"Be not an abomination to the Bees and Butterflies and then your garden shall know the enchantment

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Quinoa 7 Ways

Quinoa is one of the most versatile ingredients I've come to adore. My first encounter with quinoa patties was in Heidi Swanson's book, Super Natural Everday. Awesome cookbook, and I love her blog as well.

Quinoa (/ˈknwɑː/, from Quechua kinwa or kinuwa ) is a species of the goosefoot genus (Chenopodium quinoa), a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, as it is not a member of the true grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beetroots, spinach and tumbleweeds. As a member of the Amaranthaceae family, it is related to and resembles amaranth, which is also a pseudocereal. It is high in protein, lacks gluten, and is tolerant of dry soil.

Economics of Indigenous Food Production

The popularity of quinoa grain in non-indigenous regions has raised concerns over food security. Due to continued widespread poverty in regions where it is produced and because few other crops are compatible with the soil and climate in these regions, it has been suggested that the inflated price disrupts local access to food supplies. In 2013, The Guardian compared it to asparagus cultivated in Peru, a cash crop criticized for excessive water use, as "feeding our apparently insatiable 365-day-a-year hunger for this luxury vegetable[...]" It has been suggested that, as people rise above subsistence-level income, they choose higher-status Western processed foods. However, anthropologist Pablo Laguna states that farmers are still saving a portion of the quinoa crop for their own use, and that the high prices affect nearby city dwellers more, but consumption in cities has traditionally been lower. According to Laguna, the net benefit of increased revenue for farmers outweighs the costs, saying that it is "very good news for small, indigenous farmers".
Confetti Quinoa Salad
The transformation from a healthy staple food for farming families and communities into a product that is held to be worth too much to keep for oneself and one's family is an ongoing process. It is seen as a valuable resource that can bring in far greater amounts of cheap, low nutrient foods such as pasta and rice. It used to be seen as a peasant food that provided farming families with a very important source of nutrition, but now occupies a spectrum from an everyday food of urban Bolivia's middle class to a luxury food in the Peruvian capital of Lima where "it sells at a higher per pound price than chicken, and four times as much as rice". Efforts are being made in some areas to distribute it more widely and ensure that farming and poorer populations have access to it and have an understanding of its nutritional importance. These include incorporating it into free school breakfasts and in government provisions distributed to pregnant and nursing women in need.

Saponin content

In their natural state, the seeds have a coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making them unpalatable. Most of the grain sold commercially has been processed to remove this coating. This bitterness has beneficial effects during cultivation, as it is unpopular with birds and therefore requires minimal protection. The genetic control of bitterness involves quantitative inheritance; lowering the saponin content through selective breeding to produce sweeter, more palatable varieties is complicated by about 10% cross-pollination.
The toxicity category rating of quinoa saponins treats them as mild eye and respiratory irritants and as a low gastrointestinal irritant. The saponin is a toxic glycoside, a main contributor to its hemolytic effects when combined directly with blood cells. In South America, quinoa saponin has many uses, including as a detergent for clothing and washing and as an antiseptic for skin injuries. High levels of oxalic acid are in the leaves and stems of all species of the Chenopodium genus, and are also in the related genera of the Amaranthaceae family.  The risks associated with quinoa are minimal, provided it is properly prepared and the leaves are not eaten to excess.

7 Quinoa Recipes

Quinoa Onion Bites
Quinoa Tabbouleh
Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers
Zesty Quinoa Salad
Protein-Packed Spicy Vegan Quinoa
Cilantro Lime Quinoa

Quinoa Nutrition Facts
Quinoa Nutrition Analysis



Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cashew Basil Pesto (From: Eat Drink Better.com)

Vegan Cashew Basil Pesto

vegan cashew pesto

Pesto is a tasty, versatile way to highlight the spring’s bounty of fresh herbs.

Now that the weather’s warming up here in Atlanta, we’re seeing the first bags of herbs from our CSA share! Since it’s just my husband and me sharing the basket, it can feel a bit overwhelming to stare a giant bag of basil in the face. Pesto to the rescue! The nifty thing about pesto is that it doesn’t have to be the pine nut, basil, and cheese combo that most folks associate with the sauce. Pesto really refers to any sauce that’s a blend of nuts and herbs, so you it’s a very versatile recipe!
Cashews are my favorite nuts to use in pesto, because they’re cheaper than pine nuts and blend up nice and creamy. Don’t have cashews? Try almonds or sunflower seeds! I’ve made some nice pesto with pumpkin seeds, too. Out of basil? Try sage, parsely or even mint! Every combination will have a bit of a different flavor, and I haven’t found a nut/seed and herb combo yet that’s failed me.

Vegan Cashew Basil Pesto

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: none
Total time: 5 minutes
Yield: 2 cups
  • 1/2 c fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 c raw, unsalted cashews
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 c nutritional yeast (optional)
  • to taste salt and pepper
Cooking Directions
  1. Put all of the ingredients into your blender or food processor.
  2. Blend until the sauce is nice and creamy. You can use extra olive oil and lemon juice to thin things out, if you like. Just keep blending and tasting until it’s just right!
I served this with baked pita chips for dipping, but it would also be great tossed with some cooked pasta or your favorite whole grain along with some veggies!
Have you guys made any good, vegan pestos? Walnut and sage is another favorite combination of mine…what about you?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What is Sumac? Try Sumac Roasted Sweet Potato Farro Salad

My first exposure to the flavor of Sumac was during our time in Iran.  The spice was added to basmati rice, adding a subtle, smoky tartness to the dish.  Sumac's tart flavor is very nice sprinkled on fish, chicken, over salad dressings, rice pilaf, or over raw onions. Try substituting in any dish on which you might squeeze fresh lemon juice. If you enjoy hummus, try topping it with a sprinkling of sumac.
Plant Description and Cultivation
A bushy shrub of the Anacardiaceae family, reaching to 3m (10 ft). It has light gray or reddish stems which exude a resin when cut. Young branches are hairy. The leaves are  hairy on the underside. In autumn the leaves turn to a bright red. White flowers are followed by conical clusters of fruit, each enclosed in a reddish brown hairy covering.
Easily propagated by seed, sumac grows best in poor soils. In Sicily, where it is widely cultivated and grows wild in the mountains, its quality is found to increase proportionately the higher it is sited.

SUMAC - Spice and beverage flavoring

The fruits (drupes) of the genus Rhus are ground into a reddish-purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemony taste to salads or meat.  In Arab cuisine, it is used as a garnish on meze dishes such as hummus and tashi is added to salads in the Levant. In Iranian (Persian and Kurdish) cuisines, sumac is added to rice or kebab. In Jordanian and Turkish cuisines, it is added to salad-servings of kebab and lahmacun. Rhus coriaria is used in the spice mixture za'atar.

In North America, the smooth sumac (R. glabra) and the staghorn sumac (R. typhina) are sometimes used to make a beverage termed "sumac-ade", "Indian lemonade", or "rhus juice". This drink is made by soaking the drupes in cool water, rubbing them to extract the essence, straining the liquid through a cotton cloth, and sweetening it. Native Americans also use the leaves and drupes of the smooth and staghorn sumacs combined with tobacco in traditional smoking mixtures.


Sumac-Roasted Sweet Potato and Farro Salad

Turn potato salad into a main meal with this sumac-roasted sweet potato and farro salad bulked up with kale, ricotta salata, mint, hazelnuts, and pickled onions.
Yield: 2-3 servings
  • ¾ cup pearled farro
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 lemon
  • 3-4 mint sprigs
  • 2 oz ricotta salata
  • 3 tbsp hazelnuts
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • 2 tsp ground sumac
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  1. Heat oven to 450F.
  2. Prepare the ingredients: wash and dry the fresh produce. Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling on high heat. Remove and discard the kale stems; roughly chop the leaves. Peel and large dice the sweet potatoes. Peel and thinly slice the onion. Quarter and deseed the lemon. Pick the mint leaves off the stems; discard the stems. Crumble the ricotta salata cheese. Roughly chop the hazelnuts.
  3. Roast the sweet potatoes: Place the sweet potatoes on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and the sumac. Toss to coat. Arrange in a single, even layer and roast for 23-25 minutes, or until lightly browned and tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  4. Cook the farro and add the kale: While the sweet potatoes roast, add the farro to the pot of boiling water. Cook for 14-16 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the heat. Drain and return to the pot. Stir in the kale and drizzle with olive oil. Stir to combine and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside.
  5. Pickle the onion: While the farro cooks, in a small pan, combine the onion, vinegar, sugar, and ½ cup of water. Cook on medium heat, occasionally swirling the pan, 4-6 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is slightly reduced. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and set aside.
  6. Make the salad: To the pot of farro and kale, add the pickled onions (draining just before adding), roasted sweet potatoes, and the juice of all 4 lemon wedges. Toss to combine. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  7. Divide the salad between 2 dishes. Garnish with the mint, ricotta salata, and hazelnuts.
Recipe from Blue Apron
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 bowl

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mediterranean Kale, Cannelini, Farrow Stew

Mediterranean Kale, Cannellini and Farro Stew

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
Mediterranean Kale, Cannellini and Farro Stew
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup carrots diced (about 2 medium)
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 small)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 2)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (32 oz) carton low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup farro, rinsed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup slightly packed parsley sprigs (stems included)
  • 4 cups slightly packed chopped kale, thick ribs removed
  • 1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Feta cheese, crumbled, for serving
  • Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add carrots, onion and celery and saute 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. Stir in vegetable broth, tomatoes, farro, oregano, bay leaf and season with salt to taste. Lay parsley in a mound on top of soup and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat just below medium. Cover and cook 20 minutes, then remove parsley, stir in kale and cook 10 - 15 minutes longer, adding in cannellini beans during last few minutes of cooking, until both farro and kale are tender.
  • Remove bay leaf, stir in lemon juice and add additional vegetable broth or some water to thin soup as desired (the farro will absorb more liquid as the soup rests). Serve warm topping each serving with feta cheese.
  • Recipe source: adapted from BHG

Sunday, March 8, 2015


Open air spice markets are one of my favorite destinations when traveling to foreign lands.  The aromas and brilliant colors make for a sensory overload of epic proportion!

Ras el Hanout Moroccan Chicken - North African Spice Blend
Yields 3 tablespoons  - Store in airtight container.

The spice blend and Moroccan Chicken recipe here is lively, rich in depth of flavor and packed full of trace minerals and nutrients. 

   Moroccan Chicken w/Chickpeas & Raisins
Serves 4

If you love foods with flavor then you will love this recipe! The spice amounts are only a guideline you may adjust to taste, this will work well using any part of the chicken

1.     In a large heavy saucepan (I use my electric frypan for this) heat oil over medium heat.
2.     Season the chicken with salt and pepper the brown well on both sides; transfer to a plate.
3.     Add in onions and garlic; saute for about 5 minutes, then add in cumin, turmeric, paprika and cinnamon; cook stirring with a wooden spoon for about 1 minute.
4.     Stir in broth, honey, lemon zest and flour; stir to combine.
5.     Then add in the browned chicken; simmer covered for about 15 minutes.
6.     After 15 minutes of cooking add in the raisins and continue to cook (UNCOVERED) until the chicken is completely cooked through (about 15-20 minutes).
7.     Season with salt and pepper.
8.     Remove the chicken to plate/s.
9.     Add in the chickpeas and simmer for 5 minutes.
10. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve with cooked rice.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Cure for the February Blues - Albondigas Soup

The usual mid-February blues has me in it's hold right now with the foggy, misty weather these past few days.  The cure:  Homemade Albondigas Soup !  Easy, nutritious and fun to make with kids this soup is also a great way to make your food budget stretch.

  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbls vegetable oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 (10-1/2-ounce) cans low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 medium red potatoes, unpeeled and cubed
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced diagonally
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced diagonally
  •  1/2 head of cabbage, cut into quarters
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/4 cup snipped cilantro or parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 cup cooked long grain rice
    • Prep Time: 15 minutes
    • Cook Time: 40 minutes
    • Total Time: 55 minutes
    In large saucepan cook onion and garlic in hot oil till onion is tender but not brown. Stir in water, broth, and tomato paste. Bring to boiling; add potatoes and carrots. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add cabbage and zucchini, continue to simmer.

    Meanwhile combine egg, cilantro or parsley, salt, oregano, and pepper. Add ground beef and uncooked rice. Mix well. Form mixture into 1-inch meatballs.

    Add meatballs, a few at a time, to the simmering soup. Return soup to boiling; reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes or till meatballs and vegetables are done.

    Yield: 8 to 10 servings

    Sunday, January 4, 2015

    Going Loco For Brussel Sprouts!

    They say that time heals and so it goes that I have a fondness for foods I once thought despicable.  The lowly Brussel Sprout, oh how you disagreed with my young taste buds.  Boiled was the only way I remember by mom preparing them, leaving them flavorless and mushy.  The journey to find ways to alchemically alter the Brussel Sprout Bitterness has been amazing.

    And now Huffington Post has 50 Ways to Eat Brussel Sprouts !

    Sliced, quartered, slivered, sautéed, roasted, steamed, spice em up and enjoy their sweet, nutty aromatics.  They're also one of the funnier looking plants so kids get a kick out of growing them!

    Health benefits of brussel sprouts

    Brussel sprouts are a cultivated bunch of wild cabbage that are selected for their leafy and small green buds, green buds which commonly just look like mini cabbages. Brussel sprouts are a long-storied vegetable because their forerunners have been around since Ancient Rome, where they were already cultivated at that time. Unsurprisingly, the modern version of Brussel sprouts as they are known today began to be grown in Belgium, sometime in the 13th century.
    While you may not enjoy this vegetable taste-wise, it is important that you eat more Brussel sprouts in your diet . Here is an upcoming list of the three reasons you should be eating Brussel sprouts.

    1. Sulforaphane

    If you are concerned about getting cancer or merely concerned with warding it off, you will want to learn everything you can about sulforaphane. It is a chemical that is thought to contain anti-cancer properties, and this is thought because of research and studies establishing a link between this chemical and anti-cancer properties. Interestingly, Brussel sprouts are not the only vegetable that are thought to feature this amazing chemical; other brassicas like broccoli have properties that exhibit sulforaphane also.
    If you want your Brussel sprouts to feature high levels of this chemical, be sure not to boil them. Instead, steam, stir-fy or microwave your Brussel sprouts, as these cooking methods do not cause a big loss of the anti-cancer effect of sulforaphane.

    2. Sodium and Fat Content

    Another reason you ought to be eating Brussel sprouts is simply that they are healthy for you in regards to the sodium and fat content, which are both quite low. For a serving that consists of 3.5 ounces, Brussel sprouts only include a negligible 0.3 grams of fat and a reasonably good 25 milligrams of sodium. Having a low sodium and fat content means that eating Brussel sprouts will be heart-friendly, among other things. Low fat content means a lot lower risk of fat accumulating around your arteries and causing you heart problems. Since sodium has also been linked with morbid diseases like hypertension, cardiovascular problems and edema, having a low sodium content in Brussel sprouts is comforting.

    3. Good Source of Vitamin C

    An important nutrient for people of all ages, vitamin C also functions as an antioxidant because it helps your body to fight off oxidative stress. Vitamin C is also a potent fighter against the common cold; however, it may not be what you or most people think. Vitamin C has probably been embellished as a vitamin that actually reduces the severity of the common cold. In reality, it only helps to lower your chances of contracting the common cold.