Monday, March 4, 2013

Quick Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is often referred to as an ancient grain, up there with the likes of amaranth, Kamut and millet. Once you know how to say it, you’ll remember forever. This rice substitute is also gluten-free and can be used for recipes ranging from savory to sweet.

I can find the larger bags of quinoa at Costco and they’re usually on sale for $10 or less. On the back of it’s friendly green packaging, the organic truRoots brand lets you know that quinoa has a low glycemic index and provides all eight amino acids, making it a complete protein.

I have a double feature to share with you tonight, with the quinoa cooked in one large batch and split it up to make two separate recipes. This will feed two people for breakfast and dinner in minimal time and easy-to-prepare steps. The breakfast quinoa can be enjoyed bright and early in the morning, or even for dinner. Half of the quinoa can be set aside and used to throw together stuffed peppers for dinner in less than an hour, including cook time. If you make the recipes, it’s enough for two days worth of breakfast and dinner for one person, like me.

To cook one larger batch, rinse 1 cup of quinoa under cold water and combine with two cups of water in a large pot. Stir everything together and let it come to a boil. Stir again and reduce to low heat and cook, covered for about 15 minutes. Check the quinoa occasionally to see how much water has been absorbed. When all the water is absorbed, the quinoa is ready. Set it aside, still covered, for another five minutes and then fluff with a fork.

I’ve provided the quantities and cooking directions for each of the recipes to be made on their own for simplicity. It really is easier to make one larger batch of quinoa though if you want to try making both meals. Both of these dishes are nutritious, packed with protein and vitamins, low-fat, gluten-free and affordable.

Give your traditional old school bowl of oatmeal a makeover with a big bowl of Warm Winter Breakfast Quinoa. The bright green Granny Smith apples and sweet maple syrup add a little bit of sunshine to your windy, blustery, chilly winter day.

Warm Winter Breakfast Quinoa 
(Serves 2) (vegan, gluten-free)

• 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
• 1 cup water
• 1/4 tsp. sea salt
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
• 1/3 cup dried cranberries
• 1 tbsp. chia seeds
• 1/4 cup almonds
• maple syrup
• 1 large Granny Smith apple, sliced into small pieces
• fruit and nut granola
• almond milk, warmed

- Rinse uncooked quinoa in cold water. This gets rid of any bitterness.
- Place the water and the quinoa in a pan, stir together and bring to a boil. Stir again reduce heat to low. Cooked covered for another 15 minutes, checking a few times to make sure all the water is absorbed. Cook for an additional minute or two if there is still some water in the pan that hasn’t been absorbed.
- Let the quinoa sit covered for five minutes, then stir and fluff with a fork.
- Mix in salt, the tablespoon of chia seeds, nutmeg and cinnamon. Next mix in the dried cranberries.
- Divide the quinoa equally between two bowls. Divide the apple slices and almonds up equally and top the quinoa. Sprinkle with more cinnamon and nutmeg if you wish and drizzle with maple syrup.

- Optional: Top with fruit and nut granola and pour about 1/2 cup of warmed almond milk in each bowl. Drizzle maple syrup over everything, stir together and enjoy the warm, filling goodness of your breakfast quinoa.

Try pouring in some warm almond milk and topping with a handful of fruit and nut granola.
I grew up with stuffed peppers being a regular meal, especially when I’d spend the summer days at my grandparents’ house. My Bubba (that’s what I call my grandma) would have green peppers fresh from the garden and cook huge, and I mean HUGE, batches of stuffed peppers filled with ground meat, tomato sauce and rice. My grandparents have nine children and a whole string of grandchildren, so she doesn’t really cook for small crowds.

I haven’t eaten meat for almost 10 years and I didn’t have any rice in my pantry, so I’ve put a slightly Asian spin on my stuffed pepper recipe by using teriyaki sauce and an assortment of vegetables and Gardein chick’n.

I look at what I have on hand first before I throw dinner together and that’s another way to save money. Think about how long that half-used jar of sauce has been sitting in the fridge waiting to be used in something, or that half-full bag of frozen peas and carrots in the freezer. It really doesn’t get much simpler, or much better than peas and carrots either. Teriyaki sauce can be on the saltier side, so make sure you don’t add too much salt to the quinoa filling.

The peppers freeze very easily and can be kept in the freezer for quick, healthy meals to have on-hand when you’re in a hurry. You can double or even triple the recipe to feed an entire family! (I love being a vegan!)

And, going back to my Bubba really quickly – She has taught me a lot of what I know about baking and cooking and has even made some of her delicious recipes vegan-friendly with me, like her granola and a cabbage dish that she makes. She has also stressed the importance of eating everything on your plate, not letting anything go to waste, using what you have, being frugal and really accessing needs vs. wants. I thank her for all of that! My grandpap also bakes the best home made bread and pretzels I’ve ever tasted.

Quinoa and Vegetable Teriyaki Stuffed Peppers
(Serves 2) (vegan, gluten-free)

• 3 large green peppers, cut 2 of the peppers in half and remove seeds and stems. Set the other pepper aside to be diced and used in the quinoa mixture.
I used green peppers because that’s what I had in my fridge. Red, yellow and orange peppers work too.
• 1 cup quinoa, cooked
• salt and pepper, to taste
• Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce and marinade (about 1/2 cup)
• 3/4 cup frozen peas
• 3/4 cup fresh or frozen carrots
• 4 or 5 Gardein chick’n tenders, or meat substitute of your choice, cut into smaller pieces once cooked
(Extra firm tofu, cut up into small cubes would also work well.)

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a small casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- Cut two of the peppers in half and remove the stems and seeds. Remove the stem and seeds from the third pepper and dice it into small chunks.
- Place the green pepper halves in the casserole dish and place them in the oven while you prepare the quinoa filling. This will get the peppers cooking.
- Use half of the quinoa you already set aside from the larger batch, or cook the quinoa using the directions above.
- Prepare the frozen peas and carrots using the package directions. Fresh or frozen carrots can be added to boiling water and steamed for about 5 to 7 minutes if you’re like me and didn’t use the pre-packaged kind.
- Cook the Gardein chick’n tenders using the package directions. Cut them into smaller pieces.
- Mix the cooked quinoa, vegetables, salt and pepper and chickn’ tenders together in a large bowl. Add the teriyaki sauce and mix again until everything is well combined.
- Remove the peppers from the oven and stuff each green pepper halve with the quinoa filling, pressing the filling down into the pepper to stuff it with as much filling as possible.
- Once all the peppers are stuffed, place the casserole dish back in the oven on the middle rack and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes.
- Take the quinoa stuffed peppers out of the oven and enjoy!
Revamp traditional stuffed peppers with quinoa, veggies and teriyaki sauce!

I had my stuffed peppers with a side of multigrain tortilla chips and hummus to make for a completely gluten-free and vegan-friendly dinner!

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