You know those people who say sure, “I’ll share dessert with you, but I only want one bite” … and when the molten chocolate cake appears, they ONLY TAKE ONE BITE? Well, that’s me. And I don’t tell you this to brag (or to torture you.) I only take one bite because chocolate just doesn’t turn me on. For me, chocolate is, well, beige. In my world, end of meal confections are just a vehicle for good coffee and more good conversation.
BUT, the START of the meal, wow, that’s another story. Put a basket of warm crusty bread in front of me and I practically need to close my eyes and think of baseball stats to quiet my desire to jump in. Carbs delight me: give me pasta, bread, grains, sticky rice and on and I’m yours. Loyally. Forever. Yummmmy.
Even though a lot of people think carb is a bad word, we need them for energy. In fact, carbs should be the biggest percentage of a balanced diet – the Mayo Clinic, for example, says between 45-65% of your daily caloric intake (protein should be 10-35% and fat 20-35%.) I like how the Mayo clinic gives ranges, btw – I think that’s realistic and, well, human. I mean, who walks around with a calculator every day figuring out the stats of his/her diet? A little flexibility, people, helps and as long as you’re in the ballpark, you’re golden. But I digress…:)
It was a good moment for me, then, when I was introduced to quinoa. I was at The Island Experience in Brazil (see this post, Paradise Island, for more info) and had just kayaked and hiked for a few hours, and I was HUNGRY. For lunch we were served about a cup and half of this special grain with some diced veggies in it. Eying my little Tupperwear container, I thought the portion was small and I wondered how I was going to have the strength to hike and kayak back to our lodge. I mean COME ON.
Turns out, Quinoa is a miracle food. It provides both complex carbs and an unusually high amount of complex protein. It looks like a grain, but it’s actually a seed and it is LOADED with nutrients. It is the original power food: The Incas used it to fuel their armies. So I took a bite and that was it – deeeeelightful – it triggered all of my carb receptors and I was in my happy place, and the small portion was okay as the stuff was filling. Paddling home was smooth sailing…
So here’s my mom, Joanne’s, fail-safe quinoa recipe that I have recently adopted. I make it often and freeze what I know I won’t gobble up. Quinoa is dense and caloric so I’d say, don’t sit down with a big bowl in front of the tv and zone out as you spoon it into your mouth. I serve it – maybe 4 heaping tablespoons – on top of a huge green salad, as a replacement for chicken or tuna. It’s also great as the grain in your meal paired with protein like chicken or fish (or it can BE your protein) and a green vegetable – so healthy you could die and again, YUM. And so, without further ado, here’s MAMA JO’s CROWD-PLEASER QUINOA:
1C quinoa, red or basic varieties (some need to be washed or soaked)
2C low sodium chicken broth
1/4 C Canola oil
3T brown rice vinegar (can mix 1/2 and 1/2 with white wine vinegar)
2T soy sauce
1 1/2-2t curry powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t celery salt
Add-ins for quinoa:
1/2 C green onions (scallions) chopped
1/2C celery chopped
1C frozen peas
4 oz. raw cashews (fabulous extra protein source!)
Cook quinoa according to the instructions on the box – until all of the chicken broth is absorbed.
Mix dressing ingredients together in a separate bowl and slowly add to quinoa to taste. I do not use the entire amount of dressing – I add about 3/4 of it but that’s me. The quinoa will taste best if it has a chance to absorb the dressing and rest.
Yield: 8 servings
Calories per serving: 239 (it’s a little hard to tell you exactly how much this is – it is 1/8 C of dried quinoa but when it cooks it gets fluffy so just eyeball a serving that looks like, say, a cup.)
Fat: 15 gms
Carbs: 23 gms
Protein: 7 gms