Tag Archives: quinoa

Discovering new foods

I was a very picky eater as a kid. If the dish didn’t have the words “chicken” and “fingers” in it, then I wasn’t going to eat it.

Eventually, I got over much that pickiness. Later, becoming a vegetarian helped diversify my diet even more — there’s no more falling back on chicken fingers!

For that reason, I’ve been discovering tons of “new foods” throughout the last few years. In doing so, I’ve developed a few strategies on how to successfully experiment with unfamiliar ingredients…

Step 1: Decide what to try. I usually do this one of two ways:

  • Find a recipe with an unfamiliar ingredient.
  • Find an interesting ingredient at the store.

Step 2: Research how to use it.

  • If I’m working off a recipe, I stay pretty close to the directions the first time I use an ingredient.
  • If I’ve bought a random ingredient from the store, I find an appealing recipe by searching the ingredient index in the back of cook books or I search for the keyword online.

Step 3: Keep things simple while cooking. I love adding flairs to recipes, but when I’m using an ingredient for the first time, I try to keep it as simple as possible. This is not only helpful because it lets me focus on the cooking process, but it also allows the flavor of the new ingredient to really come through.

Step 4: Evaluate. I would say that 95 percent of the time, I enjoy the new ingredients I’m working with. But, the other five percent of the time, I just don’t care for it. Sometimes, I can try it out in a different recipe and end of loving it. Other times, it’s a just a lost cause — but I never would have known that if I didn’t dare to try it!

One of my favorite new diet staples is butternut squash. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have known what it was, let alone how to cook it. Now, butternut squash is one of my very favorite ingredients to work with!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Quinoa and Ricotta

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, cubed
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 t dried rosemary, divided
  • 3/4 C quinoa
  • 1 1/2 C water
  • 1 C ricotta cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Toss butternut squash with 3/4 t rosemary, ~1 T olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a roasting pan and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Stir in onions and roast for another 15-20 minutes, until butternut squash is tender.
  • While butternut squash is roasting, pour quinoa into a medium saucepan. Toast quinoa over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until fragrant. Add in 1 1/2 C water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy, approximately 8-10 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, fold together ricotta, 1/4 t rosemary, ~1 t olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • When the butternut squash is done roasting, mix in the quinoa. Top with ricotta spread.

This was a delicious fall-inspired dish — but, I never would have made it if I didn’t first try quinoa, butternut squash or ricotta cheese. Heck, two years ago, those words weren’t even in my vocabulary!

And, for the record, this is a definite upgrade from chicken fingers.

Questions: How often do you try new foods? Do you have any methods for experimenting with new ingredients?

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Blintzes: Out of hibernation

Sometimes my diet isn’t exactly balanced. Take this weekend for instance: All I could stomach were carbs.

Whoops…

On second thought, because it was enough to help me feel better and gain some energy, I’m fine with that.

Even better, somewhere around Saturday morning, the simple thought of stepping into the kitchen no longer made me feel sick to my stomach.

I was eager to take advantage of my non-nauseousness by coming up with a new creation.

(If only I had that much motivation for schoolwork. Sigh.)

My first idea was to make crepes, which are somewhat of a tradition in my family. But, I decided to take it a step further and go with blintzes.

I was actually first exposed to blintzes while living in to dorms my freshman year of college. Although I was intrigued with the idea of a thinly rolled pancake, which was topped with fruit, the cafeteria’s fried version didn’t really appeal to me.

Since that time, the idea has been hibernating in my head, just waiting for a recreation.

Whole-Wheat Blintzes

Ingredients:

  • 2 flax eggs (I suppose that two eggs could be substituted)
  • 2/3 C light soy milk (alternatively, skim milk)
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1/8 t cinnamon
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1/3 C whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 C all-purpose flour

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
  • Heat small, non-stick skillet to medium-high heat. Thinly spread 1/4 C of the batter onto hot skillet. Circle a spatula under the edges, to keep loose. When almost entirely cooked (heads up: this will be fast!), use the spatula to start on one side and thinly roll up, forming log-like shape. Allow to cook a little longer, rolling occasionally for even cooking.
  • Repeat with remaining batter.

I topped mine with a sliced banana and good drizzle of PB2, but any combination of fruit, syrup and jam would work.

Although the blintzes were delicious, as someone who needs a little crunch, I opted to pair it with another kitchen creation.

Coconut-Pecan Quinoa Granola

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C uncooked quinoa
  • 1/8 C unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/8 C chopped pecans
  • 1/2 T honey
  • 1/2 T applesauce
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1/2 t cinnamon

Directions:

  • In a small bowl, mix together honey, applesauce, salt and cinnamon. Toss with quinoa, coconut and pecans, until evenly covered.
  • Spread on cookie sheet and bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes for even cooking.

Sunday morning, I was again inspired to come up with breakfast… Just not for myself.

Dan’s hall orders in doughnuts for brunch every Sunday morning, which always makes me groan. Rather than make him resort to another sugar-bomb, I decided to have him over for something with a few more health benefits (plus a still-good dose of sweetness).

For him:

French toast: 1 egg, mixed with 1 T soy milk, 1/2 t sugar and 1/4 t cinnamon. Two slices of honey-wheat bread were dredged in the mixture and cooked on medium-high heat. Topped with a bit of powdered sugar and maple syrup.

Although I was more than happy to cook for Dan, I’ve never been much of a French toast fan. Therefore, a second option was in order…

For her:

Consumed: Two whole-grain frozen waffles, topped with a smear of PB, a sliced banana, cinnamon.

Before eating, I drizzled it with some maple syrup, which was just begging for a close-up...

Other than those few highlights, the weekend was pretty low-key. Just what the doctor ordered.

I know that I’m still in recovery mode from my sickness, but I’m definitely gaining some of my energy and appetite back. I just have to convince myself to continue taking things easy, even if I want to push my limits. (Note: That is easier said than done.)

Questions: How do you recover from being sick?

For me, it’s sleep, sleep, sleep! I swear I’ve gotten more sleep during the past few days than I have during whole weeks at a time.