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.
For more creative ideas go to Tasty Eats at Home.
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.
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- Visit that guest blogger’s site and leave a comment there too.
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When the initial 30 days of guest posts are over on June 4th, we’ll pick the winners.
Great post, Alta. I lmust try your quinoa salad recipe.
Great post and great reminders. Many's a day when I've stood at the cupboard or fridge and realized I needed to get creative with what we have. I'm glad to hear that others do it, too!
This recipe looks great. I need to become more organized in my menu planning for the week. This is a good reminder.
great recipe..gonna try this…
Great post, Alta! I'm always amazed at those folks who are willing to accept "not bad" and "oooo-kay," too. I keep hoping they'll have a food awakening. 😉
I've found that some of my best moments and dishes/recipes have come from being stumped for a moment or trying to use ingredients on hand. I think you are one of the most creative cooks around! But, yet you keep it simple, too–love that! This quinoa salad is a perfect example. A few different flavors put together to make a beautiful and delicious dish–yum. 🙂
I love your post! And I love quinoa! Quinoa is a major gift for Celiacs or those who need/want to eat gluten free. You called it right, it's definitely a nutritional powerhouse, and so darn easy to cook. My most favorite way to cook it is in the pressure cooker. After you bring it up to high pressure (which doesn't take more than a few minutes), it cooks for ONE MINUTE! That's it! And then you let the pressure come down naturally which takes about 10 minutes. If you want to serve it as a cold dish, put it on a flat baking tray and then balance it over a large bowl filled with ice and water. Within 15 – 20 minutes, it will have come to room temperature. And quinoa subs so beautifully for other grains.
Well, I've gone on a bit more than I'd intended, but as you can tell, I'm totally a fan of quinoa! Thanks Alta for your great post and recipe!
Thanks for the recipe! I agree…basing "healthy" choices on packaging labels is dangerously deceptive. "Natural" products can still be full of high-fructose corn syrup. "Low-fat" foods can still be loaded with sugar. "Healthy" foods can be so processed that they have little nutritional value. And you're right…they're usually just "okay". Yay for truly healthy, home-made foods! I bring healthy foods to potlucks (so that I don't have to go hungry, lol) and they are well-received….it's my hope that my friends realize that healthy foods taste great and don't have to be super-expensive.
Michelle, mama, Cindy – Thank you!
Iris – Agreed! I do "cheat" sometimes and refer to The Flavor Bible http://www.amazon.com/Flavor-Bible-Essential-Crea… for inspiration and flavor combining…
Shirley – You always make my day with your glowing comments! Thank you!
Ellen – One minute? I SO need a pressure cooker!
Christa – Couldn't agree more!
Great post and reminder! I'll have to try that recipe. Thanks!
Nisrine – Thank you! I hope you do try it, or a version of it. Let me know how you like it!
Deanna – Its one of those things that requires more discipline than just throwing your hands up and saying “there’s nothing to eat!” I think it’s time that we implement another “let’s clean the pantry” session at our house – where we REALLY dig and make meal after meal out of “nothing”. 🙂
this salad looks delicious. we love quinoa.
Great post Alta! Right now I’m doing just what you said…getting creative with what I have left in the fridge. There’s not much in there, so I feel sort of like I’m doing one of those Food Channel challenges. What can I make with all these random ingredients? Will it be any good? Who know…but it’s fun to try, right? 🙂
Janette – Thank you!
Jenna – I eat quinoa for breakfast quite often! I also love quinoa flakes as a sub for oatmeal. Yum!
Hmmm…. quinoa. We’ve been adding it to our meals more often and it is a great start for any meal – including breakfast.
Love the idea of quinoa salad followed by avocado ice cream! 🙂 Great posts, both of them!
glutenfreeforgood – Thank you! The combination would make a great vegetarian, gluten-free, healthy meal!
I am always searching for quinoa recipes.
Alta, thanks for the nudge to get planning again! Why do I find this so hard? Probably because I don't have a disciplined bone in my body : ) Come 4:00 I would be a lot less stressed if I just spent an hour or two planning for the week. Nice post! Thanks!
Thanks for this great post! Lots of good, useful information.
Wow, this looks tasty! I know what you mean about talking to 'regular' people. That made me chuckle, cause its so true! 🙂 I do wish more people would realize the market gimmicks and what real health means though. Great post!
This looks so good! It's tough some nights, isn't it. My trick for that "pull something together" moment is to first chop up some raw vegetables and put them out on the table. SAY NOTHING! Then the kids snack on when they head to the table to ask what's for dinner. (If I mention the veggies, they won't touch them.) Then I have to figure out what to do next…. I've got to sneak the quinoa in with the kids, but here's another one to try…