Quinoa is packed with protein, and a complex carbohydrate. It's so versatile - I've seen recipes for it's use in breakfast dishes (replacing oatmeal), pilafs, and salads. It starts off this tiny little seed-like grain, and after cooking (boiling like rice), it sprouts this little curl that I have read is the germ. You can also eat quinoa raw (replacement cornmeal in recipes) or you can encourage the sprout by just soaking in cold water for a few hours. Quinoa.... healthy, protein packed, and cute!
Tonight was actually the first night that I cooked quinoa. I've had a bag of it in the pantry for a little while, trying to gear up the nerve to cook it. It's not hard at all, but you have to rinse it first and that's what was intimidating me. It's so tiny that I knew it would be disastrous if I tried using any of my strainers - including the wire mesh ones I own. Then I came across someone's suggestion of using an oil-splatter guard... GENIUS!!!
I have so many recipes involving quinoa. This week I'm feeling Mexican-cuisine inspired, my absolute favorite before turning veg, and so I decided to pull up some Mexican flavored veggie dishes. I chose to use this one from Emily and Micheal's "One Lovely Blog" (they are just the cutest, by the way), with this picture serving as the catalyst:
|Photo from http://www.onelovelylife.com/?p=4854|
I don't have a picture of them, but I also served a Southwestern-inspired side of Zucchini "fries" that turned out to be absolutely fantastic; I was very pleased!
For the stuffed peppers, I followed Emily's recipe of cooking the quinoa with a rough diced onion. Once that was cooked I followed her method of throwing it in a bowl, with a can of drained and rinsed black beans, a can of diced tomatoes with green chilis (along with the liquid), and about a third of a can of a tomato & green chili sauce. I forgot to add salt, and I never cook with black pepper because I don't like it. I actually had cilantro, but forgot that as well (darn memory). I poured the rest of the sauce into a baking dish, put in the pepper halves - I loved halving them instead of just cutting off the tops, by the way, great idea - then spooned in the quinoa mix and topped with a little freshly shredded Monterrey/Colby and Sharp Cheddar cheese. I lightly covered the dish with aluminum foil, then put them in a 375 degree oven with the timer set for 30min.
Meanwhile, I started my Zucchini fries. I cut a medium-sized zucchini into spears and put them into a medium sized bowl, then tossed in a little canola oil (enough to coat), some seasoned salt, chili pepper, and ground coriander. Mixed that all together so it was coated and layered on to a baking sheet, covering with a little Monterrey/Colby cheese. When the timer for the peppers hit 20min I popped the zucchini in.
The smells coming from my kitchen were amazing. I had a really good feeling about this one.
When the timer beeped zero I checked the zucchini and deemed it needing just a few more minutes, took the foil off the peppers and then left everything in the oven for another 5min. After letting everything cool off a little bit, I plated dishes for both my husband and I, and took the first intrepid bite...
Quinoa has such an interesting texture - it's like grainy yet tender all at the same time. The spice from the chilies in the sauce and the chilies themselves added just the right amount of heat. The flavor was just spot on Mexican, so comforting for me. The peppers were a definitely win. But the zucchini fries.... they were a knocked-outta-da-park HOME RUN!
Even better, the meal - which really was a culinary stretch for my husband - was a keeper in his eyes as well. When the man asks if there's more zucchini and goes for seconds on the peppers, that's a meal well cooked.
**Note - this meal as stated in the recipe made A TON. I've got about half of the quinoa mixture left over, so I threw it in a ziplock baggie and froze it. Hoping that it holds well for next use.**
***Next time I'm going to try my hand at my own enchilada-style sauce, and since fresh is always better than canned, I'll chop up my own tomatoes and chilies. Can't wait!***