Thursday, June 28, 2012

What's That? Quinoa Cold Veggie Salad

Quinoa is your new best friend! Really! For anyone just starting out on the path to improve their health through nutrition, I always recommend the Quinoa seed (pronounced Keen-wah). If you have not found your way to quinoa yet, please do yourself a big favor and get to know this tiny ancient seed that had been the 'sacred mother grain' of the Incas for over 5000 years. One big reason you will come to love Quinoa, is that this mighty seed is easily something you can substitute in a variety of ways for your old carb-alicious favorites. Use it instead to remake your old rice, and cous-cous recipes. If you explore the many recipes on the internet, you will also learn there are many new ways you can use this nutritious high protein seed. Being a super-food, quinoa contains all the amino acids to create a complete protein, including fiber, minerals and vitamins, which make this an excellent filling food for you. Many vegans use this seed as a healthy alternative to meat and dairy. After cooking you can serve it warm or cold, with almost any type of vegetable added, plus it takes to any sauce you add very nicely. Once you give this seed a try, Quinoa will become a staple in your cabinet. Besides found in the rice aisle, it is sometimes found in the international aisle, of most supermarkets. Get some the next time you are in the store!

Usually I purchase mine from the bulk area of the natural food store, and keep it in a glass jar, in the refrigerator. Quinoa comes in a few colors, and even sometimes mixed together called rainbow quinoa. Basically they taste the same, so unless you want the visual excitement of red or rainbow quinoa, the cheaper plain quinoa does just as well. 

It is nice if you are able, to purchase fair-trade quinoa, which helps the local farmers in the areas that grow quinoa, such as Alter Eco brand quinoa.

The other reason you will love quinoa, besides helping your health and waistline, is how fast you can make this for a meal. It takes just 10-15 minutes to cook! So it's a great go to item when you are short on time. If you buy bulk quinoa you should rinse it first in a mesh strainer,  before adding to your saucepan to remove the saponines. 

Some boxed quinoa is pre-washed. This removes any bitter flavor, although I have never noticed anything different when I forget to rinse the quinoa. If I do forget, I just ladle off the foamy layer of bubbles on the water in the saucepan. The ratio for cooking is one cup quinoa, to two cups of liquid. Pretty simple.

After simmering your covered quinoa for 10 - 15 minutes you should see little circles appear, (as shown above) just at the time when most of your liquid has been absorbed. Move it off the burner in the covered saucepan, for a few minutes to continue to cook. Your quinoa is ready to add to whatever recipe you desire, a cold salad or a warm pilaf. Add to whatever fresh veggies are in season. If you plan to use it cold, you can store in the refrigerator, till you are ready to put together your ingredients.

Below is a cold salad recipe that is a bright colorful addition to any summer party. You can even make this dish the night before. Just hold off adding the chopped tomatoes till just before you leave for your event. Look how simple this is!!!

 Cold Quinoa Vegetable Salad

1 cup of quinoa
2 cups water
1 tomato chopped 
1 carrot chopped small
1/2 onion chopped
1/2 green pepper chopped
1 cucumber chopped
1/2 cup organic raisins
1 lemon or 3 tbs lemon juice
 2 tbs olive oil
salad dressing of choice

Add quinoa and water to saucepan, bring to boil, then cover and simmer 10-15 minutes. After the quinoa is finished cooking you can place the saucepan in the fridge until you finish preparing your veggies. Chop the vegetables from the list above, or just use what seasonal mix of vegetables you have on hand.

Once your veggies are chopped and your quinoa has cooled, mix everything together in a big bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. I also like to add a few generous drizzles of my favorite dressings to taste. Could be one of these - Annie's Woodstock dressing, Annie's Goddess dressing, Tuscan dressing, or a ginger dressing. Whatever you are in the mood for really. It's all good. Toss together. Chill covered in the fridge. Serve on a hot summer afternoon or evening, and enjoy! So yummy you will want seconds!

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