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Things get a little crazy, when things get a little crazy and when things feel a little out of control in my neck of the woods, the simple act of making something familiar in the kitchen can bring everything back to normal. Today the simple act of washing and chopping, measuring and simmering made the hectic pace of the last few weeks slow down for one beautiful understated hour of Zen. Yes, today I turned eight cups of cooked Quinoa into a me moment.

Quinoa is one of my favorite foods. Not only for it’s zappy name and nutty flavor, but for it’s amazing versatility. Really, what other grain can be a breakfast food, a salad, soup, side dish and dessert? Not to mention main course. It has twice the fiber of pasta and brown rice, as much protein as milk, covers you in the magnesium department and has high amounts of amino acid lysine, which is important for muscle growth (psst… this also means it’s a complete protein.) Yes, the Incan Empire had a lot going for them in the grain department 500 years ago and lucky for us, their super food is still available to us today.

I am sure many of you out there look at Quinoa and go “Well, I don’t even know how to pronounce that… much less how to cook it” and simply move down the grocery aisle. I am usually weary of foods as well with names I have trouble pronouncing. For example, Salmon. I am still, to this day trying to get past that one. Good thing for you, Quinoa is easier to prepare than Salmon and so much easier to pronounce. Repeat after me, “KEEN-wah”. Now this, “AMAZE-ing”. The best news yet it that you prepare it much like rice: Boil, Simmer, Season. And it’s done in 20 minutes or less. Pow! Three of my favorite ways to prepare Quinoa are are follows:

Harvest Morning Quinoa

Quinoa Taboule

Fiesta Quinoa

The first I made up myself, the second I copied from Bob’s Red Mill and the third was altered from a rice dish in Clean Eating Magazine. All of them delish, quick and simple. One of them Sweet, one Savory and one a little of both. They all start with the same base:

1 to 2 cups pre cooked, cooled organic Quinoa.

Loreli’s Harvest Morning Quinoa

2 cups cooked cooled Quinoa

1 Apple Chopped

1 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Juice of One Lemon

1 Tbsp Silvered Almonds

2 Tbsp Dried Mixed Fruit Pieces

Step one: Place chopped Apple, Brown Sugar and Lemon Juice in a wide mouth mason jar, secure lid and shake to coat apple pieces. Add the apple mixture to the Quinoa. Add both the almonds and dried fruit. Mix well. Enjoy or divide into two to four containers to save for later. Can be enjoyed warmed or straight from the fridge.

Bob’s Red Mill Quinoa Taboule

2 cups cooled cooked Quinoa

1/8 tsp White Pepper

1 cup chopped Parsley

1/2 cup chopped Scallions or Green Onions

2 Tbsp chopped fresh Mint (or 1 tsp.dried)

1 Garlic Clove, minced or pressed

1 Tbsp minced fresh Basil (or 1/2 tsp. dried)

1/2 cup fresh Lemon Juice

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 tsp Salt

Mix all the ingredients together and let chill for one hour before serving.

Fiesta Quinoa

2 cups cooled cooked Quinoa

1 8oz can of No Sodium Corn drained and rinsed

1 Orange Pepper, Chopped

3 Green Onions, Chopped

1/4 cup Dried Cranberries

1 Carrot, Sliced

3 Tbsp Fresh Parsley

1 Clove Garlic Minced

4 Tbsp Low Sodium Soy Sauce

Juice of One Lemon

1/2 Cup Olive Oil

1/4 Cup Slivered Almonds

1/4 Cup Roasted Sunflower Seeds

Black Pepper to Taste

Mix Garlic, Soy Sauce, Lemon and oil in a small bowl. Let sit while you combine Quinoa, Corn, Pepper, Onions, Berries, Carrot and Parsley. Add Dressing. Toss in seeds and nuts and season with black pepper. Serve or save personal portions in mason jars in fridge.

Three different tastes, from one simple to make base. In the am I will put my Harvest Morning Quinoa in a bowl, add a splash of milk and warm it in the microwave. On Monday I will bring a jar of Quinoa Taboule to work for Lunch… and maybe dinner. It will not only taste fantastic but help me feel fantastic. And is that not what food is for? To fuel us and assist in making us preform to our best ability? I believe it is. Take a moment to think about what you are going to fuel yourself with this week. Make sure the road ahead is full of color, texture and love.

When we no longer have good cooking in the world, we will have no literature, nor high and sharp intelligence, nor friendly gatherings, no social harmony.

Marie-Antoine Carême

Loreli De Leon

Personal Training Manager at Merritt Clubs White Marsh