Quick and Creative: Why Quinoa Makes the Perfectly Packed Lunch

Like most collegiates, I love my university. I can speak at length about classes, clubs and extracurricular activities. But, I never thought I’d be so excited to talk about my school’s food. I attend Boston University and I’m proud to say that among its many accolades, another area where BU truly excels is in its cuisine. Instead of having to choose between bad options like when my parents went to school, my biggest dilemma in the dining hall is limiting myself to only one dinner entrée.

I’ve been lucky enough to dine in an amazing space for the past two and a half years, but when I studied abroad in London this past spring, the dining hall unfortunately did not travel across the pond with  me.

One of my favorite London drinks!

One of my favorite London drinks!

On the weekends, my peers and I enjoyed traditional English pub food – freshly battered fish and chips finished with a crisp cider, which was a delicious option, but not always the healthiest. After a month of pasta and peanut butter sandwiches, I started to research a better lunch option to pack for the work week. Quinoa was the perfect solution.

Source: un.org

Source: un.org

I was originally attracted to quinoa after reading that the UN deemed 2013 the International Year of Quinoa due to its incredible nutritional value. Although quinoa, pronounced “keen-wa” has only recently become a popular item in nearby grocery stores, it’s been a major food crop in other countries for centuries.  It was a staple in the pre-Columbian culture in Latin America and is still a dominant crop for the Quechua and Aymara peoples of the rural Andes region of South America, where in the Quechua language quinoa affectionately translates to “mother grain.”

Source: realfoodforlife.com

Source: realfoodforlife.com

Prepared either creamy or crunchy, quinoa is a great dish for anyone with an active lifestyle. It is incredibly easy to make as it can be boiled – or easily reheated in the microwave with water – for simply ten minutes. For anyone preparing their own lunch, it holds incredibly well. Quinoa is packed with many health benefits (which you can read more about here), but what I love is that it keeps me full for the entire afternoon.

Sarah 4

Source: cookinglight.com

Quinoa’s best asset is that it allows for creativity – even if you’re new to the cooking scene like me! I  enjoy a kale and quinoa salad sprinkled with sliced almonds and feta cheese, but often I would chop up various vegetables the night before, add some olive oil before lunch and enjoy an entirely new creation! There is nothing worse than having the same boring lunch that you had the day before, but with quinoa one package can provide a base for a week’s worth of lunches while also giving you the option to change spices and additions from day to day.

Here is a delicious recipe from the National Honey Board (client) to get you started on your quinoa quest. What is your favorite combination? Please feel free to comment with new favorite recipes!

Fruit and Mint Quinoa Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing

Source: honey.com

Source: honey.com

Eating My Way Through Asia: The Photos

Recently, I was lucky enough to travel to Asia on behalf of Ketchum, both as a global scholar and as a trainer of our planning process, RISC.  In a whirlwind of a month, I went through Singapore, Mumbai, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. When people ask about the experience, I point to the photos, which are mostly of food, naturally. Food is important within all cultures but it takes new heights in Asia. There, food is a manifestation of your persona – your heritage, your hometown, your ability to provide for your family, your graciousness towards a guest in your care. In India alone, I was astounded at the nuances of completely different cuisine belonging to certain regions of India – never again will I order “Indian” and not question if it’s North Indian or Gujarati, to name just two of many.

Here, I take you through my top food experiences, as seen through a selection of my personal photos.

Conveyor Belt Sushi, Singapore
Conveyor Belt Sushi: Though this has certainly hit the US before as a novelty thing, the complete normalcy of this experience in a Singapore mall is what struck me. Why wouldn’t one endlessly grab new dishes off a fast moving belt? For variety-addicts like me, this was one exciting meal (and one that could’ve gone on forever).

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“I’ll have the calf’s head, please,” said my son.

There comes a time in every parent’s life, I suppose, when you see a glimpse of how you have helped shape an emerging adult. Such a moment happened to me last Wednesday night during a vacation with my twin teenage sons at a bistro in Paris. In celebration of some big milestones in my life, I decided a very special trip was in order. Ryan and Joe accompanied me to London and Paris, so I could have the extreme pleasure of expanding their horizons, while treating myself at the same time. A perfect combination.

Springtime in Paris.

Springtime in Paris.

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Hope Springs Eternal: Celebrating the End of Winter with a Renewed Dedication to Healthy Eating

Despite the fact that the ground is still snow-covered where I live about 30 miles north of New York City, the calendar continues to assure me that spring does indeed start today. And after a miserable winter that pretty much compelled me to live on comfort food for the past several months (simply refer to my last post for evidence of that!), I think many of us are looking to the warmer weather as the impetus to shed a few extra pounds and reintroduce more healthy foods back into our diet. Combine that with the fact that it’s National Nutrition Month and we have too many good reasons to ignore.

My focus for this post is two of my favorite salads. In fact, few things make me happier than the day in mid-May that I plant my annual herb garden of basil, chives, rosemary, parsley and cilantro. It compels me to get creative with different ways that I can use them.

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The Spotlight on Sugar: Proposed Initiatives Call to Reduce Sugar Intake, Imply Not All Sugars Created Equal

As Jaime Schwartz addressed in her recent post, new nutrition labeling changes could have big implications for marketing and communications professionals. This summary takes a deeper dive into labeling concerns looking at the implications of added sugar labeling in light of the guidance WHO proposed last week.

Not All Sugars Are Created Equal

Source: ligfebridgeblogs.org

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Who Says Ramen and Pizza Don’t Go Together? “Bigger, Better” Food Mash-Ups are All the Rage in 2014

Just when you think you’ve heard it all – cronuts, Doritos Locos Tacos (*client) – in comes yet another in the growing line of “food mash-ups:” the Subway Fritos® Chicken Enchilada Melt (*client). Crunchy, yet chewy. Spicy, yet savory. And according to experts at San Francisco hospitality consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Co., with Americans growing tired of typical food combinations, “these sort of ‘mutan morsels’ will be all the rage in 2014.”

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You Won’t Believe They’re Gluten-Free Cookies, Courtesy of the Tallman Hotel

According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) an estimated 1 in 133 Americans, or about 1% of the population of the United States, has celiac disease. (Note: I was unable to calculate the number of people globally who suffer from this condition.) I must give tremendous credit to the NFCA for raising the awareness in my country of the connection between gluten and the disease, because these days if you live in America it would be virtually impossible to have not heard about the gluten-free movement. As with all such meteoric rises in knowledge about a condition and a food that exacerbates or ameliorates it, marketers have clamored to get in on the fad. I recently saw a bottle of Almond Milk touting “gluten free” as a benefit. Honestly, in this frenzy I wouldn’t be surprised to see a package of light bulbs sporting the same advantage.

Cookies so good, you'd never guess they were gluten free. Photo source: browneyedbaker.com

Cookies so good, you’d never guess they were gluten free. Photo source: browneyedbaker.com

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy for celiac disease sufferers that so many new products are available to enrich their lives. But, because a large number of the inevitable band wagon jumpers – most of whom, I hazard to guess, do not have the condition – have become very vocal about the need for everyone to live a gluten-free life, the entire movement has me shaking my head. Case in point. A buddy of mine told me that he was going to the Midwest for the holidays last year and his sister — who does not have a diagnosed case — had forewarned him that they were going to be celebrating a Gluten Free Christmas. We’ve jumped the shark here, my friends.

Source: celiacandthebeast.com

Source: celiacandthebeast.com

However, in the spirit of gluten-free camaraderie with those who have honestly been suffering with terrible food for years because of their disease, I am eager to share this recipe for a gluten-free cookie that would be welcome in any house, wheat allergies or not. I tasted one…ahem, okay, three…recently at an intimate concert during a visit to the Tallman Hotel in Lake County, California, which is about an hour north of Sonoma in beautiful wine country. The proprietors, Bernie and Lynn Butcher of San Francisco, pull out all the stops to make their gorgeous property the perfect retreat. General Manager, Susan Mesick, a Ketchum alum, graciously ensures each guest is treated like royalty. This gluten-free cookie is the ideal metaphor for the place: it’s a better take on a classic because it’s unexpectedly fantastic, it feels homey but sophisticated, and it’s good for the soul.

Enjoy!

The cookies look like this. Yum! Source: Browneyedbaker.com

The cookies look like this. Yum! Source: Browneyedbaker.com

Tallman Hotel Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cookies

¼ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 cup smooth peanut butter
3 cups rolled oats
½ cup mini chocolate chips
½ cup raisins or dried cherries
½ cup toasted walnuts or sunflower seeds (the cookies I tasted contained walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine butter, sugar, and brown sugar and beat until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, and baking soda; mix well. Add peanut butter and mix well. Stir in oats, chocolate chips, dried fruit, and nuts. Place teaspoons of the dough onto lightly greased cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly brown around the edges.

P.S. It doesn’t hurt to eat these with a mug of steaming hot coffee while listening to acoustic folk music during the winter.

What gives you comfort during a cold Russian winter? The bliny!

A 12-inch high pile of plain, simple, lighter-than-air pancakes, with a little piece of creamy butter melting on top, making you fantasize about all kind of fillings you could wrap it around like a Mexican tortilla – that’s a classical form of bliny (by the way, “bliny” is correct plural from “blin”) in Russian culture.

A stack of light-as-air bliny. Source: Vadim Trablin, Russian food blogger (http://trablin.livejournal.com)

A stack of light-as-air bliny. Source: Vadim Trablin, Russian food blogger (http://trablin.livejournal.com)

Bliny is one of the ancient Slavic (Slavs are the Russians’ ancestors) ceremonial dishes that became an important part of Russian cuisine with the ritual of Maslenitsa – a week in the end of February when people say goodbye to the winter.

Source: Wikipedia.

“Winter Fun” by Fedot Sychkov. Source: Wikipedia.

By their form, classical Russian bliny differ from what many call “blinis” abroad, which are really finger-thick round and puffy pancakes. For that form Russians have another word – “oladyi.” Russian bliny pancakes are close to French crepes: thin, fragile and foldable.

There are as many recipes of bliny as there are comestible liquids in the kitchen. People use plain water, milk, kefir (fermented yoghurt-like milk), and even beer as the base for bliny. My favorite recipe is included in this @ppetite post, below.

Rolled bliny with raspberry sauce. Source: Vadim Trablin.

Rolled bliny with raspberry sauce. Source: Vadim Trablin.

Russian Bliny

2 eggs
2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar
2 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (600bg) water
1 1/3 cups (160 g) flour
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil

Beat  the eggs with sugar, till sugar dissolves completely. Add water; stir. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, then add to the liquid base. Stir clockwise till the mixture becomes homogenous. Let mixture rest for an hour. Add the oil, stir clockwise. Bake the bliny on a 22-24 cm pan (the best proportion of bliny batter for that pan is about a half of a soup ladle). Cook batter for one minute then flip and cook for one minute more. (Turning a blin can be tricky at first, but anyone can master it with practice.)

Pile them up to feed the whole family!

You can eat bliny with all kinds of traditional Russian fillings/toppings: sour cream, honey, chopped fried meat and/ormushrooms, salted salmon eggs, any kind of jam and sooo many other salty/sugary imaginable combinations.

Be creative and have fun!