Monday, February 10, 2014

Recipe: Quinoa With Sweet Potato & Dandelion Greens

Everyone knows that quinoa is not only delicious but super healthy, and my husband and I count ourselves among the quinoa devotees. We eat a lot of quinoa in my house! Quinoa is frequently used as a side dish or as a replacement for rice, but I have rarely served it as any kind of main dish.

I'm always impressed by how healthy and vibrant quinoa salad recipes look, but here's the thing (well, a couple of things): First of all, I'm a comfort food girl and a hearty eater. I try to eat healthy, but when it comes down to it, I can't eat just a salad, ever, and be satisfied. I need warm, filling food! Therefore, the cold quinoa salads just look like a nice little snack to me. Secondly, I'm a shamefully picky eater, considering how much I try to eat healthy foods. I have dislikes that border on blatant faux pas, and a long list of food texture issues. For example, I absolutely will not eat raw onion. I will barely eat cooked onion. I have to chop mine very finely in the food processor so that I can forget that it's in my food. I feel like so many quinoa salad recipes rely pretty heavily on raw onion, and that's a huge NOPE for me.

Looks gorgeous, right? Yes, but I see raw onion (NOPE), cucumber (MEH sometimes), and mint (MEH sometimes). But if you're into that sort of thing, the recipe link is above.
I'm pretty much a 5-year-old trying to eat healthy.

But I digress. The point is that I came across this recipe on Pinterest a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn't get it off of my mind. (This blog, Climbing Grier Mountain, has a ton of insanely amazing looking recipes that I'm excited to try. Go check it out!) Was it finally the quinoa "salad" that I was looking for? I say "salad" in quotes because this is definitely more of a main dish as far as I'm concerned. The roasted squash, the sauteed dandelion greens, and the quinoa, all served warm, with a whole-grain mustard vinaigrette, is overall not very salad-y. It seemed so gosh-dang cozy! I knew I had to try it.

I tweaked the recipe a little bit. I decided to use sweet potato instead of squash, because I love sweet potato, and I didn't feel like dealing with squash. I skipped the onion because it's raw and NOPE. It seemed like more of a garnish, anyway, and I didn't feel like I was totally compromising the integrity of the recipe by omitting it.

Anyway, enough of my yakkin'. Now I'm going to show you how I made it! First, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees to roast my sweet potatoes. I don't know why I chose 400, but it worked. A lot of my cooking is totally off-the-cuff. Next, I combined 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan, covered it, and set it to boil. Once it rose to a boil, I turned the heat down to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes while I was doing my other prep. Once it had simmered 15 minutes, I took it off the heat and let it stand for at least 5 minutes.

This is one reason why I love quinoa. It's so easy and quick.

While the quinoa was cooking, I got my sweet potatoes ready to cook.

First, I peeled the sweet potatoes. Well, I whined internally about it for a moment, and then started peeling, and I hated every minute of it. I loathe peeling potatoes. It might be that I need to get a nicer peeler, but as it is, I would rather do almost anything than peel potatoes.

Once the sweet potatoes were finally peeled, I diced them up into small pieces and coated them with just a bit of olive oil. Then I spread them out in a single layer on a foil-lined pan and popped them in the oven for about 20 minutes or until they could be easily stabbed with a fork.

While the sweet potatoes were roasting, I prepared my dandelion greens. This was my first time cooking with dandelion greens, and I'm not going to lie, it made me feel super rustic, which I loved. It was like I had gone out a-gatherin' in the field to find greens for dinner. Didn't Katniss Everdeen survive on dandelion greens for awhile? That may be the singular reason why I was drawn to this recipe, now that I think about it. After rinsing the greens, I trimmed them, which I honestly had no actual idea how to do. So I just chopped off the stems that were long and tough, and then cut the rest into pieces a few inches long.

Once the greens were prepped, I minced some garlic and heated up a skillet on medium heat. I sauteed the greens with the garlic and 1 tbsp of olive oil until tender and wilted.

I removed the greens from the heat and set them aside. Somewhere around this time, I removed the quinoa from the heat and set it aside as well. Then I got to work on the whole grain mustard vinaigrette. I combined 1/4 cup of olive oil with 2 tbsp whole grain mustard, 1 tsp of red wine vinegar, a squeeze of fresh lemon, and a little bit of salt and pepper, then whisked it all together. I set this aside for later.

I can't even explain to you how good that dressing smells and tastes. It's kind of like honey mustard. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. By this time, the quinoa had sat long enough, so I fluffed it with a fork. I then removed the sweet potatoes from the oven, and combined them with the quinoa.

Now, to assemble the dish. Because I was preparing this for work lunches, I divided it into two Pyrex containers. First is the quinoa and sweet potato mixture, then the sauteed greens, then it's topped with the whole grain mustard vinaigrette. 

Even though I had dinner in the works, I couldn't resist making up a little bowl of this to try, and boy, is it delicious! The tastes all really come together in this satisfying, filling dish. The fluffy quinoa with the sweet potatoes topped with the slightly bitter garlicky greens all covered with the tangy whole grain mustard vinaigrette dressing - it's the perfect wintry quinoa main dish. I've been converted.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

2014 and The Warrior Energy Of The Swords

Every New Year's Eve, I do a big tarot reading for the upcoming year so that I can get an idea of what's coming for me, energetically. I focus on the year ahead, shuffle my tarot cards, and then I do a layout with one card for each month of the year. NYE 2013 was much the same for me, and here's what I got for 2014:

At first, I was a little freaked out by my 2014 reading, and with good reason, I might say. Do you see all of those swords? Swords are considered by many to be the most difficult suit of the tarot deck, and while I actually love the air element and swords (I'm a Libra cusp and Aquarius rising), I know that it's not the easiest element to be immersed in. I even consider the Queen of Swords to be my tarot card! I have so much air influence that getting out of my head is one of my big life challenges, which I've been working on for about as long as I can remember, with fairly good success. From that standpoint, I wasn't too happy to see that apparently I was facing a whole year of dealing with the same issue! 2013 was a huge year for me, full of excitement, ups and downs, and many momentous events, so I was kiiiind of looking forward to relaxing a little and coasting through 2014.

But, you know, when does the universe ever want us to coast? Furthermore, when do we ever really want to coast? It may seem like a great idea for awhile, but at some point you gotta keep doing the work and moving forward. With this in mind, I tried to stay calm and spent the next few days really thinking about the suit of swords, and meditating on what facing a year with half of its focus on swords would mean for me.

I started thinking about my goals for 2014. While I firmly believe that my goals are all within my reach, I definitely wasn't a slouch in the department of dreaming big for myself when I set my intentions for the year. I achieved two things in 2013 that I never, ever thought that I would be able to do: the first was quitting caffeine, and the second was running my first 5K. I cannot overemphasize how much these two achievements had previously seemed completely out of reach for me. I had spent the better part of the last decade [seemingly] hopelessly dependent on caffeine, and I had spent my entire life being told - and worse, believing - that I was naturally unathletic. When I finally set my mind to both of these pursuits and succeeded, it was through sheer force of will. In fact, ever since then, my husband has repeatedly affirmed about me: "You have the most willpower of anyone I know." 

With the pride of those accomplishments glowing within, I set my sights high for 2014 with a few more audacious goals. The difference this year is that now I *know* that if I just focus my intention on it, that I can accomplish anything. The reason why I was able to accomplish those two huge goals in 2013 was because I simply made myself keep working at them, and I wouldn't give up. And I eventually realized how the Sword energy is set to support me this upcoming year. Many associate Swords with mental patterns and thought processes, and since overthinking is usually a bad thing, this evokes a feeling of turmoil. However, the Swords are also associated with ambition, courage, and force of will, and these can be some of the most important elements in achieving our dreams. It's the part of you that just does it and keeps doing it no matter what; it's the drive. 

Furthermore, I came to realize that the energy of the swords is that of the warrior. The aforementioned ambition and courage, along with a disciplined refinement of focus, are what make the warrior victorious, and that is what I know to be the key to my own successes. The warrior aspect of the swords is subtle but makes all the difference between daydreaming, obsessing, and overthinking versus planning, executing, determination, and ultimate accomplishment. It makes me feel very confident and supported to know that I can tap into the sword warrior energy in 2014.

What will you do this year with the sword warrior by your side?