Welcome to Your New Grain Staple: Quinoa

It is the “Mother of Grains,” or so the Incans would have us believe, but after taking a closer look at the nutritional and taste benefits of  quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), I am in full agreement.  Eating quinoa is like winning the nutritional lottery as far as grains are concerned.  I have decided that I love it so much it will now replace brown rice as my go-to grain.  Here are 5 reasons why you should eat quinoa instead of brown rice.

1.  Taste.  Quinoa has a rich nutty flavor to it that makes it taste more substantial and filling than brown rice.  It also has  little more fiber, so the scientific data even shows that quinoa is more filling.

2.  Time.  Quinoa takes 12-15 minutes to rinse and then cook up in water on the stove top; brown rice takes 50+ minutes, not to mention a hefty amount of spices and salt to make it have flavor.  When I come home after a long day, the last thing I want to do is wait for rice to cook.

3. Versatility.  Don’t just limit quinoa to a side grain dish, that would be a disservice.  Quinoa can add substance to soups, be a breakfast porridge, or even be the main ingredient in sweet baked goods.  Quinoa has no gluten, so it is excellent for gluten-free diets.

4. Quinoa is a symbol for endurance.  The crop thrives (was domesticated) in one of the harshest climates on earth, the highlands of the Andes mountains.  It can grow in altitudes over 9,800 feet above sea level where wind and fluctuating temperatures can damage other crops like corn and potatoes.  The Incas used quinoa to protect these other staples in their farming terraces.  Additionally, the Incas had the most extensive road network in Pre-Colombian South America.  The runners who used to send messages along these roads most likely relied on quinoa for nourishment.

5. It packs a much larger nutritional punch than brown rice.  Consider these numbers that I gathered from the nutritional label of a box of quinoa and a bag of brown rice.  Additionally, quinoa has thiamin, niacin, and folate, but I ran out of room in my table to show it.  I also don’t exactly know what these nutrients do for out bodies.  Let’s face it, quinoa outperformed long grain brown rice in every single category.

Long Grain Brown Rice Quinoa
Serving size ¼ cup dry 1/3 cup dry
Calories 170 160
Total Fat 1.5 grams 2.5 grams
Potassium 0 grams 320 mg (9% DV)
Carbohydrates 35 grams 30 grams
Fiber 2 grams 3 grams
Protein 4 grams 6 grams
Iron 4% (DV) 20% (DV)
Phosphorous 0 20% (DV)


 

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Moroccan Lentil Salad

Lentil beans are the poor man’s feast.  We always have a bag on hand for emergencies.  Fast. Cheap.  Tasty.  Better yet, healthy and low-fat.  Also, they are filling.

Cheap+filling=delicious.

I grew up on lentil soup or some variation of bean soup.  This is a lentil salad, meaning it is not liquidy and can be a chameleon like hummus.

If you need healthy brown bag lunches and are tired of PB ‘n J, try this Moroccan Lentil Salad.  Sounds like a commercial, but I’m serious.  Cook it on Monday and it’ll give you between 3 and 4 different lunches, depending on how much you want to eat.  Put it on top of salad, fantastic.  Inside a wrap-mmm good.  As a side dish next to fish- you’ve got your protein for a year.  You get the idea.

Printable Recipe:Moroccan Lentil Salad

We’ll start with green lentils, though in reality they look brown.  Food has a lot of misnomers.  Ever heard of red cabbage?  It’s really purple.  Red onions too, really purple and white.  Maybe the powerful person who called green lentils green thought green was a better color than brown.  Who knows, but we must oblige.

We’re going to cook a cup of lentils, really a fistful, with 3 cups of water.Don’t forget to cover it!!  Trap in the steam.  Trap in the heat.

Salt?  NO!

Bay Leaf? NO!

But lentils are soooo plain, what about some other flavor?

Just you wait…

Bring it up to a boil and then lower it to simmer.  This will cook for about 30 minutes.

Now we’re going to make the secret: Morrocan dressing.  It’s got a hint of cumin, a little pirouette from lime juice, color from turmeric, and ginger and garlic pizzazz.  Pizzazz I tell you.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Whisk it all together in a small prep bowl. Enter the greens from stage left.  We have cilantro, mint, and zucchini.  Notice the green theme?  Another reason these lentils should be green lentils. That there is my second zucchini from the garden and I have a gazillion more about to avalanche into the house in the next 2-3 weeks, so I got to stay on top of it and try to add them EVERYWHERE.  Well, except my morning coffee.  Don’t want to taint that moment of bliss.

The last 7-10 minutes of cooking the lentils, I slide in the chopped zucchini for good measure. The lentils should be done in 30 minutes or so.  You want them to keep their shape, but you also want them well…cooked.  Over 30 minutes is fine, under no way.  I’d say 40-45 minutes max, just in case you forget about it.  And no, that doesn’t mean I forgot about the lentils either, but thanks for thinking of it.

Put lentils and cooked zucchini into a medium sized bowl.  There shouldn’t be any liquid.  If there is, you may need to drain them first.  Pour over the fragrant dressing, take a whiff, and mix. Also add some fresh chopped mint.  Oh goodness, that smells so good.  Sometimes I wish you could just scratch and sniff the computer screen.I was going all healthy so I put a heaping 1/2 cup of the lentils on top of mixed salad greens, then sprinkled on fresh chopped cilantro and shredded carrot.Buen Provecho!

Triple-Caress Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies: the story

It’s like kindergarten

Triple-Caress Mocha Chocolate Chip cookies.  You heard that right.  Chocolate 3 ways with a hint of coffee flavor and rich, whipped silky goodness.  I can’t take any credit for the recipe, so,  thank you Crescent Dragonwagon for helping me to be the high school teacher that reminds kids of kindergarten.

We all remember those days, naptime, recess, finger painting, and of course, the cookies and milk.  Well,  a few days ago, I brought a taste of the good ol’ days back for my 9th grade Puente students.

Last night, for the second time, my husband made Cresent Dragonwagon’s decadent Triple-Caress Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies, courtesy of The Passionate Vegetarian.  I helped, if you define helping as reading the recipe and making minor needed interventions, also known as managerial oversight. Then, standing side by side, my husband and I created the little brown circles of sin.

Kris originally intended to make a single batch for his work’s cookie exchange.  The previous cookie exchange, Kris made some hazelnut cookies with nuts that can only be described as rancid.  They were utterly disgusting, but I kept eating them (a total of 4 cookies), hoping that the inherent fact that because they were cookies, some goodness would shine through.  Obviously we were both disappointed.  Lesson learned: always taste nuts before using them in a recipe.

This time, everything was fresh, and we knew this recipe was a winner, since he’d already tried it out once.  First is melting the butter, chocolate addition #1, and vegetable shortening in a saucepan.  Along with Chocolate Round #1 came Needed Intervention #1.  “Honey, that’s not a saucepan,” I say, as delicately as possible; Kris can be kind of sensitive when I intervene while he cook-creates.  He’s already got a medium sauté pan, heating up on the burner and is taking the paper off the butter.  Luckily, I tell him the saucepan is the one with the tall sides.  Not that it matters in the long run, ultimately it all melts down to chocolate and buttery Crisco goodness.  With the first round of chocolate melting down beautifully, Kris starts on part two.

I believe that the primary reason Ms. Dragonwagon calls these cookies a caress cookie is the absolute velvety smoothness of the whipped eggs and sugar.  5 minutes she writes, of sugars and proteins beating themselves into silk.  Then he adds the vanilla and instant coffee.  The instant coffee provides a heavy coffee infusion with a scant amount of ingredient.  We, from previous unmentionable drinking habits, had some instant coffee lying around.  All we needed, 1.5 teaspoons, 3 since we doubled, and the taste transforms into the mocha hint.

Enter chocolate round #2, American-processed unsweetened cocoa, along with flour, baking powder, salt.  Kris looks at me, smiles in his little boy mischief, “Time for chocolate round #2.”

We start to prepare the pecans.  Kris wanted to chop them up first, then toast them in the oven, and I knew an intervention was needed.   “We don’t want smaller pieces getting burnt while larger pieces still needed to toast up.  It’s better to toast them whole and all a uniform shape, then chop them up, plus all the nutty oils will stay in the nut and release once we chop them. “ Kris agreed; if only he agreed this heartily with all my ideas.

With the wet ingredients whipped, flavor added in the forms of vanilla, instant coffee infusion, and melted chocolate-butter-shortening, the dry ingredients prepped, all that was left was the combination moment and the labor of love, turning wet and dry into a workable dough, then adding chopped pecans, and Chocolate Round #3, semi sweet chocolate chips.  Absolutely delicious, even the raw dough was stunningly dark in color, smooth and shiny in its fat content.

Then I join the picture in a less managerial position.  Now comes the dirty work, touching the dough, shaping it into balls and smashing them into neat circles.  This dough does not spread at all, so what we shaped became the shape of our finished cookies.  We started with balls, then realized we needed to flatten them to create a cookie shape rather than a ball shape.   We arranged them on our baking stones for an even heat distribution.

12.5 to 13 minutes later…the chocolate chips pop they are so ready to melt and fall apart, ripe with delectable mixes of chocolate and hints of coffee.   The taste test confirms the need for a small cup of milk with each cookie, that’s how rich they are, Triple-Caress Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Oh Ms. Dragonwagon, you just made me the coolest teacher ever.

Welcome to life delicious

Welcome to life delicious, a blog about living the abundant life and finding everyday joys.  This blog came about for several reasons.  Obviously the primary reason is to write, to have a regular practice of writing and sharing it in a public forum.  Secondly to share the delicious and joyful experiences of life through fabulous recipes that I try out, refine, or randomly invent.  My husband Kris and I just bought our first home, so this blog is also a trace of our journey to transform our house into a home.  Given the fact that I now have a yard,  I have become a cook who gardens, an apprentice to seasonal eating and edible landscaping, so this is the fourth purpose of this blog.  All in all, it’s mostly about celebrating and enjoying the life delicious.