Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Yes we really do eat chicken... and quinoa...

I'm sure you all thought that we only ate critters of the four legged variety. Hopefully this will help to convince you otherwise. We have even eaten this one straight veggie style on occaision. Just in case you were wondering (and trust me, I was when I first set eyes on the word) quinoa is pronounced KEEN-wah. It is an ancient grain which originated in South America and was considered to be a sacred grain by the Incas. This tiny grain is oozing with nutritional value compared to the boring white rice and processed flour products that we Americans have grown so used to eating. In one 1/4 cup dry serving you will get 15% (based on a 2000 calorie diet) of your daily iron (good for you non red meat eaters) and 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of dietary fiber. Oh and did I mention that the entire serving is WHOLE grain. This isn't like the stuff that they advertise as containing whole grain, it is the entire thing!! Oh and for all you celiacs out there did I mention that it is completely gluten free.

If you are asking yourself 'What are the little white spiral thingys stuck to the quinoa?' I have the answer. They are what is called the germ. It is the reproductive part the plant and is totally cool to eat. When the germ separates from the grain is how you know the quinoa is done cooking. When cooking it for this salad I cook it for about 15 minutes. I use one cup of quinoa and two cups of water, combine them in a pot with a lid and throw in a cube of chicken boullion. I bring the mixture to a boil, cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the liquid is completely absorbed. This will make 4 servings worth of quinoa to go in the salad. You can divide the final salad up as desired but if you use it for a meal with the grilled chicken it will make four dinners (or four lunches as I used a batch for a week of lunches for my self).

I will say that the first time I made this the Happy Husband was like... 'Your'e doing what tonight??'. He has become a true believer and I'm confident you will too once you try this amazing little grain. I like to cook the quinoa while the chicken is grilling and then allow both to rest while I'm chopping the ingredients for the salad. As far as chicken grilling is concerned, you do need to cook it all the way through. NEWS FLASH: Cooking chicken through does not mean making tiny chicken hockey pucks that will make you tired of chewing before you even get the first bite down. The Happy Husband always asks me 'How do you know when the perfect time to take the chicken off the grill?' My answer remains the same for all cooking.'Practice makes perfect' (or pretty consistently good anyway). You are never going to learn to cook something with out screwing it up at least once first. I still manage to over cook steak, make bad tasting experiments and really frustrate my self from time to time. You will never learn to ride the horse if you don't get back on people. So anyway... cook your chicken until its done. I ended up with 6 ounces of cooked chicken breast for the whole salad. Oh and buy a food scale. It makes life easier if you are watching what you eat.

Ok now for the fixins. And yes I just said fixins... I live below, 5 miles, the Mason-Dixon Line so its ok. This is really a matter of personal preference and of what direction you want your salad to go. You could use cucumbers and feta insetad of the avocado and goat cheese here and go greek with some added oregano. You could swap the olives and parsely for a little jalepeno and cilantro and remove the artichokes and you have a guacamole inspired salad. Its totally up to what you have on hand and what you are in the mood for. But since I have made promises to make an effort toward including recipes/quantities I'm going to tell you what I used in this one. I went with a greek-ish version on this occaision. We had halved grape tomatoes (1 cup), diced red onion (1/2 cup or less if its a strong one), diced avocado (1/2 cup), chopped pitted kalamata olives (1/3 cup) and chopped marinated artichoke hearts (3/4 cup). I like to use a cutting board topper (I don't know if that is what its really called) so that I can pick it up, fold it and dump everything into the bowl of slightly cooled quinoa at once. Make sure you use a big bowl. There is nothing worse than dumping a bunch of quinoa on the counter while stirring and trying to clean it up. I also included about 3/4 cup of chopped grilled asparagus which I cooked while I was cooking the chicken. Before you grill the asparagus toss it with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. You will want to take the asparagus off before the tops burn too much and while the asparagus still has some crunch to it.

Once you have stirred in all of the chopped veggie goodies its time for your cheese and herbs of choice. If you are using dry herbs you should probably add them to the quinoa as soon as it comes off the stove. But we have a beautiful herb garden (thanks to the Happy Husband) and I like to use my fresh picked herbs. For this salad I chose some crumbled goat cheese. You can use feta, parmesean, blue cheese or any other cheese of your choice. If you like it creamy and you are using a soft variety, add the cheese while the salad is still pretty warm and it will combine through and melt into the dish. If you are using a harder cheese it would be best to wait until cools off a little more. I used 3 ounces of the goat cheese crumbles for the salad and some fresh parsley from the herb garden.

You are probably saying to yourself... 'What is so special about a picture of fresh parsley?' The answer is 'The Happy Husband and I grew it from a tiny little seed and I'm really proud of it!' Hopefully, in the coming weeks you will get to see more fruits from our garden. Maybe I'll even manage to do a post on the garden itself. Who wants to see garden pictures????

Nutrition Facts (this is a general idea not analyzed fact)
Servings per recipe: 4
Calories per serving: 375
Fat: 14g, 4g saturated
Cholesterol: 40 mg
Sodium: 580 mg
Postassium: 216 mg
Total Carbs: 39g, 4 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugars
Protein: 19.5 g

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