Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Vegan Greek Quinoa Salad

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This Quinoa salad is one of my moms favorite dishes to prepare. She will prepare it a least once every two weeks.
First, what is quinoa? Quinoa is an old food. It's been around for thousands of years. Historically, the Incas, of what is today Peru, grew and cultivated quinoa. Did you know that quinoa is not a grain? Nope. It is actually a pseudo-cereal. Cereals like oats, millet, spelt, wheat, and rice come from grassy stalks, whereas psuedo-cerals are not memebers of the grass family. In addition to quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and chia seed are also psuedo-cereals. There are hundreds of varieties of quinoa. But the most common types available for purchase are red, white, and black.
Quinoa is a super healthy food! It is a nutritionally compact, whole food and it has almost twice the amount of fiber than most other grains.
"Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and contains iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and fiber. It is one of only a few plant foods that are considered a complete protein and comprised of all [nine] essential amino acids. Quinoa also has a high protein to carbohydrate ratio when compared to other grain products. It was proposed by NASA to be an ideal food for long duration space flights." According to http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/274745.php
In addition to being rich in vitamins, minerals and protein, Quinoa also contains high amounts of antioxidants and oleic acids.
The coating of the quinoa grain contains saponin. Saponin is a naturally occurring insect-repellent designed to prevent insects from biting into the grain by creating a bitter tasting coating. Unfortunately, insects aren't the only ones who taste the bitter saponin. To eliminate that unpleasant taste, simply wash the quinoa thoroughly several times until the water runs clear.
The Frugal Side: 
So, I know what you're thinking, "But quinoa is expensive!!" And you are right. Quinoa averages $4.50 to $8.00 per pound, depending on where you shop. But there are a few tricks to making quinoa frugal:
  • Buy in bulk - This can mean, buying from the bulk section, buying a larger bag, or buying from a wholesale club. Large bags of quinoa typically come in 4 pound sizes. A 4 pound bag of quinoa costs
  • Buy online 
  • Buy the white quinoa. Save the more exotic varieties for special occasions.
On top of getting a great deal, quinoa can be made cost effective by preparing it correctly and eating it with moderation. Make sure you use enough water when cooking quinoa so that each grain fully expands. Cooked quinoa should equal 2-3 times the raw equivalent. Even though quinoa can be expensive, the reason why I said that it is a great food for college students is because: 2 cups of raw quinoa that fed me for 12 times!
Calculated at $8 per pound, 2 cups of quinoa costed me $6.40, say the veggies and seasonings costed $3.60. So I only spent $.71 each morning for a full bowl of energy packed, super-healthy quinoa salad!

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The Salad
2 Cups Quinoa, uncooked
1-2 small Tomatoes, Diced
1/2  a large Cucumber, chopped
Parsley, 6-7 stalks
1 medium sized Red or White onion, diced
The Dressing
2-3 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/2-1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
The Optional Additions
Black beans
Corn
Tofu feta
Cranberries
Kalamata olives
Green onions
Chopped walnuts
The Directions
  1. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Leave the dressing to rest while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  2. Place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse under the tap until the water runs clear. Combine the quinoa, 3 1/2 water, and a pinch of salt in a medium sized saucepan, cover the pot,  and bring to a boil. Immediately after it comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the water is absorb and the quinoa swells, approximately 20-30 minutes.Once the quinoa has finished cooking, uncover the pot, lightly fluff, and allow the quinoa to cool for 7-8 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, chop the tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and parsley into a large mixing bowl. Add the cooled quinoa and dressing, Toss everything together until well combined. At this point, the salad is complete, but if you let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours, it will be even better! Enjoy.
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