Business Meeting Breakfast, Courtesy of Hormel

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I have the opportunity to pitch ideas to different food manufacturers for the opportunity to create blog posts featuring their products.  When Hormel asked for ideas for a “party” using their products, I originally pitched them the idea of a “Brinner” (breakfast for dinner) party.  I was sent coupons for products and later offered a monetary stipend for party planning (which I have asked them not to send as I was not able to create a full-fledged party within the time constraints).  However, even taking the above into account, I was able to come up with two recipes which were INCREDIBLY tasty and showcased both Hormel bacon pieces and Hormel Natural Choice Ham lunch meat.

I offer you Hormel Bacon-Cheese mini-muffins and Hormel Ham and Cheese Quiches:

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Both recipes were based around store-bought refrigerated biscuit dough (the kind in the cardboard tubes that you whack on the counter). 

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The recipe? 

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Egg filling for both quiches and muffins:

4 eggs, beaten, diced Hormel bacon bits or Natural Choice Ham, and feta cheese.

For the “muffins,” tear each piece of biscuit dough in half and roll into a ball; put one in each cup of a 24-cup mini-muffin pan.  Make a thumbprint in each dough ball and fill with a spoonful of the egg mixture.

For the quiches, use 8 silicone muffin tins, flatten a biscuit and shape it into the tin to make a “crust” and fill with the egg mixture.

Bake as according to the package directions for the biscuits.

These were a total hit!  My girls ate them all and begged for the recipe!

Thank you Hormel, and Foodbuzz for the opportunity.

Recipe: Asian Chicken Salad with Japanese Ginger Dressing..And a Giveaway!!

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Hi everyone!  I won’t regale you with tales of my convalescence and insane sickness that lasted for about five weeks and from which I am still recovering, but suffice it to say that not much good and healthy eating has gone on in Chez Weaver until recently.  As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I get to pitch ideas for meals and then, if I’m chosen, get sent coupons or products to use in my recipes (both yay and yum).  When the option to create a salad for Fresh Express came up, I couldn’t resist!  Originally, it was part of a contest to get to attend the Foodbuzz Blogger Conference in San Francisco last week, but since I knew I wouldn’t be able to go, I took my time on getting the recipe together.

I’ve already disclosed it, but to be absolutely clear, I was compensated for this recipe in the form of free coupons for Fresh Express salad mixes, which I’ve used to make this creation, and which I intend to share with you!!

And now, I give to you:  Asian Chicken Salad with Japanese Ginger Dressing!

Serves 6

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Ingredients:

Salad:

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The scallions were served on the side because one of my friends hates onions (Shannon, you’re such a hater;)).

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  • 3 Frozen Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breasts, marinated for four hours (or overnight) in Japanese Ginger Dressing and Marinade, grilled and sliced

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Mouth watering yet?  And now, the piece de resistance….

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Dual Purpose Japanese Ginger Dressing and Marinade!

Adapted from this recipe at Allrecipes.com

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 cup sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 6 Tbsp honey

Mix the rice wine vingegar, soy sauce and honey; whisk well until honey dissolves.  Using a very fine grater or microplane, grate the garlic cloves, ginger, and onion into the vinegar mixture (the onion will turn into mostly water, but grating it prevents chunks in the dressing).  Drizzle the oils into the vinegar mix while whisking.  Ta-da!!!

I made a double batch and used half to marinate the chicken for four hours or so before grilling it.  It was so good.

The dressing will store well in the fridge for about a week.  I kept it in a smoothie shaker and shook it up before dressing additional salads.

Fresh Express, thank you for allowing me to share this recipe!

And the best part?  I’m giving away SIX coupons (good for one free bag of certain Fresh Express salad mixes) to one lucky reader…and you can get up to three chances to win!  Here’s how:

  1. Subscribe to my blog via email (just click the button to the right!) and leave me a comment when you’ve done so
  2. Subscribe to me in your Google Reader and leave me a comment letting me know that you’ve done so
  3. Link to this recipe on your own blog and leave me a comment with the link in it!

I’ll pick a winner at random on Monday, November 15th.

Recipe: Crockpot Taco Soup

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As with most of my soup recipes, this one is highly customizeable.  Experiment at will.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 head cabbage, chopped
  • 3 kale leaves, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large frozen boneless chicken breast
  • 1 15-oz can sweet corn
  • 1 15-oz can black beans
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 diced onions
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 palmfuls garlic powder*
  • 1 palmful cumin
  • 1 palmful chili powder
  • 1/3 cup hot sauce

Instructions

  1. Place all items except last 4 in crock pot (mine is about 7 quarts).  Nestle the chicken breast in the bottom under most of the veggies.
  2. Add enough water to cover everything well.
  3. Add spices and stir
  4. Set crock pot to low and allow to cook for at least 4 or 5 hours (I let mine go for the entire workday..about 9)
  5. Remove the chicken breast (you may need to use two spoons, because it’ll be tender).  Place chicken breast in a bowl and shred with two forks.
  6. Add shredded chicken back to soup and stir well

Serve with sour cream, cheese, and/or crushed corn chips!  Enjoy!

*  For a “palmful,” I basically pour a pile of the spice into the palm of my hand.  It’s not a specific measurement, but I estimate that it’s two or three TBSP.  Trial and error will tell you what the right amount of spice is for you.

Recipe: “No Food Waste” Vegetable Soup

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I’ll be the first to admit that I pretty much totally suck at food photos.  The other problem, however, is that this soup is not pretty.  No matter what cute bowl I put it in, it still looks drab and icky.  I absolutely promise you, though, that this is some of the BEST vegetable soup you’ll ever put in your face.

My version above isn’t vegetarian, but you could easily make it so by replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock; mushroom stock would probably be awesome. 

makes various servings depending on the size of your crock pot

Ingredients

necessities:

  • 1 carton of chicken/vegetable stock
  • 1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes (I used no-salt added)
  • 1/2 head of cabbage, chopped

This is your soup base; after this, you can pretty much add whatever veggies you want; I’ve added just about everything to this soup at some time or another.  Here’s what’s in the above version:

  • 1 15 oz can french-style green beans (I used no-salt added)
  • 2 HUGE Vidalia onions, diced large
  • 1 8-oz bag frozen sweet peas
  • two chopped carrots
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 3 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 2 Tbsp dried basil

Instructions

  1. Dump everything in crock pot
  2. Add enough water to cover
  3. Set crock pot on low
  4. Let go for 4 hours or so

All done!  I actually let mine go for about 8 hours (the time that I left for work until when Joey got home and set it on “warm” instead).  You can also do this in a regular pot…you’ll just need to simmer it all together for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  In the past, I’ve added zucchini, beans, okra, corn, ro-tel, salsa, potatoes, pasta, and a host of other veggies that showed up at the house.  It’s great for times when you’re afraid that your veggies are going to go bad in the fridge.  This pot made 11 1-pint servings.  I usually store them in old egg-drop soup containers, and I freeze half and put half in the fridge for lunch.  The frozen ones heat up just fine, and they’re great for days when you don’t feel like making lunch.  This week, on different days, I topped it with swiss cheese, feta cheese, and cheddar cheese.  Each added a different nuance, and was fantastic.  Want to bulk it up?  Add some rice or quinoa or shredded or diced chicken or beef!

Enjoy:)

100 Things About Me

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I’ve seen a bunch of people do this “100 Random Things” post, and, even though no one’s tagged me, in an outrageous display of narcissism, I’ve decided to do one of my own volition.  Actually, I think that I’m relatively boring, so I want to see if I can even come up with 100 interesting things about me.  Read on…probably for more information than you bargained for:

  1. I never missed a day of school, from Kindergarten until I graduated high school.  I was given a leather portfolio when I graduated as an award from the Charlotte-Meck school system.  I have used it for every job interview I ever had.
  2. I am a knuckle-cracker, neck-popper…well, all joints that can be popped, basically.
  3. I am cat-obsessed.  I’ve only had three in my whole life:  Burgie, who died when I was four, Puss, who we got when I was 7 and died when I was 26, and Shelli, who’s 3.
  4. I am shy.
  5. I have trouble making friends because of this.
  6. I lost all of my close friends in a very unfortunate and dramatic fight in 2002.
  7. I have just recently gotten back to where I can have friends who are girls again.
  8. I am fiercely loyal to my best friends.
  9. I also simultaneously worry that they will decide to quit being my friends.
  10. I am probably a little socially awkward because I’m pretty dorky.
  11. I have learned to embrace this over the years.
  12. I can move my eyes independently of each other.
  13. I haven’t felt comfortable in my own skin since I was in college.
  14. I could go back and do my undergrad years all over again.
  15. I got married 11/23/2002.
  16. Mr. PhD and I graduated from college in 2003.
  17. I lived in Waco, TX from 8/03 to 6/04
  18. I met Jessica Simpson while there because I sold her grandmother two recliners (I worked in furniture sales).
  19. At my skinniest, I was 5’3″ and 115 pounds.  Because of my frame, it was much too small.
  20. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and PTSD (it’s not just for people in war zones, folks).
  21. Because of this, I have terrible-looking fingernails and scars from picking at myself (forms of self-mutilation).
  22. I spent the entire years of 2005-2006 convinced that I was dying of terminal cancer and didn’t know it.  I literally asked Mr. PhD at least fifty times a day if he thought I had cancer.
  23. I’ve had these problems at least since I was 10 (when the PTSD started), yet I did not seek any treatment until 6/08.
  24. Thanks to a very insightful psychiatrist, medication, and cognitive therapy, I am doing much better these days.
  25. I think poop is really funny.
  26. I also think farting is really funny.
  27. I am an exceptional producer of the latter, much to Mr. PhD’s chagrin.
  28. I only fart in front of my closest friends, but when I do, I’m loud and proud!
  29. I LOVE to read…mostly nonfiction, but I get plenty of fiction in because…
  30. I’m working on a M.A. in English, focusing on Multicultural/transnational literature
  31. I’m 1/16th Cherokee on each side of my family.
  32. I love NC.  Like, seriously.  Like, I lived in TX, so I learned about state pride.  Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t pride in their state, especially since several people didn’t even know what coast North Carolina was on.  AND, it was usually just referred to as “Carolina,” because they couldn’t recall if there was a North/South or not.
  33. I have a BA in Spanish and in English.  Multicultural Lit was a good fit for that combo.
  34. I spent two weeks teaching 12th grade English.  It was too overwhelming and I washed out.  Fortunately, it must not have been just me, because the girl they hired after me quit after a semester and they tried to get me to come back.
  35. I work with people I really love and who I consider to be friends.  It took us time to get there, though. 
  36. I watch way too much TRUtv.
  37. Mr. PhD and I got together because he showed up at my job and told me to dump my boyfriend of 3 years.  I did.  We were engaged 8 weeks later and married 11 months after that.
  38. I love dogs, especially big ones, but hate it when they drool and hate being licked by them (they have a weird tongue texture).
  39. I love it when Shelli tries to “groom” me (cats have drier, sandpapery tongues).
  40. I have recently discovered a love for birds of prey.
  41. Ok, I really love all animals.  Except spiders.
  42. I could eat Asian food just about every day.
  43. The off days would be a rotation of Mexican and Italian food.
  44. The above two items probably explain why I have so much gas.
  45. I’m one of those people who really does LOVE water.  Plain ol’ water.  No flavors, no high-class bottles, just good old tap water with some ice.
  46. I love camping.  Except for spiders.
  47. Mr. PhD and I sleep on a double bed (nope, not even a queen bed).  I get 1/3, he gets 1/3, and Shelli gets 1/3 because she has to sleep perpendicular to me.
  48. I let Shelli drink out of my glass of water.  And then I drink after her.  I don’t know if she’s just licked her butt or not, but it hasn’t killed me yet.  I did the same thing with Puss when she was alive.
  49. I hate folding laundry.  We currently have a 4-foot-high pile of clean laundry in the laundry room that we dig through looking for underwear every day.
  50. I hatehatehatehatehate change and need routines to feel comfortable.
  51. I also need lots of down time and can’t handle a busy schedule.  It starts to overwhelm me.
  52. I don’t get much downtime.
  53. I am a Christian. 
  54. I love to sing and have been on a couple of cds.
  55. I was in a band for two years and we did some local festivals.
  56. I play the flute, piano, and guitar, but none very well anymore.
  57. I collect Snoopys.  Since I work in Insurance, the freebies from MetLife ROCK.
  58. I collect Breyer model horses.
  59. I used to blog about Frugal Living.  But we’re not frugal enough right now.  I’m working to change that.  Rapidly.
  60. I’ve dealt with bullies throughout my life, even as an adult (although they masquerade as friends as you get older).  I kicked the last bully out of my life in early 2007.
  61. I have two best girlfriends and two best guy friends.
  62. My mom and dad are my bestest, bestest friends, though.
  63. I am a firm believer in our Second Amendment Rights, and I will always stand up politically to protect them.  I believe that education is the best preventer of accidental gunshot deaths, not taking away the individual right to bear arms.
  64. Politically, I’m more Libertarian than anything, I think.
  65. I have a salty (foul) mouth.  I am working to remedy this.
  66. Sometimes I have a conversation between Shelli and myself, and I do both parts.
  67. Sometimes Joey has a conversation with Shelli, and I’m doing Shelli’s part.
  68. My most favorite band ever is The Monkees.  As evidenced by the fact that I got them permanently inked on my body.
  69. My favorite genre of music is classic rock.
  70. I believed in Santa until I was 10 because my great uncle was the “Mall Santa” in Spartanburg, SC, and he knew my name, so I thought he was “the real Santa.”  When he died, it was Christmas Eve.  Weird, eh?
  71. I’m a smart-ass.  My parents didn’t like this when I was a kid, but they find it pretty entertaining now.
  72. I was deathly afraid of the dentist for YEARS, despite the fact that I’ve never had a cavity.  The meds helped with that a lot.
  73. I’ve had a kidney stone (last September).  It was the worst pain of my life.  Women have told me that childbirth is easier.
  74. I long to be one of those off-the-grid prepper-type people who lives in a relatively isolated area in the NC mountains.
  75. Sherman Alexie, Stephen King, and Barbara Kingsolver are my favorite authors.
  76. I want to be a writer.
  77. I want to teach college.
  78. I have trouble bench-pressing just the bar.  I can’t imagine adding weights to it right now.
  79. I hate fooling with makeup.  I wear it when I have to.
  80. I never thought that I’d be “the funny, fat girl.”
  81. I am insanely lazy.  And I feel guilty for it.
  82. I think I want to have kids, but I don’t know for sure.
  83. I also think I want to get my PhD, but I don’t know for sure.
  84. My favorite TV show of all time is Mystery Science Theater 3000
  85. After that, it’s M*A*S*H, NCIS, and Criminal Minds.
  86. I watch waaay too much tv.
  87. I am a packrat.  So is my husband.
  88. As a result, our house is very cluttered.
  89. I long to be a minimalist, but I’m too sentimental.
  90. I still have a small collection of very significant stuffed animals from my childhood.
  91. Between me and Mr. PhD, we probably have a couple thousand books in the house.  And not nearly enough bookshelves.  There are books stacked on the floor, on top of bookshelves, on the entertainment center, in our nightstands, on our nightstands…well, you get the picture.
  92. I want to please people and I want people to like me, which leads me to agree to do things I don’t really feel like doing.
  93. I’m OCD, but not debilitatingly so.
  94. I don’t like chick flicks, but it’s just because I don’t like to cry.  I figure that I do enough crying in real life.  I don’t need to cry at a movie.
  95. My favorite movie is Terminator 2.
  96. After that, it’s The Parent Trap (the original).
  97. I would like to get the top of my ear pierced, and either my nose or my eyebrow, but I will never do it…first, because of the pain and second, because it may hurt my chances of upward mobility if I have to stay in Corporate America.
  98. I also would love to get a full sleeve tattoo, but will never do it for the above reasons.
  99. I’m a pessimist, cynic, skeptic, sarcastic person.  And I don’t want to be like that as much as I am.
  100. All things considered, though, I do like my life ok, and wouldn’t trade it:).

OK, well, there you have it.  Apparently I was able to do it.  If you’re still reading, thanks, and CONSIDER YOURSELF TAGGED…give this a shot and leave me a link to your blog post so I can check it out:)

“No More”…A Manifesto

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No more will I allow myself to claim victimhood.

No more wil I be ruled by my emotions.

No more will I eat to medicate.

No more will I look in the mirror and hate who I’ve become.

No more will I make decisions that shorten my life.

No more will I think about how things will be once I lose weight.

No more will I feel worthless because life hasn’t turned out the way I expected.

No more will I feel helpless, defeated, like I can never accomplish my goals.

No more will I be afraid.

Yesterday was the last day.  Today, no more.

Emotional Hangover

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Sorry, guys.  It’s been a very emotional week.  Last Wednesday was my last choir rehearsal at our main campus, so it was full of goodbyes and tears.  Then, my closest friend at work left to move away for his dream job, and Friday was his last day.  I’m happy for him, but Friday was a tough day.

I tried to do an outdoor run on Saturday, since it was only in the low 70′s, and I did okay for a little bit, but it was so humid that breathing was a little difficult, so Mr. PhD and I ended up walking most of it.  I felt like it was a bit of a workout fail, because I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be humid in three weeks when we do our 5K.  But we went to the Carolina Raptor Center and we “adopted” a little Screech Owl named Lana, who only has one eye!

Isn’t she cute!  Our adoption fee goes toward her food and medical care, and we get a photo and information, and we also get to have one-on-ones with her for pictures.  She is absolutely adorable; she also has some wing injuries and can’t be released into the wild, so she “educates” Raptor Center visitors during the live bird talks.  If you’re anywhere near Charlotte, NC, you’ve got to go to this place.  We’re members, so we get to go as often as we want for free, and the work they do for injured/orphaned birds of prey is incredible. 

Anyway, that perked up Saturday, but yesterday was our first official day at our new church campus and I was homesick.  I know God has big plans and I’m excited, but I’m also insecure and shy, and I don’t deal well with change…so I knew the adjustment was going to be tough even though it’s a good thing. 

I was wiped today.  Mr. PhD thinks that it may be the emotional toll, but I think it’s something I ate.  I slept for an hour this evening and am about to go back to bed.  We’re going to the gym for sure on Wednesday, and maybe tomorrow depending on some tentative plans that we’ve got.

AND!!  Our best friend is back from Iraq and will be home Friday, which means that we’re going camping for a week next week!!

I’ll see if I can muster up something more interesting tomorrow; for how, I hope you guys have a good night :-)

The Food-Soul Link and Why It Sucks…

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A very secure kitty, snuggled on my lap in a “blanket sandwich”

So, Jenna posted a blog today where she asked readers to comment regarding their favorite food memories.  And, what I intended to be a fun little jaunt down memory lane ended up being a full-on, sobbing, snot-running, cry-fest on the way home from work.  But, my thanks to you, Jenna, because it also resulted in an emotional breakthrough on a larger level.

So…”transparency alert” here…proceed at your own risk:

Food has the power both to heal and to kill.  It can soothe our emotions, but at the same time can destroy our bodies.  Thinking about my happiest food memory is hard for me.  Feelings of nostalgia are tempered by shame because my best food memories don’t seem “good enough.”  They aren’t memories of eating healthy food.  Actually, they’re seldom about food at all.  White rice and squeeze butter.  Cut-up hotdogs with ketchup.  Those are my favorite food memories.  They’re not healthy.  They’re processed, and they’re boring.

But they remind me of weeknights when my mom had to work and it would just be my dad and me.  And I would usually eat something like that, and then we’d watch USA Cartoon Express and then Airwolf.  To this day, I still love cut-up hotdogs and rice.

For me, the food-soul connection is a real battle.  Birthday cake reminds me of countless shared cakes between my dad and me (because his birthday is ten days before mine).  Boxed macaroni and powdered cheese reminds me of Mom’s go-to dish that she knew would make me happy.  A HUGE round slice of watermelon and a grapefruit spoon reminds me of summer afternoons as a kid, eating and spitting seeds into the plate.  Mom always likes to have the watermelon “butts” :-)

The common thread among these memories is security.  There’s very little that’s more secure than being a kid in the home of two loving parents and knowing that you’ll be taken care of no matter what.  And that security is gone–replaced by work, bills, an unstable economy, a husband in grad school, and the knowledge that I’m now responsible for my own well-being.  And I’m doing a piss-poor job taking care of my own well-being.   Thus, food and tv become my security.  And eight years of seeking security through food takes its toll.

I don’t have the answers on this one, honestly.  Just writing about this brings me to tears.  Looking at food as a source of security is unhealthy and dangerous, but I haven’t yet discovered what healthy things/practices can fill that void.  I’m open to suggestions, though.  What does it for you?

Recipe: Quinoa-Stuffed Red Peppers

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Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Filling:

  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 can chicken stock (or about two cups)
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, diced very thin (since you’re cooking it, you could use a hotter onion if you want)
  • 1 (HUGE) clove of garlic, minced
  • a few shakes of dried parsley

Instructions:

  1. Bring quinoa and chicken stock to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover.  Chop onion and garlic while it’s heating up
  2. After about 7 minutes, add the onion, garlic, and parsley to the quinoa.  Stir and cover for 10 more minutes
  3. Halve the peppers and remove the seeds and ribs (while leaving the pepper intact to make the “bowl” shape).
  4. Once the moisture is absorbed in the quinoa, fill each pepper with some of the mix.  Let it mound up over the edge of the pepper (You will end up with leftover quinoa.  Save it for lunch the next day!)
  5. Top each filled pepper half with 1 oz feta.
  6. Bake at 400* in toaster oven for 20 minutes

Note:  I do not recommend that you add salt to this if you’re using canned chicken broth.  It’s salty enough.  You will probably need to reduce the temp if you cook them in the big oven.  We were trying to reduce the heat in the house and save electricity.  Honestly, if you’re just making enough for two, the toaster oven has plenty of room.  You’ll know it’s done because the feta will be browned on top and the quinoa will be a little crunchy.  That top layer was the best part:-)

Recipe: Summer Quinoa Salad

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A little late, I know.  But here she goes!

Serves 1

  • 1 cup quinoa, prepared by package instructions
  • 1/4 slicing tomato, diced
  • 1/4 vidalia (or other sweet onion), diced
  • 1/4 an english cucumber, diced
  • 1/4 yellow (or red or orange) bell pepper, diced.
  • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  1. Chill the quinoa after preparing; an hour or so in the fridge would probably do.  You could also make the quinoa the night before.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Eat up!

I probably wouldn’t use a green bell pepper in place of the red/yellow/orange…mild flavors are key here…the feta cheese should be the only strong flavor.  Feta and cucumber go particularly well together, so this was a winner in our house.  You could halve the serving and use it as a side dish, or you can do like I did and demolish the whole thing.

I’ve read lots of complaints that quinoa is too bland…I didn’t find it to be that way at all!  It is a mild flavor, but it’s a little nutty, a little like corn, and has a great texture…a perfect base for something like this!

I’f I’d had them, I would have added some chopped kalamata olives to give it a Greek feel, but it’s still awesome as-is.

Enjoy, peeps.

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