I was invited to teach a cooking class on a subject of my choice at “Natural Grocers” in Overland Park, Kansas and last Saturday was the day….and it was such a nice group of people. The facility was really nice too. There is a very large meeting space with a kitchen set up at one end. There is a sink, stove/oven combination, a refrigerator. Just about everything you could want. There is an overhead television so the stovetop is projected on a screen for the audience to see, and a microphone for the speaker to use. Neither of those were working, but then I have never needed help talking loudly, just ask any teacher I ever had in school. THAT was not a problem for me. So I just went au-natural’. When I say they had the necessary equipment I just mean they had a few pieces, but because it is a new store they were lacking in some kitchen utensils. So I ended up taking all of my own pots, pans, knives, measuring cups, measuring spoons, etc, etc, etc. But because I ended up taking all my own equipment, I decided to keep my menu GLUTEN FREE. And had I used their equipment, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. So my Sous Chef, Wanda Burke, who has been with me for almost 10 years, and believe me she is the best ever, and I set up our own mini-kitchen.

My theme was “TIPS AND TRICK TO HELP YOU COOK AHEAD” . MY recipe was a base recipe of Quinoa with roasted chicken breasts. A lot of people think Quinoa is a grain, but in actuality, it is a seed. It has been around for over 7,000 years. The main crops are grown in the South American countries of Ecuador, Peru, Chili and Argentina. But some is being grown in California and a few other western states in the last few years. The popularity of Quinoa has tripled in this country alone in the last 4 to 5 years. But the popularity has exploded worldwide. It has become so popular that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has declared 2013 the year of Quinoa. It has also tripled in price. Which has made it difficult to grow enough to export AND still keep enough to subsist on for the local farmers who grow it. And there is also the issue of clearing land to plant more crops that is better left un-cleared. But that is a different subject best left for another time.

There are many colors of quinoa. I tend to like the multi-colored because the red and brown seeds have a nutty, crunchy texture after they are cooked. The beige or off white seeds seem to become quite soft and to me seem mushy. I prefer the darker colors I guess because they don’t seem to lose their body even after reheating or sitting in a dressing of some kind.

Here is a basic recipe that can be changed to include any number of different herbs, spices, meats or vegetables and therefore it turns into a fresh salad, a warm side dish, a stand along main dish; if using all vegetable products and no meats, it is a great vegetarian meal, and it is gluten free by nature.

4 organic chicken breasts, dusted with a fine rice flour that has sea salt, pepper, a good amount of garlic powder, and all purpose seasoning added to it.
1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onion diced
3 medium carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken stock plus 1 package chicken concentrate such as Better than Bouillon
1 15 oz. can Cannellini beans drained and rinsed or fresh soaked overnight and cooked 1 hour
1 cup frozen corn or fresh cut from the cob
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup fresh basil, julienne
3 tbsp thyme, fresh
2 springs fresh parsley
2 tbsp salt free all purpose seasoning

Rinse the Quinoa in a fine mesh drainer. Set aside

Heat the oil to medium heat. Coat the chicken breasts with the rice flour, spanking any extra off.
After a small pinch of flour sizzles in the pan, add the chicken breasts and brown in the oil. Do not turn the breasts until they are turning white around the edges. And resist the urge to move them in the pan as this will cause them to lose their golden brown coating if you move them before they are ready to naturally release themselves because they have developed a coating. Keep warm on a rack and set aside in the oven.

Drain all but 2 – 3 tablespoons of the oil from the pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery and saute until vegetables are beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook about 5 minutes, do not brown the vegetables. Add the chicken stock and slowly simmer, loosening the fond from the bottom of the pan with a spatula. Add the quinoa and all purpose seasoning. Cover and cook about 12 minutes. Set a timer and at 12 minutes check by taste for texture. Depending on the texture continue to cook as long as 10 more minutes. Add the corn, peas, fresh herbs and all purpose seasoning. Cook about another 5 minutes, long enough for the flavors to combine. Taste for salt and pepper. Correct if needed.

Mound a cup of quinoa on each plate. Place a sliced chicken breast across each mound, top with a sprinkle of extra parsley and serve.