The spiced carrot quinoa salad recipe used only half the box of quinoa.
The spiced carrot quinoa salad recipe used only half the box of quinoa.
When I search for recipes, I am looking for ones that use ingredients I already have. With the fall harvest of garden carrots, I have more than a few on hand.

I found a recipe called Spiced Carrot Quinoa Salad as an option for using a few of them. But what is quinoa? I wondered.

I thought it was some type of grain and that was mostly right.

We were up at the cabin again and I had to find ingredients locally - if I hadn't packed them to come with us.

I could not even pronounce the word - quinoa - how would one ever know it actually sounds like "keen-wah."

After spending our week of vacation there, a mere weekend seemed hardly no time at all. We fell back into our usual routine of driving to Hayward to pick up a few supplies while buying birthday gifts for my grandson, Noah.

Truth be told, we KNEW the grocery store there was having its annual taste-testing event as a prelude to the holiday season. We'd fallen into it accidentally last year but this time my husband had asked to find out the date and we timed our visit for the same weekend.

A local sports team serves the goodies, apparently as a fundraiser for their group, but the store supplies the samples. Honestly, by the time we had moseyed from one side of the store to the other, we had more than eaten our lunch. I felt weirdly stuffed and had not actually tried everything. I am pretty sure my husband did, however.

There were specials to put in one's cart while sampling. I was looking for green grapes and quinoa and spent over $50. The grapes weren't cheap, but they were the largest green grapes I've ever seen in my life. Instead of halving them for my recipe, I quartered them.

The quinoa was not easy to find, but they did have it in a regular aisle instead of being in their organic healthy food aisle, where I might have imagined finding it. It was boxed alongside items like specialty rice and pasta.

A 12-ounce box of quinoa (keen-wah) cost $5. That seemed like a lot, but I was set on trying this recipe. Oh, and the green grapes I needed rang up at $4.

I also got lots of specially-priced frozen fish to put in our freezer up there. We can't seem to catch our own, so fish at the cabin needs to come from the freezer.

We found some fun stuff for Noah's birthday at other stores, like a cool fishing tackle box with stuff to put inside and a t-shirt that says, "Fish Fear Me." I KNOW that Noah will be tickled by that. He really likes fishing. Last summer he reached the point where he could bait his own hook and remove a fish from the line.

Dale created a bench on the end of our dock for fishermen like Noah. And he has caught a fish or two up there.

I had asked his dad what Noah might like for his birthday. He suggested that something Star Wars related would be appreciated. Their family was dressed as Star Wars characters when they trick-or-treated at our house this year.

But I found nothing but fishing sorts of stuff where I was shopping. I had to come back home and shop on Veterans' Day to get Star Wars Legos. Every time Noah stops by our house he comes with a handful of Legos and asks, "Can I take these home?" The parts are very specific and I know he has a real purpose in mind for each piece.

So I always say yes, as there's no one living here to use the multitude of Legos I have on hand. However, it makes it more fun to come and discover ones he needs, a handful at a time, instead of saying, hey just take them all home with you.

Before I get to the recipe, I'll mention this reminds me of a photo I recently saw posted on Facebook. It was my nephew's daughter and she was wearing a red plaid coat. Something was said about wearing a coat from grandma's house. I looked and thought, that looks like the little coat I sewed for my daughter, Amanda. I looked again and thought, that IS the coat I sewed for Amanda.

Then I remembered, long ago I gave the coat to my sister-in-law for her daughter, Erin, to wear. I had felt honored when she wore it and she looked so cute in it.

It was wool, but I had lined it with blue plush, I think, to make it warmer. The blue on the inside of the hood was visible in the photo. It just goes to show that you make something out of wool, it wears almost forever. My daughter will be 40 next summer - I created the jacket for her when she was 3 or 4.

Back in my sewing days, I entered things I had constructed at the county fair. Because I was a careful sewer, the plaids matched perfectly along the seams. Of course!

The moral of this bit story is, if you give it away instead of storing it away, it can get used and reused, even more than you could ever imagine!

Sadly, I have not sewn much in recent years. I did make fleece mittens for family members one Christmas and fleece throws another Christmas. In spite of good intentions, this trend only lasted two years.

No, now I cook. And look up things like quinoa on the Internet. Oddly, after I made the salad up north and brought the leftovers back home, Logan found a story in Time magazine about quinoa titled, "The Rags-to-Riches Grain."

It turns out it is grown in the Andes mountains. It is actually a seed that was once a peasant food, but since it has grown in popularity over the last decade, the price for it has increased so now it is less affordable. A demand for it means it's being shipped from Peru to far away places like the United States and China.

It is sought after because it is gluten free and those with restricted diets can eat it. For vegetarians, it is an amazing food because unlike many other vegetative sources for protein, it is a complete protein, having all eight of the essential amino acids.

Quinoa is cooked similar to rice and one odd thing is that it needs washing to remove an outer bitter coating called saponin. Because the seeds are small, the washing needs to take place in a sieve with very small holes.

The box I purchased claimed it was "pre-washed," so I skipped the washing step. Once back home, when I went to Rochester to finish birthday shopping (and find Star Wars Legos), I also looked to see if quinoa might be cheaper here.

It was not on the shelf with rice, but I found it in a health food aisle. The same brand box was actually priced higher than at Hayward, but I also discovered there were more colors (red and black) than the white I had purchased and noodles that are made from quinoa flour.

I found this recipe in a book called "yumPower 101" that HealthPartners gave away at the Minnesota State Fair. This book represents a trend in food today. In a world of fast food living and not a lot of cooking from scratch, it represents a trend that health insurance, medical clinics and health reform agents represent. Underlying, it is a plea to eat in a more healthy way - more fruits and vegetables, less sugar and saturated fats, whole grains, fish and lean meats. Fewer processed foods is a pathway to having a more healthy life.

But, if we are going to do this, food still needs to taste good. I think this recipe does just that!