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Slice of Life

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Use quinoa as quick, easy protein

Quinoa is a really hot ingredient right now.

An ancient grain that is actually a seed, quinoa is native to the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, Chile and Peru. I love the stuff. In fact, I eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner (yes, I said breakfast).

It looks a bit like couscous and is as versatile as rice, but quinoa has a deeper, richer, more nut-like flavor than either of them.

Rejoice all who have celiac issues, as quinoa is a great gluten-free source of protein. What’s really cool about quinoa is that it can be prepared like rice or barley, so it’s really quick and easy. You can cook it with water, apple juice or broth in about 15 minutes; you can even use a rice cooker. You can’t get much more user-friendly than that.

The following recipes are all simply delicious and can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes.

Breakfast Quinoa

1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed well

1 1/2 cups water

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup applesauce

1/4 cup raisins

1 cup warm milk (optional)

1 apple, peeled and diced

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Cinnamon/sugar mixture for dusting the top

In a saucepan combine the quinoa, water, cinnamon and vanilla. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover, and cook for 15 minutes until quinoa can be fluffed with a fork. Add the apple sauce, raisins and warm milk (if using). Spoon into 4 bowls, top with the apples and pecans and cinnamon/sugar mixture. Serves 4.

Quinoa-Stuffed Zucchini and Peppers

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, chopped fine

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 large egg

3 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup cooked quinoa

1/4 cup matzo meal

1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat

3 zucchini, ends removed, halved lengthwise and crosswise

2 red bell peppers, halved and seeded

1 yellow bell peppers, halved and seeded

1 1/2 cups kosher for Passover marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly drizzle the olive oil into a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. In a bowl combine the onion, parsley, egg, ketchup, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Stir in the quinoa and matzo meal. Add the ground turkey and mix to combine. Cover and refrigerate.

Scrape out the seeds and pulp from the center of the zucchini (keep about an 1/8 -inch-thick edge). Fill the zucchini and pepper halves with the turkey mixture. Mound it slightly and don’t pack it too tightly. Place the stuffed vegetables in the prepared baking pan. Pour the marinara sauce over the top of the stuffed vegetables. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, until the stuffed peppers and zucchinis begin to brown and sizzle on top. Serves 6.

Caramelized Onions and Quinoa

2 tablespoons oil

3 large (2 pounds) sweet white onions, halved and thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed

3 cups broth or water, or a combination

1 cup golden raisins (you can plump them in warm water) (dried cranberries or cherries also work)

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves (thyme, basil or oregano are also good)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Pinch of onion and garlic powder, if desired

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and brown sugar. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft and golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes.

Sprinkle quinoa over onions and cook over medium-high heat until quinoa begins to toast and pop. Pour the liquid over and stir to combine. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until liquids are absorbed. Remove from heat and keep covered for additional 10 minutes. Stir in raisins and herbs. Mix to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6 to 8.

– Modified from a recipe at Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.