"Keen what?" seems to be the typical response when I ask people if they know about the highly nutritious food known as quinoa. Apparently, not many people know about this super food that originated in South America and is termed by the Incas as the "mother seed."
Quinoa is associated as being a grain, but is technically the seed of a plant that belongs to the beet and spinach family. It looks like a very tiny pale yellow sphere similar to that of millet, except millet is darker in color. There are also other colorful varieties of quinoa including a lovely autumn red color.
When cooked, quinoa expands and fluffs up to almost triple the dried amount. It is somewhat creamy in consistency yet is still slightly crunchy and has a nice light nutty flavor. The quinoa seed does have a bitter coating that can be removed by rinsing it thoroughly. Also, when cooked you may notice that there is a little white tail that is attached to the seed and that is just the germ of the seed detaching from it. It looks a bit funny to me and adds a bit of character, but it is completely normal.
So, you may ask, why should I eat this strange sounding seed that I keep wanting to call kee noah? Well, quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse that even the natives knew gave much strength and stamina. It is an excellent source of good quality protein and is the only vegan food that has all the essential amino acids.
When combined with another grain its protein and amino acid profile is superior to meat. And, this petite little seed even has more calcium than milk in comparable ratios. Amazing, huh! Quinoa is also a great source of magnesium, manganese, B vitamins, vitamin E, fiber, iron, phosphorous, and essential fatty acids. In Chinese medicine quinoa is considered a warming, bitter food and is excellent for keeping the arteries clean. It is pretty close to a perfect food as it is filled with needed nutrients, tastes good, and is super easy to prepare.
Quinoa can be found in bulk bins at a natural foods grocery store or in prepackaged bags usually in the rice or pasta departments of a standard grocery store. I like to store mine in the refrigerator, but a cool dry place would be sufficient. It is cooked like rice and is 1 part seed to 2 parts liquid. Place the well rinsed seed and liquid in a pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover for about 15-20 minutes. You will know when it is done when the seed has grown and fluffed up, and when the water is absorbed. Here are a few examples of ways to serve quinoa:
*serve warm with cinnamon, dried cranberries and walnuts for breakfast
*mix with fresh herbs, spices and chopped veggies for a warm or cold salad
*use the above mix to stuff tomatoes, peppers or cabbage and bake
*serve with curry, lentils, chili, stir-fry or any other dish normally served with rice
*make into croquettes or a vegetarian meat loaf.
It is a new year and maybe you made a resolution to eat healthier or try something new, so why not give quinoa a chance. Quinoa is relatively inexpensive, easy to cook, versatile, nutritious, delicious and just plain fun to say. Enjoy!
This blog entry was inspired by a recent conversation with a good friend of mine who has made the decision to cultivate a healthier dietary lifestyle. I offered to compile a list of basic healthy dietary guidelines with some simple meal suggestions so that he can hopefully make an educated and easy transition. I would like to share these ideas with you and welcome any of your suggestions. So here goes...
Guidelines to a balanced diet:
30-40% of diet to include fresh, local, seasonal vegetables and fruits.
20-30% of diet to include whole grains such as brown rice, oats, whole wheat, corn, and quinoa.
20-30% of diet to include proteins such as tofu, tempeh, beans, and fresh unsalted nuts.
5% of diet to include fats such as olive oil, butter, or sesame oil.
Meat, alcohol, coffee, sugar, and dairy all make the body acidic and a healthy body is more alkaline. Vegetables are highly alkaline and even simply adding lemon to water helps.
Good eating habits include eating whole foods, seasonal fruits and veggies, eating in smaller portions, eating regularly, slowly and while relaxed.
*Chia pudding layered with home made granola and fresh fruit.
*Oatmeal or quinoa porridge with seasonal fruit, sprouted nuts, and cinnamon.
*Whole grain English muffin or sprouted Ezekial bread with all natural peanut or almond butter (no hydrogenated oils!) and sliced banana.
*Fruit salad alone or with a dollop of coconut cream.
*Fruit Smoothies: keep frozen fruit in freezer (berries, bananas, mango) and blend with coconut milk, agave or honey, and whatever spices or healthy compliments you like.
*Tofu and spinach scramble with spicy sweet potato hash
*Smoothie bowls with granola, fresh fruit, chia seeds, and coconut.
**can add wheat germ or ground flaxseeds to most of these meals for added nutrients and flavor. If you eat cereal make sure the sugar content is low and fiber is high.
*Sandwiches made with whole-grain bread (check labels for high fructose corn syrup = not good for you) and fillings such as: hummus, baba ghanoush, and lots of veggies. Serve with tortilla chips, pretzels, or other quality snack chip or be really good and have veggie sticks, salad or fruit.
*Hearty Mexican food: whole-grain or corn tortillas, black beans, brown rice, salsa, chopped lettuce/spinach, nutritional yeast for cheezy flavor.
*Salads with a protein such as garbanzo beans, black bean, or tofu. Be careful of the dressing used. Go for just oil and vinegar, and use just enough to give it flavor. Can add sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, nuts, dried cranberries, etc. Also choose dark leafy green salads over iceberg lettuce.
Italian Chopped Salad (try changing the beans, greens, nuts and dressing to vary):
Canned chickpeas, grape or cherry tomatoes, optional raw vegetarian feta, kalamata olives, pepperoncini peppers, roasted red pepper strips, pine nuts – mix together and marinate in a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar. Serve on a bed of greens and drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper.
*Last night’s leftovers! See Dinner Ideas for use as lunch dishes as well.
*Lentil sloppy joes with whole grain bread, sweet potato fries, kale vegan caeser salad.
*Fajitas: tofu strips, lightly sautéed peppers/onions/mushrooms/spinach, beans, salsa, whole-grain or corn tortillas (no white flour tortillas).
*Whole-grain or gluten free pasta (or try spaghetti squash) with steamed veggies and either tomato sauce or olive oil; serve with green salad.
*Homemade chili – beans, diced tomatoes, corn, carrots, spices, etc. Serve with brown rice and nutritional yeast.
*Stir-fry: brown rice/udon noodles/rice noodles/whole-wheat pasta, veggies, tofu, tamari.
Spicy Stir Fry (can be served warm for dinner or as a cold noodle salad for lunch):
8 oz. whole wheat linguine noodles, 1 Tablespoon peanut oil, 1 cup thinly sliced onion, 2 small cloves minced garlic, 1 ½ cups bok choy chopped, 1 ½ cup broccoli florets, 1/3 cup halved snow peas, ½ red bell pepper thinly sliced, 2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce, 1 Tablespoon garlic-chile sauce, ¼ cup chopped peanuts. (add or delete veggies to taste, change spices/seasonings to taste) Cook pasta according to directions. Saute oil, veggies, and seasonings. Serve over pasta and top with peanuts.
Get your sweet fix by eating a handful of raisins, dates, figs, or dried cranberries. Enjoy coconut milk whipped cream, fresh fruit, or baked fruit. Or splurge on a piece of organic dark chocolate.
Snacks can be: any fruit; cut up sticks of veggies to have on hand and dip in hummus, organic tortilla chips and salsa; a handful of unsalted walnuts, almonds, or brazil nuts; make homemade trail mix out of nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds; smoothies.
Incorporate good fats in your diet such as walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, avocado, flaxseed oil and olive oil.
Look for whole-grains, low sugar, high fiber, low sodium, no food colorings, no high fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, and especially no preservatives such as MSG, EDTA, BHA, or BHT.
Healthy food should taste good and you should enjoy it. Don’t focus on what you can’t or should not eat, but rather the abundance of wonderful things you can eat. Eat all the vegetables and fruits you want, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It might take a bit for your taste buds to adjust, but once they do you will notice how funky the fatty, fried, sugary, preservative filled foods taste. Go easy on yourself and do the best you can. Know that it may be a bit challenging, but you can do it!!!
If you have a bad food day, that’s ok, just make a conscious decision to eat better the next time you do. There are many things we cannot control in life, but what we put into our mouths and bodies we can. Take control, fuel your body, feel good, look good, and smile knowing that you are on your way to lots of energy and vitality!
One of my favorite ways to celebrate love (on Valentine’s Day or any day!) is by creating sensual and tantalizing treats to indulge in. Think rich chocolate sauce, fresh whipped cream, gooey caramel, a plethora of juicy ripe fruits and (if you really want to explore the senses) a blindfold.
With a partner or on your own, you can go on an adventure of the senses when you take away the dominant sense of sight. Touching, smelling and tasting these simple treats can be turned into an exotic feast right in the comfort of your home.
Here are some delicious vegan recipes to get your sensual tantalizing taste adventure started:
Vegan Dark Chocolate Sauce: Whisk together ½ cup cocoa powder, ½ cup room temp maple syrup (add more if you want the sauce sweeter) with ¼ cup melted extra virgin coconut oil. Keep at room temp. If you refrigerate it will harden up a bit.
Coconut Whipped Cream: take one can of full fat coconut milk and place in the fridge overnight (can also sub coconut cream). The next day scoop out the thickened cream (save water/milk for smoothie) into a chilled bowl. With an electric beater, beat the cream until thick and fluffy. Add vanilla or almond extract to taste along with organic confectionary sugar to sweeten.
Vegan Salted Caramel Sauce: In a saucepan over medium heat combine 1/2 cup coconut (or brown) sugar with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup almond milk. Cook until the sugar dissolves then increase the heat to medium high and bring it to a boil. Stir often until the mix thickens but is still gooey. Remove from heat and stir in 1 Tablespoon Earth Balance butter or melted coconut oil and a ½ teaspoon vanilla.
Put each of these sauces into small bowls and serve with fresh ripe fruit such as strawberries, cherries, apples, pears, and mango. You can also have pieces of brownies, vanilla pound cake, or angel food cake available to dip into the sauces.
Use your fingers instead of toothpicks so you can feel the variety of textures and truly explore your senses. Indulge, experience, enjoy and celebrate the sensuality and beauty of love.
It is winter in Florida and my lovely grandmother, who calls the sunshine state her home, has been struggling with the cooler than usual weather this year. She constantly complains of being cold and has in turn been racking up the heating bills to try and stay warm.
So I, being the health nut that I am, suggested that she try drinking some ginger tea which is known to increase circulation and warmth within the body. Surprisingly, she listened to me, and went out and bought some! She was a little shocked by the piquancy of it, but noticed that it did help. This is what led me to today’s blog about ginger.
Ginger is an amazing root that is used for culinary, aromatic, and medicinal purposes. It is an odd looking spice, pale yellow in color with a torso like shape and lots of little nubs poking off into various directions.
The part of the tropical plant, known as Zingibar Officinale, used is its starchy, pungent, aromatic rhizome. Ginger is a tropical, hot spice with flavors of citrus, and floral, woodsy undertones. In the culinary world it can be added to a dish to provide substance and thickness as well as for added aroma.
I read that back in the day the English taverns set out ginger powder on the tables along with salt and pepper for people to sprinkle on their drinks, thus forming ginger beer and ginger ale. Today ginger is still used to make ginger ales and is even added to Yemen coffee.
Ginger can be used in its dried or fresh state, and is available as the whole fresh root, dried root, powdered, preserved, crystallized (excellent in gingersnaps), and pickled. India, China and Jamaica are major producers of dried ginger, while the beautiful US state of Hawaii produces much of the fresh ginger.
Some say that Indian ginger has strong aromas of citrus, Chinese ginger is most pungent, and Jamaican ginger is the finest with a delicate and sweet presence. I am not a connoisseur of ginger though so what ever looks the best at the market is what I purchase.
Fresh ginger root can be found in the produce section and should be stored in the fridge unpeeled. It should look firm, smooth, and healthy, with no spots or mildew. The skin may be removed with a paring knife and then the root sliced, diced or julienned.
Add it to your cooking (beans, soups, stir fry), in the juicer (great with carrot and apple) or in tea. **Fresh Ginger Tea – put a couple of thick slices of fresh peeled ginger root in a cup of hot tea and steep. Add lemon slices if you wish.** Dried or crystallized ginger is a wonderful addition to baked goods, and you can even buy ginger candies to chew on which also may help with nausea.
Medicinally, ginger is a wonderful healing spice and is extremely prevalent in Chinese medicine. Ginger tea, which is what I explained to my grandmother, is a diaphoretic (fancy term for “makes you sweat”). It warms you up and promotes perspiration which is good to alleviate colds, for cold weather, and to detoxify your body.
Overall, ginger promotes warmth and circulation in the body, increases metabolic rate, helps the body detoxify from acidic foods, cleanses and rebuilds the cardiovascular system, alleviates symptoms of gastrointestinal stress, prevents motion sickness and nausea associated with pregnancy, aids in digestion, and reduces flatulence (hallelujah!).
It is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, and the list goes on. Basically, it’s really darn good for you…who knew this little hot number had all that and more! Ginger is such a versatile spice that you may want to get to know well and have fun experimenting with in your cooking and baking.
Ginger will add to your culinary repertoire as well as your health, and at the least may keep You hot and spicy!
It is winter in New England and the perfect time of year to cozy in and cook nourishing meals for you and your family. One of my favorite nutritious and delicious winter meals is a pot of hearty soup served with some local bread and a mixed green salad.
This vegan and gluten free soup is a recipe I created that is so simple it only requires a couple ingredients and spices. It is incredible easy and quick to make as well. Happy winter cooking!
Chef Stacey’s Vegan Creamy Butternut Squash Soup – serves 2
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced into small cubes
1 can (14oz) coconut milk
Optional 1 small onion, diced
1 Tbsp coconut oil
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon salt and pepper, to taste
Water or vegetable broth to thin to desired consistency
Optional garnish of chopped cashes and fresh cilantro
Place all ingredients into a medium soup pot and bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer until the squash is tender when a fork is inserted into it. About 20 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until creamy and smooth. Add water or broth to thin to desired consistency. Pour into bowls and garnish with optional toppings.
This blog is an exploration of life, love, adventure and art primarily through the medium of food.