INGREDIENTS

1C each, red and white quinoa (or 2 cups mixed) Or use black, too. No one’s the boss of you.

4C+ bone broth of your choice (or water)

1/3C+ EVOO

3T+ vinegar of your choice (rice or white are good)

3T+ lemon juice

1-2T lemon zest

2-3 chopped roma tomatoes (or more, because yum)

1 diced red or orange bell pepper

1-2 diced cucumbers (English are so nice)

1⁄2C thinly sliced scallions or leeks (not chives – yuck)

2C cooked or canned beans (I like red lentils, black or mung beans.)

C+ roughly chopped fresh curly kale (Adult kale is prettiest, but baby kale is more tender.)

Sliced black olives

2T each chopped fresh parsley (whatever variety you like) and cilantro (except yuck, so I don’t)

Crumbled cheese like bleu, goat or feta, to taste

nice salt and ground pepper, to taste

PREPARATION

Rinse quinoa and drain.  If it seems foamy, rinse until the water runs clear.

Boil 4+ C broth and/or water.  Add salt (up to 3/4t).

Add quinoa, reduce to simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally and adding more boiling liquid as needed to keep quinoa covered, until tender (about 15 to 20 minutes).

Drain and rinse the quinoa, transfer back to pot, add 1T olive oil and toss.

Whisk vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil to make vinaigrette. Add lemon zest, salt, pepper to taste.

In large serving bowl, layer the kale as thinly as possible, and throw the hot quinoa on top, which should effectively wilt the kale somewhat. Wait as long as you can for the quinoa to cool, then add the tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, bell peppers, beans, olives, (cilantro) and parsley plus 1/2 cup vinaigrette, cheese and toss.

Taste and season as needed with more vinaigrette, salt and pepper. Garnish with more cheese.

Serve room temperature or cold. Refrigerate for up to a day.


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First, let’s say it together…  QUINOA.  That’s KEEN-WAAAAH.  There’s a slight emphasis on the KEEN, but just slight.  And if KEEN gets one beat, WAAAH gets a beat and a quarter.

Quinoa is Incan for “mother grain,” and it’s been around for thousands of years. A staple in ancient civilizations, it has been merely a cultural commodity in South America for centuries as well as a niche commodity until recent years in the USA.

It isn’t a grain, though. Quinoa is a seed.  It isn’t a grain, or a carb, or a veggie.  Many classify it as a grain, but that’s really only because it looks and acts like a grain.  It’s actually related to beets and spinach. Many call it a superfood – although there is no technical definition for that term. It is just short of magical, though. It is pretty high in protein (15%). In fact, it is a complete protein, which means it contains the nine necessary amino acids for producing protein (a rarity, indeed, in the plant food world). It is low in calories (220 calories per 1 cup serving) and fat (4 grams per serving), and it serves up a healthy dose of fiber and iron.

It is said to have other awesome properties, too.  There are several studies* that suggest that quinoa lowers blood sugar, blood pressure, and suppresses the appetite. There are even studies that provide an explanation as to how, due to the high concentration of free-phenols – an antioxidant – quinoa actually slows the aging process and prevents cancer.

*Here’s my thinking on studies: if the right special interest group pays enough money to the right group of scientists to prove a theory, a study is published. So, there’s that….  However, I do believe that quinoa is a smart choice for your family’s diet.

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) officially declared the year 2013 as “The International Year of the Quinoa.” It’s a big deal, folks!

Quinoa really has no specific taste. In my opinion, it’s merely a vehicle for other tastes. Really, it depends on how it’s prepared. You can serve it hot, cold, in a salad, in soups, as filler, as a binder. It can be processed into flakes, meal, flour. You can throw it in your smoothies in any form you choose.  It can be eaten for any meal of the day. It’s incredibly versatile.

There are several types of quinoa. I’ve seen lists of over 250 varieties. The most popular and readily obtained are white, black and red. White is fluffier and the mildest. Red and black are chewier and nuttier.

Quinoa is a darling in the gluten free world. Specialized diet plans love it because you really just can’t *not* appreciate it’s goodness. Even those with gut conditions such as diverticulitis who don’t eat seeds can enjoy it in other forms. Quinoa is the Golden Child of meal planning and healthy eating, especially these days. The fact that it is a COMPLETE PROTEIN makes it a go-to for vegetarians and vegans (you can find complete proteins in animal products, but plants generally have to be combined to get this benefit.)

There is a big problem with quinoa production, however. Due to worldwide popularity over the years, the mass production of quinoa in its native Bolivia and other countries in South America, a lot of it’s sustainability has been compromised. More land is necessary to cultivate the crop, which means relocating herds of llamas, which, historically, have partnered with quinoa farmers by sharing their manure. There’s a big controversy, really, and there’s a lot to read. Interesting, if you like that sort of thing.

Years ago, only the crunchiest, hippy-dippiest of vegetarian eaters knew of quinoa and it was hard to come by. Nowadays, you can find it in standard grocery stores pre-packaged, or in bulk, and you’ll probably find at least one quinoa salad in any deli on any given day.

PREPARATION:

Many bloggers and cooks will tell you it needs to be rinsed. It does, but processors here in the US do that for us with commercial milling. When you see a recipe calling for a rinse, keep this in mind. The reason is because, in it’s natural state, each seed is coated with a cool organic fungicide called saponins. It’s soapy and bitter-tasting. I rinse it out of habit, and sometimes I find a foamy residue, so I guess it’s a good practice.  It’s not difficult at all, just cover with water and stir around, and then drain in a fine sieve. Easy-peasy.

COOKING:

It’s very simple. Can you cook rice? Pretty similar. One part quinoa to 2 parts liquid. Of course, I use bone broth. Why not? Add nutrients for free + add flavor=nobrainer. So, if you boil 2 cups of broth (or water, or whatever you like), add 1 cup of rinsed quinoa, reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Fluff with fork.  Voila. 3 (ish) cups of cooked quinoa. It’ll look more translucent and there will be a little white spiral “tail” visible when it’s fully cooked. This is the germ.

Red or black varieties may require a skoach more liquid and time.

Want a REALLY easy method of cooking?  Use your rice cooker exactly as you would rice.  White quinoa is like white rice.  Black/red quinoa is like brown/wild rice.

NOW WERE COOKING WITH GAS!!

Now that you have cooked quinoa, check out a few recipes I have posted.  Even better, make a few up. Quinoa is every bit as versatile as pasta. Or rice. The serving suggestions are limitless.


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Of all the sandwich salads that I’ve made so far, ham salad is my family’s favorite. The first time I made it, we were on vacation in a little rental on Lake Murray in South Carolina. I had baked a huge ham for dinner the first night, then we used the leftovers for sandwiches with fresh tomatoes for a few days. I fried some up with eggs for breakfast.  I made a quiche. I used the ham bone for some nice stock and ham & potato soup one day. And then I ran out of ideas with a container of chunked ham still in the fridge. Out of desperation, I made some ham salad with a few other leftovers.  It was a hit, and I’ve been making it ever since.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Chopped ham.  Use whatever amount you have. Chop it as fine or as chunky as you like. We like it in teeny-tiny cubes, about the size of peppercorns. Use your food processor if you care to, then it spreads nicely.
  • Mayonnaise.  I like Duke’s. Scott likes Miracle Whip. If you’re watching calories, try greek yogurt instead, or 1/2 of each. Just add enough to bind it all together and adjust according to taste.
  • Dijon mustard. Use the good stuff. Just a taste. If not, then add teeny bit of vinegar for some snap.
  • Pickles. Claussen is really the only brand worth mentioning here. Or make your own.  Chop them about the same size as the ham. Use relish if you can find it.
  • Veggies. I like celery finely chopped and a bit of onion, too. We don’t like chunks of onion, so I’ll shred it or mince it.

*Some add hard-boiled egg to this. I’m a fan of that approach, but my family aren’t. I say add it and up the protein.

PREPARATION

Just mix it all up and adjust ingredients as you care to. I generally just eat it by the spoonful out of the bowl before I ever serve it. I’m classy like that.

SERVE

If displaying on the table for a serve-yourself presentation, sprinkle with some pretty, dark paprika. If serving as a salad on greens, do the same. The colors make a pretty combo.

You can make sandwiches with crisp lettuce and ripe tomatoes on fresh, soft bread for an out-of-this world lunch. I also use this for something different during the school year, but instead of the standard, run-of-the mill sandwich, I serve it up in fancy lettuce leaves.

Find some nice, sturdy romaine or butter lettuce leaves, glop a few spoonfuls into the center, and serve. If sending in a lunch pail, secure them with a toothpick and put them side-by-side in a sandwich container. Make sure to use ice-packs so they’re fresh and still chilled by lunch time. 


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MASHED CAULIFLOWER

This dish is fantastic! It’s healthful, nutritious, guilt-free (sorta… depending on how disciplined you are), and delish!! Bonus: it serves up lots of potassium, vitamin c and folate.

One average-sized head of cauliflower will cover a meal for four with leftovers. It’s a side-dish, really, so everyone will get a good dollop.  There is no limit to how to serve this. Try it several ways and decide with your peeps which is your favorite.  You can go from basic (super healthful and not-at-all bad for you) to fancied up with herbs, cheese, cream, what-have-you.

INGREDIENTS:

Fresh cauliflower florets – one head.

Liquid of your choice (reserve some from cooking, or use broth, etc.)

Seasoning (salt and pepper, herbs, cheese, etc.)

PREPARATION:

Chop up your cauliflower into bite sized florets.  Steam or boil for 7-12 minutes until tender. Mash, whip, process as you desire to achieve a level of creamy or grainy to your liking. Serve hot and season to taste.

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VARIATIONS:

Here’s where you simply use your imagination.  For some, the switch from mashed potatoes to mashed cauliflower is a big one.  If that’s the case, then simply prepare exactly as you would your mashed potatoes. Use butter, heavy cream, buttermilk, sour cream, mayonnaise, salt. Use your blender, food processor, immersion stick, or hand-masher to create something fabulous. Have fun with it – no one’s judging!

If you’re ready to scale back for the sake of health, or you’re following a special diet like Paleo, South Beach, low-carb, or an inflammation protocol, then maybe you’re hoping to clean up your eating somewhat. You can reserve some of the liquid to use instead of milk.  You can use broth as your liquid. Add some lovely EVOO. Add some mashed garlic or roasted garlic.  Use herbs (I love chives and rosemary).

My peeps really are all about the cheesy cauli. I mash it up with a hand-masher until it’s grainy, then I add a big fistful of shredded cheddar and fresh parmesan and stir it up until it’s stringy. No need to add salt.  If I have gruyere, it kicks it up to a whole ‘nother level of special.


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EASY ROASTED VEGGIES

This is a go-to favorite of my family’s.  Simple, yummy, nutritious, guilt-free.  This is great for a crowd, too. So many beautiful colors all in one dish, eliminating the need for more than one side dish. Lots of fiber, nutrients, and complex carbohydrates make this ideal any time of the year.

VEGGIES:  Use whatever fresh veggies you have on-hand.  Root vegetables are great in this: potatoes, carrots, yucca, beets.  But really, you can customize this for any season, using what’s local and fresh. I love using grape tomatoes, but I’ve learned to pierce them or slice them first, as they explode.  Use mushrooms, any squash you can find, sweet potatoes make it in my opinion, and broccoli and cauliflower are fun, too.

SEASONING:  Always use onions and fresh garlic.  Scallions make it extra pretty. Always use whatever herbs you have available (thyme and rosemary are my favorite.) Always use the nicest salt and pepper, olive oil and vinegar (balsamic is my fave) you have.

I never measure, but here’s a guideline of what I use for four of us. Customize it for yourself.

•Approximately 1-2 cups of chopped vegetables per person.

•Approximately 1/8 cup of olive oil per person. About 1/2 as much vinegar.

•Salt, pepper, herbs to taste.

PREPARE:

Just chop it all up into bite size chunks. Slice or dice garlic. Denser vegetables like carrots and beets should be in smaller pieces than those that roast faster, like potatoes and yellow squash. When possible, leave the peels/skins on; they have the most nutrients, as a rule.

Throw all the chunks into a large bowl; combine with salt, pepper, herbs, oil and vinegar; stir up until everything is nicely coated.

Line a pan (any pan you like, but one with sides is easiest) with parchment paper (not necessary, but trust me on this) and place veggies no more than 2-3 layers deep.

ROAST:

Place in a pre-heated 425 degree oven. Some say to stir them around every 10 minutes, but I don’t. After 30-50 minutes, depending on your taste and the quantity, they’re good.

*My family loves them a bit more done, as the edges brown, because they start to caramelize. However, the chemical reaction does up the glycemic index, so just be mindful of your nutritional needs.

**Brighten the flavor with a few squeezes of lemon juice after roasting.

***For the grill: Use this exact recipe, but wrap into individual pilllow-packs of heavy-duty aluminum foil and throw on the grill with your meat. It should take about the same time as a medium-well steak.


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