Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quick & Easy Side: Quinoa w/Cranberries

Oh fall. Your flavors, your colors, your products... how I love thee? I tell you how I love thee. I put some of your flavors into my quinoa. Well, mostly one flavor. Hello Mr. Cranberry. How'd you like to be a part of my Q&E dinner this week? Oh, you would?! I'm ecstatic!

Okay, enough with the crazy. My Quick & Easy dinner this week is truly enjoyable. Quinoa, my Q&E side, is a star super-food (one I'm not allergic to either.) With about 8 grams of protein per serving, your side isn't just a starchy, sugary, grainy mess. Nope, this bad boy is going to give you energy and fuel your brain, and Lord knows I need brain-fuel when I get home from a long day at work. Don't you?

Good thing this side dish takes at most 30 minutes to make including chopping efforts, and things can be accomplished while the quinoa is cooking. Multi-tasking in the kitchen is a sure-fire way to keep things Quick & Easy!

Now I'm giving you flavor options with the below recipe and here's why: every one's tastes are different. If you like your cranberries more sour with a punch, you'll probably want to add less agave to your mix. If you like only sweet cranberries, you'll want to add more. Remember, taste as you go to make sure the recipe is incorporating what pleases your flavor palate. Same goes for any time I put salt and pepper to taste. If you're not sure how much to use, simply add 1/4 or 1/2 tsp at a time until you find a balance that you're at peace with.

Quinoa with Cranberries
picture coming and it's pretty

1 cup dry red quinoa
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2-3 handfuls of organic fresh cranberries (I have small hands so I used 3)
1 medium/large zucchini (diced or chopped into long slivers)
2 big slices of white onion (diced or chopped into long slivers)
1-2 tbs agave nectar
1/2 tbs rosemary
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
sea salt
black pepper
olive oil

In a medium pot, combine the quinoa and broth.
Bring the pot to a boil, then simmer covered for 15-20 minutes or until broth is absorbed.
In a large pan coated with olive oil, add cranberries and coat with agave over low heat
**As cranberries heat, they split open. If you keep your pan over medium to high heat, you'll force them to burst open which is a bit more messy.
When all the cranberries have split and seem to be cooking nicely, add zucchini and onions and raise the heat to medium, making sure you saute/stir the combo regularly.
Add garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper to taste when the vegetables start to get tender.
When the mixture looks nice and incorporated (the veggies are tender and the cranberries cooked down a bit) remove from heat. By this time, the quinoa will be ready.
Combine the quinoa and cranberry mixture in whatever bowl you plan to serve/store it in and enjoy!

Tip: You may notice that I cooked my quinoa in broth for this recipe. It's true, quinoa is a super food, however, it doesn't have all that much flavor on it's own. For me quinoa alone is a cooking base, a sponge if you will, that will absorb the flavors you throw in there. In order to enhance the flavors of the dish while attempting to keep a balance, I try to cook the quinoa in a little something that will add a dimension to the dish. For example, if you try to add extra cranberries for flavor instead, what would probably happen is you would overpower all the other flavors in the dish. Yes, it would be more full of flavor, but it'd be full of only one flavor. Using the broth is a subtle way of bringing the quinoa alive, before you start to doctor it. So if you're bored with quinoa or you've never found it all that appealing, try cooking it with broth instead of water and see if you like it better. Good luck!

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