Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The 20% Crunchier Impulsive Chef (aka Quinoa Goes With Everything)

For those of you that don't know what quinoa is, first, it's pronounced KEEN-wah, and second, it's a grain grown for its edible seeds. Think of it like round rice with a little squiggly tail. It's kind of one of foods that people are scared to try, but is actually pretty tame. By itself, there isn't much of a taste to it, very much like rice. It's also been called the superfood of the future.

That's all well and good, but like eating a bowl of rice, it's really not that exciting on its own. That's where my wife comes in. She's completely obsessed with quinoa. Everything she makes usually includes it, and that's not a bad thing. I typically don't incorporate it too often into my dishes though, for one reason or another. Last week, I was kicking around some dinner ideas, and she helpfully chimed in that it should involve quinoa. I told her that I likely wasn't going to do that, and then she said, and I quote: "it should involve quinoa ;-) it's goooood and SO good for you and so versatile"

quinoa quinoa quinoa!
That actually got me thinking- it's so easily substituted for rice, what would it be good with? My initial thought was to do some kind of burrito thing with quinoa instead of rice, but veered off that into a more healthy variation. That brings us to the "20% crunchier" part.

First, a bit of backstory. On Monday of last week, I started a two-week body cleanse. Not for any particular reason other than it sounded interesting. As part of that, I've been trying to eat as little processed foods as possible- cooking at home from organic meats and veggies, very little alcohol, etc. Lisa was saying that she liked this slightly crunchier version of me. Truth be told, I wasn't 100% sure what she meant by "crunchier." I could only assume it's like someone who eats granola or tree bark or something that's crunchy is typically some sort of hippy. I mean, it makes sense, right?
Or plays a guitar with a pot leaf on it.
So I embraced it. Eating well makes you feel well, and I know that some of my readers are very health-conscious and have requested that I feature those. So in the spirit of my cleanse, I ended up deciding on a fresh chicken wrap, kind of in a Mediterranean style. Interestingly, it's actually just as good cold as it is hot.

The picture in my mind was that of a whole wheat tortilla wrapped around chicken and different veggies. As I walked around the grocery store, I picked out a couple of things that would go well with it- diced tomatoes, black beans, cucumbers and broccoli slaw. I wanted to use chicken thigh meat, so I got some of that as well. I was ready to start cooking.

Starting with the chicken, I cut each thigh into a bite-sized piece and boiled it on the stovetop until it was about 50% cooked. I didn't boil it in broth this time, but moderately salted water. Once it was done, I drained the chicken and put the pieces in a pan under medium-high heat. I added about a tablespoon of chipotle chili powder that I sourced from Whole Foods, and cooked the chicken until it was slightly crispy on the outside. The chipotle chili powder packed a bigger kick than I had expected, but it wasn't overpowering- just stronger than your run of the mill chili powder.
Chipotle chili powder. Contents are hotter than they appear!

The quinoa was rinsed and then boiled. it takes a little longer than something like pasta, but you can tell when it's done when the little "sprout" pops out and the hull is soft. Drain and rinse, and it's ready to go. Cooking quinoa isn't really a science!
Red quinoa, pre-boil

I diced the cucumbers, drained and rinsed both the black beans and the tomatoes, and put them each in a bowl. I wanted to serve this sort of a la carte- put what you want on it.
Bowling for....quinoa?

On each plate I put a tortilla. Before serving, I thought that tortilla needed something...something creamy? I didn't know exactly... Like a burrito, it needs sour cream, but that wouldn't taste right. Ranch dressing wouldn't taste right either, so what WOULD? I scoured the refrigerator for ideas, and then it hit me. I took about 1/4 of a container of sour cream and mixed in some Greek vinaigrette. After a little trial and error, the proportions were perfect! This was what needed to be spread on the tortill.
All slathered up
Next was the chicken...
What a great color they turned out to be!
And then the beans, tomato, cucumber and broccoli slaw...
It even LOOKS healthy!
And finally, much to my wife's delight, the quinoa!
So colorful!

A little detail. The "sprouts" are visible on the qunioa.

So that's how the 20% Crunchier Impulsive Chef does things. The meal turned out to be amazing- both fresh off the stove or straight out of the fridge four days later. This is an easy, inexpensive, and most of all healthy way shake things up a little bit. I think it would please even picky eaters!

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