Much like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, this food experience ended in a similar fashion to the fairy tale, with Goldilocks getting lost, finding an empty house, trying bowls of various sizes (too big, too medium, just right), then the whole porridge tasting (too hot, too cold, just right), same with three chairs, one of which she breaks, then exhaustion and three beds...finally the fussy main character falls asleep, only to awaken to three talking bears, which after a confrontation that can only occur in fairy tales, she runs away, leaving the bears in peace, in the forest, confused.

I blame this recipe on a TV commercial that had me convinced I would never, ever even try quinoa, mainly because of the way one woman haughtily pronounced, "I can taste the quinoa", with a disapproving frown, as if the CARBOHYDRATES would over-ride the whole grain goodness, high source of protein, which is also gluten free and has zero trans fat, zero saturated fat, zero cholesterol, and zero sodium. I bought the tri-color quinoa as a healthy alternative to "land-based fatty protein sources", as per doctor's orders, prior to my diagnosis of a thyroid disease.

Basic prep: Stove top instructions suggest rinsing first. I didn't, since my two colanders have holes bigger than the seeds, which are about the size of millet. I cooked the whole packet which was 4 cups of water to 2 cups of tri-color quinoa. I didn't foresee how much it would expand, after bringing it to a vigorous boil, then reducing heat to a simmer. It was the covering and cooking until tender but chewy, that took longer than the 15 minutes in the instructions, and despite a dash of olive oil, the whole mess boiled over in a sea foam kind of way. (I thought of Wheatena or non-instant oatmeal, from my childhood winter mornings.)

Hot but undeterred, I added: diced onions, diced red pepper, sliced celery, cooked baby green peas (leftovers), raisins, small chunks of pineapple, a squeeze of lemon juice, a Tbs. of real maple syrup, salt and pepper to taste. The first night, I served this hot by candlelight, alongside baked kale and spicy baked chicken legs, thighs and breasts. Mixed reviews, so all week I've been trying variations on the basic recipe.

Cold: Take a piece of cold chicken. Make a quick salad with whatever you have handy. (I used romaine lettuce, shredded red cabbage, Vidalia onion, the last tomato from my garden, red pepper, carrot slices, feta cheese)...then tossed a cup or so of the quinoa into the salad. It was 60 degrees F. that day, so I ate outside with my cats, watching the wind blow origami cranes above the table, underneath the summer umbrella. It was glorious until my stepdaughter and her boyfriend arrived, but that is neither here nor there. I was in a zone. The quinoa zone, perhaps.

Warm: Using a large flour tortilla, layer grated cheese of your choice (I used a combo of Cheddar and Monterey Jack with taco seasoning), a handful of cooked pinto beans, a few scoops of the quinoa mixture, then microwave. Add romaine lettuce or raw baby spinach. Drizzle lightly with Caesar salad dressing. Roll up and eat. You will need a napkin and dental floss after this.

Another hot way: Coarsely chop up leftover baked chicken with sun-dried tomato sauce. Add quinoa mixture, which does not appear to have become any less in quantity than when it was first served. Pause and be grateful you have food and a house. Then, top with raw sunflower seeds, and feel virtuous while taking your vitamins, with a glass of Pinot Noir.

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