Doña is back with another Pinned it. Did it. post. At my retreats, Sasha makes some pretty awesome recipes with quinoa and every single retreat I think, "I'm going to use that stuff more often." But my husband is determined to stick to the story that he isn't a fan. But I love it and am convinced my whole family would too if only I knew what to do with it. Doña reminded me that I'm not alone in this and shares an adventure with quinoa that is inspiring me to get the box out of the cupboard and do something about putting it onto the table. Love how she also gives us insight into how she tweaks recipes to use what she has on hand.
This post isn’t about a recipe. Not really about a recipe.
This post is about how to use a recipe as a starting point. It is using Pinterest not as a place where you fall down the hole of craving a beautifully-presented meal or new art supplies or a whole new house, but about how to use Pinterest as the tool that it is - to inspire you and help you use what you already have, well.
What I had was quinoa, and it was lunchtime.
Quinoa is one of those grains that I know I should eat more of, but I just don’t know what to do with it. I had cooked some up to serve with dinner the night before, but then I forgot to serve it. So I had almost three cups of plain leftover quinoa that I knew I should eat but plain quinoa just isn’t that exciting.
I have a shelf full of cookbooks, but they don’t have a search feature. So I turned to Pinterest. I needed a recipe that used quinoa, I could make with what I had in the house right this minute, and that would be fast.
I found Greek quinoa salad - yummy, but I didn’t have most of the ingredients.
I found a grilled chicken, avocado and lime salad that looked like an awesome summer dinner, but would take too long for my lunch. I pinned that one for later.
Then I found it: Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa. I didn’t mind eating “cereal” for lunch, and I was pretty sure I had all of the ingredients. Also, the recipe said it took five minutes to make. And it had a really pretty picture. I’m a sucker for the pretty picture, I admit it.
It is super simple - blend warm milk with cinnamon and vanilla bean, pour it over quinoa, then garnish with blueberries, sliced almonds, and honey.
Once I got in the kitchen I realized I didn’t quite have everything. And also the recipe made enough for four and I was eating lunch alone. I’d have to improvise.
A few years ago I did some traveling with a woman I used to work with who is also an accomplished cook. Whenever we’d eat a meal together in a restaurant, she’d take notes. Not a slavish list of exactly what we were eating, but the flavor combinations. A way of plating a dish that she’d never seen before. What spices she guessed were in there. When she got home she’d use her notes to recreate her memory of the meal, which was not ever what we’d eaten. It was a soup with the spices we’d had in a dessert, or a cocktail with the scent and colors of a starter plate I’d barely even noticed.
After that trip I realized that a recipe didn’t have to be followed, exactly, to make a great meal. I don’t mean bread - if you are making bread, follow the recipe! But with most everything else you can lead with what you have on hand, what you like, what you want to experiment with. Recipes can be sketches, I realized.
So I started sketching with my quinoa. I roughly divided the recipe into four, so two cups of quinoa became 1/2 cup. Which didn’t look like enough, so I doubled that. One cup of blueberries became 1/4 cup. I didn’t have fresh berries, so I warmed up some frozen ones in the microwave. I didn’t have a vanilla bean, so I substituted some vanilla bean paste that I bought by accident a few weeks ago. No sliced almonds, so I rough-chopped some raw almonds that I picked out of a bag of trail mix. I added some shredded coconut because it sounded good. I didn’t measure the honey or the cinnamon.
I took my bowl of quinoa-with-stuff out to my back yard and sat in the shade of an apricot tree near my chicken coop to eat it, and it was delicious.
Was it exactly like the picture? No, not at all. But it was good. And next time I have some leftover quinoa I’ll be able to make that dish by instinct, not with a recipe.
Need some more recipe inspiration? Browse though my What’s For Dinner board for lots more delicious ideas.
Doña Bumgarner is a writer, artist, mama and a craft project-collector from way back. She loves Pinterest and uses it to help solve a household dilemma at least once a week (see her “pinned and done” board here). She lives in Santa Cruz with her partner, their little one and his almost grown one, and a collection of cats and chickens. She writes about the practice of moms feeding their souls in the midst of raising a family on her blog, Nurtured Mama.
Note from Liz: Over here in my corner, I'm trying to "use Pinterest for good." I really see it as a community of people trying to see the beauty and possibility in their lives. I'm continuing to add a few new features here on my blog inspired by or directly about Pinterest as a way to invite others to look for this beauty within a social media community. Connect with me on Pinterest here. Read other "Pinned it. Did it." columns here.