Mexican Quinoa

Quinoa is baaaack! When we were in Abilene, my dad brought a copy paper box FULL of different kinds of peppers to share with us. I brought back poblanos, Anaheims (red and green), jalapeños (green and purple!!), and banana peppers. I’m about to have to freeze several of the jalapeño and Anaheim peppers to keep them from spoiling because I brought home that many. Last week, I got very creative in my meals trying to use them up. You will see a few recipes from those endeavors in the next few weeks. This particular recipe has a shameful inspiration, actually. Many people out there have guilty pleasures in the form of various TV shows; I have guilty pleasures in the form of various questionable food items. There is no need to reveal them all in one fell swoop, but one of them is a certain Mexican TV dinner that came with cheesy Mexican rice. When contemplating a bunch of peppers and thinking of quinoa, it all came back to me in a flash. Cheesy-peppery Mexican quinoa, it is!

Mexican Quinoa

Ingredients
1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup water
2 tsp lime juice (not pictured because it was added last minute, on a whim)
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 diced Anaheim peppers – I used 1 red and 1 green because I had both.
1/4 ish cup chopped red onion
1 med-lg sprig of thyme
2 tbsp liquid from salsa (no solids) or tomato sauce (optional)
dash or two of salt

Steps
1. Chop up the peppers into your preferred bite size. I seeded mine; you go with your personal heat preference.
2. Combine quinoa, lime juice, salsa liquid, salt, and water in a saucepan. Cook on high heat (6 or 7 on the dial) until it is boiling.
3. Add peppers and give it a quick stir. Cover and simmer on low (1 or 2 on the dial) for 15 minutes.
4. When 15 minutes is up, remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
5. Finely chop the thyme. Grate the cheese.
6. Stir in thyme and cheese until cheese is melted.
7. EAT!

Isn’t that ridiculous easy? Yes, I thought so as well. My friend was over for dinner, and she went back for seconds on the quinoa. I was pleased to see she enjoyed it. I enjoyed it for lunch leftovers the next day, myself!

For variations, you could substitute any variety of peppers or use Monterey Jack cheese. Oooohhh! I bet a jalapeño jack would be quite delightful and add a bit of kick. I did seed my peppers, but I might leave some seeds or possibly the ribs in next time for a little extra heat. Garlic might also be a positive addition to this dish. If you prefer a crunchier onion or pepper, wait until you are letting the quinoa sit for 5 minutes to put them in. You’ll get a light steam but still have plenty of crunch.

A note about adding herbs: When using fresh herbs, it’s better to add them at the end of the cooking/heating process, so they retain more of their flavor. If you added the thyme in with the quinoa at the beginning, it would boil away the tasty flavor and leave you with a bitter, unfortunate flavor in your dish. Fresh herbs are more delicate than dried, so you can, and probably should, add your dried herbs earlier in the cooking process. This allows the herbs to rehydrate a bit and flavor the entire dish. Your recipe should tell you when. When I wing my recipes, I usually add the dried herbs in prior to any boiling or simmering.

Happy eating!

Nutritional Content – divide recipe into 3 servings – approx 1/2 cup each
Calories: 167.8
Fat: 7.4 g
Carbs: 18.8 g
Fiber: 3.4 g
Protein: 7.8 g
Calcium: 15%

Mango, Avocado, & Quinoa Salad

There is a small culinary crisis in my kitchen…I am out of quinoa. This has been such a go-to side dish for me in the last two weeks. It’s fast. It’s slower than couscous which I actually like. It’s healthy. It’s fun to eat. And I’m out. Rawr. However, it did go out with a bang. I pretty much made this recipe up – and if my memory is correct, it was the first dish I made with quinoa. It’s a tough call, but I might even prefer it to the broccoli-cheese variation of earlier. I’ve learned in the last few years what a delicious combination mango and avocado are so I’m always looking for new additions to that lovely little combo. This one has some sweetness, earthiness, texture, and while I didn’t add any – I believe heat would come alongside quite nicely. Technically it’s probably a side dish and as such could serve 2 – 4. However…as a single gal, I don’t have to share my delicious food unless I want to and I scarfed it all up on my own. Both times. I won’t rat you out if you choose to do the same.

Mango, Avocado, & Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

1/4 cup quinoa
1 med-lg clove of garlic or 2 small ones
1 small avocado (the ones that are 2/$1)
1 small mango (I used green – but I don’t really know the difference in types of mango)
2 medium radishes (could sub red onion or red bell pepper)
Handful of cilantro – to taste (for some of you, this may be none 🙂 )
1 capful of lime juice

Steps

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions. This gives you 15-20 minutes to assemble the rest of the salad. Mince/garlic press the clove(s) of garlic into the boiling water so it infuses into the quinoa.
2. Cube the avocado and dump into bowl. My suggestion for cubing: Slice the avocado flesh into cubes, but do not cut through the skin. Scoop the cubes out with a spoon in a circular motion. Out they’ll come.
3. Cube the mango and cut into the bowl. My suggestion for cubing: Cut a portion of the mango away from that crazy large pit. Carefully score the flesh into cubes, but again – don’t cut through the skin. Pop it out (see picture) and carefully cut the cubes away from the skin.
4. Cut each radish in half and slice thinly. Toss into the bowl
5. Pick as many cilantro leaves as you wish, scrunch up into a tight bunch and slice thinly. Toss into the bowl.
6. Add 1 capful of lime juice and gently stir around.
7. When the quinoa has boiled, cooked, and cooled a bit, add it to the bowl and gently fold in.
8. Eat and be happy.

Don’t let the mango intimidate you. They can be slimy, slippery suckers. The score, pop, cut method seems to keep the slippage to a minimum. I have also peeled it with a potato peeler and just cut the flesh away from the pit, dicing into irregular pieces as I went. While there are many things I think one could add to this salad that would be delicious – be careful of adding so many flavors that they become indistinguishable. Texture is a big thing for me in eating so I would most strongly recommend something with some crunch and a bit of tang. I hope you find this to be as delicious as I did. Happy eating!

Broccoli and Cheese Quinoa

I’ve recently discovered quinoa and now I want to know where it’s been all my life! Admittedly, I’ve known it existed for a while, but it was this unfamiliar food with a difficult to pronounce name. It somehow seemed complicated to me. Oh man, was I mistaken – happily so! According to the good folks at WikiAnswers, there are two legit pronunciations: The first option is “kee-NO-wah” and the other is “KEEN-wah.” I”ve taken to using the latter, myself. I’m learning what a great substitute this is for brown rice which is what led to this tasty creation. While I enjoy brown rice, it takes AGES to cook and sometimes I don’t feel like waiting said ages to eat. Quinoa is ready to go in about 20 minutes. Now that’s what I’m talking about! Plus, because quinoa is gluten-free, has a low glycemic index, AND provides all 8 essential amino acids, it is something I can eat often and feel good about it every time. I hope you give this recipe a try and enjoy it as much as I did. I enjoyed it so much I made it twice in one week!

Broccoli and Cheese Quinoa

Ingredients
approx 1/2 cup chopped broccoli florets
approx 1 ounce shredded cheese – I used a combo of sharp cheddar and Parmesan
1/4 cup dry quinoa
1/2 cup liquid – water, chicken stock, veggie stock – whatever you prefer.

Steps

1. Cut off the florets from the head of broccoli. I prefer mine medium-small to smallish.
2. Grate cheese. I used the small holed side of my box grater.
3. Combine your liquid and quinoa in a pot. Bring to a boil.
4. Turn heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes – NO PEEKING!
5. Take off heat – put broccoli in on top of quinoa. Cover and let sit 2 – 5 minutes, depending on your desired done-ness for the broccoli. I left mine in about 2:30.
6. Fluff quinoa, mixing in the florets and cheese until the cheese is melted.
7. Eat and be delighted!

I would suggest cutting the broccoli and grating the cheese whilst the quinoa is cooking if you aren’t doing other dinner preparations in that time. I used leftover broccoli from the night before which kept just fine. I also encourage eyeballing and adjusting amounts as you so desire. Sometimes I’m feeling the need for extra cheese and you can never go wrong with that. I imagine some finely diced onions or ham might be lovely additions. Go with what sounds tasty to you as that is likely to be what works best for you. But please, by all means, do go with something – it’s too easy not to give it at try! 🙂 Please feel free to share with me how you like to eat quinoa. I’m excited to explore the possibilities! Happy eating!

Nutritional Info:
Calories: 294
Carbs: 32 g
Protein: 13 g
Fiber: 4 g
Calcium: 26%
Iron: 18%