Tag Archives: Healthy

Keen on Quinoa

19 Mar

Before quinoa became popular, my mother had it in her pantry when I was growing up. Back in the ‘70’s, it was hippie dippy health food and had a picture of a Native American on the box to show how natural it was. I am sure my mother made it once, and it was either tolerated at one weeknight dinner, or rejected entirely, and then left for dead on the shelf, in memory of mom’s attempt to try something new.

But now it has made a re-appearance in grocery stores, and healthful minded people are turning to it for a low-carb, gluten-free substitute for other grains. Understanding what it is and how to cook it can keep its popularity stats up at your dinner table.

First thing you should know is that it is not a grain, although it looks a lot like couscous.

Uncooked quinoa

Uncooked quinoa

My husband thinks it looks a lot like bird seed and jokes that we are sharing dinner with our pet parakeet.

Bird seed

Bird seed

Our parakeet, Happy Love

Our parakeet, Happy Love

 

Quinoa is related to beets and spinach and is high in protein and iron. It is the seed of its plant, and, if you look closely at it after it is cooked, has a lot of personality—it is curly, just like me!

Curly when cooked!

Curly when cooked!

It is also accepted as kosher for Passover—just think, it is the only kosher food that has a curly tail!

Curly close-up

Curly close-up

During Passover I leave a big bowl of it in the fridge, and it will save me from sobbing into my matzah on day 3 of the holiday because I can’t go one more day without my beloved couscous, rice, or pasta (carboholic in the house, yo).

I recommend the Ancient Harvest brand, which is pre-rinsed to remove the bitter coating on each grain of quinoa, which is called saponin.

Ancient Harvest Quinoa

Ancient Harvest Quinoa

Other brands, such as Trader Joe’s still have the coating, and personally I will do anything to save a step, even one as simple as this. If you do buy a brand that you need to rinse, then do so with a fine mesh colander or you will wind up washing a heck of a lot of it down the drain.

I recommend cooking it in broth, not water, no matter how the instructions on the box insist either way will be fine. The broth will give it some flavor, and anything this healthy needs every bit of flavor on its side to make sure it will always have a place at your dinner table.

Cook it in an uncovered pot for about 15-18 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed and there are some “holes” in the top of the quinoa.

Broth and quinoa

Broth and quinoa

Cook uncovered

Cook uncovered

 

Done

Done

See the holes

See the holes

 

Many recipes will tell you to put the cover on the pot, but I find that then you will have to drain it, and you already know how I feel about saving a step. Since you are not cooking rice, you do not need the cover.

Once it is cooked you will notice that it has changed a little bit—it will now have the cutest little curlicue shape to it. And when you taste it, it will not be mush, but will have a bit of bite to it and a pleasant texture.

Let it stand for about 5 more minutes off of the heat, then, using a fork, gently fluff it out onto a large platter or wide serving bowl, and let it cool a bit. At this point you can add in any mix-ins to help it along and win over your family.

Mix-ins

Mix-ins

Chopped and ready to go

Chopped and ready to go

Pretty

Pretty

Mixed

Mixed

Add feta and eat!

Add feta and eat!

 

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad and other ideas

  • 1 cup quinoa (I recommend the Ancient Harvest brand so you can skip step 1)
  • 2 cups broth
  • 15 pitted Kalamata olives
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil
  • ½ red bell pepper

    Israeli Feta

    Israeli Feta

  • 2 green onions
  • ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled (I love the Israeli feta from Trader Joe’s)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place quinoa in a mesh colander and rinse to remove bitterness (see note above).
  2. Place the quinoa and the broth into a pot, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. If there is any liquid remaining, drain in the colander and let quinoa cool to room temp.
  3. Chop olives, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, red pepper, green onions, and feta cheese. Mix into the quinoa and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Qunioa Mix-in Ideas:

  • Sautéed chopped onion, sliced grilled chicken, chopped fresh spinach, squeeze of lemon and drizzled of olive oil
  • Diced cooked asparagus, goat cheese, quartered cherry tomatoes, fresh chopped thyme
  • Sliced green onions, dried cherries, apricots or dates, chopped pistachios, almonds, or cashews, chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Thinly sliced red onion, crumbled feta, diced cucumbers, and halved grape tomatoes, chopped fresh mint
  • Eat any of these quinoa salads as is or in a lettuce wrap.
  • Stuff any of the quinoa salads into a hollowed out Roma tomato, portabella mushroom, zucchini, or eggplant, and baked in the oven at 350° F until the veggies are tender.
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ALL HAIL KALE!!!

23 Jan

We live in a world where green+leafy=good, while white+ fluffy=bad.  So although cake, cookies, bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes are quite possibly the most delicious things a person could eat, they have a reputation for being less than healthy. In fact, I have quite a few friends that hold up a hand in classic “stop” position and say, “No carbs.” Well, hi, my name is Aura, and I’m a carb-a-holic (but no need to pity another’s dietary choices.)

In fact when I do eat cake-cookies-bread-pasta-rice-potatoes (and that would be every day), I try to see them for what they are, and when I offer my family seconds I try to say “would you like more noodles?” instead of, “another helping of carbs, honey?” I envy other cultures on a carb-based diet (otherwise known elsewhere simply as “food”): China comes to mind—rice, the foundation for every stir fry if not the meal itself; and Italy too, with piles of fresh pasta on every plate. In fact, the gorgeous Sophia Loren has famously said, “everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” ‘Nuff said.
But the topic for today is both green and leafy, and more specifically: kale. Notice how I ramble on about “carbs”– like eating my veggies, I am avoiding the topic of kale. But it turns out I love greens, too. Even if my fork will first reach for the carb, uh, I mean pasta, before the broccoli, don’t hold it against me.  It is very European to end on the salad (but very French to end on cheese, but I will save that for another blog entry).
I have embraced kale as the sovereign of all greens. It packs a nutritional punch and been given the name “superfood.” It is hearty and will last in the crisper for days as I try to avoid making it for my family. But when I do we are all surprised every time how much we don’t hate it. We even like it. A lot.
Kale chips, although trendy, haven’t given me the kind of success I hoped for. High temp, low temp, no matter—they are always a combo of yummy-crunchy-crispy-flaky, burned-bitter-brown, and raw-chewy-stringy. I admittedly can’t get them right (if you can please message me the recipe immediately, although I have probably already tried it).
I have enjoyed a friend’s kale, stewed with large white beans and some kind of barbeque sauce.  I suppose what I’ve been looking for in a kale recipe is not something that masks it, or something that uses it as a healthy ingredient while making me feel like I have taken a dose of medicine (kale smoothie anyone?). I’ve been looking for the “Holy Kale” of recipes that will make me stand up and shout “ALL HAIL KALE, THE MIGHTIEST TASTIEST GREEN THAT EVER WAS!” and I have found it.
It is simple: you whisk up a very simple dressing (in this case I would even call it a marinade), you chop up the leaves, or shred them really, you combine the two and let it sit, 30 minutes , but even better the next day, as it does its own hard work of softening up in the fridge.
You can use any kale you’d like: Lacinato or dinosaur kale, or basic supermarket variety labeled generically “kale” (which could be curly or plain leafed). Just wash-dry-shred-marinate-eat.
It just sits on the kitchen counter for about ½ an hour cooking itself while you slave away at all of the other things you are preparing. Make it first before you make your pasta-rice-potato side dish and let it smugly wait it out. Let it sit while you roast your chicken or cook your fish or heat up those beans to go with your rice. In fact make it the day before, or even two, shocking as it may seem. While other lettuces will wither and wilt having to bear the weight of dressing too long, these greens only get better. Have it tonight for dinner, pack it tomorrow for lunch, and the next day as well. You can count on this salad to be waiting for you when you get home and won’t have to wash-chop-dress your dinner when you are tired. And if Popeye is any indication of what one is like after eating their greens then you will feel as strong as he after chowing down.
Put this out for company or bring it to a potluck—unlike cole slaw that cannot take a hot summer’s day out on a picnic table, this can. And guest will say, oh is that…kale?” And they will ask, “how do you make that—I hear it is good for you.”  And you will say,” it is, in more ways than you know.” 
“ALL HAIL KALE” SALAD
·         ½ pound kale
·         ¼  cup each shredded carrots and purple cabbage
·         ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
·         ¼ cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
·         1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
·         2 teaspoons sugar
·         2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds or chopped peanuts
·         ½ teaspoon kosher salt
·         ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
1.       Wash and dry the kale. Strip the leaves from the stems and discard the stems. Shred the leaves into thin ribbons. Place in a bowl with the carrots and cabbage.
2.      In a medium bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over the kale salad.
3.      Let marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to two days.
 
 

Rockin’ Shakshuka, Breakfast of Kings

29 Dec

This summer I went to Israel, lucky me. I stayed in the luxurious King Solomon Hotel.

And while my travel mates were gorging themselves on the chocolate rugelach for breakfast (and who can blame them), I was madly, wildly in love with the shakshuka.

Not only did I have fun eating it, but talking about it was pretty awesome too. Go ahead, say it. Out loud. SHAKSHUKA!!! *fist raised in air* There!
You are now so empowered that you don’t really need that second cup of coffee to get you going (have it anyway).
I’ve had shakshuka before and frankly it was either too spicy or had too many bell peppers for my taste, but this, this was bliss. At the King Solomon, there were big metal trays of chunky garlicky tomato sauce with eggs poached on top and fluffy pita bread on the side. Warm and nourishing, and like almost everything in Israel, healthy.
 

So I put the chocolate rugelach in my purse for later (my grandma would be proud), but for breakfast, only shakshuka!

Shakshuka, King Solomon Style
6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped (not from a jar)
¼  cup extra virgin olive oil
1-28 ounce can diced tomatoes (Muir Glenn is my favorite)
4 to 6 good quality eggs
Pita bread (if you live in The Lou I command you to go to Pita Plus and buy it there)
Optional: crumbled feta, chopped parsley
 

   1.      In a medium to large sized skillet warm the olive oil and the garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes until garlic is sizzling. Make sure to keep it moving in the pan and do not let it brown.

2.      Add the can of tomatoes, a pinch of kosher salt and 1/8 of a teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicier).  Simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes.
3.      Crack desired amount of eggs on top, cover, and cook, 5 minutes for soft eggs, and 7 minutes if you like them cooked through.
4.      Scoop onto plates, sprinkling with feta, parsley, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper, which are all optional. Serve with warm pita bread, which is not. B’tayavon!
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