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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Easy Tex-Mex Style Quinoa (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free)

I simply cannot go too long without a mexican style dish. And by too long I mean 2 days. Tex-mex cuisine, which I realize isn't authentic mexican food, was a huge part of my upbringing so mexican flavors run in my blood. I've consumed more chicken fajita dinners and cheese enchiladas than you could imagine. That's an easy fix as a vegan now though. Veggie fajitas are stellar as are avocado enchiladas!

Most tex-mex dishes are loaded with meat, cheese, GMO corn, hydrogenated oils, and white flour tortillas. Luckily, it is pretty simple to recreate tex-mex cuisine with the help of some superstar spices, cilantro, salsa, and avocados. If you love mexican food as much as I do, I think you'll fall in love with this simple dish loaded with mexican food flavor. Plus, you're covered in the protein department thanks to the quinoa, which is a complete protein. 1 cup cooked provides 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Not to mention it's a good source of calcium, magnesium, zinc, and other minerals as well as B vitamins. Find out more about my favorite whole grain on this post!

It is blowing my mind that Thanksgiving is in a few weeks. I've gotta get myself together guys. I have to admit, I'm a little nervous about how I'm going to handle myself around the spread of traditional Thanksgiving food, considering that this will be my first time as a gluten-free vegan at Thanksgiving. I cannot ask my family not to eat animal products or else they'd throw me outside to fend for myself on plants and flowers. So, I shall come prepared, well-equipped with a bullet-proof vest in tow and ready to impress with my gluten-free vegan cooking that will taste just as good as the other... *gasp*... offerings. And then they'll wonder what my magic ingredient is that makes you NOT slip into a food coma after eating it. What will I miss most you ask? Stuffing & honey biscuits. But that kind of thing only motivates me to find/create healthier, gluten-free vegan alternatives. Bring. It.

Today's ingredient spotlight goes to...

• Cayenne Pepper - I have to start out by saying this: use this fiery spice sparingly! It can ruin a dish if it's overdone and believe me when I say it's easy to overdo it. A pinch will do to start and work up from there in "pinch" increments until you reach your limit. If you don't like spicy foods or if your body doesn't agree with them, stay away! Cayenne pepper's benefits are outstanding, however. First off, it is a good source of vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K as well as calcium, potassium and beta-carotene. This potent spice is beneficial for heart health as it improves blood circulation by dilating blood vessels. In addition, it has actually been found to lower high blood pressure quite quickly and effectively and thus may reduce hypertension. It also breaks up mucus, removes toxins from the body and improves digestion.

Even more impressive, cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, which this study found destroys cancer cells in a process called apoptosis. Lastly, it possesses anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce arthritis pain. It can serve as a major health booster in nearly any dish with just a pinch. ;-)

• Cilantro - This herb is truly a gem. It is best known for cleansing out toxic heavy metals in the body such as mercury, arsenic, aluminum, lead, and others. Heavy metals are accumulated through vaccines, metal teeth fillings, non-organic food, fish, contaminated water, smoking cigarettes or second-hand smoke, deodorants, and cooking food in aluminum foil, and have been linked to cancer, heart, kidney and lung disease, weak bones, and emotional illness. The organic acids in cilantro support cardiovascular health by helping to lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and increase good (HDL) cholesterol and thus reducing hypertension. It's also great for diabetics as it stabilizes blood sugar levels. Because of its antioxidant content, it helps to protect our cells from free radical damage, which can cause chronic illness down the road and premature aging.

For someone who has suffered from dermatitis, I was pleased to find that cilantro also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, which also benefits those who have eczema. If all of those amazing qualities weren't enough, cilantro also acts as a natural deodorant due to its high chlorophyll content, which helps to remove toxins and excess bacteria through the liver and kidneys instead of through sweat.

I have to incorporate cilantro in all mexican style dishes I make or it's just not the same! It lends a wonderful flavor and as described above, incredible nutritional value. You can also juice it along with other veggies or add it to smoothies and in salads.

Tex-Mex Style Quinoa
Adapted from this recipe

• 1 cup quinoa, soaked overnight
• 1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
• 1/3 cup yellow onion, finely diced or 1 shallot, minced
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 Tbs chili powder
• 1 tsp cumin
• 1 tsp paprika
• 1/2 + 1/4 tsp sea salt, divided
• Pinch of cayenne pepper
• 1 red bell pepper, diced
• Juice from 1/2 lime
• 2 Tbs cilantro, coarsely chopped (add more for topping)
• Avocado, for topping
• Mushrooms, lentils, eggplant, or tempeh (optional)

1. Transfer the quinoa to a strainer and thoroughly rinse off the soak water. In a small or medium sauce pan, bring the quinoa, vegetable broth and 1/4 tsp sea salt to a boil. Turn the heat to low and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Set aside uncovered for 5-10 minutes to cool. Fluff with a fork.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, sauté the onion, garlic or shallot and optional ingredients (mushrooms, lentils, eggplant, or tempeh) over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, or until tender. You may use 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (coconut oil doesn't quite work with this dish unfortunately) or water sauté, like I do, with 1-2 Tbs water.
3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, and 1/2 tsp sea salt and mix well. In another small bowl, combine the lime juice, red bell pepper and cilantro and mix well.
4. Add the sautéed onions, garlic and optional ingredients, spices and "salsa" mixture to the quinoa and mix well. Top with avocado and cilantro and serve.

"A ship in port is safe but that is not what ships are built for." Grace Hopper

This quote really resonates with me. Vulnerability, to be exposed, truly seen and open, is incredibly terrifying because most of us feel ashamed or insecure about who we really are but vulnerability strips us down and gives us the chance to experience connection with others that we would never have otherwise. Brené Brown speaks to this so beautifully. I encourage you to check out her TED talk if you're not one of the millions of people who have seen it already. :-)


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