Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday Surprise: Low Sodium Quinoa Corn Chowder

Hi Pinstrosipeeps--

Boy, oh boy, it has been a really, really long time since I posted to this here blog. At the risk of just babbling for three paragraphs about everything that's been going on, I'll condense it down to this: typical holiday insanity, combined with really sad family news, and then becoming insanely ill for two weeks in January. I mean seriously, the boyfriend and I each had 103 fevers (yuck!). Result? No Sunday Surprises for a few months.  But, any ol' how,  I've sure missed blogging and even having time to look at Pinterest. But, in the spirit of January's theme (since I technically tried and wrote this post in January)-- A is for Anything-- you know I had to cook something crazy for you.

As I'm sure many of you are doing, since it's the beginning of 2015, Rob (the boyfriend) and I decided that we really wanted to eat healthier. We have been trying to cut out down on eating out, and making more food at home, from scratch. Since, in general, I haven't had a lot of success cutting out one type of food completely (read: carbs, sugars, meats, etc...) because all I'll end up doing is craving that one thing. I've decided to try a new approach: find substitutes for things that I love that are a healthier choice.

Enter: quinoa. Serious biz, have y'all read up on this stuff? I know I'm super late to the quinoa party, but it is pretty amazing. Functions like a rice, but is actually a seed. Bonus? Pinterest is FULL of recipes using this stuff. I figure, limit the rice, replace with quinoa? Maybe? Yeah, gonna give it a try. I'll have to let you know how it goes.

Annnyway... upon searching quinoa on Pinterest, I came across this recipe on The Recipe Rebel for Quinoa Corn Chowder. Can you say yum?!?!
Instantly, I was all in. The Recipe Rebel calls for the following ingredients:
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups milk
  • 4 cups frozen corn (or fresh)
  • 1 can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • Optional: shredded cheese to garnish

I've already mentioned some of Rob's dietary restrictions in terms of needing low sodium meals (you may remember the low sodium sloppy joe post)-- so for this recipe, I went with unsalted butter, sodium free chicken broth (from sodium free chicken bouillon), and used a few dashes of salt substitute instead of salt.

The instructions for the recipe are as follows:
  1. In a large pot, toast quinoa over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Remove from the pan.
  2. In the same pot, melt butter. Add onion and pepper and saute over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until soft and starting to brown. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
  3. Stir in flour until combined (you don't want to see any white left -- add gradually and if there's a litle left over that's okay). Whisk in broth and then milk one cup at a time, whisking and waiting until the soup has thickened slightly before adding the next cup.
  4. Add corn, beans, quinoa, parsley, thyme, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium (or medium-low) and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes until quinoa is cooked, stirring often.

Good news, I took some photos (and by "some" I mean, WARNING: this post is gonna be photo heavy!!) of this, so let's kick it off.

Step 1: Toast 1 cup of quinoa in a large pot.

I say be really careful with this, my quinoa went from "wow, that looks nice" to "$%&$*#!!! Almost burnt!" pretty quick. Use caution and pay attention.

Step 2: Remove the nearly burnt toasted quinoa from the pot

Step 3: This is not included in the original recipe, but I had to make the 3 cups of chicken broth, so water into pot, bouillon into water, and go...

Step 4: Cut and melt the butter.

D'OH!!!! But don't burn the butter. I plopped it into the pan without realizing to how hot it was. I then failed to save it because I was completely distracted by the realization that I hadn't chopped the red pepper and the onion yet. So really, I wasn't even ready for the butter. *facepalm*

So.... let's repeat:

Step 4: Chop yo veggies (or, in my case, drop the onion and pepper in the the Ninja Prep Master thing, and just blend it. Knives are for squares. Hehehehe, just kidding)

Step 5: Use the other half of that butter block thing, and don't burn it this time.

Step 6: Dump the veggies into the melted butter

Step 7: Saute the veggies. The smell? Ermehgerd. Delishiz. But strong (my eyes were watering).

Step 8: Add yo' minced garlic.

It's there in the center, I promise. I also added a half a teaspoon more later in this process. Because, no vampires for me.
Note: it was at this point in the process that I realized something important: I really don't like the consistency of cooked onions OR cooked bell peppers, even though I love how they taste. I know, I know, I'm one of those weird texture people, so in a moment of pure spontaneity, I decided to deviate from the recipe, which brings us to step 9.

Step 9: Dump your sauteed veggies back into the Ninja and puree them.
Step 10: Be proud of yourself for thinking to do that. But also, dump the veggies back into the pot after you've reached the desired texture.

Step 11: Look back at the original recipe. Oh, yes, it's time to add the flour (note: I only had whole wheat, and it tasted delish). Add the  flour gradually until no white is visible.

Does anyone else see the chameleon shape here? Or, at least a dino?
Step 12: Whisk the chicken broth into your veggie paste, allowing the soup to thicken slightly as you add the liquid. I wasn't entirely sure what this meant, so, I allowed the soup to sit for a minute or two between each cup of broth that I added.

I forgot to mention this earlier, but do remember to take the chicken broth off of the heat.

Step 12 continued -- now time for the milk. I used Lactaid 1%.

Step 13: Add the quinoa, beans, corn (I used the whole frozen bag), parsley, thyme, and salt substitute into the liquid.

Step 14: Bring it to a boil. Then, reduce the heat, and allow it to simmer for 15-20 minutes (until quinoa is cooked), stirring frequently.

 Step 15: Taste your chow-dah! YUMMO!!! (also, here's a photo of my face, you're welcome!)
Remember when I decked out my fridge? Doesn't it look awesome?! Still totally loving it.
I totally opted to deck this out with grated cheese (especially since it was pretty low sodium, it was a touch bland). Also, add some cracked wheat sourdough toast, and you are good to go!

This recipe was definitely a win. Here's some other stuff I learned:

  • This kept in the fridge quite well. It made it a full five days while we worked through the leftovers (this recipe makes a lot!).
  • The second and third day of this are the best. The flavors congeal and it becomes more like a casserole than a chowder. That may not be your thing, but I loved it.
  • The red pepper flavor ends up coming out more the longer this is in your fridge. It is lightly smokey, but not spicy.
  • You really can't add too much cheese to this. Really, you can't. 
  • I bet this is still really tasty if you use the ingredients called for in the recipe (no need to make it low sodium if you don't want)
  • This is mad filling! No kidding, three bites in, I was like "I dished too much, I can already tell". But, the great thing is, it's one of those stay with you for a few hours kind of foods. Much likey.

I think we can file this under pin win. I'd definitely encourage you to give it a try. if you've tried this already, what did you think?

Love you guys,
Hugs, hugs, hugs,

PS: Holy cow! Can we talk about the giveaway-- guys, how freakin' awesome is that?! Thanks to everyone for their comments!

PPS: Can you BELIEVE IT'S FEBRUARY!?!?!? Gahhhhhh.

PPPS: Happy Super Bowl to those of you who dig American Football. I live in Phoenix (where the Super Bowl is being hosted this year), and it's been a mad house. I'm staying in tomorrow and letting the football crazies duke it out on their own.

But, in the spirit of Super Bowl humor, I found you this. I can't stop laughing at it.


  1. This looks delicious! But there's no quinoa in my country, I have no idea how it behaves. Do you think the recipe could work with rice, buckwheat or barley?

  2. I never would have thought to make it smoother by blitzing the veggie part, but I love creamy soups (think they are more filling whether you use cream or just pulverize the stuff) so I think I will do that.

    I also think that it would work just fine with any kind of grain, but if I used wild rice, a favorite and a grass by the way, I would like it more brothy. I think.

  3. This sounds really good!

    Whenever I'm feeling uninspired about chopping veggies, I drop chunks in the mini-food processor and get back very small dice. I hadn't thought of pureeing after, though.

    Whole wheat flour lends a pleasantly nutty undertone to a lot of things, so it sounds like a win in this sauce.

  4. I've been playing with a whole foods plant based diet, and have fallen absolutely in love with almond milk and cashew milk. The original, unflavoured and unsweetened versions, are 25 to 35 calories per cup, which is way lower than even skim milk and I find the taste and richness really satisfying. I've also learned that I can saute the veggies with a little bit of veggie broth instead of the oils. All that being said, I'm going to have to try this recipe my way and see how it comes out. It looks wonderful!

  5. I made this last night and it was great. My Hunter/Gatherer husband didn't notice the lack of meat until his second bowl. My 2 year old who survives solely on bananas and milk even at a bowl of it minus the beans. Thanks for this post, as I probably would not have made this without all your pictures.

  6. So glad you liked it and could make it work for you!


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