Monday, February 29, 2016

Avocado Mango Lime Quinoa Bowl with Sweet Potato Crisps

Spring is in the air!!  Well... at least it is here in San Diego.  Warm, bright days have me turning to simple bowls for lunch, and often for dinner as well.  But no matter the weather, quinoa reigns as one of my go-to ingredients.

A protein-filled seed hailing from the Andean regions of Peru, quinoa earns its title of an "ancient grain" (actually it's really a seed, but many use it as a grain) with its near 9,000 year history.  Once called "The Gold of the Inca's", quinoa isn't just "high" in protein, it's a complete protein - meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids.  A wonderful protein source for vegans or vegetarians, quinoa also brings magnesium, folate, manganese and phosphorus, making it a nutritious ingredient which also happens to be incredibly versatile.

Unfortunately, quinoa also happens to be coated with a naturally occurring coating called "Saponin", a bitter tasting coating which protects the seeds from being eaten in the fields by birds and insects.  Many quinoa brands remove most of the saponins in processing, but a good rinse of your quinoa before cooking is always a good idea to remove the last of the residues, or to remove all of the residue if it hasn't been washed already.

But washing quinoa is quite possibly my least favorite thing to do.  Those tiny seeds slip through many colanders unless you have the finest of mesh, and then  pouring the rinsed (and now clumpy) seeds into your pot becomes nearly impossible often dumping as a whole clump only to splash you in the process.  And those tiny seeds... how often  have they lodged into the rim of that fine mesh strainer?  It's all enough to tempt one to leave that quinoa on the shelf.

But here's were one of my favorite companies once again comes to the rescue!  The people at OXO read my mind and created the perfect kitchen tool... the must-have Rice and Grains Washing Colander.  The description from their site says it all:
Wash rice, quinoa, buckwheat, barley and more small grains easily and thoroughly

Our Colander has holes designed to allow water to drain slowly to wash impurities and starch from rice, quinoa, buckwheat, barley and more. The water pools before draining to show when water is clear and grains are clean. The small, square holes help prevent tiny grains from falling through, and the extra drain holes in the pour spout remove excess water and keep grains contained. Soft, comfortable, non-slip handles are perfect for agitating grains, shaking out water, and pouring into pots or bowls.

OXO sent me this product along with a super cool Grape Tomato Cutter (cuts grapes and tomatoes into quarters with a simple push of the plunger!) and a beautifully sharp Hand-held Mandoline, and I have to say these products rank up there with the OXO Dusting Wand in my all time favorites category.

Bringing together some of my favorite quinoa combos, avocado and mango fit perfectly into the picture to create a nutritious quinoa bowl.  What goes with avocado?  How about adding even more protein with black beans, definitely some kick from red onion, and then seasoning it all with a healthy handful of cilantro?  Oh, and tomatoes.  A lovely basket of baby cherrys from the farmer's market were already on hand and I had to laugh when Liv actually brought girlfriends home for lunch simply so they could try out the tomato cutter.  Let's just say all of our tomatoes are now cut!

Super sharp, easy to clean... what more could a girl want?  #newfavoritetool
And the mandoline... what should we slice?  But really the first question remained, how well would it slice?  Oh my heavens... nearly paper thin sweet potato slices sliced in meree seconds and crisped in no time.  Truly the a fabulous side or topping to our bowl.  (This mandoline hasn't made it into the cabinet yet - easy cleanup has me reaching for it multiple times a day!  Tomato slices for your sandwich?  Not a problem!)

So how about a bowl of your own?  Whether you need to rinse rice, barley, or my beloved quinoa, you won't hesitate now that you have a grain rinsing colander.  What's your favorite combo?

Avocado Mango Lime Quinoa Bowl with Sweet Potato Crisps 
Nutritious quinoa combines with a few of my all time favorite ingredients - avocado and mango - to bring a lovely sweet bowl to the table.  Seasoned with cilantro and lime, the Lime Viniagrette brings it all together.  Crisped sweet potatoes bring texture as a topping, or work equally well as a tempting side.
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Crisped Sweet Potatoes
1 unpeeled, washed sweet potato
oil - about 1 Tbs
squeeze of lime (optional)
salt, to taste

Lime Vinaigrette
2-3 Tbs freshly squeezed lime
1 Tbs white balsamic vinegar
1-2 Tbs oil (we use avocado oil)

Quinoa Bowl
2 cups water
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
cherry tomatoes - about 1/2 - 3/4 cups
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 - 3/4 cup mango, chopped 
1 large handful cilantro, chopped
salt to taste
Pepper to garnish 
more cilantro to garnish

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Using a mandoline, slice the sweet potato as thin as possible - making enough to fill a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat.  Place slices in a bowl and drizzle with oil and a squeeze of lime if desired.  Gently toss the slices with the oil, then lay in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Place the baking sheet into the oven and set timer for 5 minutes.  Check at the 5 minute point and cook longer if necessary.  We like the crisps when they are still mostly orange, but just beginning to brown in spots.  Watch the crisps closely!!  They will go from almost ready to totally burnt in a flash!!  Crisps will crisp upon cooling.

When ready, remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet.

Making the quinoa... rinse the dry quinoa in a colander.  Allow to drain.  Place a medium pot on the stove and add 2 cups of water.  Pour rinsed quinoa into the pot and simmer according to package directions about 20 minutes over medium heat.  (I like to do mine ahead of time and will place quinoa in water, simmer for about 10 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed, then turn the stove off and allow to sit for an hour or so.  The quinoa always turns out nice and fully this way!)

Allow quinoa to cool.

When quinoa is cool, place quinoa into a large mixing bowl and add the copped fruits and veggies.  Add more of your favorites, and less of the items you don't love.  Eliminate and substitute as desired!  We've also used chopped red pepper and grilled corn with great success.  

Whisk the Lime Vinaigrette and pour over the quinoa.  Mix gently and taste for seasonings.  Add salt to taste.  Also add more lime if desired (my husband likes lots of lime... Liv not so much.  Add to your taste).

Serve over a bed of greens (arugula is my favorite - season with a drizzle of oil, a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of salt - place quinoa over the top) and garnish with freshly ground pepper and additional chopped cilantro.  Serve with lime wedges and sweet potato crisps on the side.

Liv Life Note:  We received 1 grain rinsing colander, 1 tomato chopper and 1 mandoline from OXO to write this post.  Liv Life was not paid to write this post and I'm happy to share my new discoveries with you!  3 new must have kitchen tools, IMHO. 

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