Try Something New

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Try Something New

By: Bevin Wallace 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve urged my kids to try a new food—a food they claimed to “know its disgusting”—only to hear them say, “Wow mom, I didn’t know delicata squash (or kale, pomegranate, clams) was so not gross! Can I have some more?” Sure, sometimes (as with the pureed broccoli-and parsley salad I foisted on them last night), they confirm it to be disgusting. But they don’t gag, vomit, or die.

So, I remind them that the risk was worth it. They tried something new. Not only did they live to tell about it, but they may have expanded the nutritional variety of their diet. And they discovered new flavors.

Going through this process with kids (pediatricians suggest it might require offering—not forcing, although I would say cajoling is okay—some new foods 15 times in order for a kid to accept them) is a good reminder for everyone. It’s easy to get stuck in our ways and decide we don’t like things before we even try them. Being an open-minded eater and cook will ensure you have a well-balanced diet—and you’ll be rewarded with more delicious, satisfying, and fun food experiences that can enhance your life and health.

I have experienced this firsthand—both with trying new recipes, and with giving new foods a chance. For years, I avoided quinoa because I’d seen too many gooey quinoa salads languishing in too many salad bars. I assumed the stuff was nasty filler for people who can’t eat macaroni. Then a friend brought a quinoa salad to a small get together and I had no choice but to pile some on my plate. It was fantastic. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and immediately emailed her for the recipe. And I went out a bought a huge bag of quinoa. Since then I’ve experimented with many, many quinoa dishes, and my family’s meal repertoire is much more varied and exciting because of them.

And take ceviche. I’d tried it (and loved it) in Mexico. But I was afraid to make it at home—handling raw fish has always intimidated me a little, and I didn’t know what I’d do if the lime juice didn’t actually cook the fish—so we rarely got to enjoy it. When I decided to take a risk and make it, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Now that I’ve learned how to make ceviche, we get to eat like we’re on vacation whenever we want. Talk about worth the risk. Just so you know I wasn’t foolhardy, I started with a small batch because fish can be expensive, and my recipe calls for cooked shrimp so that alleviated some of my raw fish fears.

Being adventurous and trying new things in the kitchen involves very minor risks that can reap the huge rewards of some of life’s greatest pleasures. You’re probably well versed in quinoa and all its glories, but here is the recipe for the salad that got me to try (and love) the stuff. My no-fail beginner ceviche is below.

Quinoa Salad with Crunchy Vegetables & Tangy Peanut Dressing

(I highly recommend doing two things: doubling this recipe and tweaking it based on what veggies you have on hand.)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (use a food processor or cheese grater)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery (2-3 stalks)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper (about 1/2 large pepper)
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or more if you love cilantro like I do)
  • 1/2 lime

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 3 tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tbs. honey
  • 1 tsp. Chinese 5-Spice powder (or you could use a pinch each of dried ginger, cinnamon, and allspice)
  • Pinch Harissa powder (hot paprika and/or cayenne would work, too)
  • 1 tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil (Mine is actually a sesame-chili oil, so slightly spicy)
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • Squeeze of lime

Rinse quinoa with cold water in a fine mesh strainer (this is crucial to remove quinoa’s bitter taste). In a medium saucepan, bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil. Add in quinoa and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 15 mins. or until quinoa has absorbed all of the water. Remove from heat and fluff quinoa with fork; place in large bowl and set aside.

To make dressing: Put peanut butter and honey in a medium, microwave-safe bowl and heat in microwave for 20 seconds. Stir in soy sauce, vinegar, spices, and both oils and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. Add a splash of water if it seems too thick. Pour the dressing over the quinoa. (I started with about half, tasted it, and then ended up using all the dressing.) Stir in the veggies, cilantro, and nuts. Serve with lime wedges if desired. This is good both room temperature and cold.

Shrimp & Rockfish Ceviche

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. cooked shrimp (you can buy raw shrimp and steam it for a few minutes or do what I did and buy the peeled, cooked kind)
  • 1/4-1/2 lb. rockfish or other mild white fish
  • 1 pint organic grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 3 fresh jalapeno peppers
  • 5-6 limes
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 avocado
  • Salt & pepper

Remove the tails and chop the shrimp. Cut up the raw fish into small bite-sized pieces. Put the fish in a large bowl and then add the shrimp on top of it. Halve the tomatoes and add them to the bowl. Finely chop the onion and add it to the bowl. Remove the leaves from a decent-sized handful of cilantro and chop them; add to bowl. Chop the jalapenos (the easiest way to do this is to slice off the stem then cut the pepper lengthwise, peel out the inner pulp and seeds, really trying to refrain from touching your eyes or lips while doing so, then cut into a small dice). Add the jalapenos to the bowl and then cut the limes in half. Squeeze the limes (I used 5) into the bowl; juice should be covering the fish. Stir everything up really well and season with a few drops of olive oil and salt & pepper. Add the avocado right before serving so it doesn’t get mushy. The fish “cooks” almost instantaneously, turning opaque. Enjoy!




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