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Things are a little crazy around here. It’s supposed to be spring, when everyone should feel inspired to clean out closets, get rid of a few things, maybe even shed a few extra pounds. Yet Mother Nature is making it difficult to jump on board. I, however, have started a new exercise routine, and with new workouts come new healthy eating habits — I hope. Most people jump on that in January, but not me. I let everyone do their screwball resolutions after they wake up from their New Year’s hangover, and I wait until after I’ve packed it all on over a long, cold winter. I call it spring-cleaning. It’s absolutely dreadful. It’s that moment when I realize that at any second, the earth really will defrost and my pasty white legs may need to come out of hiding. Mashed potatoes, braised meats and whiskey cocktails hold a special place in my heart during 10-degree weather but my rear end needs a reprieve, as summer is riding on spring’s coattails.
Yes, I can see you shaking your head. We had a dusting of snow last week and I dare utter the word “summer?” But at some point, Mother Nature will deliver a sunny day. It’s coming. Thus, I’ve devised a little spring-cleaning for both the mind and body.
For starters, I hit the pavement. Now that we can actually see the running path, because it’s not covered in several feet of snow, I’m out there using it. Next, I’m on the quinoa kick. Who isn’t? It’s high in protein and a quick and easy option. Even better, it’s the Bubba Gump of grains. Seriously, there are a thousand recipes for quinoa. If you haven’t started cooking with it, I insist you do. For those who tell me it’s bland — bah humbug. Give it another try, and bring more toys to the sandbox.
Here are a few tips for cooking quinoa: Always rinse the quinoa before cooking it, otherwise it will taste bitter. Also, I cook the quinoa in broth or stock (usually mushroom broth) rather than water for extra flavor. And lastly, just before serving, squeeze on a little citrus to brighten the flavor.
One of my favorite preparations? Large portobello mushrooms stuffed with quinoa served with a side salad. It’s a great entrée, but also makes a fantastic buffet dish for company. Use this recipe as a foundation, which can be easily modified with the addition of sautéed vegetables or various canned legumes. Any way you cook it, quinoa is a good way to get your spring-cleaning started.
Quinoa-stuffed portobello mushrooms
6 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 cups mushroom or vegetable broth
1 shallot, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 cups fresh spinach
5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
½ lemon, zest + juice
½ cup chopped feta cheese, about 3 ounces
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375°. With a damp cloth, wipe the mushrooms clean. Brush them with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Bake the mushrooms for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.
In a small pot, heat the oil, sauté the shallot and red pepper until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the quinoa and the mushroom broth, season with salt. Cook until the quinoa is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the spinach, lemon zest and juice, basil and feta cheese. Stir the quinoa mixture and season with salt and pepper.
Spoon the mixture into the mushrooms. There may be some quinoa leftover. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Serve with mixed greens or arugula dressed with olive oil.
Kiki Luthringshausen is a freelance food and lifestyle writer. Her food blog, Beauty and her Feast, features recipes, videos and dining posts. Email Kiki with burning food, entertaining, dining or recipe questions at Kiki@beautyandherfeast.com.