lunchbox life: quinoa bowls with velvet chicken, veggies, and miso

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Apologies for the late post this week; I returned home yesterday from a four day trip to DC and Philadelphia to see some of my best friends and I was absolutely tuckered out last night!  We had a lovely time catching up, sightseeing, and eating our way around these two historic cities, and getting back to the daily grind today was as tough as it always is when you return from a vacation.  However, I had a lovely time this afternoon checking out my CSA delivery from the weekend and deciding what I should make for lunches this week, and this is what I came up with: quinoa bowls with velvet chicken, veggies, and miso.  Why velvet?  Well, I have to give a shoutout to Chef Teddi Wohlford at Robinson Home for teaching me the secret that many Asian restaurants use to make their chicken breast so moist and tender: the velveting technique.  This technique is simple: cut up the chicken (or pork) into the desired size pieces, cover with milk and spices, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (and up to four hours).  I was mesmerized, and once I tasted the tender chicken in her fantastic green curry chicken soup, I was a believer.  I researched this technique on ye old internet, and apparently, this is the hidden knowledge of many Asian chefs.  Who knew?  The velveting technique couldn’t be easier and couldn’t be tastier.

To complement the velvet chicken, I sliced up some commonly used veggies in Asian cuisine that I picked out from this week’s CSA box: spinach, carrots, and mushrooms.  I also used miso paste in a simple dressing to bind the chicken and veggies to the quinoa.  Miso paste is frequently used as a soup base to which many restaurants add small slivers of tofu, mushroom, and green onion.  I love its earthy aroma and salty flavor, and I think it works well here with the fiber-rich quinoa, delicate chicken, and sharp veggies.

Quinoa Bowls with Velvet Chicken, Veggies, and Miso

1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups water + chicken bouillon cube OR 2 cups chicken broth

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 tsp. salt

2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes

1/2 pint milk

spice mix (1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. white pepper, 1/4 tsp. coriander, 1/4 tsp. Chinese five spice, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder)

2 cups fresh spinach, chopped

1 cup sliced white mushrooms

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

3 Tbsp. miso paste

1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. water

In a plastic bowl container, add the chicken, milk, and spice mix, then place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  In a rice cooker or pot with a lid, add the quinoa and 2 cups water and bouillon or chicken broth, garlic, one of the sliced green onions, and salt.  Cook according to package directions.  When the quinoa is cooked, turn the heat to simmer (the keep warm function on the rice cooker) and add the spinach and mushrooms, mixing the combine; replace the lid and let this sit for about 5 minutes.  Heat a large frying pan to medium-high heat and coat with nonstick spray.  When pan is warm, use tongs to remove each chicken piece from the milk and place in the pan; cook for about 6 minutes on each side and discard of the remaining milk mixture.  When the chicken is done, add it as well as the carrots and pine nuts to the quinoa mixture and turn off the heat.  In a small bowl, add the miso, remaining green onions, vinegar, and water and whisk to combine.  Pour the miso dressing over the quinoa and stir to combine.  Enjoy!

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