A Healthy Way to Fiesta

Fiesta is upon us, which means the Alamo City is overflowing with royalty, festive parties, popular parades, confetti eggs, beloved medals, splashy front door wreaths and event yard decorations, colorful clothing, stacks of beer cups and food, glorious food--though the typical Fiesta food is not necessarily the healthiest...

This annual celebration was established in 1891 which makes it steeped in more than a century of history. So, it's here to stay and the bonus is that it's a major economic driver (in 2007, it was calculated that it has a $284 million dollar impact) which then benefits many worthy local charities. Because San Antonians love a reason to party, it's a great excuse to take off a few days from work, drink and eat too much and kick up your heels for a good cause.
Though it's been years since I have partaken in any official Fiesta festivities--honestly, as I have gotten older, the crowds just don't agree with me anymore, I do like to keep up with the latest and greatest events, who's who on the royal court, King Antonio and Rey Feo, sordid hiccups (this year's Flambeau night parade experienced a bit of a snag when they announced they would be limiting the number of school bands who could perform in the spirit section of the parade; fortunately, they later rescinded their decision and the parade will go on with oodles of school bands and dance teams performing as they have since 1948), what's new that's cooking at fiesta and even the updated tips on how to survive the endurance challenging celebration of back-to-back parties.

To honor the kick-off of these 10-days of gluttony, I decided to celebrate at home with a healthy and spring-inspired quinoa salad. Even if you are trying to minimize your carb consumption, you can rest easy with this lovely whole grain because this seed is loaded with protein and is considered a super food. History tells us that quinoa was cultivated more than 5,000 years ago and was considered by the Incas to the "mother of all grains."

Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, has quickly become a popular grain and could even be considered trendy, as more people are eating and enjoying it due to the increasingly notable health benefits. Naturally gluten-free, quinoa is packed with fiber (5 grams per serving), is a complete protein (8 grams per serving), contains iron, B-vitamins, magnesium (50% of your RDA), manganese (58% of your RDA) phosphorous, folate (19% of your RDA), potassium, calcium and vitamin E. Additionally, it serves as a great source of fatty acids from oleic acid.

More than just being good for you, quinoa is super easy to prepare, though it does need to be rinsed several times before cooking in order to remove the naturally derived yet bitter coating called saponin. The trick is to use a 1:1 ratio, or one cup of quinoa to one cup of liquid. This ensures the best texture and a light and fluffy quinoa.

This confetti colored quinoa with sugar snap peas, red onion, shredded carrots, chives even looks festive with the myriad colors and the coup de grace is the toasted pumpkin seeds which adds an earthy flavor. Serve with grilled chicken and a side salad and I promise you will be fully charged and ready for the real deal Fiesta events after enjoying this healthy meal.

For a full schedule to this year's Fiesta activities, click here.

Buen provecho!
Quinoa confetti salad with sugar snap peas and toasted pumpkin seeds
The Cowgirl Gourmet slightly modified this recipe from the Kitchen Treaty

Print recipe

As usual, my barometer of success is David. If he goes back for seconds on a new dish that is super healthy, then I know I have a winner. And he did go back for seconds. And thirds. In fact, he and I both agreed that this is one of the best new dishes I have made in a long time. 

Fresh and loaded with veggies and a light vinaigrette, be sure to cook the quinoa in half water and half vegetable broth. It will give it more flavor without added calories.

Serves 4-6

1 cup quinoa, rinsed several times
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable stock, homemade or low sodium
2 cups sugar snap peas, rinsed, cleaned and cut on the bias
1 medium-sized organic carrot, peeled and shredded (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup chives, diced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar

Rinse quinoa in a colander several times. Place colander with quinoa in a big bowl filled with water and let sit 15 minutes.
Drain quinoa and rinse again. Just because. Set colander of quinoa aside for five minutes to drain thoroughly. In a small saucepan, add the quinoa, a half cup of water and a half cup of vegetable stock, stir well and bring to a simmer.
Once it begins to simmer, turn the heat to low, cover the pot and let cook 15-20 minutes or until all of the water has evaporated. During the cooking process, stir once and keep an eye on it to ensure you turn the heat off once the water is gone. Remove from the heat and let steam for 5 minutes. Then remove the lid, fluff the quinoa with a fork and let cool for about 15 minutes.
Fill a stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Drop sugar snap peas in the water and blanch for 60 seconds. Drain into the colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside and let drain for a few minutes. Then dump the peas onto a few paper towels and dry thoroughly.

Slice sugar snap peas on the bias. Shred carrot. Dice red onion. Chop chives. Place all of the vegetables in a big bowl and add salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and vinegar and set aside.

Once the quinoa is cooled, add it to the bowl of vegetables and toss well to combine. Whisk the vinaigrette and then pour over the top and toss thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed, adding more salt and pepper.

Refrigerate the bowl and let the flavors meld until ready to serve.
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