I'm the lucky recipient of all sorts of fun kitchen gadgets thanks to my awesome mom. Last weekend when she was up on a short visit, she gave me this supercool little dicer/mincer and we tested it out on some fresh carrots. When I saw the end result of perfect little carrot cubes, a recipe idea immediately popped into my head. I didn't know if it would work or not, as it's one of my many experimental dishes; but now that I've taken a few bites of the finished product, I must say this turned out quite well. Even better than I expected.
My original idea was to just make some yummy spiced carrots and toss them into some quinoa. But my love for aesthetics being what it is, I couldn't just stop at such a lifeless looking dish. A few additions for color & texture here, some spice adjustments there, and I felt a lot better about this new little concoction I was making. This is great over some fresh greens, or would make a fabulous accompaniment to some Moroccan or Indian flavored chicken. It is healthy, light, and aromatic, making it a perfect spring dish. It also looks fabulous, so if you're into entertaining, this will look simply lovely on the table.
Of course, the best part about this healthy little meal is that it costs next to nothing to make. Though I've always been good about cooking relatively healthy on a budget, I am still amazed at how easy it can be to enjoy truly good-for-you food without having to pay an arm and a leg for it. Gone are the days of having to buy overpriced deli salads that may or may not contain the ingredients they claim to have; through this blog I've discovered how deliciously creative I can get with "nut & twig people" food (as one of my friends used to call it before I fed it to him and he liked it). And with my strong desire and determination to get rid of the rest of this winter weight - not to mention my poor excuse for an income - this ability couldn't come in more handy! Seriously, where else can you get some exotic sounding quinoa dish for under $4/serving? Nowhere but one's very own home. Which pleases me even more, because unfortunately, Sacramento is lacking in more healthy restaurant options. And now for this interesting little recipe...
Orange-Scented Quinoa with Spiced Carrots (serves 2 as a main dish; Total Cost per serving: ~ $3.50)
1 c quinoa (will yield roughly 2 c cooked)
1 c water
2 medium carrots, diced
1/4 small, sweet white onion, diced
Juice & zest of 1 orange
1/8 t cinnamon
1/8 t cumin
1/8 t curry powder
1/4 t balsamic vinegar
1/2 t honey
Dash of salt
1 T olive oil
1/4 c raisins
Small handful of cilantro, finely chopped
Combine cinnamon, curry powder, cumin, balsamic vinegar, honey, and a small dash of salt in a bowl and whisk together until well combined. Add the diced carrots and stir until well-coated. Allow to sit for a few minutes so that the carrots absorb the flavors of the spices.
Rinse the quinoa very well and cook in 1 c water and about 1/2 c freshly squeezed orange juice (if you have any remaining juice, set aside for later) along with a 1" piece of orange peel. While the quinoa is cooking, chop the onion & cilantro and set aside. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is thoroughly heated, add the spiced carrots and cook quickly until carrots just become tender. They should still have plenty of crunchy texture and not be mushy at all.
When quinoa is finished cooking, drain any excess liquid (if any) and remove the orange peel. Add the rest of the orange zest and spiced carrots with their juices. Next, add the diced onion, raisins, and finely chopped cilantro. Mix together until everything is uniformly combined. Check for seasonings and adjust accordingly. If quinoa seems a bit dry, add any remaining juice. Serve by itself or as a side with some flavorful curried chicken, and enjoy!