Your one stop quinoa shop

I work in the bulk section of a grocery store (Central Market) and I think my favorite thing about working there is listening to people try to pronounce quinoa.  My second favorite thing about working there is helping people who get overwhelmed by all of the different types of grains we have. 

I thought it might be fun to have a series of posts about some of the different types of grains, and I wanted to get started with the powerhouse of them all- quinoa!

So first for the record quinoa is pronounced keen-wah.  I hear it pronounced every which way and it makes me giggle at the different ways that people say it!  So now that we’re done with that we can get right into the good stuff!

What is quinoa?

Quinoa is technically a seed, not a grain though we do tend to refer to it as a grain because it’s grain-like.  It’s sometimes called a pseudocereal since it’s not technically part of the grass family like the other grains.  Quinoa is related to beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds.

Quinoa has been around for 3-4000 years and it originated in the Andes of South America.  The Incas referred to it as the ‘mother of all grains’


What’s so great about quinoa?

Quinoa is considered a nutritional powerhouse because it’s protein content is so high and because it is considered a complete protein (it contains all of the essential amino acids- other plant foods tend to be low in some of them.  For example wheat and rice are a little low in lysine).  Quinoa is also a great source of fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron (one serving= ~20% DV of iron!!).  Also 1/2 cup of uncooked quinoa is only about 155 calories, making it a BIG bang for your nutritional buck!


Do you suffer from migraines?

Because quinoa is so high in magnesium it is a great idea to add some to your diet if you suffer from migraines.  Magnesium is a mineral, and it helps relax blood vessels and could help prevent migraines.  Increased intake of magnesium has been shown to be related to a reduced frequency of headache episodes reported by migraine sufferers.

Since we’re talking about magnesium and relaxed blood vessels, quinoa is also great for your heart!  It can help decrease hypertension and rates of heart disease!



In it’s natural state, quinoa has a coating of something called saponin for protection.  This makes it bitter so that nothing will want to eat it.  Saponin is toxic and can be irritating to the respiratory and GI tract, so make sure to give your quinoa a good rinse before you cook it (I rinse it in a mesh sieve until all the soapy-ness of the saponin is rinsed off)


What do I do with quinoa?

You can do so much with quinoa!  You can use it in place of the grain in pretty much any recipe.  It cooks up just like rice.  I usually make mine in my rice cooker with the same ratios as I would use with rice…one part quinoa to two parts water or vegetable broth(it tastes soooooo good when you make it with vegetable broth!!)  If you cook it on the stove, do the same ratios, but let it simmer very low for about 15-20 minutes.



Quinoa Recipes

I thought I ‘d share a couple of my favorite quinoa recipes just to get you started.  I posted them earlier today since I knew that this post would be long enough, so I’ll just link you to the recipes!

Black Bean Quinoa Salad

Mexican Quinoa Casserole


Well, that’s it for now!  Hope you come to love quinoa as much as I do.

Happy snacking!


Kale? Chips?


ZOMG these are amazing!  I ate the whole pan in one sitting.  No joke.  It sounds weird, but trust me as soon as you taste these you’ll be hooked!

Kale is an amazing thing.  It’s full of antioxidants, vitamin K, vitamin C, and is rich in calcium.  It’s also related to cabbage!

Here’s how I made mine…

Kale Chips

1 bunch of kale
olive oil (or cooking spray)
sea salt
nutritional yeast


Preheat oven to 325 F.

De-stem your kale and tear it into big pieces.

Wash it and send it through your salad spinner- make sure it’s really really dry!



Place kale on a pan spritzed with cooking spray.



Drizzle with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil (or spritz with a little more cooking spray).  Sprinkle on some sea salt and nutritional yeast.

Bake in oven for 15-20 ish minutes until they get brown and crispy(keep your eye on them!).





Crispy like a chip.  But so much better for you!

These are great dipped in a little ketchup (seriously!) or doused with frank’s red hot!

Hope you love these as much as I do.

Happy snacking!!






Favorite vegan products, part I

Sorry for the unintentional hiatus!  I started a new job and between that and summer classes I’ve been SLAMED!!

I thought it might be fun to go through a few of my favorite vegan products just for anyone who might be curious.  There will be many parts to this new segment, so stay tuned for more!

First and foremost my top two favorite vegan products are FRUITS and VEGETABLES!!  That being said, let’s move on!


I love it because it tastes just like mayo but doesn’t contain any animal products!



SO Delicious coconut milk creamer.

SO much better than soy creamer!  It adds a wonderful texture and flavor to your morning coffee.



Silk Almond Milk.

I love it because it is DELICIOUS!  WAY better than soy milk!!  It’s creamy like whole milk (not watery like soy) and it tastes amazing straight up in a glass.  And almonds are so very good for you!  



Whole Soy and Co soy yogurt. 

6 grams protein, low fat, great source of calcium!  Beats the PANTS off of every other soy yogurt out there!!  Soy yogurt can be hit or miss and this one is definitely a hit!  Favorite flavors so far are peach and blueberry.




This has been my best find so far- it makes amazing mac and cheese, is perfect for pizza, and makes one heck of a grilled cheese!  Best vegan cheese hands down!



Maple Syrup

Love this stuff!  Amazing in oatmeal (and of course on pancakes!), but is also a good natural substitute for sugar.



Agave Nectar

Oh how I love thee!!  It tasted just like honey.  It’s wonderful in tea (hot or cold), smoothies, cereal.



Animal Cookies!

LOVE whole foods animal cookies!!  Most animal cookies have butter and/or milk in them (eww!), but not this brand- and they’re so yummy!



Whole Foods hamburger buns

One of the only burger buns I’ve found that are vegan.  They’re awesome too!


And last on the list for today…


Justin’s chocolate almond butter

Oh.My.Gosh.  This is waaaay better than Nutella!!  Way better for you too!  Enough said,


Hope you enjoyed part one!  More favorites coming soon…

Legumes, sweet legumes!

I looove beans!  I’ve done a post about beans before but it was a bit on the silly side, so I decided to do another one with more facts and less playing around (well, maybe just a little playing around).

Not only do legumes provide you with protein and fiber, but they are also a great source of complex carbohydrates, along with B vitamins, iron, and phytonutrients.  They also promote a healthy digestive tract, may reduce your risk of some types of cancer and can help control diabetes and maintain healthy blood glucose levels.

So, what is a legume?

A legume is a plant in the family Fabaceae (or Leguminosae), or a fruit of these specific plants.  A common name for this type of fruit is a pod.  Some well known legumes include alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lentils, lupins, mesquite, carob, soy, and peanuts.  There are several classes of legumes including forage, grain, blooms, pharmaceutical/industrial, fallow/green manure, and timber species.  The kind we eat are grain legumes.  Grain legumes are cultivated for their seeds, and are also called pulses(many other cultures call them pulses instead of beans or legumes like we do). The seeds are used for human and animal consumption or for the production of oils for industrial uses. Grain legumes include beans, lentils, lupins, peas, and peanuts.

Legumes contain relatively low quantities of the essential amino acid methionine, which makes it an incomplete protein (meaning that it is missing one or more of the essential amino acids).  Is it a big deal that it’s not a complete protein?  NOPE!  As long as you eat a balanced diet that has a variety of different foods you will get plenty of protein in your diet from different sources(yes, even if you are a vegan- but this is a different post for a different time).

So what do you do with them?

look in the recipe section of my blog and you’ll see several recipes!  My favorites are Brown Rice and Lentils and Spicy Black Bean Soup!!

any vegetarian or vegan cookbook will have a plethora (don’t you just love that word?!) of recipes that feature legumes!  My favorite is the Old Fashioned Lentil Loaf in The Vegan Table.  Dal is also delicious if you can find a recipe for that!

The easiest way to prepare them are to cook them very simply in a big pot of water with some salt and pepper!  See this post for details on preparing beans! (this post makes me laugh because it was way before I ever thought of becoming a vegan)


And that’s all she wrote!!  Have a great one and go eat some beans!!


Ah, Tofu…

I’ve tried tofu in the past and I’ve never liked it.  Turns out I wasn’t using the right kind, nor was I prepping it the best way!  I think I was using tofu that was too soft and I was just taking it right out of the package and cutting it up.   Oh the horror!  hehe!

Anyway, I’ll be super sweet and try to demystify tofu a bit for you…

So what the heck is tofu?

Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the resulting curds into blocks.  That’s pretty much it.  Simple, no?

Tofu has been around since the Han dynasty in ancient China, so it’s nothing new.   I think we just don’t know how to work with it, so that’s why we tend to shy away from it.

There are lots of different kinds of tofu, here are some of the basic types…

You’ve got your soft/silken tofu.  It’s soft, just like the name implies.  Its texture is similar to custard or pudding and It has the highest moisture content of all of the types of tofu.  It’s best used in smoothies, puddings, ice creams, as an egg replacer, etc…

Then there’s firm tofu.  And you guessed it…it’s firm!  It’s drained and pressed, but still has quite a bit of moisture.  It springs back at you when touched.  The texture is similar to a very firm custard.  This was the kind I was trying to use when I tried to make it before, but it fell apart very easily and made the dish a mess.  I think this kind of tofu would be best if you were wanting to make vegan scrambled “eggs” or a non-egg egg salad.

Then we have the extra firm tofu.  This is what I should have used the past few times I tried to work with tofu.  This type of tofu is perfect if you want the tofu to retain its shape like a stir fry or a baked dish.

Working with tofu…

Most recipes will tell you to just drain the tofu, press the liquid out with the tofu wrapped in a towel with a heavy skillet on top, slice it then throw it into the dish.  This is not the best technique, though it will work if you are in a hurry and don’t have time for the technique that I’m about to share.

What you should do is this-

As soon as you get home from the grocery store put it in the freezer as is- packed in water (I don’t think this technique will work with the aseptic packages that are shelf stable).  Let it hang out over night.  Then in the morning, take it out and let it hang out on the counter until it’s defrosted completely.  Then you open it, drain the water out, take the tofu out and squeeze it out over the sink.  Squeeze it out like a sponge.  Lots of water should come out.  This gives it a more “meaty” texture I think.  Then slice it and sear it until golden brown on both sides in a hot pan.  Then you can do whatever you want with it.  Marinate it, eat it as is, throw it in a salad or a stir fry- whatever you like!

I marinated mine today in a little Soy Vay Island Teriyaki Sauce, then baked it in the oven.  Then I threw it in with a little whole wheat couscous and some steamed broccoli and it was AMAZING!!!!  I’ve definitely changed my mind about tofu now! YUM!

Just look how pretty and yummy it looks!



Now go try something new!!  There’s no reason to be afraid of tofu anymore!