by Lauren Petr
Contributor and Registered Dietician

As I was brainstorming ideas for dinner one night, I thought about cooking my typical fallback, an easy chicken and brown rice dish. But, how blah.

I wanted something different, something healthy, but more tasty and distinctive than my staples of brown rice and whole-wheat pasta. Determined, I hopped on the Internet and started clicking through cooking Websites.

Rice Pilaf, no. Stir-fry, no. Pasta, no.

Quinoa, hum, never heard of this one. A little curious, I did some background reading on the grain. Wow, this oh-so-healthy superfood was actually once considered the “gold of the Incas.” That’s probably because nutritionally speaking, quinoa rocks. One serving of this stuff provides significant amounts of minerals, fiber and high-quality protein, all for only 160 calories.

Its nutrition profile exceeds that of its peers because quinoa, unlike most other grains, contains all of the essential amino acids making it a complete source of protein. Intrigued, I printed the recipe and decided to try it out. And now, I pass on my quinoa learning tips to you…

Tip 1 — It’s pronounced “keen-wa.” Keep this in mind so you can avoid the “oh my gosh, this poor redneck can’t talk” stare that I received when I butchered the pronunciation to the salesperson.

Tip 2 — Don’t even bother looking in regular grocery stores. This little wonder was only found around town in natural food grocers.

Tip 3 — Don’t fret, it’s supposed to look that way. When cooked, the germ of the quinoa grain partially detaches itself, looking somewhat like a spiraled tail. Thinking I was in the wrong, I looked it up on the Internet. That’s perfectly normal.

Quinoa was sooo easy to prepare. Much like rice, you add one part grain to two parts water, let it boil, reduce the heat and then sit back until it’s done. Creamy, yet slightly crunchy in texture, quinoa portrays a mild nutty flavor that would go well with almost anything. I followed my recipe and enjoyed a warm, filling dish with dried cherries, toasted walnuts and green onions. The perfect uniqueness I was longing for.  

Since that first recipe I have cooked with quinoa quite a few times. I have substituted it for rice in pilaf and risotto dishes, folded it into vanilla yogurt with chopped fruit and celery, and even made it a breakfast dish by adding honey, cinnamon and fresh berries.

So, if you are ready to expand your culinary horizons and whip up a dish that will nourish, not to mention impress, family and friends, I recommend trying my favorite recipe below.

Not one for cooking yourself? Try the vegetarian tamales at Mirror, the bistro located on 12th South. They feature a chipotle-chocolate quinoa. Yum!

Quinoa with feta, black olives and romaine*
S
erves 2-4

  • 3/4 cup dry quinoa
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • 2 radishes, sliced thickly
  • 2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 cups chopped romaine lettuce (preferably hearts)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  1. Cook the quinoa according to package directions and set it aside to cool. This will take about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the olives, radishes, feta, shredded romaine, oregano, and mint.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper to taste.
  4. Add the cooked quinoa to the olive-feta mixture and toss to combine. Stir in the dressing, mixing thoroughly, and correct seasoning to taste. Serve at room temperature.

*Recipe provided by Plumgood Food

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