healthy eating – easy quinoa

I have a good friend in MN that blogs daily about food, wine, tea, music, life. Lots of things, and she is truly a professional writer. Author of a few books, including Chin Deep in Bubbles, Melissa has the corner covered on all things delicious and pampering. And beautiful. She’s a peach – visit her blog: http://www.chindeep.com/.

She could probably give you a thousand recipes on quinoa, or point you to her many friends in the culinary world that have their versions, but I’ll keep it simple and give you my little quick take.

I will admit right now that I do avoid carbs, and that’s not good. I know I need to consume more, especially with my workout schedule now. So I’m getting back to incorporating them, but focusing on the HEALTHY ones. Healthy, as in, less processed, not fried or packaged. Love me some tortilla chips and multi-grain crackers, but quinoa is a great source of protein as well, and pretty simple to prepare.

ingredients

This morning, I added one cup organic quinoa to a small saucepan and put the heat on high.

before toasting

I stirred my little pearls til they popped and crackled and turned a bit darker colored. If you like, you can add a little oil to the pan for this stage. Toasting the quinoa helps bring out the nutty flavor. If you are unsure, you CAN skip this step!

after toasting

After about 5 minutes of dry toasting, I added 1.5 cups low sodium vegetable broth and stirred.

adding broth

Then I turned the heat to medium-low and put the lid on. I simmered the quinoa for 10 minutes, gave it another stir, replaced the lid and turned the heat off, leaving the pan in place. I had to take my daughter to school :).

put the lid on and leave it alone

When I came home, about 10 minutes later, it was done. Nice and fluffy, although admittedly needing salt.

done - so fluffy!

Quinoa can be used in place of rice or couscous. You can use it with stir fry or fajita vegetables, and it’s great with fish (if you eat fish). Squeeze a little lemon over it. Add different herbs. Be creative and try a different flavor profile, or add veggies to make a pilaf.

If you make it with water instead of broth, you can also make this into sweet applications. Add raisins and apples, cinnamon and treat it like a hot morning cereal. Or almonds, blueberries and maple syrup. It’s quite versatile. And tasty. 🙂 enjoy!

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Juicing the fruit

I had to share this, because it just makes so much sense! When I lived in Phoenix (and after I moved, before shipping was too expensive), my mom would bring me (literally) suitcases full of citrus fruit from the trees in their backyard. I love it, especially since I was eating so many grapefruits. But I didn’t eat all that many lemons…

So my mom told me a secret. OK not so much a secret as a hint, but it’s stuck with me and helped me save on my grocery bill. I was at Kroger the other day buying a few produce items and noticed the sale rack tucked in the corner. It was packed full of bags of overripe fruits. And each bag was marked at $1. HELLO!!!!!!!

So I bought 12 bags: 1 bag of limes, 2 bags of lemons and 9 bags of oranges and tangerines. When I got home everyone thought I was nuts and asked, “WHAT are you going to do with all THAT??”

So I showed them. I started with the oranges and tangerines, cutting each one in half. Then I pressed the juice with my hand-squeezer (I should have used the larger countertop model my mom got for me, but I worked my hands out instead) into a large measuring cup. Don’t throw out the squeezed fruits yet…

Then I poured the juice into ice cube trays of any size and shape I had on hand. I overfilled them a bit, so I used an old cookie sheet as a base in the freezer so the juice wouldn’t spill over. I let the cubes freeze overnight and then popped them out into large zipped top bags and stuck them back into the freezer.

Ever need a teaspoon of orange or lemon zest for a recipe, and find you have to run to the store to buy just one so you can finish making your meal, just to end up throwing the fruit out afterwards? No more! Before descarding the fruit halves that you’ve already squeezed, cut the peel off, and then use a sharp knife to remove the pith. Or you can use a zester, but you’ll have better luck with that PRIOR to squeezing them. The best news is my lemons were all organic, so I know my zest will be the best possible!

Out of all this I have all the citrus juice and zest I need for anything. I have freshly squeezed lemon juice for lemony green beans (or chicken if you eat it), fresh lime juice for salsa fresca or guacamole, orange zest for cashew cream (all my vegan friends will understand) and fresh orange/tangerine juice to complement a tall glass of soda water. Making lemonade is as easy as adding a cube to a half-glass of water with some sweetener and stirring.

There are infinite possibilities of what I can do with my new stash. If you find the opportunity to save yourself some time and money, join me in this venture! I look forward to hearing new ideas! Enjoy!

Roasted Organic Beets

Sprouts had a sale, and I was there. Their golden and red organic beets were on sale, so I loaded up and excitedly got to work on them as soon as I returned home. Not a fan? Try this recipe. It is not only simple, but roasting the beets brings out their natural sweetness, which compliments that wonderful earthy flavor.

I bought 6 medium-sized beets, three of each color (of course you can use all red beets if that’s what is available). I rinsed off the dirt and peeled the beets, cutting off the bottom and top ends. Then I cut them into approximately 1″ chunks, placing them on tin foil.

Once I was finished cutting, I drizzled the beet chunks with olive oil and sprinkled sea salt and fresh cracked pepper over the whole lot. I transferred the tin foil full of delight into a glass baking dish and baked them at 375 until they are tender, stirring a few times for even cooking.

NOTE: I have had better results by using clay baking dish, so if you have one of those, I recommend using it. The foil is not necessary, but keeps clean up to a minimum.

If you aren’t a beet fan, I hope you will give it a try, even with just one beet. I have made believers in my household (children and skeptical men included). Happy cooking!

Rustic Vegan Creamy Mushroom Soup

rustic vegan mushroom soup

I LOVE mushrooms. All of them, every single type. So when I started eating vegan, I was sad to be missing out on all the soups I used to make with Cream of Mushroom soup as a base. Today I have erased every bit of that yearning by creating this relatively easy-to-create soup.

I began with my basic method for “sauteeing” mushrooms. I bought 2 8oz packages of sliced baby portabellas, put them into a glass dish, sprayed them lightly with Bragg Amino spray and microwaved the dish on high for 5 minutes, uncovered. Soy sauce works well as a substitute, just don’t overdo it because your mushrooms will be too salty.

Any juices from the glass dish can go straight into a large saucepan. I added 5 carrots chopped in half, 5 stalks of celery chopped in half, an onion chopped in quarters, 6 cloves of smashed garlic, 1 tbsp dried thyme, 2 bay leaves and about 4 cups of water. I was roasting veggies, so I used the tough stalks from my asparagus as well. You can really use any veggies you have around, or stalks from them that you won’t eat. I also squeezed half a lemon into the pot.

In a large glass measuring cup, I heated 3 cups of water with 2 large vegetable bouillon cubes and soaked 1 small package wood mushrooms and 1 small package shitake mushrooms. Feel free to use any mushrooms you can find (fresh or dried), I just used what I happened to have.

Once the mushrooms were soft, I poured the remaining liquid into the saucepan and combined the mushrooms with my other bowl of mushrooms. Now I boiled my vegetable broth until the veggies were soft and it smelled awesome. Then I strained it and tossed the vegetables. EASY VERSION OF BROTH = POUR IT OUT OF A BOX. Season to taste.

I combined the broth and the mushrooms in the saucepot. I didn’t like so many large mushroom pieces, so when I put my little 12.3 oz box of firm tofu in the blender, I added some of the mushrooms and broth from the pot. This created a creamier texture. I heated it through, added a few shakes of cayenne and topped it with chopped green onions and a squeeze of lemon to serve. I only stopped at one bowl because I should have waited for dinner to eat it in the first place! Happy cooking!!

TIPS for making jam

This is essentially part two of “How to make great jam”. I have included a slew of pictures that show step by step what you may experience, in order of the experience.

I would like to mention that although the recipe provided yesterday was for strawberry jam, it can be adjusted for ANY berry! Different fruits have different natural pectin levels, but as far as berries go, they are all similar in that, as well as the fact that they vary in natural sugar content. So if anyone tells you to measure EXACTLY, DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT! Don’t put that pressure on yourself. If you have really sweet fruit and you use the exact amount of sugar, your jam will be too sweet.

There is an easy way to fix your jam if you end up with syrup instead of jam. Reprocess the jars. Or dump them back into the pot and cook it a bit more. That may result in a darker jam, but it will firm up. But before putting yourself through that, you can do a jelling test. When you are finished boiling up your jam, give it a few minutes and put your metal spoon in there. If the jam is slow to come down your spoon and drips off more in globs than thin drips, then it will set. If it’s still runny, just boil it for another minute and then jar and process your batch.

So if you decide strawberry isn’t your thing, or maybe you feel like trying blackberries because they’re super cheap right now, just substitute the same amount of berries! That is truly it – that simple. I made 4 berry jam this morning (pix below) and used about 2c strawberries, 1c blueberries, scant 1c raspberries and 1c blackberries. It was probably more like 2.5c strawberries because I was scooping it in with my measuring cup, rather than really measuring. But it turned out fabulous.

Please take a moment to click on each picture for more details. Happy canning!!

The BEST snack chip EVER!!

I found these in a bin on sale at Kroger a month or so ago. Then I found them at the local Sprouts Market. Now, they are also found in my pantry, every single day. 🙂

The brand is “FOOD SHOULD TASTE GOOD”. Their food DOES taste good! They offer both large bags and single serve, in a variety of flavors. My personal favorite these days include the Multigrain and Sweet Potato chips, both vegan, among many other wonderful qualities.

The chips are GMO free, certified Kosher, all natural, no MSG, etc. The list literally goes on. For more details, please visit their website (included below!)

These chips are fantastic, crunchy, lightly salted and very few ingredients, which allows all the natural flavors of the main ingredient to shine through. I find myself satisfied with FAR fewer of these chips than the more highly processed brands.

I encourage you to try their product. They encourage you as well! There is a $1 coupon available on their website! Check it out! http://www.foodshouldtastegood.com/#/home/

Happy snacking my friends!!

Vegan Treats!

As much as I’d like to take this moment to push my own fruit based jams that fall into this category, I really wanted to share with everyone the wondrous treat created by “Sweet & Sara”. It’s a NYC based company and the marshmallows they create are incredible. They are VEGAN and delicious!!

If you have a moment, vegan or not, check these out. Great flavors are available, and eating thse ensures that you are not consuming a product made with some sordid animal parts.

http://www.sweetandsara.com/

Y U M !!!