my first quinoa experience

So, I’ve never made quinoa before. I’ve never really even eaten it. But, this recipe http://pinchofyum.com/spicy-sweet-squash-bowl looked way too delicious to resist! I gave it a try and boy did it pay off. This is an awesome, healthy meal that has the perfect combination of sweet and spicy to make your tummy happy!

To start, I got out all of my ingredients (so I could take a picture of course!!):

If you compare the original list of ingredients with my picture, you’ll notice a couple differences (shocking… I know). I used chicken broth instead of vegetable stock because I’m not a vegetarian. Also, the white sugar and brown sugar didn’t quite make the picture (oops!). Anyway, I grabbed some spinach, butternut squash, cilantro, olive oil, quinoa, cinnamon, curry powder, cayenne pepper, white sugar and brown sugar. Other important ingredients to note include: some beautiful friends to cook for…

…and a lovely glass of wine for the cook (that’s me!). 🙂

Anyway, first things first, I started my oven pre-heating to 400 degrees. Then, I cut up my butternut squash.

If you are not an expert butternut squash cutter, I highly recommend you read this blog post: http://www.kalynskitchen.com/2008/10/how-to-peel-and-cut-up-butternut-squash.html. Before I read that post, I clumsily cut up several butternut squash while cursing them for being so hard to cut. It was bad. I’m lucky to still have all of my fingers. Thank goodness for the author of that blog. I have to keep my future surgeon (ha!) hands intact! Anyway, I cubed up my butternut squash and threw it in a bowl.

Since I am a bad recipe reader and like to make things up as I go, I tossed the squash with a salt, pepper and a little olive oil. If you read the original recipe, you will see that what I really SHOULD have done was toss it with 1 tsp of white sugar, 1/4 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp of curry, and a little olive oil. Meh… I fixed it later. So, it all worked out! I spread the squash out on a cookie sheet with foil on it. I recommend putting foil on your cookie sheet if you make this recipe. The squash and sugar make for a pan that is hard to clean! No one likes hard-to-clean pans. No one.

I put the squash in my 400 degree oven and set a timer for 20 minutes. I always set timers. I forget things otherwise. And burnt squash is bad news. After 20 minutes, I took the squash out and gave it a stir. At this time, I also added the cinnamon, white sugar, and curry powder that I was supposed to add at the beginning (oops!). Then, I put the squash back in the oven for another 20 minutes. While the squash was cooking, I got the other ingredients ready…

I chopped up some cilantro. The recipe calls for one “bunch of cilantro”. I didn’t really know what that meant, so I just grabbed a big handful. I figured if it was too much, it would be ok. In my opinion, it’s always better to err on the side of too much cilantro.

After that, I tore up some spinach into a big bowl. Eventually, all of the ingredients will go into this bowl and I like to do as few dishes as possible. About this time is when I took the squash out to stir it (after the first 20 minutes). I knew I had about 20 minutes left and that the quinoa would take about 20 minutes to cook, so I started it cooking. Since I had never made quinoa before, I turned to http://www.ehow.com to teach me how (http://www.ehow.com/how_4514031_cook-quinoa.html). I didn’t take any awesome pictures of this, but this is what I did:

  1. I started 1 cup chicken broth + 3/4 cup water heating to a boil on my stove.
  2. To the broth/water mixture, I added 2 tsp curry powder, 1/2 tbsp brown sugar and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper.
  3. Once the broth/water mixture started boiling, I added 1 cup of dry quinoa. I turned the heat down to medium-low and let it simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes. Ehow.com told me to simmer for 12 minutes, but it didn’t quite look done so I let it go a little longer.

This is what it looked like when it was done:

Not super pretty, but it sure was yummy! Next, it was time to take the butternut squash out of the oven…

Beautiful! Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: time to combine all of the ingredients! I added the cilantro, squash, and quinoa to the bowl with the spinach.

Then, I gave it a real good stir. Since the squash and quinoa were still hot, it wilted the spinach and cilantro to perfection:

Finally, I served it up:

I topped the quinoa with a big dollop of white bean hummus that I made the night before. I didn’t take pictures, but it was really easy. I just threw a can of cannellini beans (drained and washed), 1/4 cup chicken broth, 1/2 tbsp olive oil, 1 clove of garlic, salt and pepper into my food processor. Et voila! Delicious White Bean Hummus!

Now: it’s time to tell on myself. The original recipe calls for the quinoa to also be topped with toasted pecans. I didn’t have pecans so I decided that walnuts would work. After I took the squash out of the oven, I put the walnuts in to toast. However, I forgot to set a timer (this is why I always set timers…) and I forgot about them until they started smelling and smoking up my little one bedroom apartment. This is what happened:

OOPS!!! To make matters worse, my friend Sully who was over is deathly allergic to walnuts, so we were worried that she was going to go into anaphylactic shock from the walnut smoke in my apartment! It was a scary 5 minutes. Smoke alarms going off… rushing the pan outside… fanning smoke outside… Eeek! Luckily, there was no anaphylactic shock AND the quinoa was delicious without any dang toasted nuts on top of it!

This dish got rave reviews from my guests and, personally, it’s one of my new faves. It’s the perfect combination of spicy and sweet and the white bean hummus really adds another layer of awesome. If you make this, don’t leave off the hummus! Although, to make life easier I might use normal store-bought hummus next time. Oh, and there will most definitely be a “next time” for this dish in my kitchen!

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