While back in the ‘Burgh last month, my mother-n-law and I took my dinosaur-obsessed sons to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Wow.  I’m embarrassed to say that I went to exhibits and classes there a zillion times while we lived there but I had no idea they had redone (which is a total understatement) the dinosaur exhibits.  If you haven’t gone lately, please go.  Anyway…we ate at the museum cafe and had this incredible quinoa salad.  I wasn’t certain of all the ingredients but knew it had quinoa (duh), dried cherries, ginger and, I figured, some type of onion and green herb.  So I did an internet search for ‘quinoa cherry ginger’ and came up with this great recipe from the Meatless Monday website.  I’ve tweaked it a little but here’s the link for the original recipe:

http://www.meatlessmonday.com/ginger-cherry-quinoa/

If you check it out, you will see the recipe actually comes from a site called Domestic Divas.  I had not heard of it but spent a little time there & I encourage you to do the same.  It’s a terrific blog and I found a slew of recipes I plan to try.

http://www.domesticdivasblog.com/

It’s healthy and easy: my favorite thing about the recipe may be that you can do it all in one pan.

If you are new to quinoa (pronounced |ˈkēnwä|) don’t be intimidated.  I can just hear my friend Mark asking, ‘What the $*@# is quinoa?’!!! Quinoa is a non-gluten grain that is apparently not truly a grain but a relative of green leafy vegetables.  I learned to love it after reading CLEAN: Remove, Restore, Rejuvenate by Alejandro Junger, MD.  It’s one of the approved grains on his elimination diet/cleanse list of OK foods; his book contains a handful of easy quinoa-based recipes. I enjoy that it gives you the texture of rice but packs such an amazing nutritional punch.  It’s high in protein and is safe for those with Celiac Disease.  Not only is it high in protein, it is actually a complete protein, meaning it contains the nine essential amino acids.  I also just learned that it is very high in magnesium which apparently may benefit migraine sufferers.  If you haven’t visited already, please take a look at The World’s Healthiest Foods website; it’s a comprehensive resource if you are looking for the specific nutritional benefits of certain foods:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=142&tname=foodspice

This recipe also contains pine nuts (which my nut-allergic friend Christie will be happy to know are optional; she’ll also be happy that I remembered she’s allergic to nuts, but that’s another story), fresh ginger root and parsley.  I’m a big believer in allowing our food to be medicine and these are three great foods for doing just that.

Pine nuts (or ‘pignoli’) contain the highest level of protein per gram of any nut.  The following information comes from a great review of their benefits from Today’s Women & Health:

http://www.todays-women-and-health.com/pine-nuts.html

‘Pine nuts are nature’s only source of pinoleic acid, which stimulates hormones and helps diminish your appetite.  They have the highest concentration of oleic acid: a monounsaturated fat that aids the liver in eliminating harmful triglycerides from our body which helps protect our heart.  Pine nuts are packed with 3mg of iron per one ounce serving. Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying pigment in blood that supplies energy.  Additionally, they are rich in magnesium which helps alleviate muscle cramps, tension and fatigue.’ (Another great food for migraine sufferers.)

Everyone knows ginger is good for nausea and helping with morning sickness, but there’s a reason why they serve it alongside sushi, specifically with sashimi.  I remember reading in Sushi for Dummies that this practice is to help kill any parasites and/or bacteria that could be present in the raw fish.  It’s also high in magnesium, potassium and other minerals.  Here’s a link for a more comprehensive list of its medicinal benefits:

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/ginger-root.html

Parsely is basically good for everything that ails you.  No joke.  It’s great to flavor foods, but also great to throw in with your vegetables if you own a juicer.  My green-thumbed-mother (sadly I did not inherit the gene) grows tons of it and tells me that my 4-year-old niece eats it by the fistful which I think is awesome.  Even Mrs. GoodStuff can’t get her kids to do that.  The benefits are so numerous and complex (just to name a few: cardio-protective, tons of anti-oxidants, protection against arthritis) that I’ll just give you the link if you want to see specifics:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=100

Ok…enough about why this is so good for you…this recipe also tastes incredible.  And, as I mentioned, it’s incredibly easy to make and to clean up because it’s done in one pan.  This is great served chilled, but also warm (my preference), or hot.

1/4 c. pine nuts (or more if you’re a fan; I use a whole cup)

1+ Tbsp. olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 tsp. fresh ginger root, peeled & minced (also feel free to add more here; I use closer to 2 tsp.)

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 1/3 c. water

1/2 c. dried cherries (I use 1 cup.  *Use whatever dried cherries you like but note that most will contain some form of sugar and/or sulfites & oil as additives.  For this recipe, I use Whole Foods dried sour cherries; if you want one without any added sugar or sulfites, they are a little pricey but I’ll give you the link at the end of this recipe to the ones we get for snacking, adding to steel cut oats and for making trail mix.)

1/2 c. golden raisins

1 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley, chopped

Freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts in a little olive oil then set aside (They toast quickly so pay attention and don’t let them get too brown!)

2. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in same skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shallot & ginger.  Saute just about 2 minutes until they soften.

3. Add quinoa & stir to combine.  Cook for about 1 minute then add the water.

4. Bring to a boil, cover and cook about 8 minutes total.  (Add the dried cherries & raisins after about 4 minutes, then cook another 4 for a total of 8 minutes.)

5. Let sit, covered for a couple minutes, uncover and add the nuts, parsley and salt & pepper.  Toss with a fork.  Serve immediately or cool to desired temperature.

Enjoy!

* Here’s the link to the dried cherries I get from amazon.com (Whole Foods also carries them most of the time but if you choose the Subscribe & Save option, they are a much better price; please note that the labeling of these as ‘organic’ is legal under USDA regulations, but the cherries themselves are not organic.  I haven’t been able to find any organic varieties without sugar that taste good; however, they may be out there.  It’s worth finding a good-tasting brand that is organic and not sweetened with sugar because cherries consistently rank in the Top 10 most toxic fruits and veggies thanks to crazy levels of pesticides.  So if you know of a better brand, please share):

http://www.amazon.com/Eden-Organic-Montmorency-Cherries-4-Ounce/dp/B001ELL288/ref=pd_rhf_p_t_1