New Frontiers and Spicy Quinoa

If this blog has appeared neglected and forlorn, it's because we were in the middle of a major move. We heaved ourselves out of Chicagoland and plunked right into Boulder County, Colorado. Good-bye, bitter cold winds and gray skies. Hello, sunshine!

The last month has been brimming with excitement. One particular highlight was when the water fountain in the yard froze as night-time temperatures dropped to 20F for a couple of days. After a wonderful warm morning, it suddenly became overcast and snowed for 4 hours and soon the water fountain appeared to be only ice. We hammered through the 3 inch thick ice to break it and save the fountain apparatus from any potential damage. Soon thereafter there were major shrieks as 3 little girls discovered a sluggish goldfish in the cold water that remained in the wooden barrel that housed the fountain. Yes, we filled Petsmart's coffers with $$ for an aquarium with a filter, fancy gravel, goldfish flakes and de-chlorinating drops for the water as the chlorine in tap water is toxic to goldfish.

I can only shake my head when I think back to the first few days in this house:
"Mumma! Can I have a pet?" No.
"A dog?" No!
"A cat?" NO!
"A fish?" What don't you understand about N-O?
We now have a pet goldfish called Elizabeth. Sigh.

Elizabeth kept switching genders until a Google search confirmed that she was indeed female. The silly thing also had no clue that goldfish flakes were food and totally ignored them, preferring instead to check out her own droppings repeatedly to see if they were food. That in it and by itself provided for a lot of excitement and yeowing. Now, no sooner is lid on the tank opened, she's there to gobble up the flakes as soon as they touch the water.

My dear husband is fascinated by Elizabeth and did some more Googling to find out that goldfish like cooked peas. So, Elizabeth has been getting one whole cooked pea a day from my upma and my shrimp pulao. Elizabeth doesn't like the skin of the pea and will address it with disdain once the sweet inner pea has been devoured and then give in to chewing on it cos there's nothing else left to eat. If I didn't know she was a goldfish, I'd think she was a pig.

Also, fried fish and fish curry are now dirty words in our home. I was chastised because I cooked tilapia over the Thanksgiving weekend. Ayayayay!

On the topic of food, Indian Food...I discovered a wonderful grain called quinoa during one of our many summer road trips to Colorado. It's food of the Inca Indians. It's a small flat oval shaped grain that ranges in color from pale yellow to red to brown to black. It is grown mainly in South America but is also being cultivated on the slopes of the Colorado Rockies. I could only find it health food stores or in the organic food aisles of regular grocery stores. It cooks quickly and expands about 3-4 times its original size. When cooked, it becomes almost translucent and the internal germ emerges like a tail, making it look like it sprouted in the pan as it was cooking. Quinoa is soft and creamy but the tail provides a crunch, giving this grain a divine texture. When I first tasted this grain, it was the main ingredient in a salad, rather like tabouli or couscous. Here's what I did with it...

Spiced Quinoa, Indian style

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3-4 tbsp of oil
  • 1/8 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/8 tsp cumin seeds
  • pinch asafoetida
  • 1 hot green pepper, slit vertically and deseeded
  • 1/2 cup tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • salt to taste
  • few sprigs of cilantro for garnish
  1. Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the packet. Usually, 2 cups of water to 1 cup of quinoa, bring to a boil, cover and simmer till the grains are translucent and the tail is visible. Usually takes about 10-15 minutes
  2. Transfer the cooked quinoa to another container and allow it to cool.
  3. Heat the oil in a small pan and add mustard seeds
  4. When the mustard seeds start popping, add asafoetida, cumin seeds, and the hot green pepper
  5. Pour this tempered oil on the cooked quinoa, and toss it with the chopped tomatoes and onions and fresh lemon juice.
  6. Add salt to taste and garnish with finely chopped cilantro and serve.

It's great by itself or as a starter when you have guests over for a meal. It makes for a wonderful conversation starter, too. Most of my friends in Chicagoland thought I was way cool, thanks to this wonderful seed called quinoa. What makes it even more delicious is its high nutritional value: it is high in protein, lots of iron and potassium, many of the vitamin Bs and is also a good source of magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese. And, my daughter simply loved it!!

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