Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Warm Quinoa and Veggie Salad with Savannah Citrus Vinaigrette....Celebrating 100 years with the Girl Scouts

Can you spot the cookies?

 One hundred years ago, on March 12, 1912, Juliette Gorden Low brought 18 girls together in Savannah Georgia and formed the Girl Scouts. Today, the Girl Scouts USA has 3.2 million current members and is even more relevant in its mission to "build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place."

To celebrate this momentous anniversary, the Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys, hosted the Great Girl Gathering at the Mall of America ...and what a gathering it was! Over 140 thousand girls eventually descended on the mall, and judging from the bodies spilling out of the doors, I think most of them were there on the day I was there.

The Great Girl Gathering was a weekend filled with activities and events for all of the visiting girls. It was a girl extravaganza, if you will. And what did all of this have to do with me? Well, I had the honor of being one of three "chefs" to compete in the Iron Cookie competition---I had to create an appetizer and an entree using Girl Scout cookies!

The crowd was a little intimidating for the first 10 seconds....

....but once we got started, it was just a lot of fun!

Me, N.M. Kelby, Marjorie Johnson, and Betsy Chan.

My worthy opponents in this competition were N.M. Kelby, author of the current best-selling novel White Truffles in Winter, and Anne Barlow, owner and chief bottle washer at Luna's Liquid Lava Lounge. The judges were Chef Marcy Alfonsi, culinary instructor at St. Paul College, Kyla, a Girl Scout who sold over 3,000 (!) boxes of Girl Scout Cookies last year, and Marjorie Johnson, Minnesota's own Blue Ribbon Celebrity. Betsy Chan, my good friend and fellow Pillsbury BakeOff alum, was the brains behind the whole project, spending weeks and weeks finalizing all of the details.

In the end, N.M. Kelby came out the champ with her Savannah Chicken and Do Si Do Pasta. Her $500 prize went to the Girl Scout Troop of her choice...you can see her recipes on her blog, At Escoffier's Table.

Anne Barlow and I won $150 each, Anne's in cookies to the Troops overseas, and mine to a Girl Scout troop in Crystal, MN....each of us came out winners!

So how did I use cookies to make an entree? Just see for yourself:

Warm Quinoa and Veggie Salad with Savannah Citrus Vinaigrette

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1 cup shredded carrots
2 cups frozen sliced, tri-colored bell peppers
1 cup frozen sweet corn
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 medium orange
1/2 medium lemon
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pinch of salt
5 Savannah Smiles Girl Scout Cookies, finely crushed
1 (6 oz) bag baby spinach

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the quinoa and the vegetable stock to a boil. Reduce heat, cover pan, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until quinoa is tender and the stock is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside. If making the quinoa ahead of time, refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the carrots and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the peppers, corn and sugar snap peas, and continue to cook until the onions and carrots are softened and the rest of the vegetables are heated through, about 5 minutes, reducing heat if necessary to avoid scorching.

While the vegetables are cooking, in a small bowl combine the remaining olive oil with the juice of one orange, the juice of 1/2 lemon, and the ground pepper. Whisk in the finely crushed cookies, stirring until smooth. Add a pinch of salt, if desired; set aside.

Add the quinoa to the vegetables and cook until just heated through. Stir in the vinaigrette. Arrange a handful of spinach leaves on a plate, top with a portion of the quinoa and garnish with orange and lemon slices. Serves 6.

Oh, yes. I made an appetizer with Girl Scout Cookies, too. For this I used the Dulce de Leche cookies....and bacon!

Sweet and Savory Endive Cookie Bites

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 cup goat cheese crumbles
2 Dulce de Leche Girl Scout Cookies, coarsely crushed
2 slices crisp bacon, crumbled
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
16 endive leaves (about 2 heads) 

In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, orange juice and honey. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture is reduced to 3 tablespoons, about 5 minutes; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese, cookie crumbles, bacon and cranberries. Carefully fill each of the endive leaves with the cheese mixture. Drizzle the balsamic reduction evenly over the endive. Serve immediately.

Hands in the air as the clock runs out...

The girls line up for Marjorie's autograph. She is a rock star!!

Happy 100th Anniversary Girl Scouts of America!!

Photo Credits: Stephanie Chan and Cynthia Miller


  1. That is so awesome! I wish they had these kind of things when I was a girl scout. Congrats on the win :)

  2. Congrats! What a creative idea. Looks like it was so much fun.

  3. This is SO cool, Cathy!!! Wow, you are extremely creative. Congrats on winning $$ for a worthy GS troop!

  4. Such a cool event! I heart the girl scouts (and their cookies). Super creative recipes.

  5. This salad has cookies in it - sold!

    Choc Chip Uru

  6. What fun...and very creative use of those cookies! Girl Scouts was such a great part of my girlhood..I did it for a year or two when I was a kid. Had such fun!!

  7. I had the honor of tasting the quinoa after the challenge and it's VERY DELICIOUS (a winner in my mind)!! Cathy, I'm so glad you were part of the show. It was fun and despite the power circuits for the stoves tripping a few times, you 3 chefs made the event so special. Awesome recipes you created!