It’s not my best quality, but I have a hard time talking about quinoa with a straight face. Sure, I have been eating it for over five years, but when an ingredient is everywhere, when it is treated as if it were the answer to all food questions — like what is a low carb alternative to rice — I can’t help but want to rebel against it. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN- WA), the ancient not-quite-a-grain cultivated by the Incas, took a seat at the cool kid’s table after virtual obscurity in the States. Vegetarians and foodies alike rave about its high-protein content and versatility in the kitchen.
Despite my yearning for a food rebellion, I can’t help admit that quinoa really is quite fabulous. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, “blank canvas food” is the best. Sure, on its own it bland and boring, but with the proper technique and ingredients you can transform it into something beyond great. I’m obsessed with my sweet and sour chicken. It’s one of those recipes that tastes like cheat food but is deceivingly healthy and low-carb. This recipe is the perfect partner in crime. 1 serving of both will only cost you about 450 cals. #winning
- 1 cup quinoa ($2.50)
- 1 ½ cups water
- ¼ small onion, chopped ($.50)
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped ($.20)
- 3 scallions, chopped ($.10)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced ($.20)
- ½ teaspoon fresh ginger, minced ($.20)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil ($.10)
- 2 eggs ($.75)
- ½ cup frozen peas ($.50)
- 1 ½ tablespoons teriyaki sauce ($.25)
- 2 ½ tablespoons soy sauce ($.20)
- ¾ teaspoon sesame oil ($.20)
- Bring quinoa and water in a medium saucepan, and then reduce to a simmer
- Simmer for 15-20 minutes until quinoa is fluffy and cooked through. Remove from heat and let set for five minutes or so. Fluff with a fork.
- Mix teriyaki, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Heat ½ tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan over a high heat. Add onion and carrot, cook about two minutes. Add 2 scallions, garlic and ginger to the pan. Cook another two minutes. Add in the rest of the olive oil and the quinoa. Stir-fry about two minutes. Add sauce and stir-fry until incorporated, about two minutes. Make a well in the center of the quinoa pour eggs in, scramble. Add in peas, then toss everything together until the peas are warmed through, add remaining scallion and serve.
Tonight I had a classic single girl’s dinner. I was in no mood for take-out. Well, that’s not true, I was in the mood for takeout-like food, but I wanted it to be a little healthier and also didn’t want to buy a million groceries. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want to take credit for this dish, but you could probably trick your friends into thinking you picked up dinner at your favorite Chinese restaurant… it is that good. I love that this super Americanized dish is baked– you’re getting all that great flavor without the added fat and grease from frying. Baking it on low(ish) heat for 45 minutes also allows the chicken to become very tender and the sauce perfectly caramelized. The sauce does have a little more sugar than I would normally use, but it’s necessary for the taste/ consistency. I think next time I will try experimenting with Stevia. I served this over fried rice, recipe below.
- 3-4 boneless chicken cutlets ($5.40)
- salt + pepper
- 1 cup cornstarch ($.75)
- 1 egg, beaten ($.25)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil ($.25)
- 3/4 C sugar ($.50)
- 4 tbs ketchup ($.10)
- 1/2 C white vinegar ($.20)
- 1 tbs soy sauce ($.05)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Rinse your chicken breasts in water, pat dry with paper towel, and then cut into cubes or strips. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dip chicken into the cornstarch to coat then dip into egg. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet and cook your chicken until browned but not cooked through, about 6 minutes. Place the chicken in a greased baking dish. Mix all of your sweet and sour sauce ingredients in a bowl then pour evenly over the chicken. Bake for 45 minutes and during the baking process you will need to turn the chicken every 15 minutes.
- 3 C cooked white rice ($1.50)
- 3 tbs sesame oil ($.50)
- 1 cup frozen peas and carrots ($.50)
- 1 small onion, chopped ($.40)
- 2 tsp minced garlic ($.20)
- 2 eggs, beaten ($.50)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce ($.40)
On medium-high, heat the sesame oil in a wok or skillet. Add the onion and garlic, cook 1 minute, then add peas and carrots. Stir fry until tender. Lower the heat to medium low and push the mixture off to one side, then pour your eggs on the other side of skillet and stir fry until scrambled. Add the rice and soy sauce and blend all together well. Stir fry 2 minutes.