Friday, March 25, 2011

Foodie Friday: Quinoa

Let's be honest, I'm really not that adventurous when it comes to trying new things — especially when it comes to food. There, I said it! My hubby is the adventurous eater of our family.

When I first met my Hubby, I was a ranch dressing kind of girl. And by that, I mean, give me a little salad with my dressing. After some encouragement from him, I started breaking out of it. I always hated vinagrettes because I told myself I didn't like vinegar. I still don't like the smell of it, but it does some amazing things to foods! Where am I going with this, you ask.

If I must, I will go on. In October 2009, I heard about a grain called Quinoa. Supposedly, it's the most well-balance grain with tons of protein per serving. Plus, it's really easy to digest and is huge on the gluten-free scene. Well, I'm certainly not gluten-free, but it did sound interesting. And that's as far as my curiosity went. Then, over Thanksgiving, I met some of my husband's relatives that were visiting from Tennessee. I was fascinated by all the things they made from scratch. I was just starting my whole foods journey and was full of questions. His aunt made a Greek Quinoa salad. I love a good greek salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, kalamata olives, herbs, and olive oil/lemon juice dressing... yummy!), so I gave it a try... without my Hubby's prompting. Big step for me! Oh.My.Goodness! It was outstanding. I love those foods that make you feel refreshed and not weighed down. It was so good! She suggested, as I've read elswhere online, that you need to rinse the quinoa well before cooking it. This process removes some of the bitter taste it can have.

You can find Quinoa one of several sections of your store: gluten-free section, grain section (near couscous), or with the flours. It's not the cheapest of grains, unless you find a way to buy it in bulk. If you are in the Raleigh area, I would suggest you stop by the Grain Mill of Wake Forest. They have it for the cheapest I've seen it, without having to buy it in bulk. They are small family owned shop with all sorts of whole-foods goodness. I believe you can shop online, too.

At any rate, I've had a blast finding new ways to use quinoa in my cooking. I've made the classic greek quinoa salad, a quinoa pudding (good for breakfast, too), and a crockpot recipe with chicken (I bit like a stew but very yummy).

My favorite this week has been a variation of this Quinoa Apple Raisin Almond Salad.

I love to make a batch of quinoa (1 cup uncooked = 3-4 cups cooked) and let it cool in the fridge. Throughout the week, I'll use the quinoa for a lunch serving (1/2 cup cooked) or a snack (1/4 cup cooked) and add in my ingredients and toss with a homemade dressing.

Here's my lunch from yesterday: my version of the Quinoa Apple (no Raisin) Almond Salad. This picture is before I added the dressing and mixed. To change up the recipe a bit more, I added some green onions to add a bite to the salad. I also like to add flat-leaf parsley or cilantro (didn't add it in this one, though). The green onion or herbs add a light-fresh flavor to the salad.

Ingredients (for single serving)
1/2 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
1/4 cup crisp apple (I like to use Fuji or Pink Lady), cubed into 1/4" pieces
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1-2 Tbsp green onion, sliced

1/2 tsp raw honey
1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt

Combine salad ingredients into bowl. In small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients until honey is thoroughly dissolved. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat. Enjoy!

My measurements are still a bit general. Add more honey or olive oil/lemon juice depending on how sweet you want it. I don't like it really sweet, so I don't use that much honey. If you use regular honey, that will be more sweet than raw honey. The point is, just play with the measurements to figure out what you like best.

I have to make my salads in individual portions. Otherwise, I will eat WAY too much. Albeit, this salad is very good for you, so eating a little extra won't be an issue... but I don't trust myself.

After making this, I realized this could be considered a Vegan dish, too. I'm definitely a meat lover, but I thought I'd mention that too.

Almost forgot, I love making an asian-style quinoa salad, too. Here's the basic idea: Quinoa, fresh broccoli florets, carrots, cooled cooked chicken, green onions, and your favorite asian-style dressing. Right now, I like Annie's Shitake Mushroom dressing.

Have you had Quinoa before? Do you have a favorite recipe? I'd love to hear about it.


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