Monday, December 27, 2010

2010: New Foods/Ingredients I Tried this Year

I think I've grown more in the kitchen this year than any other.  That growth included trying new foods I've never had or used before:
Image from
Portobello/Portabella Mushrooms:  These large mushrooms have intrigued me for awhile, but the price ($6 or $7 per pound) always dissuaded me.  I'd heard they made for a meaty-tasting substitute instead of a hamburger patty to make a burger, which I thought might be healthy for Hubby, and yummy for me, a mushroom fan. When finding them on sale, I decided to try a grilling portobellos on the outdoor gas barbecue grill.  However, at that first attempt, I blackened them and the family wasn't impressed.  Princess Bossy recommended an oven recipe she'd used several times from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, so I tried again with a much better and more popular result.  After that I added them to stir-fries, pizzas, and pumpkin soup.  Baby portobellos (also called or related to the Crimini mushrooms) worked as well for those dishes that called for sliced or chopped mushrooms.  They seem more tasty than the white mushrooms I was used to using.
Balsamic Vinegar:  I first bought Balsamic to make the marinade for the portobellos.  I liked the new flavor so much that I'm inclined to grab it first for other marinades, salad dressings, and as dip with olive oil for a crispy sourdough bread.  My vinegar selection before this included only white, cider, and red wine vinegars, but now I am interested in trying others.
Quinoa with chicken, spinach, corn, onions
Quinoa: The first time we tried this grain in a mixture with sauteed veggies, I was underwhelmed.  The texture was something to get used to and it seemed a bit bland.  But in trying to find a healthy alternative to white rice with it's lack of nutritional value and high glycemic rating, I was convinced to try again.  I am glad I did.  It is actually a seed, and a good source of protein.  In fact, Quinoa provides the range of amino acids to be considered a complete protein, which is unusual for a plant source.  It also is a good provider of magnesium, phosphorous, iron, and fiber.  It's quick to cook, and with better seasoning and a more exciting selection of food to surround it, as rice would require also, it has become a favorite with the family.  I usually cook it in chicken broth, and we often eat it with stir-fried veggies of all types and with our "Mexican Chicken Slop" dinners on Thursday nights...when it's seasoned much like Mexican or Spanish rice, and served with my homemade version of refried beans and chicken in enchilada sauce.  (I'll try to remember to share recipes and explain the meal name at a later date!)
Goat cheese (and Feta):  I bought some goat cheese at Costco, and really had no idea what to do with it.  Shortly after, I was participating in a discussion about pizza on the Gardenweb Kitchen forum and member, Jsweenc, posted a photo of pizza she'd made using goat cheese as a topping.  I asked a couple of questions, and the next time we made pizza, I crumbled goat cheese across the veggie pizza, and also on one with pesto as the sauce.  Everyone loved it.  Prince Stoic declared Pesto and Goat Cheese his new favorite pizza.  We also love it in salads, particularly a Greek-inspired salad with Romaine lettuce, sweet onions, cucumber, tomatoes, and olives.  When I couldn't get the goat cheese I'd purchased previously, we tried a mild Feta, which worked as well for both the salads and the pizza.
Duck:  Actually it was only a couple bites of duck breast that I tried.  Hubby went duck hunting, for the first time in his life, with a dear friend of his.  He didn't get anything himself, but tried for a couple, and the friend sent him home with the breast from one of his catches.  (Would you call a duck a catch?) He told him to marinate it in Italian dressing for 24 hours, then grill it slowly.  We were surprised at the meaty taste...something between steak and chicken, with a slight liver flavor to it.
Blue Agave Nectar:  This sweetener is about one and half times sweeter than sugar, so you need less to accomplish the same sweetness, and it is comparable to fructose in the glycemic index, which is much lower than white sugar.  So less of it, and a lower glycemic load are each good things, and together are really great for keeping blood sugar levels steadier.  We have used this in coffee drinks, iced and hot teas, and any recipes that call for honey or syrup, like in our granola.  I sometimes feel a sugar crash after a sweetened soy milk and coffee drink, but don't when I use only a little squirt of the agave nectar, which is all that's necessary. (I admit to adding an occasional splash of flavored syrup, but I need less of it if I use a tiny bit of agave, too.)

Previous posts you may enjoy:
Granola Recipe
(using the rolled oats)
Pizza sauces...
better late than never?
Pizza Crust Recipe


  1. Love your adventuresome spirit! We are lacto-ovo vegetarian. Portobello mushroom caps as well as other vegetables such as zucchini and red pepper are marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar, onion, garlic, oregano and thyme. Roast in the oven until they are to your liking. It are delicious in a sandwich. Quinoa, I've not tasted, I need to give it a try.

  2. I've never tried quinoa, which is crazy considering it's a gf grain. I'll definitely have to put it on my list of foods to try for this year.

  3. Is that the stuff that looks like individual grits?

  4. Thanks for the additional info, Cotehele. :-)

    I suppose the quinoa might look like grits. Grits are something I've never had or even seen! I was hoping they'd show up better in the photo, but I think you have to know what they look like to really 'see' their details.

  5. Tell Prince Stoic he's got good taste. Goat cheese and pesto pizza is one of my favs too!

    I got into blue agave and quinoa during my fertility battle when I was sugar and gluten free. They are great for lowering insulin levels. For me, quinoa used in a light salad benefits from a healthy dose of fresh lemon juice.

  6. I've never tried it on salad. I am always on the lookout for protein sources and things that don't cause the rise in blood sugar, and then the resulting rise in insulin, since I can suffer the effects of Reactive Hypoglycemia. I have a real fight to keep my blood sugar feeling level when my hormone levels decide to change directions. The joys of aging!

  7. I share your feelings about quinoa. Meh on sense enjoyment but such a super food! My son loves it, though. I haven't been keeping up on your blog since baby but am enjoying all the posts. Congrats on your new stock pot! Love the chore chart. Must incorporate that into my life...once I get organized enough to make a chore chart! Happy New Year RHome! Thanks for all the inspiration XO

  8. Babies definitely take priority! :-) I keep trying to tell Breezy, it's not organization, it's self-preservation that makes my chore charts. If it's written down, then I don't have to keep track in my head! And maybe the jobs will sometimes get done.... Happy New Year to you, too!

  9. Sorry I've only just gotten connected with your blog, but I can't wait to get caught up. Wow, I'm honored to get a mention! So glad you are still enjoying experimenting with goat cheese and other new ingredients. It seems you really are more diverse in your ingredient list than you may have previously thought.

    I was curious so I looked it up... it's a bag of fowl, at least here in NC.

    Quinoa and blue agave -- I'll add those to my list. All the others I've at least tried.

  10. Thanks for the correct duck terminology! :-)


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