Posts Tagged by quinoa

Making a Gluten-Lover into a Quinoa Pasta Believer: review and giveaway

[Giveaway closed. Thank you to all who entered!!]

As a carbo-loving, Italian, vegetarian runner, it will surprise no one to hear that pasta is my absolute favorite meal. I try to keep it balanced, but truthfully I’d eat pasta every day if I could, particularly when paired with cheese. (Side note: Is it still appropriate to carbo-load when growing a baby?)

Most of the time I try to make my meals healthier by eating the whole wheat variety. If I’m going to eat pasta, I figure I might as well try to pack it with as many nutrients (and extra protein) as I can. But the truth is –when it comes to taste, nothing quite compares to homemade white pasta and marinara sauce. So when I was first given the opportunity to try Selina Naturally’s Quinoa Pasta, I was more than a little doubtful. First of all, because I love gluten and the idea of a gluten-free pasta was less than appetizing. And secondly, because I’ve tried quinoa pastas in the past and have honestly been disappointed. In my limited experience, quinoa pastas might look like pasta, but they still taste like (you guessed it!) quinoa. A good alternative if you want to add variety to your meal or avoid gluten, but not a true replacement.

selina naturally quinoa penne

So when I say that Selina Naturally blew away all my expectations with their gluten-free pasta, I am not exaggerating. They’ve somehow created a pasta alternative that made this gluten-loving, carbo-holic fall in love. I would choose to eat their quinoa pasta over regular store-bought pasta any day of the week, and here’s why:

It doesn’t taste like quinoa

Don’t get me wrong…I love quinoa and make meals with it on a regular basis. But when I make a pasta dish, I want something that tastes like pasta. Quinoa has a very distinctive flavor that doesn’t always go well with pasta dishes. I think it may be the combination of rice and quinoa in the ingredients that lessens some of that strong flavor you find with other quinoa pastas.

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It’s versatile

This pasta is the perfect vehicle for any type of sauce — marinara, pesto, alfredo, olive oil + Celtic Sea Salt® – you name it, the pasta will soak it up. Sometimes, especially with the whole wheat variety, the flavor of the pasta can overpower the taste of your sauce. I love how the quinoa pasta is a chameleon – taking on any flavor.

Selina Naturally quinoa penne

It’s absorbent

Incredibly so! I tried making soup with it and this was the result:

black bean soup_quinoa pasta.jpgObjects in pot are more delicious than they appear

Black bean soup turned into a super flavorful black bean pasta dish. Not complaining, though next time I’d use more broth and less pasta if I actually wanted a soup.

It’s packed with protein

selina naturally quinoa pasta nutrition

6 grams per serving and I easily eat more than one serving at a time. The bag claims to contain 8, but I beg to differ (each 1 pound bag seems to get us 4 – 5 servings…feel free to make judgements about our eating habits based on that statement).

It’s organic and made with non-GMO ingredients

So you can feel good about eating it!

selina naturally quinoa pasta marinara

And it has the EC-seal of approval!

Evan will eat quinoa when I make it, but it’s not even close to being on his Top 10 List of Favorite Foods. However, the other night when we were eating a bowl of the Selina Naturally pasta, he turned to me and said, “I never want to go back to normal pasta again!” I was just as surprised to hear this statement as you might be to read it.

In short: Selina Naturally’s Quinoa Pasta is a delicious alternative whether you’re gluten-free or just looking to add variety to your meals.

I would say the only downside to this pasta is that it does take longer to cook. You can boil it for 8 – 10 minutes if you like an al dente taste, but I prefer to cook it closer to 20 minutes (the bag says 16-18 for softer pasta). Cooking longer makes the pasta softer, more absorbent, and much tastier all around….although it also makes the pasta more likely to fall apart. I don’t mind this, but something to be aware of in case that bothers you.

Still having doubts? Well it’s your lucky day. Because it’s the holiday season and (more importantly) BABY MONTH, I’m offering one HOTR reader the chance to try some pasta yourself! Just leave a comment below with your favorite pasta dish (I need some new ideas).

And just for fun, I will give an extra entry to anyone who enters the Unofficial Cheese Baby Birthdate/Weight pool! Leave a separate comment with your prediction about when she will be born and how much she’ll weigh. Background info: My official due date is 12/21, but Cheese Baby seems to be on the larger side (maybe all that pasta has something to do with it). She’s been measuring ahead at each one of our ultrasounds, with the latest prediction putting her two weeks ahead (which means if I carry to term, she’s going to be a BIG girl). However, Evan and I both were 8 pounds 1 oz at birth, and I was born a couple of days late. What all that information means, I have no idea. But there you go.

*You must leave a separate comment for each entry in order for it to count. Winners will be selected one week from today (12/10).

Disclaimer: Selina Naturally provided me with two types of quinoa pasta to review (penne and elbows), but did not pay me for this post. All opinions are my own. I don’t do reviews and/or giveaways very often on the blog, so when I do choose to feature something, it’s because I really love the product. (And seriously – I can’t pay off my husband!).

 

‘Sour Cream’ Fudge Cupcakes

{First I just want to thank you all for the wonderful, supportive responses to my sister’s guest post about her experience in Haiti. I’m so very proud of all that she’s done. If you haven’t read it yet, I really encourage you to check it out!

Secondly, I was so happy to get enthusiastic responses to the Core Shape Up Summer Challenge! I’m going to give this a little thought, and then set an official start date for the challenge, as well as the less-than-official guidelines. I’ll keep you updated.}

Last week while I was at home, I was excited to find a new (to me) product in my Mom’s kitchen: Quinoa flour.

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I love quinoa. I’ve talked before about it’s benefits as a complete protein, and since I’ve tried both quinoa as a grain and quinoa pasta, I figured it was about time to try out the flour.

And what better way to experiment with flour than to bake something delicious! When I saw the recipe on the back of the bag for Sour Cream Fudge Cupcakes, I immediately knew what I’d be making.

The only major substitution I made to the recipe was to use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Mostly because we didn’t have any sour cream in the house. But did you know that plain Greek yogurt is actually a really good, healthy substitution for sour cream? Now, we also didn’t have any plain yogurt. The closest flavor we had to plain was honey – so that’s what I used.

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I almost cut back on the amount of sugar the recipe called for since there’s sugar in the yogurt, but then I remembered my almost tasteless vegan brownies, and decided against it. In the end, I was really glad I did.

‘Sour Cream’ Fudge Cupcakes (Gluten-free)

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DSC_0423 [Slightly adapted from recipe on back of Bob’s Red Mill Quinoa Flour bag]

Makes 12 Cupcakes

  • ¼ c unsalted butter
  • ½ c water
  • ¼ c cocoa powder
  • 1 c sugar (I used Florida Crystals Pure Cane Sugar)
  • 1 ¼ c Quinoa Flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ¼ c Greek Yogurt (I used Chobani Honey Flavored)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line your tray with cupcakes liners.

In a small saucepan, bring the butter and water to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, whisk in your cocoa powder and set aside to cool.

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Next, whisk together the quinoa flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

A quick note about quinoa flour – it smells really quinoa-y. As in, as soon as you open the bag, you can smell the grain. I have to admit that this made me a little nervous. I know I said I love quinoa, but I also love when my cupcakes actually taste like cupcakes…and not like dinner.

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But, I decided to trust the process, and soldiered on.

Separate the eggs, setting the whites aside. Add the yolks to a large bowl, along with the sugar, vanilla, and Greek yogurt. Mix well. Slowly stir in the flour and cocoa mixtures.

Beat your egg whites until stiff and then fold into batter. At this point, the smell of quinoa was less overwhelming, but this batter definitely smelled different than that of “normal” cupcakes.

Finally, spoon the batter into a cupcake tray and bake for 20 – 25 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when you stick a knife in the center and it comes out clean.

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Now, I’m sure these are perfectly tasty on their own. But cupcakes without frosting are…well…muffins. And I wanted cupcakes.

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So it was time to whip up a batch of simple chocolate butter cream frosting. This is where all semblance of this dessert actually being healthy went out the window.

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To make the frosting, I used the leftover Greek yogurt, 1/2 a stick of butter, powdered sugar, cocoa, and a couple capfuls of half & half creamer. I beat this with an electric mixer until it was nice and fluffy, and then spread generously onto the cupcakes.

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The Final Verdict: Fortunately, the end product did not taste like quinoa. :) The cupcakes were really light and fluffy. Even with the abundance of frosting, they didn’t taste heavy or overly rich.

However, you could definitely tell they weren’t made with good old all-purpose flour. I think I would have liked them to be a little denser, and just a little moister. They didn’t exactly deliver on the fudgey-ness that the name promised. (Maybe adding a little more Greek yogurt would fix this?) So if you’re looking for a rich, fudgey dessert, these are probably not the cupcakes for you.

That being said, I still thought they were a great treat, and (added bonus) the whole family liked them too. So I declared the quinoa flour experiment to be a success!

Quinoa Pasta and Other Adventures in Eating

It can be  so easy to get stuck in a “food rut” and eat the same dishes over and over, week after week.  But part of consuming a wholesome, balanced diet is allowing yourself to try a variety of foods. Yes, this means that sometimes your “food adventure” will be a complete failure and you’ll end up hating whatever you made.  But other times, you might stumble across something amazing!

Over this past week, I’ve tried to be a bit more adventurous with my eating, and have experimented with some new things that I thought I’d share with all of you.

Quinoa Pasta

800px-Harvested_seeds_of_homegrown_Chenopodium_quinoa Quinoa (pronounced: keen-wah) is a wonderful food.  Not only is it gluten-free (read: easily digestible), but it is also contains a balanced set of all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.  And if that weren’t enough, it’s also high in dietary fiber, phosphorous, magnesium, and iron.  All the nutrition packed into quinoa makes it a great addition to any diet, regardless of whether or not you eat meat (you can read more about the health benefits here).

By itself, quinoa is a little bland tasting.  To add flavor, I usually cook it in vegetable broth and then load it up with tons of sautéed veggies and herbs/spices.  I actually think it makes a great base for flavorful dishes.

So…when I came across quinoa pasta in the grocery store a few days ago, I knew I had to give it a try!

IMG_0388 The Quinoa “Supergrain” Rotelle is actually a blend of corn flour and quinoa flour (in fact, it is made from only those two ingredients).  While I’m not gluten intolerant, I thought this might be a good break from my usual starch-filled pasta dishes.

To test it, I whipped up my “fall back” pasta dish: sautéed veggies with my Dad’s “secret-recipe homemade marinara sauce.”  (Okay, so the recipe isn’t really secret, it just sounds more mysterious that way. ;))  In my opinion, my Dad makes THE BEST marinara sauce I’ve ever had.  He follows a recipe given to him by my dear Italian great-grandmother.  Every time I go home for a visit, he is kind enough to make up a huge batch and then can it so that I can take it back to RI with me.  As a result of being so spoiled, I haven’t bought pasta sauce in years (nor do I want to!).

Anyway, I digress.  Back to the Quinoa Rotelle.

When cooked, the Rotelle was a little more yellow than regular noodles – similar in color to egg noodles.

IMG_1768As far as taste goes: I thought it was pretty good!  The noodles were a bit chewier than normal pasta, and while the taste was slightly different, it was hard to tell after I smothered it with sauce and other veggies.

IMG_0396 IMG_0395 In the mix:

  • Dad’s Marinara Sauce
  • Spinach
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Tempeh
  • And topped with parmesan cheese

While the overall taste was pretty good, I’ll admit that I did find myself missing the starchiness of normal pasta.  There was nothing unpleasant about it at all, I just found myself wanting it to be differentSo the final verdict: Despite the motto on the box that claims “you’ll never go back to plain noodles again,” I think I’ll stick to eating quinoa as a grain and my pasta with flour.  However, I would definitely recommend this as a good alternative for anyone who is trying to cut back on or avoid gluten.

Other Noteworthy New Foods

Parsnips

Before last week, I had never even tried a parsnip…nor had I wanted to.  But after seeing the recipe Angela posted for nut-butter coated parsnip fries, I was intrigued.  A few days later, I impulsively bought a bunch of parsnips (who does that!?) and cooked myself up a batch.

I’ll admit I burned a couple in the process. ;)

IMG_0398But these were absolutely amazing!! So simple to make and so addictive.

IMG_0400I may have put the cold {slightly burnt”) leftovers on a salad the next day for lunch.  Delicious! :)

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Maple-Coconut Tempeh

I’ve talked about tempeh several times before on the blog, so it won’t be surprising when I tell you that I love it.  However, I’ve only ever had it savory.  So once I saw Caitlin’s “Tempting Tempeh” recipe, I knew I had to try it!  As promised, not only was this recipe super easy, but it was also incredibly delicious.  It was like eating a snack for dinner!

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And finally, my new favorite snack:

IMG_1761These Back to Nature Organic Stoneground Wheat Crackers are nothing short of amazing! They are super flavorful and contain no trans fat, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, artificial flavors, or any of other questionable crap.  I found them in the organic section of my local grocery store and they were actually cheaper than the more popular Kashi version.

This week I challenge you to try at least ONE new food that you haven’t before – whether it’s something you’ve always been afraid you wouldn’t like, or just a food you’ve been interested in but have yet to try. My next food “adventure”: Kale.  I have heard great things about it’s nutritional benefits, but the super potent taste has always scared me a bit.  So I plan on cooking up some kale chips and trying it in salad this week.  I’ll report back later with the results! ;)