In my experience, food memories can have such a lasting impact that a negative first tasting can put a food on my black list forever. For example, I cannot stand the mere smell of Black Sambuca, thanks to an awful experience with the hideous drink at my Year 12 formal after-party. I still loathe liquorice to this day.
Less traumatising, but still an unpleasant memory, was the first time I cooked quinoa. A couple of years ago my friends Amanda and Nat were constantly raving about quinoa (pronounced keen-wa, like Joaquin [Phoenix] backwards). I eventually caved in to peer pressure and tried it myself. It was awful. It smelt like dirt, had an unusual texture, and seemed like an all-round lousy substitute for my usual buttery couscous.
Another unpleasant memory is the time, not long after moving out of home, in which I tried to cook plain white rice. One of my beloved pink saucepans was destroyed by a thick black coating of burnt rice. After a few more unsuccessful gluggy rice-cooking attempts I permanently delegated the cooking of rice to Paul.
Fast forward to the diet I was on recently, and its focus on quinoa and brown rice made it crucial to give these foods another go. ASAP.
The majority of my lunches over the past 2 months have been a variation on brown rice or quinoa salad, and many dinners included a quinoa salad. That’s a lot of quinoa, and A LOT of brown rice. You might think that one would get sick of eating the same thing every day for weeks on end, but honestly… I love it.
And how could I not love it? These salads are full of flavour, they keep me feeling full, they’re light and give me energy, and result in zero bloating or sluggishness (I’m looking at you, pasta).
So how did the formerly black-listed quinoa move to my can’t-live-without list?
Simple… Just add heaps of fresh veggies and herbs and you’ve got a winner dinner.
My Favourite Salad
Featuring my new BFFs, quinoa and brown rice, here are my favourite salad ideas for quick, healthy lunches and dinners that require minimal cooking skills. Healthy food doesn’t have to be bland, boring or come in shake form – fresh is key.
- Carbs: Cooked brown rice OR quinoa
- Protein: Chicken breast OR tuna in springwater OR legumes (e.g tinned chickpeas)
- Veggies: Carrot, red capsicum, Lebanese cucumber, cherry tomatoes, Spanish onion, green beans, rocket, asparagus, zucchini (raw, grated), mushrooms, olives, capers, LOADS of fresh parsley, basil, mint, lemon zest, etc
- Dressing: Simply freshly squeezed lemon juice OR I mix a teaspoon or 3 of Maille Dijon mustard with the lemon juice
- Bonus: Eating without a calorie-care in the world? Lucky you! Add sunflower seeds, pepitas, pine nuts, feta or haloumi, and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
- Chop your favourite veggies and herbs. Mix with your carb of choice. Add your protein, and finish with dressing. Done!
Keen on Quinoa?
Quinoa is a South American grain-like seed that looks somewhat similar to couscous when raw. Quinoa is gluten-free, high in protein, fibre, magnesium, and iron, is quick to cook , and freezes well. Quinoa can also be used to make porridge, either in regular cooked form, or quinoa flakes.
Quinoa must be rinsed before cooking to remove saponins which can have an unwanted effect on digestion, but most packaged quinoa is sold pre-rinsed – just make sure you check the packet cooking instructions.
You can cook quinoa in stock to boost flavour, but I cook it in plain water as it gets enough flavour from the salad additions.
Simply cook the quinoa according to packet instructions – usually 1 part quinoa to 3 parts water, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cover for 15 minutes, strain remaining liquid then serve.
How To Make Nice With Brown Rice
I’d already converted to Team Brown Rice some time ago, as I honestly prefer the chewy texture and nutty taste of brown rice over white rice. The bonus is that wholegrain brown rice is healthier for you too!
Brown and white rice have similar amounts of calories and carbs, but brown rice is less processed. When processing rice, removing only the outermost layer leaves us with brown rice, and when processing continues to remove more layers we end up with white rice. Less processing = better. More layers = more fibre, and retaining nutrients such as vitamin B1, B3, iron, and magnesium.
Brown rice seems to have a reputation for being difficult to cook with a long cooking time. I disagree! You have 2 options here:
- Buy microwave cups or pouches of brown rice (which I do when I’m unprepared); OR
- Follow the below steps for perfect brown rice, every time (kinder on the budget and less packaging too)
Perfect Brown Rice
This method is from Pinch My Salt and has produced perfect brown rice since I first cooked it! I usually cook a large batch on the weekend and then freeze the rice in portions.
- Brown rice
- Water – at least four cups of water for every one cup of rice
- Rinse rice in a strainer under cold running water for 30 seconds, swirling the rice around with your hand.
- Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. When water boils, add the rice, stir it once. Turn heat to medium and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- After 30 minutes, pour the rice into a strainer over the sink. Let the rice drain for 10 seconds, then return it to the pot, off the heat.
- Immediately cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and set it aside to allow the rice to steam for 10 minutes (if your pot lid isn’t extremely tight, place a piece of aluminum foil over pot then place the lid on top of foil for a tighter seal).
- After ten minutes, uncover rice, and fluff with a fork.
Do you have any black-listed foods due to past bad experiences? What do you think of quinoa and brown rice?