Friday, February 27, 2015

Quinoa Quin-what?

Last week at Strong Is Our Sexy, I shared my thoughts (and favorite recipes) featuring the power protein QUINOA! 
Just like feather hair extensions, YOLO!, or hearing Call Me Maybe on the radio at least seven times a day, the cooking world has plenty of fads that come and go.

Chia seeds, avocados, coconut water, meatless Mondays, juicing EVERYTHING. These are just a couple examples of food-crazes that have become really popular in the last few years.

My feelings towards eating clean are pretty straightforward: if you have a list of veggies, fruits, and healthy grains that you know you like, eat em’ up! BUT if you want to be a bit adventurous, there’s always something new being claimed as the “world’s healthiest food” (did someone say kale?).

This desire to get crazy in the kitchen led me to try another food that is getting rave reviews and popping up in recipes over the place: QUINOA!
What exactly IS quinoa? Keeping things honest, I really didn’t know when I first bought it. I figured it was some sort of grain, or a variety of rice since that’s what it resembled the most and is prepared in a similar fashion. To my surprise though, after some research I discovered it is actually not a cereal at all, but rather a member of the same family as spinach and beets.

Most supermarkets carry quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa, in case you were wondering) in the same aisle you’ll find the rice and dried beans. I buy mine prepackaged at our local Kroger, but you can also find it in bulk bins. If you do purchase it in bulk, keep in mind that quinoa expands during the cooking process (like pasta and rice) several times its original size.

Speaking of the cooking process, I stick to a 1 part quinoa to 2 parts liquid ratio. Mix the liquid and quinoa in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. One cup of quinoa usually takes around 15 minutes to cook this way, and I like to check on it and give a little mix every once in a while. Once your liquid has disappeared and been absorbed by the quinoa, you’re good to go!

So why does quinoa rock my socks? Well, there are multiple reasons! One of the main qualities of quinoa I love is its overall nutritional richness. In contrast to most grains, quinoa can serve as a complete source of protein, which is perfect for those of us who are trying to cut back on meat or are vegetarian. I also have a couple of friends who are allergic to gluten, and quinoa is a perfect food to include on a gluten-free diet. It not only lacks gluten, but doesn’t even belong to the same plant family as wheat, oats, barley or rye. You can also find quinoa flour and pasta out there!
Now it’s time to get cooking!
I’ve gathered a handful of my favorite quinoa recipes to share with you! Each recipe is linked to the original site, and none of them are that difficult to prepare.



** To make an even quicker stir-fry, I heat up a couple bags of frozen mixed veggies in a wok while the quinoa is cooking. Toss with soy sauce, serve over the quinoa, and you’re done!**


Hopefully this gives you the confidence to expand your taste-bud-horizons, and explore everything cooking with quinoa has to offer!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Staircase Makeover Final(ish) Reveal

Ding dong the carpets gone! 
We've been STAIRing at this unpleasant runner for over a year and a half now, and it is morally, ethic'lly, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably, and reliably dead removed! 

Here's what we've been living with: 
After contemplating a few different styles (discussed in this post) we decided on the geometric grey pattern! 
And with snow storms and subzero temps providing a week off school, we my outright MAGNIFICENT husband, got to work! 

First step was removing the old carpet. Using a few types of pliers and a hammer, Eric was able to rip up the existing rug and pry out all of the staples. 

Having the stairs exposed and bare was already a HUGE improvement. If the condition of the wooden floor wasn't so terrible, not to mention super slippery while wearing socks, I would have considered just painting the risers white and calling it a day.
Knowing only a few inches of riser would be visible with the new rug, we didn't want to waste paint (and time) by covering the whole area. Instead we just focused on the four inches or so on either side, and after two coats we were set.
Since the old rug was attached to the stairs via staples, we reckoned that was the best strategy to install the new rug as well. To make this process easier, we purchased an electric staple gun. We also picked up carpet tape and placed a few strips on each tread, just to be certain the rug wouldn't budge. 
To camouflage the staples, the tops were painted a beige/grey color we had on hand before loading them into the gun. Once stapled into the stairs, Eric gave each of them a few hits with a hammer to make sure nothing stuck up. He also measured the distance from both edges on each step so things stayed consistent, and the rug remained centered the entire way down.
Now you may notice in the picture on the right, the last few steps have yet to be covered. Well there's a reason for that, and it isn't because Eric had to stop and play Grand Theft Auto with his buddies. 
Turns out the two rugs we ordered aren't equal in AT ALL. Our second rug is actually a good inch WIDER than our first rug. Not cool Overstock, NOT COOL! 
So that's why this is the "Final(ish) Reveal" post, and not the "Let's hear the choir sing OMG we're DONE!" post. Our plan of attack is to email the company, explain our dilemma, and back up our claim with pictures. Meanwhile I'm going to brainstorm how to make the transition between rugs look as seamless as possible, and focus my attention to the 3/4 portion that IS complete. 
Compared to where we started, I'm still THRILLED with how things are looking. 
When real-life results shatter your plans and expectations for the better, life is good. :)

Instead of calling the company who made the rug and going off on a wild rant...Eric found an alternative solution. He ripped up the rug up one step, then stretched it as much as he could, so the two pieces met as flush as possible. I personally think he did a tremendous job, and the seam is hardly noticeable.
Bottom line, it looks a MILLION times better than it did before. Bravo sir, bravo, you are the stair master!