Oh man, am I ever ready! How about you?
I’m super excited about spring and SO ready to shed, what I call, “my winter layer”. All those delicious, hearty comfort foods seem to do it to me every year. April rolls around and I’m rolling a bit too, especially around the waistline. Anyone out there identify?
I’m a little extra motivated this year. Scott and I have a fun trip in the works (you’re coming too, but more about that next week!), so I’m bound and determined to get in better shape before we go. I’ve never been great at bean-counting every calorie, but a few common sense initiatives always seem to work, if I’m diligent with them.
Bumping up the exercise is a good place to start, along with a healthier, leaner eating regime. Smaller portions, lots of water, and skipping desserts is also part of my lose-the-winter-layer regime. Yeah, I know; these are all easy to talk about, but putting them into action, when I’m hungry or in a hurry to get a meal of the table, can sometimes be difficult. I find that it’s important to plan ahead if I’m going to be successful at eating smarter.
Having the right kind of ingredients readily available also plays an important part in preparing healthy meals. I like to have Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, grilled chicken breasts, hard boiled eggs, lean chicken sausage, fresh, clean salad greens, yummy salad dressings…. all set to grab in a hurry.
Another wonderful ingredient I love to have stashed away in my fridge is a big container of cooked quinoa. I prepare it early in the week and find that delicious salads, sides and main dishes are just minutes away! This little prep really helps me steer away from higher fat and caloric choices when preparing meals.
If you’re not familiar with quinoa, it’s an ancient grain that’s been revisited in recent years and has become crazy-popular all over the world. It’s no wonder; as it’s considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet and is sometimes referred to as “the mother grain” since it has more vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants that any other grain.
I love the fact that quinoa is also super high in fiber and protein. It’s actually a “complete protein” which simply means it contains all the amino acids we need for sustenance. Because it’s high in both fiber and protein, it keeps us satiated for hours, which helps a lot when trying to loose weight.
I’ve found super delicious ways to serve quinoa for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I think of it as a blank pallet, since it’s flavor is quite mild. Amazingly, it can take on a zillion culinary personalities!
I have to be honest though, I haven’t always loved quinoa. In fact, when I first tried it, I only “tolerated” it. It was kind of mushy to me with a weird texture. When I cooked it, all the little grains stuck together; making it a solid soggy mass, rather than individual grains, like rice or couscous. I wanted to like because I was aware of it’s health benefits – but just couldn’t get excited.
Then, a few years ago I came across an online recipe for preparing quinoa which totally changed my mindset regarding this healthy grain. I gave the simple technique a whirl, and was thrilled with the results. Ever since, quinoa has been a delicious, frequent flyer here at The Café. I’ve tweaked the method just a bit, and thought I’d share it with you in case you’re trying to eat a little healthier and/or shed a bit of that winter weight too. There are a few extra steps, besides throwing the quinoa in a pot of water and cooking (the usual method), but they don’t take long and I think you’ll find the results well worth it!
So there you have it! A perfect batch of quinoa to use now or all week long. And how to use it? So glad you asked! It makes a wonderful side, on it’s own, with any kind of entree. I like to add finely chopped herbs if I have any available.
Try it with grilled chicken, shrimp, or pork tenderloin. Throw a few fresh veggies on the grill too and you’ve got a super delicious, super healthy dinner that will keep you so satisfied, you won’t even think about dessert!
We’ve got a great new quinoa recipe coming up later this week (see a sneak preview below), but The Café archives have lots of other delicious recipes featuring this healthy ingredient. Check them out!
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- 2 cups quinoa, uncooked
- 3 cups water, low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt.
- Gather your ingredients and equipment: quinoa, sea salt, water, chicken or vegetable broth (optional), a medium size bowl, a fine strainer, a spoon or spatula for stirring and a medium size pot.
- Fill a medium size bowl about half way full of fresh water. Add the quinoa and stir or swish with your hand for about 30 seconds.
- Drain quinoa and allow to sit in strainer for 10 minutes. Stir the quinoa in the strainer several times while it's draining remove as much water as possible.
- While quinoa is draining, place 3 cups of water, or chicken (or vegetable) broth in a microwave-safe bowl or cup. Cook on high power for 3-4 minutes or until mixture is very hot and starting to boil.
- Heat a medium size pot over medium heat. Add drained quinoa and cook, stirring constantly until all liquid is evaporated and you begin to smell a nutty aroma, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add hot water/broth and bring to a boil. Cover, leaving lid slightly vented to allow steam to escape. Reduce heat to low (maintain just a slight simmer) and cook for 14-16 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed.
- Uncover and allow to sit for 10 minutes, then gently fluff with a fork for 1 minute before serving. If making ahead, allow to cool completely then fluff with a fork one more time. Store in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container.