Happy Herbivore Blog

Cooking with Quinoa

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

I also a lot of questions about cooking with quinoa. Quinoa is considered a pseudocereal, since is not an actual grain but is most often used as one. It is wheat free and gluten free, and is considered a complete protein. For more information about what quinoa is, check out my earlier post here

Generally, you can cook it just like you would cook rice. Whether you want to use a rice cooker or a slow cooker, it is almost the same. Most brands of quinoa are pre-rinsed when you buy them, but if not you'll want to rinse them before cooking. Quinoa has a natural coating of saponin that gives it a bitter flavor if not rinsed off or toasted before cooking it.

 If you do have quinoa that hasn't been pre-rinsed, you can either rinse it in water using a very fine strainer or toast it without rinsing at all. To toast quinoa, just toss it in a skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until it becomes a light brown color. Toasting it first will also give it a richer flavor. Both of these will remove the bitter taste from the sapinon. Once rinsed or toasted, you can cook quinoa just like rice.

You can even use the rice bowl in a steamer for quinoa, just follow the directions for white rice. You should beware when using a rice bowl in a steamer, that the quinoa grows more than rice so you'll have to leave extra room for it to expand.

There isn't a time savings by using these other methods, unless you are planning a big meal (like a holiday dinner or gathering) and need the stove top. Cooking quinoa in a rice cooker or steamer will still take about 15 minutes, similar to cooking it on the stove top (although this is a huge time saver over cooking rice on the stove). You also shouldn't have any problems when cooking it in a crock pot recipe in place of brown rice.

I have several recipes that call for quinoa (and it doesn't matter if you use a steamer or rice cooker) like the Mexican Chorizo (p. 147) from The Happy Herbivore, or Kidney Quinoa Burgers (p. 85) and the Ginger Miso Quinoa Stir Fry (p. 136), both from Everyday Happy Herbivore, or my Banana Recovery Pudding

According to my sister, cooking quinoa is easier than cooking rice since she is able to actually cook edible quinoa.

Slow Cooking Lentils & Beans

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

Lots of people like using their slow cookers this time of the year, since it gives them more time to spend with family. I get lots of questions about cooking with beans and lentils, but there isn't much of a difference when using a crock pot than cooking them in the oven or on stove.

WATER is the biggest difference. Particularly with lentils, you need about 4 times the amount of water as you have lentils. For example, if you're cooking 2 cups of lentils then you'll need at least 8 cups of water. More if you add rice or beans in the same pot.

When using dried beans, whether black or pinto or whatever you choose, you will still need to soak them. You can do this in the crock pot overnight, just don't turn it on & remember to strain the water out before making your recipe. If only cooking beans (ie., no rice in pot but can have veggies) you should have about 2 inches of water or broth above the beans. 

You can cook unsoaked beans in the crock pot, but the cooking time will depend on how fresh the they are, so you may end up over cooking the other things in the recipe if you don't presoak the beans first.

You can still cook veggies in with your beans or lentils, but anything that absorbs water (like the beans or lentils do) will need more liquid to be added. You might want to check on it every few hours, just to make sure there is enough liquid in the pot.

Other than soaking the beans, you don't need to precook them, except for kidney beans. They must be precooked to ensure they are safe! As little as 4 undercooked kidney beans can cause severe symptoms - and undercooked is more toxic than raw! You can precook them on the stovetop, just follow the directions on the bag to make sure they're cooked fully.

So, remember just make sure you have enough liquid on hand in case you need to add more and enjoy the extra time a slow cooker gives you.

[image source]

Herbie of the Week: Jason

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Herbies

Prepare to have your mind blown with this week's Herbie of the Week. Jason did a total 180 -- switching Atkins to Vegan after watching Forks Over Knives and losing 77lbs! But I don't want to give too much away in the first sentence...

Before picture

HH: As a self-declared "carnivore" what motivated you to watch Forks Over Knives in the first place?

My wife and I have always been documentary lovers. Food Inc., Supersize Me, King Corn and many others have made us aware of many sad realities in our nation's food industry and how money, politics and power effect what we are taught about food. We were not completely blind to the issues before, but these documentaries brought a lot into focus. Forks Over Knives was just another film we watched as a continuation of self-education about the food industry.

Additionally, in the days before watching the film, I had experienced terrifying chest pain after physical exertion on a couple of occasions. Doctor visits showed that it was not a heart attack, but we discovered I had high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. And this was after losing 50lbs. I felt like I should be getting more healthy, not less.

Shannon, my wife, was terrified about losing me and I had no desire to go. I cherish my time here. This is the frame of mind I was in when we hit play on Netflix.

HH: What went through your mind as you were watching the film?

How crazy and impossible this kind of lifestyle seemed. I had actual tears from fear of sudden death AND from the fear that I might have to do something as drastic as giving up meat and dairy.

I also thought about my relatives on one side of the family who had died from cancer and those on the other side with heart and blood pressure problems. I remembered my own visits to the hospital... I was scared. I realized time was running out, procrastination could be fatal.

HH: How did you make the change... from Atkins to Plant-Based?

I think the 180 degree turn that I made was the best "rip the band-aid off" solution for me, but it also meant that all of the major changes happened at the same time.

HH: What kind of changes did you experience, beyond what was on your plate, that is!

Weight fell off, blood pressure dropped and I could exercise without fear of chest pain; I didn't have that scary chest pain anymore.

The first change I noticed was the drastic reduction in the amount of garbage my family of 5 was putting on the curb!

HH: What's your new food philosophy?

Throughout the day, I eat whatever whole food I want. If it is only 1 step from the ground, it's on the menu. Fruits, nuts, vegetables. I don't eat three meals a day--I graze all day long. I also drink a lot of water.

At dinner, Shannon does wonderful things with The Happy Herbivore Cookbook and other swapped recipes with online friends.

HH: Do you feel your diet is more limited or more abundant now?

We have been experiencing soups, and wraps, and hummus, and baked squash and a million other things I never would have wasted my time with before. It is like going on vacation to a foreign country and getting to try new and exotic foods all the time.

HH: What do you now think about the Atkins diet?

I have met too many happy, successful, thin people that can thank low carb, animal rich diets to be negative toward the lifestyle for everyone. However, I do desperately wish that I had given up Atkins years ago and made this change then. I feel like I wasted time damaging myself, but the FOK documentary filled me with hope because of the talk of repair and recovery. I like that I can heal myself with food.

From a global perspective, I think Atkins is an abomination--I used so much of Earth's energy up (I'm not nearly as Hippie as that sounds) JUST so I could easily lose all of the store up fat/energy on my body. The animals and dairy came at a huge environmental cost and now I feel like a mooch for taking advantage of what seemed like an easy way out.

I did a life count recently and it was sickening in retrospect. Not even counting the cows involved in dairy production, or the number of different animals found in a single sausage, I still averages three lives a day, each day on Atkins. 1,000 animals a year is a severely low balled number and that still sickens me.

I've never been an animal rights activist because I was so adept at turning off my brain to what was happening behind the scenes. Its easy to eat meat when you think magic wizards make it out of thin air and zap it into the grocery store. In the last 48 days I had tiny bites of turkey and tuna and have some guilt associated with it.

HH: Any advice for people motivated to make a plant-based change?

First- watch FOK then open up the documentary section on Netflix and go to town on food and health videos. You can make yourself virtually heart attack proof (Engine 2) and cancer proof (The China Study). If a healthy, long life isn't enough, throw in saving the Earth in 100 different ways, saving money out the wazoo, experiencing food all over again and making jobs for hundreds of millions globally.

There is no person on Earth that can make you live a plant-based lifestyle -- except YOU. Embrace the lifestyle first and you will plow through the initial rough patches and spend the rest of your life getting healthier.

HH: Thanks Jason! You are such an inspiration -- be sure to check out his blog, too!

UPDATE: Two years later Jason checked in with an update. Read his progress here.