This girl loves animals. She has such a soft spot for them that when she buys a stuffed animal, she always chooses the one with the ripped seam, or the eye that is scratched, because that one won't be chosen by anyone else.
This girl told me when she was 7 years old, "Sorry Mom but I think I'm going to be a vegetarian when I start 3rd grade." She was serious. This girl is now 12 years old and except for a rare indulgence in a piece of bacon or the chicken fingers at Islands, she eats no meat.
It's a challenge to keep her protein intake high, and though she does eat a good amount of beans and cheese, I'm always on the lookout for other sources. Recently, I discovered quinoa and am amazed at its nutritional benefits--for us, the biggest benefit is that it's a complete protein.
Of course, the trick with kids is always getting them to eat the good stuff. This week, with Elise in mind, I've developed a quinoa pizza. I made the pizza dough in the bread machine (but easy enough to buy premade pizza dough and knead in 1/4 cup of raw quinoa).
Amy at the Grody Gourmet warned me when we chose this ingredient for this week's friendly competition that I had to "rinse the heck out of it." (She didn't actually say "heck" but this is a family blog.) The grain is apparently coated with a natural toxin that is bitter if not rinsed thoroughly. So while I rinsed the grain in a mesh strainer, I also rubbed it between my hands while the water was running. I did this for a good two minutes to wash away any trace of the bitterness (or poison, if you're concerned about that type of thing).
I don't know if this counts as an official recipe, because rather than showcase the ingredient, I kind of snuck it in, hoping it would fly under the radar and end up in my kids' bellies against their better judgment. It did. Suckers.
For the crust, make your own or use your favorite pre-made dough (Trader Joe's sells it for a buck or two) and add in 1/4 cup of uncooked (but well rinsed) quinoa. Knead it into pre-made dough and roll out as usual. I made my own dough in a bread machine and added the quinoa at the very beginning. Bake the crust for 5 minutes at 400 degrees.
For the pizza topping, brush the crust with some fresh garlic and olive oil. Sprinkle on some mozzarella and fresh grated Parmesan. Saute about 10 finely chopped brussels sprouts in 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, 1 cup ricotta cheese, and 1/4 cup more Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Put blobs of this mixture here and there (mush them down a little) on your pizza, and bake the whole thing at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, until it looks bubbly and pizza-ish. Yum! This was surprisingly delicious and I can't wait for lunch tomorrow so I can eat the leftovers.
If you like quinoa and want another idea for a simple, tasty recipe, here's one submitted by my new Etsy friend Natalia at Full Circle Images, who took the cool quinoa photo from my Monday post.
Natalia's Quinoa Salad
Cook quinoa like usual (just like rice, in boiling water until the water is all gone). Turn off the heat and add in green beans and dried cranberries. I always add extra cranberries for added sweetness. You can also substitute the green beans for okra and it's delicious! Then add in a dressing that is 1 part balsamic vinegar and 2 parts olive oil. Mix it all up, cool in the fridge, and serve chilled. It's super easy, super yummy, and very healthy.
Natalia's note: I'm one of those cooks that eyeballs all the measurements, so I honestly don't have quantities of each ingredient. but this recipe is so easy that it really is just to taste. I would suggest going a little easy on the dressing because otherwise the oil becomes overpowering.