Thursday, August 28, 2008

Quick & Simple Quinoa

It seems like every gluten-free blogger has some quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) recipe they adore, and I am no different. This grain is incredibly versatile: you can use it with any recipe that would normally call for couscous, it makes a great tabouleh and is even good in place of rice for "rice pudding." It is packed with protein (12%), so it's good for those who don't eat meat and it's one of the few grains with a high amount of the amino acid lysine (if you ever feel a cold-sore coming on, eat quinoa or take a lysine supplement, it works for me), making it a "complete" protein.

So, as you can tell, I think very highly of quinoa. My sister makes a mean middle-eastern inspired quinoa, but I have yet to get the recipe out of her, so I give you mine with a little cumin as an ode to dear sis:

Quick & Simple Quinoa (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

1 cup of quinoa, toasted
1 1/4 cup water, brought to a boil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup purple grapes, halved

After rinsing and toasting the quinoa, add to the boiling water and turn down the heat to a simmer. After twelve minutes, take the quinoa off the stove and let sit for five minutes, then fluff with a fork and let cool. Meanwhile, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, cumin and garlic powder. Then, add the pine nuts and the grapes to the quinoa, then the dressing and taste for seasonings. Add salt and pepper (or any other spice) if you desire. A nice addition would be some fresh herbs: mint, parsley, basil...

I served mine over mustard greens (and took the obligatory Henry photo).

One of these days I'll make something he can actually eat....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Young Coconut

Ah, the young coconut -- one of nature's super foods. I'm a big fan and have been using young coconuts in soups and smoothies for quite some time now. They're becoming more prevalent; I could only get them at my local Asian supermarket (for $1.89!), but now I'm finding them in the produce section of the regular grocery store (for a bit more). After researching the benefits of the young coconut, I've found that one whole coconut has only 140 calories and provides 17% of the recommended daily intake for calcium, which is good for someone who can't get her calcium from dairy. I know when I think of coconut, I usually associate a high saturated fat count, which is not the case with the young coconut: there are only three grams of saturated fat per coconut. There's no cholesterol, 50 mg sodium, 28 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber,15 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein packed into this little tee-pee shaped seed.

In the following photos, I will attempt to chronicle the way in which I open up a young coconut. As shown above, you'll want to start by cutting off the pointy tip of the husk. You will need a sharp and sturdy knife for this, so be careful. The trick here is to start cutting only an inch or two from the very tip of the husk, otherwise you will try and cut the seed which can't be done.

Next, it's best to use some blunt object, or the base of your knife and find the sweet spot on the top of the seed. Really, you're just trying to make a little crack here. After a few whacks, you should have found it (you might get a little bit of coconut water on you).

After that, it's best to start cutting a circle around the top of the seed. It should be a somewhat painless process as the crack you created should have helped get the process started.

And there you have it. A young coconut. You can drink the coconut water straight from the coconut (though I think it's best cold) and scoop out the flesh with a spoon (good in salads with mango and avocado). They are both very tasty.

Or make a smoothie out of it: place the coconut water and coconut meat in a blender. Add a banana, some almond milk and some ice and you have yourself a delicious smoothie.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Settling Back In

I arrived back in the U.S. on Tuesday morning and am slowly getting back into the swing of things. Luckily, sleepiness doesn't hit me until it gets dark out, so the jetlag hasn't been bad at all. I craved a few things when I got home, a turkey burger and a big old salad -- staples in my normal diet. But now that I've had my fix, I want to get back to the awesome food I enjoyed over in Taiwan. Here's a little sampling:

This almond milk was awesome. For some reason, it was better than the packaged variety you get in the states and it was served ice cold which was fantastic since it was a hot and humid 90+ degrees there.

Another icy cold treat: shaved ice with red beans and taro. It sounds a little strange, but the sweetness of the red beans and the texture of the taro root (very similar to a sweet potato, but light purple) went really well with the shaved ice.

This bean curd dish was spicy, but not too spicy. Served over white rice with black sesame seeds, it was delicious. It kind of reminded me of American Chop Suey, but spicier and with tofu-like bits.

And fresh fruit galore. Night markets are huge in Taiwan. You can't visit there without going to one. Around 5pm stands start setting up: fresh fruit, dumplings, seafood, mongolian bbq... anything you can think of, they have a stand for. And they have lots of amazing fresh fruit to choose from.

I'm going to attempt to replicate my favorite recipes from my time there. Mochi is a Japanese treat that is popular there (and that I adored), made of glutinious rice flour that I've found a few recipes for. Also, hot pot, also known as shabu shabu was a lot of fun and hopefully something I can replicate at home once I get myself an electric hot pot.

I'll be sure an post about my successes!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Helloooo from Taiwan!

As I sit here in my hotel room, looking back on my week so far, I have to admit -- I feel pretty darn lucky. I'm here in Taiwan on a media tour for work, which means that I get to spend one week with a personal tour guide filming all of my experiences: catching fish in Pengshu, interviewing a famous Taiwanese opera director, getting a personal tour of the Mu Jing museum, and eating delicious gluten-free food. I know this type of experience is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so I'm truly soaking in every moment.

But of course, I have to share the food I have eaten so far! Above -- a local meal of fish and rice on one of the Pengshu Islands.
A hot pot meal at the Ju Ming sculpture museum ( I stayed away from the soy sauce dipping sauce).
A chilled, sweet mushroom soup at he Ju Ming sculpture museum.
And, he's no Henry, but I sure do adore this guy. His owners feed him uncooked noodles and he seems to love them.

I'll be sure and write an extensive post when I get back!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Photo Phriday: Cast of Characters

I have spent the past week house and pet sitting at my parents. It's similar to living on a farm, once the animals wake you at 5:45AM, you must tend to them: feed them, walk them, love them. Here, I introduce to you the cast of characters that I have joyfully spent my week with:

You all know Henry, but did you know that he can tear apart a stuffed animal in less than twenty seconds? Notice the monkey leg in the bottom left hand corner -- the poor thing never had a chance.

Elsa -- a tank of a dog who is quite possibly the most affectionate pup I've ever met. Her nickname, because of her constantly licking tongue is Miss Lickey.

Annie. She looks sweet, doesn't she? She's only sweet when she wants food. Otherwise, she's a terror.

Buddy: one ear, loud purr and constantly by your side. Technically, Buddy is an outdoor cat because my parents felt that Annie would give him a hard time, however, I felt that four animals in one house wasn't enough and let him inside. He's my favorite.

And Darby. He looks like a Maine Coon Cat and is just beautiful. He pretty much sticks to himself, probably because Annie terrorizes him.