Happy Friday everyone! I am sorry it’s been so quiet around here lately. I’ve been really busy “offline” wrapping up some projects so I can get to work on a new one I’ll tell you about very soon. Also, my son is being Bar Mitzvah’ed in 3 weeks and our family has had lots to do to prepare. We’re having a big outdoor party here afterwards so we’ve been very hard at work getting the yard and garden into good shape (I’ll show you some pictures soon).

Anyway, as today is Friday, I want to follow up on last week’s One Simple Change post about Eating a Balanced Diet, and talk about the importance of eating a variety of foods.

Do you eat the same thing for breakfast every day, week in and week out? How about lunch? If so, it’s my hope that this post will get you to change your ways a bit. I am of the opinion that eating the same foods each and every day can be problematic, no matter how healthy you believe those foods to be. For one thing, repetitively eating certain foods may cause you to develop sensitivities to those foods. Also, you are more likely to get bored of a whole foods diet if you always eat the same things.

I think the best way to avoid developing food sensitivities and stave off dietary boredom is to eat a wide variety of foods. Alternating different fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and protein foods (including dairy) each day (or at least every couple of days) also ensures that you take in a wide variety of nutrients.

Am I saying that you should not eat wholesome dinner leftovers for lunch the next day? No. Not at all: in fact, I don’t want you to stop doing anything that helps you eat well and makes your life easier.

I just want to point out that if you are accustomed to eating cereal with milk for breakfast every day and/or a turkey sandwich for lunch every day and an apple for a snack every day, you should consider changing things up.

Why not try to eat as many different colored foods as you can (and I hope you know I don’t mean you should eat foods like Fruit Loops)? Buy a fruit or vegetable you’ve never had before and see if you like it. Visit your local natural foods store and make up some bags of all different grains and legumes to try from the bulk food aisle. Cook up a dish from a cuisine you don’t know much about and taste a new herb or spice. If you like to bake, experiment with different flours other than wheat. See how you like (natural) sweeteners: there are so many to choose from! Eat various nuts and seeds- again, there are so many! If you eat animal protein, then be adventurous and open to trying something new: I spent my whole life avoiding lamb because I thought I hated it, but last year I discovered I actually enjoy it very much.

So what does all this have to do with this quinoa dish?

My busy-ness as of late has meant a lack of new recipes for you all. Boo. Not that I didn’t try- last weekend, I put beautiful strawberries to use in not one, but two recipe that I was hoping to post, but somehow those recipes both turned out to be duds. This does happen…but more boo.

This quinoa dish, however, was a winner, and it keeps well so it was a lunchtime lifesaver a couple of days this week, too. If you’ve never tried quinoa, what are you waiting for? One cooked cup of this gluten free seed has more than 10 grams of protein, and it’s delicious to boot. If you don’t have the ingredients for this version (or if it simply doesn’t appeal to you), try a similar one with chopped tomato, cucumber, red pepper, and feta.

Quinoa with Sauteed Grapes, Avocado, and Brie

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Do you ever gaze inside your refrigerator a few days after food shopping and marvel at how there's pretty much nothing to eat? I'm a little embarrassed to tell you how often that's been happening around here lately, but usually, after I look a little deeper, I realize I can come up with something. That's the story behind this combination of quinoa, almonds, grapes, avocado and brie: it's a little random, I know, but it's also really tasty ;)

Ingredients:

*1 cup organic quinoa
*1 1/2 cups water
*1/2 cup slivered almonds
*1 cup seedless red grapes, preferably organic, sliced in half if large
*1 avocado, diced
*brie cheese, cut into chunks- to taste (I used about 1/2 cup)
*2-3 tablespoons diced red onion
*1 handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
*1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste
*1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice), plus more to taste

*sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer under cold running water. Drain and set aside.

2. In a medium pot on the stove, heat almonds over low-medium heat until they start to brown a bit. Add the quinoa along with 1 1/2 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (about 15 minutes). Remove cover and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

3. While the quinoa is cooling, heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add grapes to pan and cook for a minute or two: just until the juices begin to "ooze" and the grapes get hot and squishy. Take them off the heat.

4. Transfer the cooked quinoa to a large bowl and add the sauteed grapes, the diced avocado, the chunks of brie, which will melt a bit (this is good), the red onion, and the parsley.

5. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with the vinegar or lemon juice, and toss well. Taste and adjust seasonings, then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature, or chilled.

More quinoa salads that look terrific to me:
Warm Spinach Salad with Quinoa from Gluten Free Goddess
Black Quinoa Salad with Mango, Avocado, and Tomatoes from Two Peas and Their Pod
Toasted Quinoa, Corn, and Avocado Salad from Ezra Poundcake
Thai Style Black Quinoa Salad from Closet Cooking
Black Quinoa with Grilled Vegetables, Basil, and Feta from Healthy Green Kitchen