Day 11 of Real Food: Mexican Fiesta Quinoa

I had a taste of the world today.

The missions fair at our church is always an exciting time to meet people from all over the globe and hear their stories of what God is doing.

I am reminded that in this big big world, I am very small. But this is actually a hopeful thought — God is at work in ways I can’t see. And the knowledge that He chooses to use my little prayers as tools for eternal purposes.

It is already Day 11 of my challenge to eat only unprocessed, natural foods for 40 days. Read the story here! So far, it is going well. The daily devotionals from A Place at the Table have been great inspiration to keep up the challenge.

There are times when the sweets and chips come a-calling and I really want to give in. That’s when I realize how spoiled I am to even have food I can turn down. By saying no to processed and packaged foods — foods that large parts of the world have no access to — I’m hoping to grow my understanding of what my body really needs vs. what just sounds good at the moment.

One helpful tactic I’ve been utilizing the past few days is to focus my thoughts and prayers on the country whose cuisine I’m eating. I research a little about the country — their daily staples, their economic status, their everyday personal, social and political needs — so while I am cooking, while I am eating, while I am not eating other foods, I am consciously able to identify with people across the world in my prayers. It has made the whole process of eating so purposeful. I’d love for this to become a habit even when the 40 days are over.

Today was Mexico. It is going to be difficult to not just do Latin cuisine because lately I’ve been craving tortillas and guacamole like no one’s business.

Staples of nearly ever Mexican meal are corn (tortillas!) and beans. Other common ingredients are squash, peppers, rice, honey, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, garlic, cinnamon, and cocoa.

I found an excellent information and prayer resource at Operation World. Here are just a few of the listed “challenges for prayer”:

a) The poor, both the impoverished rural poor and the exploited slum-dwellers — Poverty affects 60% of the Mexican population

b) The marginalized native Amerindians — This group of people have no official social status and live in greater poverty and political upheaval

c) Corruption in politics and the police. 

d) The massive drug trade and gang violence that accompanies it — including over 5000,000 addicts, the power-hungry cartels who control the “industry”, the government and law enforcement fighting against the corruption and violence of gangs.

These heavy concerns need contemplated over a light meal. This bowl has it all — grain, protein, healthy fat, vegetables, spicy and colorful — Mexico in a dish, all natural and delicious. Enough to keep my taste-buds and tummy happy and preoccupied from the snack cupboard and to keep my mind focused on more important things.

Mexican Fiesta Quinoa 

Inspired by Daily Garnish and Oh She Glows ~ serves 10 as a side, 6 as a main

  • 2 c. dry quinoa
  • 1 large can black beans, drained and rinsed
  •  1 c. diced tomatoes
  • 2 small avocados, chopped
  • 1 c. corn kernels
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 1/2 t. paprika
  • 1/2 t. garlic salt
  • 3 T. fresh cilantro, minced
  • 3 T. lime juice


  • Prepare quinoa by package directions (4 c. water for 2 c. dry quinoa). Cook till water is absorbed and quinoa is soft and fluffy.
  • Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and stir in spices: chili powder, paprika, and garlic salt
  • Meanwhile, chop pepper, tomatoes, and avocados
  • Add beans, corn, pepper, tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro to quinoa and stir to combine.
  • Pour lime juice over mixture and toss to combine.
  • For best flavor results, refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

I could definitely eat like this for a while. If someone would send me a link for foolproof tortillas, I’d be set for life.


Missions Trip Salad

In a few short days, I’ll be in New York City. Not to visit Broadway or shop in Times Square, but to be with children. A missions team from my church is going to a church in Queens to help run a Vacation Bible School.

It’s not Haiti. It’s not Mexico. But it is a missions field where people need the gospel and I suspect it will bring it’s own challenges.

On Saturday, we had a planning meeting to make final travel arrangements, discuss responsibilities and run through the CD of VBS songs with motions. That takes practice.

We also had dinner together. I brought a salad. Not just any salad, a Missions Trip Salad.

On other days, it might be called an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink or open-the-fridge-and-see-what-you’ve-got salad. But on this day, the mix of flavors and the array of colors were representative to me of the ministry myself and these seven others were about to begin. Let me try to explain…

It begins with a lettuce base. The foundation of every ministry is the Great Commission: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15) Just as the greens are varied with romaine, spinach, and cabbage, Jesus’ call to the church takes many different expressions — in the local church, in foreign missions, in the neighborhood — but they are all united in calling and kingdom.

The fresh vegetables represent those of us who are going. Mostly inexperienced, fresh in the faith, and not particularly spectacular in ourselves. But we are willing to be used, and that makes the difference. In the grand scheme of things, we probably won’t be noticed but hopefully the effects of our lives will be noticed. We are dependent on the power and strength of God to work in and through our weaknesses.

The roasted nuts and seeds and corn kernels represent the work we are doing — planting seeds in kingdom of God, doing our small part in the Lord’s harvest and waiting for Him to bring the increase. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37,38)

The long roasted vegetables are in the dark oven a long time before they are added to the salad. These represent the people we are trying to reach — people who are in a dark world, waiting to be brought into God’s kingdom. My prayer for next week is that I will be able to shine the light of Christ to the young children I’ll be with so that they can live their whole lives in fellowship with Him.

Everything is seasoned by prayer, just as the croutons and dressing add flavor and seasoning to the other ingredients. Ministry without prayer is just plain work. It’s prayer that gives it wings to fly and make a difference. Prayer is the power through which God’s power flows. It also binds Christians together across the globe. Will you pray for me and my team as we travel to Queens, for the church there reaching out to un-churched families and for the children many of whom have never heard the gospel?

One by one, the ingredients are added and tossed together. Ministry in God’s kingdom brings together people of all kinds — different in ethnicity, community, and personality — but when doused with the grace of God and bound by fellowship in Christ, seasoned with prayer, we are able to produce something. Something of substance, carrying the aroma of Christ and the flavor of the Gospel, presented in such a way that others are drawn to. And keep coming back for more.

Missions Trip Salad

1 head of romaine lettuce, broken into big leaves
3 c. fresh spinach leaves
2 c. shredded cabbage
1/2 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. sunflower seeds
3/4 c. corn, fresh, canned, or frozen (if using frozen, thaw beforehand).
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/2 c. chopped carrots
1 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
1 c. broccoli florets
Homemade croutons: 1/2 loaf crusty Italian bread, 1 t. garlic salt, 1 T. Parmesan cheese,
1 t.oregano, 1 t. basil
Spices to taste: oregano, basil, pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400. Lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Spread walnuts, sunflower seeds, and corn on pan in a single layer. Roast in the oven 8-10 minutes until the nuts are a golden brown and give an aroma. Set aside in a dish to cool.
2. On the same pan, place tomatoes cut side down and broccoli florets. The nuts should have given off enough oil to not need to respray the pan. Roast in oven for about 20-30 minutes, until the tomatoes are shriveled on the outside, but with a little juice left inside. I like to then the oven on broil for 3-4 minutes to get a blackened edge on the tomatoes. Set broccoli and tomatoes aside to cool.
3. While your nuts and vegetables are roasting, begin preparing your green base. Combine romaine, spinach, and cabbage in a large bowl. Mix in the carrots and cucumbers.
4. Once everything has cooled, toss broccoli and tomatoes into the salad and top with nuts and corn. Avoid over-mixing as the nuts and corn tend to fall to the bottom of the dish. Finally, top with homemade croutons (recipe follows) and sprinkle with oregano, basil, and pepper. Serve with a Balsamic Vinaigrette or dressing of your choice.

Homemade Croutons:
Preheat oven to 400 and spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Cube Italian loaf into 1-inch squares. Arrange cubes on pan in a single layer and spray over them with cooking spray. Sprinkle with oregano, basil, garlic salt, and Parmesan cheese and mix croutons around pan with a wooden spoon to evenly coat. Bake, stirring once or twice, for about 10 to 15 minutes until the croutons are crisp and brown on the outside, but still somewhat soft inside. Let cool before adding them to salad.

This could alternatively be named the Get-All-My-Veggies-In-Before-a-Week-of-City-Eating Salad. Kind of has a nice ring to it, no?