A wonderfully perfect, manic Monday meal: Red quinoa with salmon and spinach

Subtitle: Rekindling my love of quinoa. 

With every blogging slump, there must be a delicious and inspiring dish to get me out of it.

So here we are. A delicious meal. And a simple one too. As in beyond simple. So simple that I felt like I was cheating, in fact. Maybe I was. I used canned salmon. SHHH. Can snobs have no place here – not on a student food blog. I wasn’t even breaking any rules of the Food Bible, since the recipe that I adapted this salad-like meal from requested that very canned delicacy.

Also, it used quinoa. And not only that, but quinoa of the coloured variety. Totally rad.

I still consider myself a sheltered food lover, and had never actually tried canned salmon before tonight. As is, I only tried canned tuna a few weeks ago when I was inspired by some other-worldly forces to try my hand at making a tuna fish sandwich. Yes, I know, you’re rolling your eyes at me like I missed out on some integral part of childhood school lunch making. I couldn’t help it, okay? My mom’s a dietician and I was picky, choosing the standard peanut butter and jam as my sandwich topping of choice between grades one and 12.

Anyways… turns out canned salmon is not disastrously disgusting and is, in fact, really quite good. Cracking open a can rather than using the fresh stuff also meant that I cut at least half an hour off of dinner preparation time. That meant this meal was ready in – get this – 10 MINUTES. A dinner revelation. It was delicious.

I’m going to compliment myself furiously for a moment (so bear with me): I really, really like these pictures. I’ve been inspired by my roommate Brittany’s photography style (which is stunning), and want to start setting a scene in my photos. Beautiful food + beautiful setting (i.e. an IKEA table, bowl of spinach and dishtowel) = beautiful photos. I hope.

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Summer Salad Series II: Quinoa strawberry salad with balsamic vinaigrette

Before I start, may I just say that I CANNOT spell “vinaigrette” to save my life.  I knew I was bad at spelling, but even I am impressed by my ability to spell the damn word wrong every single time.  Once again spell checker, you are a constant source of sanity.

BREAKING: The rumours surrounding the apparent deliciousness of balsamic vinegar and strawberries are true.  Completely, 100% true.

The other night was the first time I tried this fantastic blend, the likes of which can only be trumped by the combination of chocolate and strawberries.

But that wouldn’t be any good on a salad, now would it?

As you can tell from the blog title, this is the second salad in my new Summer Salad Series (alliterations are truly an underappreciated literary device).

A beautiful picture I saw on Tastespotting last week was what inspired the creation of this salad.  The blog Salad Pride features one new delicious looking salad a day, and will surely be the victim of much idea borrowing as the summer months progress.

Since normal couscous and I have a love-hate relationship (translation: to my dismay my couscous somehow always comes out resembling mashed potatoes), I decided to try out something new: Israeli couscous.

When I saw it in the Bulk Barn, I was intrigued.  It looked like the tiny noodles you used to get in East Side Mario’s Italian wedding soup.  Heck, maybe it was one in the same.

Turns out I didn’t love this couscous.  It had a strange sort of taste to it, and got clumpy when brought as leftovers the next day.  In the future I’ll probably stick to quinoa or just normal couscous, which I will hopefully develop some sort of ability to make.

On top of the couscous I, of course, had to add my favourite food of summer 2011: quinoa.  You can’t tell me I’m not getting my protein intake!  Topping it all off were freshly quartered strawberries, whose soft crunch and succulent juices provided the sweet contrast that only berries can offer.

All of this was piled on top of a bed of fresh baby arugula – a curiously spicy and tasty salad green.  I still have loads of it left, so watch for it making an appearance in upcoming dishes (arugula: I’ll be here till Wednesday!).

Also, I accidentally threw out the recipe I created, so the one you see below the jump is as accurate a rendition as I can remember… Apologies, friends.

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Green pepper, chicken and mushroom quinoa with a sweet chili sauce

Before I begin, let me just say that someone needs to create a website where you input the ingredients used in a meal and the site, in turn, churns out a shortened recipe name.  Sort of like a bit.ly for recipes.  Until this fantastic site is created, my post names shall continue to be the length of a short story.  Apologies.

Fact: I totally forgot how much I loved cooking.

For the past two months I have been neglecting my love of homemade food.  This neglect has come in favour of studying (read: all I ate was bagels bought from Tim Hortons), food made by my aunt (which was delicious, but I was spoiled), or food bought from a variety of overpriced Toronto locations.  The latter made up most of my time in Toronto and, while I discovered a bunch of great new places, I really shouldn’t have been prematurely spending my summer income on gourmet vegan meals and mouthwatering cheesecakes.  But man, was it good while it lasted.

Now that I’m back in Ottawa for the summer (hooray!), I figured it was about time I got back to cooking.  I moved into a new house on Monday, which means that I am finally free of last year’s closet-sized kitchen and its oven that made the temperature in the depths of hell feel chilly.  I am now, however, limited by the fact that we only have a single pan and one very large stockpot.  We have no baking pans and no oven mitts.  Something will have to be done about that (the solution will likely come in the form of today’s IKEA trip with my friend Will).

But anyways, in the nature of me trying to get back into healthy eating, I headed down to the grocery store to stock up on veggies galore.  I kitchen improvised (something I want to do almost all the time now) with this meal, creating a supper that was filling, healthy and wielded a spicy kick.  Just the way I like it.

Also, NEWSFLASH: I like mushrooms!  I added some in for good measure.

See recipe under the pictures.  These shots were taken outside on my new porch.  I don’t even need to stand on a chair to take them.  Happiness achieved.

PS: check out how green our grass is – at least all this miserable weather paid off in the form of optimum yard colouring.

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