Quinoa 101 + Spiced Quinoa & Avocado Salad Recipe

Gotta love kids. I watched this 10+ times. Every time I made an edit, I insisted on re-watching it.

Quinoa is grouped in the grain category because of its taste and texture. But, it’s actually an edible seed from a dark leafy plant similar to spinach. For those visual learners, this is a quinoa flower:

Quinoa is pretty much a nutrition power house. It has a higher % protein by weight compared to most grains. According to the USDA, 1/2 cup cooked quinoa has ~8 more calories compared to couscous and brown rice,  yet brings more protein, fiber and iron.  Unlike most grains like wheat, rice and oats, quinoa is a complete protein. Meaning, it has all of the essential amino acids (building blocks of protein primarily found complete in animal proteins), that our bodies cannot make and must get from food, making it a good option for vegetarians. And, it’s a good source of minerals like magnesium and phosphorus.

Quinoa is gluten and wheat free for all those allergy-ied and sensitivity-ied. Be on the look out for quinoa flours and pastas popping up on the market. Quinoa has a mild taste and fluffy texture, making it very easy to like because it tastes so darn good. And, my favorite part about it? It’s super easy to make (cooks only in 10-15 minutes compared to 30-40 minutes for rice).

Making It:

1. Rinse in small colander under running water – wash away the soapy foam that will appear.

2. Pour quinoa and water into a pot, it’s usually 1:2 ratio (1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water), cover, boil for 10-15 minutes until fluffy. You will start to see small white squiggles,which are just the outer germ rings, separatting from the seeds. Have no fear- they are harmless.

3. Now for the good stuff… Mix it onto anything. Substitute for any rice, barley or couscous dish. Mix with veggies, add any spices or herbs, why not some (low fat) cheese, throw in a salad or soup, add to a wrap, stuff into a pepper, mix with some honey, almonds and fruit for breakfast.

Now for a recipe. I wouldn’t dare post this without including a recipe to keep my dear friend and co-worker Jess reading.

Quinoa & Avocado Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette Salad

Adapted from Fine Cooking (another fav)

Photos getting better, eh?

Ingredients:

3 tablespoon raisins (preferably a mix of dark and golden)
1 cup red or white quinoa, rinsed well
Kosher salt
1 large lemon
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1-1.5 teaspoon ground coriander  — pretty sure I added even more after tasting
1-1.5 teaspoon ground cumin  — pretty sure I added even more after tasting
2 medium firm-ripe avocados (6 to 7 oz. each), pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3 medium scallions thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
Directions:
1.In a medium bowl, soak the raisins in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring 2 cups water, the quinoa, and 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is translucent and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Immediately fluff the quinoa with a fork and cool to room temperature.
3. Grate zest from lemon and squeeze then squeeze as much juice as you can into a small bowl. Whisk lemon zest + juice, olive oil, spices, 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss with quinoa, raisins and avocado. Season with pepper. Tastes really good room temperature or chilled.
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It’s Raining Spaghetti Squash

One of the best things about fall is the return of the spaghetti squash, part of the winter squash family. It varies in color on the yellow-orange spectrum. The darker the orange the more beta-carotene, a plant pigment with antioxidant properties that can be converted into Vitamin A, which helps promotes  skin and eyes health. True fact- if you eat too much beta carotene it can start tinting your skin orange. But don’t worry, you’d have to eat A LOT. Spaghetti squash is very low in calories. Compared to pasta spaghetti, it’s a nutrition rockstar. 1 cup of cooked spaghetti squash weighs in at about 45 calories, 10 gm carbs, 2 gm fiber compared to about 220 calories, 3 gm fiber, 43 gm carbs in 1 cup of cooked refined (white) spaghetti.

Not only is it good tasting and healthy, but it’s really fun to make.  Is it normal that I was excited to come home from work last night to make it? I still can’t get over how one squash turns into a pile of spaghetti. It’s magic. And being that I am in my mid-twenties and still find it fun, imagine what kids would think? For all those who have kids or little cousins or siblings, try to make it with them this weekend or next week (perfect T-giving side).

Steps to Spaghetti Squash

Look at that beauty

1. Heat oven to 375.

2. Cut squash in half, lengthwise – warning, man power and a good knife required.

3. Use a fork to remove the seeds (wait, before you throw them out re-use them in his  recipe).

4. Place the 2 halves on lighty greased baking sheet open side down.

5. Cook for about 30 minutes.  Depending on the size  of squash it could be as short as 25 or as long as 35 minutes. You are looking for a soft texture that can easily pierced though with a fork.

6. Cool for 10 minutes.

 

7. Keep the squash on baking sheet or cutting board. Using a fork, scrape lengthwise  along the squash pulling off the spaghetti-like strands.

 

 

 

 

Viola! Look how much 1 squash makes. Crazy right? That’s a whole-lotta squash.

 

 

 

Now do whatever you crave. You can eat it as is or throw it back on the stove and mix it with well, anything. Whatever would be good on spaghetti would be good on this. Try sauce, cheese (preferably low fat), sauteed veggies, roasted garlic, chicken, fish, turkey meatballs, beans, fresh herbs and spices. Add cumin and coriander for an Indian flare. Add part-skim mozzarella and tomato or pesto for an Italian style. Try feta olives and roasted peppers for Greek flavor.

The finished product

Last night I wanted simple, so I threw 1 1/2 diced tomatoes, 1/2 chopped onion and 1 garlic clove on a medium flame for 5 minutes, then added the spaghetti squash and mixed for 1 minute. Delicious.

Nutritionists Eat Cookies: Homemade Hummus(Chummous) Recipe

Is it a problem that 2 of my first 10 posts are about hummus? I told you I was an addict…

Being that it is a staple in my fridge, something I buy on a bi-weekly basis, it was starting to get boring and expensive.  To spice things up (literally) and to be budget friendly I decided to make it myself. For the same $ you get A LOT more hummus plus a whole lot more flavor and natural ingredients.  Plus, it’s really super easy to make. I ran it through the taste panel (ie my man friend Milos) and he approved.

Homemade Hummus/Chummous (adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – 1 lb bag of dried beans or 3 cans ***

1/3 cup tahini sauce (I used Trader Joe’s brand)

1/4 cup lemon juice (I used 2.5 lemons)

5 cloves garlic halved (original recipe called for 2 but can never have too much garlic)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon cayenne (if you like a kick)

Water as needed

Directions:

1. ***Strongly suggest using dried beans for optimum freshness and taste. Pour the dried beans into a bowl, cover with water, soak for at least 10 hours (overnight or during workday), strain the beans, pour into pot, cover with fresh water, bring to boil then simmer for 1 hour. If you don’t have that time canned beans will do, but it definitely won’t taste as good. This just reminded me of my abhorrence for canned goods, which trust me, I will blog about. Maybe even tomorrow.

2. Place chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice (watch out for seeds), garlic, spices, olive oil into bowl. Use an immersion blender (or regular blender)to blend until smooth.

3. Add some water to thin it out if needed. Add additional salt and paprika as needed.

                                                               Before

                                                                        After

                                                                      All dressed up… 

Warning: if you add in as many garlic cloves as suggested, do not make this on a cooking date. Once you have the basic ingredients, feel free to be creative and adapt this recipe to your own taste buds, just like I did. Some suggestions: fresh herbs (basil, parsley), hot sauce, curry spices, roasted red peppers or eggplant.

This recipe stayed good for 1 week in the fridge. The taste develops over time. You may  need to add teaspoon of water or olive oil to thin it out as the days go on.