’s wedding, my coworker’s husband mentioned his company was looking to hire.  This intrigued me.  A light bulb went off and I realized that I needed a new career move.  So I applied for two completely different jobs within the pharmacy sector, and I recently accepted the position as a pharmacy IS (information systems) specialist within the company I currently work for.  I start my new position in a month and a half.

The job will be VERY different from what I do now.  I’m going to be a pharmacy computer geek, and I’m so excited by this!  It’s certainly going to challenge me in a whole different way, and I know it’s going to require a lot of my time and attention.  I won’t be involved in direct patient care, which doesn’t bother me anymore.  I’m actually relieved of not being heavily involved with patient care.  Patient care has burnt me out, as well as the nature of the emergency room, and long hospital work hours.

Let’s see, other changes… my brother and sister-in-law will be moving to Zurich, Switzerland, for amazing job opportunities to advance their careers.  They have committed to a two year contract.  So not only did we get the keys to their amazing condo in Manhattan, but we also get a free place to stay when we visit them next summer.  Viva la Europe!

And last but not least, my partner has decided to pursue a second Master’s degree, this time in fine arts.  She current has her Masters in special education, but her passion has always been art.  She’s a talented painter, and would benefit greatly with a MFA.  So, she’s planning to apply for the upcoming 2012 school year.  What does this mean for us?  Well, back for another long distance relationship.  Hopefully, she’ll only be 2.5 hours away.

Too many changes.  I wanted some comfort food today, and Mexican food was what I needed.

What are your comfort foods?

Mexican Rice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups long grain rice
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in a large skillet, and brown rice over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, and saute, stirring frequently for about five minutes, or until the onions have softened.

Add chicken broth, tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Fluff the rice when the rice is cooked, and then cover with the lid for another five minutes.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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