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Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Sprouted Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables and Roasted Garlic Dressing

I love cooking with quinoa. It’s not only one of the most nutritious grains—a so-called “superfood”—it’s also deliciously nutty and the texture is slightly crunchy, even while it’s tender.

If you’re already cooking with quinoa, and other nutritious grains, such as amaranth and millet, you’re doing a good deed for your body. Quinoa is one of the only grains that has protein and, of course, it’s gluten free. But if you want to take your healthy ways a step further you might want to incorporate sprouted grains into your diet. You may or may not have heard about sprouted grains, but they are now available as uncooked grains, in dried pastas, and breads, as well as other products.

So what’s the deal with sprouted grains?

Grains contain phytic acid, which is also referred to as an “antinutrient” because of its tendency to block absorption of certain minerals. Phytic acid binds to such nutrients as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc. So, while quinoa is a good source of these nutrients, the phytic acid can block them from being aborbed into your system.

Sprouting neutralizes phytic acids, as well as enzyme inhibitors, making the grains’ nutrients more bioavailable. Essential amino acids, such as lysine, also get blocked. Quinoa is one of the few grains on earth that contains lysine, so sprouting quinoa, in particular, is advantageous. Plus, germination produces vitamin C and increases the grain’s (or bean’s or seed’s) B vitamins. Sprouted quinoa looks and tastes just like regular quinoa, except with the added benefits.

You can find packages of sprouted quinoa in health food stores, but considering how much standard supermarkets’ shelves have expanded to include products for health-conscious consumers, who knows, you might be able to find sprouted quinoa in your neighborhood supermarket—if not now, then in the near future.

Sprouted Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables and Roasted Garlic Dressing

Makes 6 servings.

1½ cups diced eggplant
3 cups diced zucchini
¼ cup + 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon + a pinch kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 large plum tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, skin on
1 cup sprouted quinoa
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
¼ teaspoon sea salt

¼ cup chopped Italian parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet, or line it with foil or parchment paper. Do the same with a small baking sheet.

Combine the eggplant and zucchini in a bowl. Pour in 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, grind in some black pepper, and toss to coat. Spread the vegetables out on the large baking sheet. (You can line the sheet with aluminum foil or parchment, if you like.)Roast, stirring occasionally, until tender and browned, about 20 to 30 minutes.Cut the tomatoes in half and removed the seeds. Dice the tomatoes and place in a medium bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon oil and a pinch of kosher salt. Lay the tomatoes out on the small baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally until tender and browned, about 30 minutes.Place the garlic cloves on a piece of aluminum foil. Pour 1 teaspoon olive oil on them, and wrap the foil. Place on a small baking sheet (you can place the packet on one of the baking sheets the other vegetables are on).Roast until soft, about 20 minutes.While the vegetables are roasting, combine the quinoa with 2 cups water and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, half covered, until the water is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.Unwrap the garlic. When it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic out of the skin into a small bowl. Add the extra virgin olive oil, mustard, vinegar, and sea salt. Whisk until well blended.

In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and quinoa. Add the dressing and mix well. Mix in the parsley. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

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Going Flakey with Quinoa

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I call Jackson Heights, Queens, the United Nations because half of the world’s cultures, nationalities, and identities can be found there. And where there are ethnic enclaves, there are markets that cater to those enclaves.IMG_3474

This New York neighborhood is home to just about every Central and South American nation you can find on the map, and I’m always going home with some new product I’ve never seen or tried before.

My forays into various ethnic markets have introduced me to many different grains in many different forms, from rice flakes to lotus nut puffs (okay, not technically a grain) to cracked corn. This past week, I found quinoa flakes.

The package recommends putting a couple of tablespoons into a smoothie or yogurt, and I’ve read suggestions to put it in baked goods in place of flour or oats. But I figured it would make a good breakfast porridge, too. I cooked a small quantity by itself, just to see what it was like. It tasted like…well…quinoa. It even had the little signature “strings” of cooked quinoa. But I found it to be a bit blah. Kind of like baby food.IMG_3484

So then I blended it with rolled oats and made a half-and-half porridge. I added some maple syrup to give it some flavor, and topped it off with some chopped pecans for texture. It turned out much lighter than regular oatmeal, but because quinoa has protein, it’s filling nevertheless. And because it’s lighter, I think it would make a great breakfast for someone who is sick or has stomach issues.

Here’s the recipe for my preparation:

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Quinoa-Oat Porridge

½ cup quinoa flakes
½ cup rolled oats
Pinch salt

Optional toppings:
Maple syrup
Honey
Chopped nuts
Fruit

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Add quinoa flakes, oat, and salt; lower heat, cover, and simmer 5 minutes, or until desired thickness. You can add more water if you want it looser.

Transfer to 2 bowls. Top with whatever toppings you like.

 


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New Year’s Dish for Luck: Black-Eyed Peas & Quinoa

This is my last post of 2013. It was a head-spinning year for me, and my calendar looks like one big ink blot from all the markings. I attended and participated in many culinary events, including “An Evening with Dorie Greenspan” and “An Evening with Mollie Katzen and Sara Moulton,” thanks to the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance (NYWCA). Rick Bayless Mollie Katzen-Sara Moulten IMAG0436I had the pleasure of cooking something out of their cookbooks for everyone to enjoy at the events.

I volunteered at the Food Network Food & Wine Festival, where I had the honor of working with Rick Bayless at  Bobby Flay’s “Tacos & Tequila” event. For Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, I was on a panel about media skills for chefs. I also attended FoodBlogSouth in Birmingham in January, went on a tour of Jacques Torres’ chocolate factory in Manhattan with Jacques himself, and attended many other fun events throughout the year.

Also this year, I took on the role of copyeditor for the NYWCA member newsletter, and I am involved with the NYWCA’s fundraising raffle taking place on February 3, “An Evening with Mollie O’Neill.” Proceeds of the raffle will go to GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Service) for young women 12–24 who have experienced sexual exploitation and abuse; Spoons Across America; WISCAH—Chef Training Program; and FamilyCook Productions—Teen Battle Chef Program. Prizes include: $1,000 OXO Gift Certificate; Wine-Pairing Dinner & Hotel for Two ($600 value); Cuisinart Elite Collection Package ($600 value); and Dinner for 8 at Murray’s Cheese Bar ($500 value). If you’re interested in attending the event and/or purchasing raffle tickets, just contact me via the form below and I’ll hook you up.

Now, onto food.

Around the world, different people have their own traditions and rituals for ringing in the New Year. And food always plays a part.

For example, in Japan, it is customary to eat soba noodles during the New Year’s celebration to ensure a long life. In many Latin American countries, as well as Spain, 12 grapes are eaten—1 for each month—and it is hoped that the grapes are sweet as a harbinger of a sweet year ahead. In many countries, legumes are popular for New Year’s because they swell when cooked, symbolizing increased financial prosperity. Lentils, particularly, are used in Italy and Brazil.

In the United States, black-eyed peas are popular (the musical group and the legume) and Hoppin’ John is a staple New Year’s dish in the South. I made my own black-eyed peas dishred quinoa salad 2 incorporating the healthy grain quinoa. And to make it more festive, I used red quinoa. So, here’s the recipe for my New Year’s Red Quinoa and Black-Eyed Peas Salad. Enjoy.

Happy New Year, everyone! Have a fun, safe time, and may 2014 bring you joy and happiness.

New Year’s Red Quinoa and Black-Eyed Peas Salad

1 1/2 cups red or white quinoa, rinsed
2 3/4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas
1 1/2 cups chopped bell peppers, mixed colors
5 scallions, thinly sliced
1 Haas avocado, cut into small dice
1/4 finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Dressing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp flavored mustard
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the quinoa in the vegetable stock until liquid has been absorbed and grains are tender. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.

2. When quinoa has cooled, add remaining ingredients (except dressing).

3. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Mix well and adjust seasoning as desired. If it’s dry, add more oil a little at a time and mix well.