Rabbit Cooks With Quinoa

I love quinoa (Keen-wa). While not the most low calorie "grain" out there it is the healthiest and most complete "grain" by a mile. Quinoa is not strictly a grain, it comes from the Amaranth family of plants and also sports the moniker "Inca Gold". It tastes like grain, cooks like grain and has a great nutty flavor. Its like couscous on steroids.

Quinoa in the fields of the Andes

Quinoa while having 626 calories in a cup, also has 11.9 grams of fiber, 10.3 grams of fat, the good kind, and get this: a whopping 24 grams of protein! Grain,with protein. Who knew? You don't even need meat with this stuff. Vegetarians: pay attention here, Quinoa is one of the few complete proteins in the veggie world, which means it fulfills all your dietary protein needs in one fell swoop. It is also stuffed with manganese, magnesium and phosphorus among other vitamin type things.

So as promised after that sinful crepe recipe here is a healthy recipe that will fill you up and leave you feeling good about what you ate.

If you are not a vegetarian skip to the chicken cooking part further down the page and get the chicken out of the way so it can cool.

Not a grain but it sure looks and cooks like one!

Cook the Quinoa according to package directions(available these days at most grocery stores with a health food section or at health food stores–heck my Ralph's Thriftway carries it right there with the regular boxed grains.) in chicken broth instead of water for extra flavor. Let it cool.

Inca Salad Ingredients:

Cooked quinoa

bunch fresh asparagus

1 red pepper–roast  it yourself or obtain in a jar

2 cups skinless roasted chopped up chicken breasts

1/2 c. chopped up purple onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

juice of one lemon

2 cloves garlic

salad greens

You can get a nice smoky flavor on your pepper–and low cal healthy cooking is ALL about flavor–believe me–if you toss the pepper cored and seeded on your bbq for a while. The skin should shrivel up and you can just scrape it off with a knife. You can also hold it with tongs over the flame of your gas stove until the skin starts to blacken bubble and peel. Scrape it off.

It's not that hard, and if you are lazy pick up red peppers roasted in a jar from the grocery store. I don't know about you but I hate biting into a cooked red or green pepper, bell type here, with the skin on.  After you cook it, Its like chewing wax paper. Yuck.

So you have your roasted pepper scraped and chopped up set aside. Clean the asparagus, and snap off the bottoms. Asparagus, that's a whole separate chapter in cooking. Hold the stem and snap the bottom off. It should break a couple of inches up which takes off the tough part. Don't cut it, snap it. Lay the aspargus down sideways in a microwave safe dish with a lid. Put just a tiny amount of water in and steam it with the lid on. Try six or seven minutes, test it–but don't scald yourself getting the lid off your "steamer". Put it back until its cooked through but God forbid–not mushy. You want it just past crunchy and well before squishy. Put it aside to cool and then chop it into about 1 inch pieces, a size you can neatly stab with a fork.

Chop up the red onion into nice small bites, you don't want a mouthful of giant onion, just a nibble in your flavor profile when you take a bite. Put that aside with your pepper and asparagus.

The chicken cooking part: I get chicken breasts–never Southern grown, those are just scary factory grown chemical chickens, look for local. Its your health and you are worth it. Pull off the skin and with your kitchen scissors cut off any fat blobules you see on your chicken (that's the yellow stuff). Get out a cookie sheet or your roasting pan. I have a teeny chicken sized broiler pan which I love and use a lot.

Easy clean up on the cookie sheet? Cover it with foil and spray it with cooking spray, unless you like scrubbing up burnt on chicken. Get out some salt, some garlic powder and some pepper. Massage the chicken on both sides with your spices. Put the spices into a dish first and stir them up, that way when your hands are all dirty and chicken-y, you don't have to touch anything but the chicken and the dish. Cut up a lemon into slices, squish the slices over the chicken to release the juice and then lay the squished slices on top of the chicken for extra flavor.

Cook the chicken until its done through. I usually go at 350 degrees for an hour and then cut open the fattest part of one of the breasts to make sure its done all the way through. Sacrilege! I know, but you are chopping these ones into cubes anyway. Cool the chicken, pull it off the bones and chop into nicely fork-sized bites.

Put the two tablespoons of oil in a pan with the garlic which you have crushed and chopped finely, warm the oil and garlic through on medium to low heat until you can smell the garlic releasing its lovely cooked mellow flavor-watch it, burnt garlic is evil in flavor.

Toss the asparagus, onion and pepper into the pan along with the chicken. Warm it all through, add salt, pepper or whatever spices you love most. You could take this oriental with some soy sauce or Indian with some curry powder if you wanted to. Toss in the quinoa and the juice of one lemon. Give it a taste, correct the seasoning and then chill in the fridge until serving time.

Personally, I love putting mine over salad greens. This is a great way to get more salad into my family because the salad becomes an integral part of the dish. Sprinkle the top with some slivered almonds for a little crunch, and it adds a nice note to the whole thing too.

Experiment! Try snow peas instead of asparagus, try tomatoes and mint instead of red peppers. I think this would even be great with small chunks of sweet potato and snow peas with a little fresh pineapple perhaps and a sprinkle of curry? You don't even need chicken for a complete, filling and yummy dinner!

This should serve 3 people at least, 4 if you are polite….

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