I’ve been promising I’ll test both quinoa and amaranth in terms of their breakfast cereal appeal. I didn’t want to cook for 5, just 1, and the guiding principle was KISS (keep it simple, stupid). So, I started with 1/4 cup of quinoa and 1/2 cup of cold water. Put it on the stove and heated. Started with cold water, turned up the heat, waited till it was boiling, reduced temperature, trying to get it to simmer. Never did really succeed in finding an optimum temperature, was playing with temperature throughout. After 15 minutes it was done.

Plain cooked quinoa makes a fine breakfast cereal.

Plain cooked quinoa makes a fine breakfast cereal.

It smelled good when taking it out of the pan. I was concerned I would have to add something to make it palatable, but I shouldn’t have been so worried. It smelled so good, some of the quinoa never made it into the breakfast bowl. It has a nutty flavor, sufficient to stand on its own without any additives. If you were to make a regular routine of the grain, however, you might want to add things, like fruits or nuts, or a little brown sugar, to vary the flavor of what you eat.

I enjoyed it immensely. If you have the patience to watch the pot over the 15 minutes it cooks, you should be able to succeed.  Should work well in a bachelor kitchen. Should work well as a side dish.

Issues? It’s a small grain. That makes it hard to wash, hard to handle. There will be transfer losses.

If you’re a bachelor, then sometimes the hardest thing to do is come up with ways to jazz up your food, make it a little better. I can’t solve every cooking problem or every cooking issue, but we’ll list a trick every so often to help you on your cooking way.

1) If you’re making spaghetti and using one of the commercial spaghetti sauce packets with tomato sauce (or canned sauce) and meat, I’ll offer a couple ways to make it a better sauce. First, double the amount of ground beef they recommend. It makes the sauce richer, it makes the sauce more like a meal. Second, get a large bell pepper or two, sliced mushrooms perhaps,  and a triangle of parmesan cheese. No, not ground cheese, a real chunk of parmesan cheese. If you have access to a cheese shop and can get parmigiano-reggiano, that would even be better, but a chunk of parmesan from Wisconsin will be far better than anything you can get preground and in a can. Get a grater too, while you’re at it, if you don’t have one.

The cheese on the right can make a marked improvement to the packet on the left.

The cheese on the right can make a marked improvement to the packet on the left.

Follow the instructions on the packet, add the meat. Core and devein the pepper, then cut the pepper into strips or squares and toss that into the sauce. Before you’re done with the sauce, grate some cheese. Don’t grate too much, as a little parmesan goes a long way. Toss it into the sauce, stir thoroughly and taste test. Add pepper, basil, garlic  or other spices as desired.

Though not essential, pimentos can add both color and flavor to a sauce, and the smaller kind are cheap.

Though not essential, pimentos can add both color and flavor to a sauce, and the smaller kind are cheap.

I’ve seen bachelor friends try this and go from, “My mom makes the best spaghetti sauce in the world” to “Oh, that’s pretty good” and helping themselves to seconds.

Now obviously this isn’t the only way to improve on a spaghetti packet, or that can of Ragu. Other sites that offer ways to improve a sauce are here and here. And finally, though parmigiano-reggiano is about the most expensive cheese I know, outside of artisanal cheeses, since it’s used more to enhance flavors than be the meal, you don’t need much, you don’t use much, and if you keep it cool and dry, it keeps forever.