The Need for Comfort over Authentic: Dad’s Mexican-Inspired Skillet Taco

Skillet Taco with Brown Rice

Everyone has a cheap, quick comfort food dish from childhood memories. Mine is Dad’s Skillet taco recipe. Perhaps, Mom occasionally made it, too. It a classic 1970s dish. It was taco seasoning mixed into ground beef scrapped to the center of the skillet. White rice surrounded the beef. Shredded iceberg lettuce layered the rice. Gooey, melted, shredded cheddar cheese topped the meat, and the dish was finished with plain chopped tomatoes. What I remember most about this dish: Always wanting more cheese.

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Mom Said to “Eat Less, Exercise More”

A forkful of pancakes

Some time ago, I noticed extra weight gain. A panicked call was made to Mom. In a harsh and sweet tone of a voice, she said, “You know how to eat healthy. Now eat less and exercise more,” she continued with the reality of my dilemma, “…if you gain weight now, it’s difficult to get it off… You’re older and the weight doesn’t come off like it use to. There’s no excuse for being fat.”

Some may view the advice as insensitive. Personally, I appreciate the seriousness of it. Why cry about it when the solution is simple: Eat less and exercise more. The following morning, I was up at 6 am for a quick two-mile run. A food diary was started to find potential problems, which revealed large portions of food and too much sugar.

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Star Anise and Orange Duck Salad: A Harmonious Lunch Bowl

Star Anise Quinoa with Oranges and Smoked Duck Salad

As a graphic designer, I want my ‘brown bag’ lunch to taste and look visually delicious. Otherwise, I’m likely to toss it in the garbage and pay for a fresher option from a restaurant. Such actions eventually add up to plenty of regret and an empty wallet. Learning to pack lunches take time and practice. When lunch containers reveal a salad of crispy lettuce and colorful, layered ingredients or a fragrant soup waiting to be heated in the microwave, my wallet stays full.

The initial inspiration for packing lunches come from bento boxes with separate containers or compartments. The separate containers help maintain the freshness of the meal (good for hot and cold recipes). Another bento-style lunch is creating a meal in one bowl, in which the ingredients harmoniously enhance each other. Read more Quinoa and Sausage Stuffed Peppers with Tomato Peanut Sauce

Stuffed Quinoa and Sausage Peppers with Tomato Peanut Sauce

By now, we’re familiar with amaranth, millet, barley, or quinoa—to name a few. Each wholegrain is welcomed with curiosity and questions: What’s the history, where’s it from, and how is it cooked? Similar to rice, they’re mostly mild with a nutty, wholesome taste. Most whole grain recipes are served cold or room temperature as a vegetable salad or pilaf. They’re often used in breads and cereals, too.

In this recipe, quinoa is mixed with sausage to create a savory and healthy stuffing for cubanelle or poblano peppers roasted in the oven. The stuffed peppers are served with a sweet Tomato Peanut Sauce. The sausage is a simple and flavorful addition to quinoa’s mild nutty flavor. The Tomato Peanut sauce is adapted from Marcus Samuelsson’s The Soul of a New Cuisine cookbook. Such a recipe promotes quinoa from a dainty side dish or salad into a main course. Read more

Butternut Squash and Kale with Red Quinoa with Ginger Vinaigrette

Butternut Squash and Kale with Red Quinoa with Ginger Vinaigrette

Is there a whole grain recipe in your holiday menu? Impress guests with this vegetarian and gluten-free salad of red quinoa tossed with dice butternut squash, lightly sauté dinosaur kale and ginger vinaigrette. Currently in season in the Northeast region of the United States, butternut squash taste similar and can be used interchangeably with pumpkin. Use one large butternut squash diced in vegetable soups, pureed in breads and roasted for salads. It’s mildly sweet flavor compliments red quinoa’s earthy and nutty taste. Adding a bit of savory flavor is thinly sliced sauté kale. The vinaigrette adds tiny bites of ginger throughout the salad. Include this beautiful and healthy salad in your traditional holiday meal. Read more