breakfast quinoa

Breakfast Quinoa

So the other day, I wandered into my pantry (which is just a glorified word for the never-ending chaos that is my utility room – it just happens to have shelves and is right next to the kitchen) looking for some crackers… and it became clear to me. I mean, I had to gingerly remove and stack jars of chickpeas and brown rice on the floor. All to get to a box of crackers that was hiding behind a 5 pound bag of flour. In a moment of pure clarity, I knew. I needed a pantry clean out.

(I mean, there was some mild cursing when I almost knocked over a jar of dried currants, but mostly it was a moment of very dignified contemplation.)

One of the things I am drowning in is COPIOUS amounts of quinoa. I think I have like, 2 pounds. Which is basically – since quinoa is not very heavy in the first place – like a barrel of quinoa. Sure, there are about a million recipes for quinoa salads out there, but that just wasn’t what I was feeling.

I had tried breakfast quinoa once before, but I wasn’t thoroughly satisfied. Previously I had used rice milk and it just… didn’t do anything for me. It was pretty darn tasteless, in fact. I used regular milk here, but by all means experiment with almond or soy milk if that’s more your thing, and let me know how it turns out. And of course, this is mostly just a base recipe; you can add whatever you have in your crazy, over-stuffed pantry: nuts of all kinds, dried fruit if you have some, honey or maple syrup drizzled on top… the sky is the limit.

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Breakfast Quinoa

Serves 2, easily halved

Gather: 
1 cup quinoa, rinsed until the water runs clear
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
yogurt, to serve
jam or fresh fruit, to serve
toasted almonds or pecans, to serve
turbinado sugar or honey, to serve

Prepare:
Bring quinoa, milk, water, and vanilla extract to boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and scrape down sides. Cook at a low simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Top with yogurt, jam or fresh fruit, nuts, and/or sugar or honey to your heart’s content.

the perfect side: chopped mixed greens with vinaigrette

Confession Wednesday, you guys. I’m having an affair.

I’ve been cheating on the typical winter sides – mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, roasted squash – and fallen in love with the simple green salad.

(I think it’s serious.)

I might be alone in this, since too often I get emails or phone calls or texts asking for a good side dish involving carrots, potatoes, or green beans. Personally, I could have salad every meal. Is there anything more perfect than a simple mixed greens salad with a tangy homemade vinaigrette? (Unless Ryan Gosling is bringing the salad to you, of course. In that case, ignore this post and continue on with your amazing life.)

xx

People are always fascinated when I say I make my own salad dressing, but hand to God, I cannot figure out why. I tell people to try it themselves – chances are they have most of the ingredients in your fridge and pantry anyways. You certainly don’t need any fancy gadgets to make a vinaigrette. And it can be as simple or as complicated as your skills/time/confidence/imagination allows.

The basic ingredients are: mustard, vinegar, and oil. As for mustard, you can use whatever you’ve got in the pantry (although I would stay away from yellow and brown mustard in the beginning – try a classic dijon or country mustard first). For vinegar, there are so many options: balsamic, white balsamic, red wine, white wine, sherry, champagne, cider, rice wine, brown rice wine… the list goes on and on. And oils! My preference is a good olive oil, but you can always experiment with a nut oil like walnut or hazelnut, or a flavorless oil like canola or grapeseed.

When you’ve been making vinaigrettes for as long as I have (the last store-bought dressing I had expired in 2009, don’t ask me why I remember that) you end up with an impressive vinegar and oil collection. Which means you can whip up any number of crazy vinaigrettes each night. Add some honey if you want, some lemon juice, some crushed red pepper flakes. GET CRAZY.

And as far as the logistics of making a vinaigrette… step away from the bowl and whisk. All you need is a jar with a lid. Go look in your fridge for that one jar of random condiment that you aren’t sure you’ll ever use again or you’re not sure if it’s still safe to eat… go ahead, I’ll wait. Dispose of whatever ill-fated condiment was residing in that jar, give it a good scrubbing, and you’ve got your very own vinaigrette maker.

xx

Now for the greens. Maybe eventually I’ll get some salad greens from the garden, but for right now I’m perfectly happy with the massive tub you can get from the grocery store. (I prefer organic greens, because then I can rationalize it away when I’m too lazy to wash them.) Now here’s the kicker – I chop my salad greens. EVERY TIME. My sister-in-law turned me onto this — I call her the Salad Whisperer behind her back, because she can make a salad that will bring you to your knees with its deliciousness. I can’t put my finger on it as to exactly why I love chopping the greens up… I guess it really just makes a salad easier to eat. More composed. So you feel like your kitchen is a 4-star restaurant.

I don’t know though. Maybe it’s magic.

So, here’s my favorite two vinaigrettes. The balsamic for if you’re just starting out, and the champagne for when you want to graduate to a lighter flavor. If you’re feeling adventurous, add some golden raisins, dried cherries, or blanched almonds on top.

I’m betting you’ll develop a crush on salad, too.

The Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette

a teaspoon or so of dijon mustard
about two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
about two tablespoons of olive oil
a pinch of kosher salt
a pinch of cracked pepper

Combine all ingredients in an empty jar and shake until combined.

My Favorite Champagne Vinaigrette

a teaspoon of champagne mustard (like Cherchies)
about two tablespoons of champagne vinegar
about two tablespoons of olive oil
a pinch of kosher salt
a pinch of cracked pepper

Combine all ingredients in an empty jar and shake until combined.