For the past two weeks I had been anxiously awaiting Girl’s Weekend, hosted by fellow food blogger Kate in the Kitchen at her lovely cabin tucked away in the north central part of Wisconsin. What could be better than getting together seven other women who are as in love with food as I am? Getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city, social media distractions, and the stress of daily life was exactly what I needed. Kate took us to the beautiful, Baker Apple Orchard where we were treated to rows and rows of plump apple trees. The Connell Reds below were the best apples I’ve had all season.
We talked cookbooks, dining trends, kitchen gadgets, kids, blogging, significant others, and jobs, just to name a few. While listening to one of the conversations I realized how in the moment I was, how calm and relaxed my entire body and mind could be. I reflected on how blessed I am to have met such wonderful women who share my passion and each bring a unique strength to the group.
And when food bloggers get together you are obviously going to have an amazing spread! Kelli made two stunning loaves of bread along with her ridiculously good Bacon Jam. Kate made a hearty vegetable soup and a decadent Nutmeg Cake. Lynne added two kinds of spiced nuts that I could not stop eating! Angharad made her very first loaf of Pumpkin Bread since coming to the United States, and also added a light cumin spiced Couscous and Raisin salad. Ginger cookies from Amy and some seriously good home brewed beer from Laurie went together beautifully – forget the milk. Waking up to Jen’s scones and hot coffee were the perfect ending before we all made the journey home.
My contribution was an Apple Fennel Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette and this Balsamic Quinoa dish. When I saw a vendor at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market selling an overflowing tray of red and yellow cherry tomatoes for a measly $2, I walked off with my loot and a smile. With the cooler weather the last few days I couldn’t wait to turn on my oven to roast them. The roasted tomatoes alongside the caramelized shallots and crimini mushrooms really make this dish come alive with an abundance of flavor.
I added in the last of my fresh rosemary and parsley from the garden and made a light balsamic vinaigrette to bring it all together. And as you can see, the variety of vegetable and herbs make for a colorful and healthy combination!
Balsamic Quinoa with Roasted Tomatoes, Mushrooms & Caramelized Shallots
-1 1/2 c dry quinoa, rinsed
-3 c water
-1 c cherry tomatoes
-1 1/2 c sliced cremini mushrooms
-1/2 c small shallots, halved
-1/4 c butter
-1/4 c olive oil
-3 T balsamic vinegar
-2 t sea salt
-1 t black pepper
-1 T stone ground mustard
-1/3 c chopped parsley
-3 T chopped rosemary
-2 cloves garlic, minced
For tomatoes, cut in half and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and one clove minced garlic. Spread onto cooking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 20 -25 minutes. In a skillet, melt butter, and add shallots/mushrooms when hot. Sprinkle a bit of salt on them to draw out juices. Cook slowly on medium heat for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally until they are brown. While this is happening you can make the quinoa. Bring quinoa and water to a boil, then turn down heat to a simmer cover. Cook for 12-15 minutes or until you see the little spiral ring has separated. Drain if needed and let sit for five minutes, then fluff with fork. Combine the quinoa, vegetables, and fresh herbs in large bowl. To make the dressing, combine the vinegar, salt, pepper, one clove garlic, and mustard. Whisk in olive oil to emulsify. Stir into quinoa mixture and top with a few fresh herbs for garnish.