Saturday, October 11, 2008


I like to pretend that I know a little about food, and that I've tried a fair amount of things. I've had some 238932890 grain things that have had Quinoa (keenwah) in them but I've never just had a bowl-o-quinoa. So I made some up last night, and it is ridiculously delicious. Ridiculously.

And, of the organic grains, one of the cheapest. (It's even cheaper if you forget the organic mumbo-jumbo, but I like to buy it when I can.)

The big part of cooking quinoa is rinsing it. Rinse it for at least 2 full minutes under running tap water (i used a little metal coffee filter that I use for rinsing weird things like this) to get off the yucky bitter residue (called saponins). Then throw that bitch in a rice cooker (or sauce pan) with 1 part Quinoa and 2 parts water. It cooks almost exactly like rice but it's like nothing you've ever tasted before.

I tried it with both just butter and salt, and with soy sauce, and both were terrific. I liked trying it with just butter and salt to really get a feel for the grain, especially being my first time trying it.

It was a fabulous dish, go make it immediately. (and it's almost as cheap as rice, but mixes it up.)

(footnote: here is what wikipedia has to say on the subject of its nutrition:

Nutritional value
Quinoa, uncooked
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 370 kcal 1540 kJ
Carbohydrates 64 g
- Starch 52 g
- Dietary fibre 7 g
Fat 6 g
- polyunsaturated 3.3 g
Protein 14 g
Water 13
Thiamin (Vit. B1) 0.36 mg 28%
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.32 mg 21%
Vitamin B6 0.5 mg 38%
Folate (Vit. B9) 184 μg 46%
Vitamin E 2.4 mg 16%
Iron 4.6 mg 37%
Magnesium 197 mg 53%
Phosphorus 457 mg 65%
Zinc 3.1 mg 31%
Percentages are relative to US
recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database
A few Quinoa grains close up.
A few Quinoa grains close up.

Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, being secondary only to the potato, and followed in third place by maize. In contemporary times this crop has come to be highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%), making it a healthy choice for vegetarians and vegans. Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source.[5] It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered as a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.[5])

Monday, October 6, 2008

On the menu tonight.... health food?

So, going by the cheap and delicious ideal that food must be both a) Cheap and b) Delicious, I opted for the sale items at the local grocery store. Since the 24 hour, typically more expensive store is closer to my house, and I'm lazy, I opted for it rather than the more cost effective version. (I'm only pickin' up a few things anyway.)

I walked in the store, and sweet potatoes (yams) were on sale. Dear god. I freakin' LOVE sweet potatoes. They're pretty well the best ever, and better for you than potatoes. And are delicious. And, since they are on sale, they're even cheaper than they normally are. Hells yes.

So I bought 'em. Then, I bought tofu. Don't even start and be a whiner. I still eat meat, but I'm also not so close minded as to not eat something that can be super delicious and good to cook with. And, it's a helluva lot cheaper than meat. And, (as you may have figured out...) I'm cheap.

Then I got ketchup, you know, just cuz I was outta ketchup. That's not really the interesting part of the story. The best part was the yams being on sale. I freakin' love yams.


Sweet Potato French Fries
Sweet Potatoes
Some sort of oil type thing. (optional) (Whatever is around, or available to steal from your roommates.)
Salt (I like to actually pay a little but more and get sea salt, but that's just because I like it and want to. I don't really care what kind you use. I don't fucking have to eat it. Road salt may be too bulky, though.)

Chop up as much sweet potato as you feel would be delicious. Chop 'em up like french fries. Big wedges if you like those, little skinny things if you like those. This part really, really isn't rocket science. Just keep in mind that little skinny guys are going to cook faster than big wedges.

Throw them in the oven on a cookie tray, and keep an eye on them until they've browned, 10-20 min depending on how big you've cut them. Flip 'em half way through. They might get some teeny little black spots on them, but that's okay, they'll be delicious anyway.

Now, you can either wait until they're cooked through entirely, and eat them straight out of the oven this way, or, you can be an unheathly creature like me, and pull them out and give them a quick fry in some of that oil I was talking about before. You're not deep frying them or anything, but it definitely gives them a bit more of a yeh-im-eating-french-fries taste to them.

Don't forget to salt them, and I like to dip them in ketchup, or a little dip mix I've thrown a copy of at the bottom of this recipe for you, or just salt like my roommate does. In any case, they're freakin' delicious.

Tonight, I just used leftover spaghetti squash, just 'cause I had it in the fridge, but I'll give you a quick run-through. Spaghetti squash is a more-delicious version of regular spaghetti. I'd pick the squash over the spag-het any day, and it's got good stuff in it for you. I like it too, because it's not that expensive, especially (again) again if you can catch it on sale. Plus, like tonight, it's great as a leftover.

Spaghetti squash.
1 spaghetti squash. (try and pick a smallish one, I find the big ones kind of yucky.)

Stab (carefully, idiots.) the squash with a fork or knife, and throw it in the microwave for 3 minutes. When it dings, pop it out (it's going to be hot, use mitts or something.) and flip it over. I usually stab it a few more times, mostly to see how it's cooking, it's most likely still going to be extremely firm, so put it back in for 2 or 3 minutes, depending on how easy it was to stab it this time. When it's done, chop it in half, throw out the pumpkin-gutsy stuff (yay childhood moment!) (again, careful, 'tard, it's hot.) Now scrapeout the rest of the guts with a fork. It's going to come out in terrific little spaghetti squash-like strands. This is the delicious-ness.

You can be boring like me and just throw a bit of sea salt and butter on this and go to town. But of course, spaghetti squash can be treated just like regular spaghetti. So, if you've got some delicious marinara, or vodka sauce, or the like ready to go in the fridge this is pretty well a terrific idea. Seriously though, heat the sauce before you chuck it on there. If you don't want to use butter for whatever reason (ie it's not that good for you, you're a vegetarian etc) the sauce is also a great option in that sense.

The last part of the meal I made up is

Pan-fried Tofu
Hunk of extra firm tofu
soy sauce
bread crumbs

I was just cooking for myself tonight, so I only used about a quarter of the 2 dollar package of tofu (making it a nice serving of protein for 50 cents, find that in non mystery meat meat.) Since tofu absorbs flavours really nicely, I soaked bite sized pieces (about 1/4 inch thick hunks) of tofu in soy sauce and garlic at the beginning of cooking everything else. If I had thought about it in advance, I would've marinated it even longer.

When you're ready to cook it, roll it in some bread crumbs, then throw it in hot oil over medium hot, til it's crispy and hot. I kept some of the marinade for dippin. It was pretty well the best tofu ever. Just try it, you pansy.

So that was tonights' pretty damn healthy, pretty damn delicious, and freakin' healthy meal.

(Tofu, 2$ a package, single serving about $.50
Half of a large sweet potato, about $.50
Spaghetti squash, about a third of a squash, about $1.)

$2 bucks a plate, not including seasonings, because the fractions would make it ridiculous, and really only a couple of cents per serving.

ps- sorry no photos today kids, the boys used up all my batteries with their video game controllers. Boys suck.