Welcome to day 23 of 30 Days to a Food Revolution. Today’s guest blogger is Alta. Alta Mantsch started Tasty Eats At Home simply as a way to share recipes with family and friends. But after dealing with worsening health issues, and understanding the ill effects gluten caused on her other family members (her father, sister, and brother were all gluten-intolerant), in June 2009 she decided to remove gluten from her diet in an effort to find wellness once again. Soon after, she was on the road to healing, and now focuses her efforts at Tasty Eats At Home on sharing nourishing, delicious gluten-free food that will bring your heart joy and that the family will actually EAT!
Alta’s Recipe: Quinoa Salad with Spinach, Raisins and Walnuts
Alta’s Tip: Get Creative!
Often times, when I am chatting with regular people – you know, the ones that don’t spend all day conjuring up recipes in their heads like I do – they sigh and proclaim that it’s just so difficult to eat healthy. It’s just so expensive. It gets boring, eating salads all the time. It takes too much time. And so instead, they reach for the nearest pre-packaged, processed meal available – and if they’re trying to be “healthy”, they’ll go so far as to look for something that proclaims that it’s “made with whole grain”, has “added fiber”, is “healthy” or “lean” or has a stamp proclaiming it to be a healthy choice. (Chances are, they’ve also just paid $5-6 for a single serving of something that is loaded with preservatives, sodium, and of little nutritional value.) And when you ask them how it tastes, they say “oh, it’s not bad.”
Not bad? As someone who LOVES to eat, I would be so discouraged to subsist on “not bad” food. Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a better way, and it doesn’t take hours in the kitchen, it doesn’t cost a lot, it doesn’t involve all lettuce, all the time. It just takes a bit of creativity to enjoy healthy, delicious meals on a budget. It takes a little thinking not only outside the bun, but also outside the box, the paper bag, and the cellophane wrappers.
When I was faced with the reality that I would have to be gluten-free for life, I will admit that I had a moment of “mourning”. But then I came to the realization that this would prove a challenge – and I embraced that challenge! Since then, I’ve implemented a lot of creativity and frugal practices in the kitchen that serve me well, and I promise you, I don’t feel deprived.
At the end of every week, before I head to the grocery, I survey what I have in the kitchen. What did we not finish up? Are there vegetables that need to be used? Meat in the fridge or freezer? What’s in the pantry? I make note of these things, check out the ads for the rock-bottom sales, and I think about what to make with what I already have on hand, and if necessary, purchasing ingredients that are on sale. I look at our schedule for the week to determine what nights I’ll be cooking, and what nights we’ll have to eat leftovers, use the slow-cooker, or prepare something super-quick. If I have vegetables that need to be used ASAP, then they are incorporated into a recipe that night or the following night. If I have leftover cooked meat, rice, etc. I will work to find a way to change it up and use it in a different recipe. I plan meals using these ingredients and schedule them for different nights of the week, depending on what kind of time I have available to cook. And I’m not ashamed to admit it, but many times I will draw a blank on what to make with a certain ingredient, and I’ll simply search Google for recipe ideas. I do the same for our lunches (we typically pack leftovers, salads, and a compilation of healthy snacks, such as hard-boiled eggs, fruit, cut-up veggies, etc.) This process doesn’t take me too long, and then I’m ready to head to the store. What’s better? I’ve finished all that hard thinking for the week. I can rely upon my meal plan, and there isn’t a daily panic, wondering what to make for dinner. I can relax.
This routine works well for me, and we stay within budget. But sometimes, there are days when for some reason, the weekly grocery shopping trip has been pushed out an extra day or two. I’ve prepared all of the planned meals. In our previous life, this is when we’d be tempted to call and have something like pizza delivered, or we would swing by a drive-thru. But there’s still a better way – if you get creative. This is when a recipe like this quinoa salad is created. Once again, if you survey what is available in your pantry, then many times, entirely new ideas form, and you can make something out of “there’s nothing to eat!” It’s entirely a shift in thinking, yes, but your body and your wallet will thank you for it.
Quinoa is a great little pantry staple to have on hand. It’s high in fiber, high in protein, full of vitamins, and cooks up in 15 minutes. It’s a great change from rice, and can be a gluten-free stand-in for couscous or bulgur in dishes. I love that it’s so versatile. It will take on a variety of flavors, so in a salad such as this, you can really throw in any number of ingredients – whatever you have on hand – and it’ll be a great, easy, nutritious meal.
Quinoa Salad with Spinach, Raisins, and Walnuts
1 T olive oil
2 T minced red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 c quinoa, rinsed (rinsing is to remove the bitterness from the seeds)
1 ½ T golden raisins
1 ½ T dried currants
1 2/3 c water
1 c frozen chopped spinach, thawed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
¼ c toasted chopped walnuts
2 T chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 T good quality extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
3 oz feta or goat cheese
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil to medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until soft. Add the quinoa and continue to sauté for another minute or so. Add the raisins, currants and water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook until water is nearly absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in spinach and cover again and let cook another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, walnuts, and parsley. Season generously to taste. Drizzle olive oil over and stir in. Serve chilled or at room temperature, topped with a bit of feta.
In order to be entered to win one of 7 cookbooks, here’s what you need to do to gather entries into the drawing. The more you do, the more chances you have to win!
- Leave a comment on this blog on as many of the 30 guest food bloggers as you like. Each comment is an entry.
- Sign up for The W.H.O.L.E. Gang newsletter.
- Visit that guest blogger’s site and leave a comment there too.
- Tweet about this project using both of these in your tweet so I’ll find you #30days2 #foodrevolution
When the initial 30 days of guest posts are over on June 4th, we’ll pick the winners.