Mexican Quinoa with Avocado will bring fireworks to your taste buds. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

If you’re heading to a cookout this holiday weekend and need some ideas for foods to share, here are a couple.

This quinoa bowl can be made ahead and stands on its own as a main dish but also goes equally well with grilled steak, pork, burgers, sausages or chicken, and can be enjoyed warm or chilled.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at

The addition of Rotel, those spicy canned tomatoes, is just right, but if you want to use regular canned tomatoes or even fresh ones, just jazz up the dish to your liking with additional hot peppers or a dash of cayenne or hot sauce.

This recipe is part of my monthly menu rotation because it can be made in one pan, halved or doubled, can be used for taco or burrito filling, and is ultra-nutritious.

These cheesecake bites are worth the effort. Yes, you could simply buy a jar of ready-made lemon curd at the market, but making it from scratch is so satisfying and you’ll know exactly what’s in it. The curd can be made as much as a week ahead and the cheesecake base can also be made in advance. You can cut the end product into bigger squares, but I like to serve them as bites with fresh whole strawberries and a spoonful of extra curd for dipping.

Mexican Quinoa with Avocado

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 colored pepper, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups Rotel
1 1/2 cups black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 avocados, sliced
Sour cream, grated cheese, cilantro and tortilla chips or tortillas for serving


In a large pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, bell pepper and onion. Sauté for 1 minute. Add spices and herbs and cook for another minute.

Add broth and quinoa. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add Rotel and continue simmering, covered, for 10 more minutes.

When the quinoa is nearly done, add black beans, corn, salt and pepper, simmering until all ingredients are warmed through and quinoa is tender, adding more stock or water if needed. After all liquid is absorbed, turn off heat and leave covered for 5 minutes.

Fluff and stir gently with a fork and serve with avocado, sour cream, cilantro, grated cheese and tortilla chips or tortillas. Yield: 4 servings

Lemon Cheesecake Bites


12 whole graham crackers
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar


Lower rack to bottom third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Line two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with parchment paper, allowing some paper to hang over the sides to use as handles to remove bars once they are baked.

With a food processor, crush the graham crackers into crumbs (or use a plastic bag and rolling pin). Place in a small bowl and stir in butter and sugar. Firmly spread mixture into bottom of prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes until crisp and beginning to brown. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Cream cheese layer

2 (8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Beat together cream cheese and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in yolks, vanilla and lemon juice. Pour over crust. Bake for 20-30 minutes until set. (When tested with a toothpick, no batter should be sticking.)

Allow to cool completely near the oven (drastic temperature changes cause cracking). Chill in refrigerator at least four hours. Lift the bars out of the pans and cut into small bars. Top with lemon curd.


Lemon curd

2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of 2 lemons (2 teaspoons)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Pinch of salt

Whisk all ingredients together in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir, then microwave for another minute. Stir, then microwave another 30 seconds. Test the lemon curd by dipping a spoon into it and running your finger through the curd on the back of the spoon. If the trail remains, the curd is done. If it’s still runny, microwave another 30 seconds. (The curd will thicken as it cools.) If there are lumps or small bits of egg in the curd, give it a good whisk. You can also push the curd through a fine-mesh strainer if needed.

Place cling wrap directly onto the curd in a bowl and let it cool in the refrigerator. Top the bites with curd just before serving. Yield: 16 small bites

Editor’s note: The dessert recipe from June 24 is being reprinted to include the addition of 1 cup of heavy cream.  

Strawberry & Cream Scones

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons frozen butter
1 cup very ripe strawberries, chopped
1 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk dry ingredients together. Add butter by grating it in on the large holes of a box grater and stir in with a fork until the mixture resembles a crumbly meal with pea-sized bits of butter.

Gently stir in berries so they are coated in dry ingredients. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula and gently knead mixture once or twice in the bowl to create a ball. Do not overmix.

Transfer dough to a floured surface and, using your hands, gently press the dough out to a 3/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2 1/2-inch circles with a floured biscuit cutter. Carefully transfer scones to prepared baking sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until bronzed at the edges and strawberry juices are trickling out of the biscuits in places. Cool on pan for a minute then transfer to a cooling rack. Yield: About a dozen

Comments are not available on this story.