The new year always makes people take a closer look at their health in general, whether it’s regarding weight loss, quitting smoking, or just exercising more for better health. I fall into the latter category, especially because my health & overall klutziness have been so bad that I’ve fallen out of my former groove. You regular readers know that except for the occasional evil dessert, I eat rather decently both nutrition and portion-wise. After all, what I post here is what I’m currently eating at home. But I have to admit that the constant stress of unemployment and being threatened with eviction caused me to feel depressed and entirely too terrified to worry about exercise. I seem to be the poster child for how the stress hormone, cortisol, can affect a person: get me in a negative stress situation like near-homelessness and I grow a gut; remove me from that situation and I drop inches & pounds just by blinking.
The proof? I honestly haven’t done anything different recently, aside from having a real, full-time job, and already I’ve dropped six pounds in two weeks! Though we all know I can eat well, I just haven’t been motivated to move well until now, so this is pretty awesome. But it doesn’t mean that I’m going to lapse into some crazy brie en croute eating frenzy. I may enjoy my guilty pleasures, but overall I prefer eating healthfully in spite of my financial woes. And because I know many of you have come to view my site as a guide for how to do just that (thank you!!!), I refuse to start off the year with something baked, sweet, or otherwise “evil”.
Enter today’s recipe. There are times when even I surprise myself with what I can do with very little, and this recipe is a good example of that. I can’t seem to stop proclaiming how good it is to… no one in particular (StuKitty & Hana just don’t care what goes on in here unless kitty treats are involved… ingrates). As I mentioned in my final recipe of 2010, Santa was kind and gave me some gift cards to Grocery Outlet, so I was able to buy a few new things that would augment my paltry kitchen contents, namely veggies. Though I prefer them fresh from the farmer’s market, the frozen variety (and certain canned) do get me through the winter months.
With a decent amount of red quinoa to play with and my newly reorganized spice rack reminding me of all that cumin seed I had on hand, I decided to make a smoky, zesty vinaigrette to complement the flavors & textures of the veggies and quinoa. The result? Absolute quinoa salad perfection! Tender asparagus, sweet corn & peppers, crispy scallions & shallots mixed together with the mother grain and tossed with that smoky vinaigrette is just what the doctor ordered for a fabulous start to healthful new year eating. And after dusting off my beloved pilates videos, I’m confident I’ll be seeing my pseudo-six pack in no time at all – for a lot less than many folks are paying for at gyms or weight loss centers right now! Woo hoo!
Red Quinoa & Asparagus Salad with Toasted Cumin Vinaigrette (makes 3-4 servings; total cost per serving: $2)
6-8 medium asparagus spears, cut into 1″ pieces
3/4 c red pepper strips
3/4 c sweet kernel corn
1/2 c finely chopped shallots
1/2 c chopped scallions (whites & green tops)
Toasted Cumin Vinaigrette
1 T whole cumin seed
1/2 T ground cumin
1/4 c key lime or lemon juice
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c olive oil
1 t honey
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat a dry skillet over medium heat and add the toasted cumin seeds & ground cumin. Toast for about 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Combine the oil, key lime juice, vinegar, honey, toasted cumin, and salt & pepper, and whisk together vigorously until mixed well. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine the quinoa, asparagus, corn, peppers, shallots and scallions and toss together. Add the dressing and mix well. Serve immediately or refrigerate for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to incorporate, and enjoy!