What Should I Make for Dinner?

Single picture cartoons, like haiku poetry, use brevity to make a point. One of my favorites of this single message cartoon was in the newspaper many years ago when I first became a vegetarian and was concerned about feeding my family healthful foods. The cartoon showed a grandmotherly woman bent over at the waist, weighed down by a shopping bag in each arm. She stood in front of an information booth with an anxious look on her face and asked, “Tell me, what should I make for dinner?”

When I was a young mother feeding my children, I used to panic every day at 4:30 pm if I did not know what I was making for our family dinner. This was pre-microwave days, so if I had to thaw something from the freezer, I had to do it early in the day. If I forgot, I was sunk! Now, of course, all my kids are grown, and my dinner might consist of a big salad, a bowl of squash soup, and a green vegetable—- simple, easy, tasty.

However, if that grandmother walked up to a booth that I was standing behind in this summer of 2006, and she asked me for information on what to make for dinner, I would say: Chilled Quinoa Salad. It cooks up quickly, is high in nutritional value, and the tiny grains have a wonderful flavor. She could add other vegetables or protein sources around it or make the salad the center of attraction.

On my box of quinoa is a statement about this nutritious grain: “Quinoa (keen-wa) stands alone as a complete protein grain. It supplies all the essential amino acids in a balanced pattern.” Below this statement is a chart comparing the basic grains: barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, rice, rye, and wheat. Quinoa ranks the highest in protein and midway in carbohydrate grams and fiber, although higher in fat than the other grains. (However, I consider this a good fat.) Quinoa is also a good source of calcium and phosphorous. All in all, these tiny, round grain a pack a not so tiny nutritional punch!

Today’s recipe calls for regular quinoa, which is yellow. However, there is also a red quinoa that you might find in some health food stores, so feel free to mix both kinds. Be creative and use whatever favorite veggies you want. I added green soybeans for their flavor and midlife protein nutrition and seaweed for its high mineral content. (More on sea vegetables in a future blog.) There is no limit to the variations. This recipe is quick to prepare, light on the palate, and strong in its healthful attributes. Try it for your next picnic and see what friends say. Rice is nice, but quinoa is special!

QUICK QUINOA (Keen-Wa) SALAD

INGREDIENTS
One c. quinoa
2 c. shelled, green soybeans (Edamame)
1/2 c. grated organic carrot
1-2 organic scallions, minced
2 pinches Arame seaweed (optional)

DRESSING:
1/2 c. toasted sesame oil
1/4 c. plum vinegar
Dash of mustard, ginger, & natural soy sauce
Herbs of your choice

DIRECTIONS

1. Cook quinoa and Edamame beans, in separate pots, according to package directions.
(Quinoa takes only 15 minutes and the beans even less less than that.)
2. While the quinoa and beans are cooking, soak arame in warm water.
3. Grate the carrots and mince the scallions. Set aside.
4. Whisk together dressing ingredients.
5. Remove quinoa from stove and transfer to a large bowl.
6. Drain soybeans and add to quinoa.
7. Finally, stir in dressing and add onions and carrots gently.

This dish can be served hot or cold. If cold, serve on a bed of lettuce.
Serves four to six people. If chilled overnight, you may need to add extra oil.
Feel free to add your own favorite veggies.
Take it to your next picnic and enjoy!

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