Chewy Oatmeal Cookies Get a Boost From a Secret, Healthy Ingredient

Quinoa oatmeal cookies with dried cherries


I recently read a recipe that called for adding grated beets to meatloaf so you could trick your kids into eating a vegetable without actually knowing it.

I don’t know about your children, but I can tell you unequivocally that mine can find any vegetable fragment larger than a mustard seed in their food. This is one reason why I love adding quinoa to recipes. It adds a lovely texture along with protein and a host of nutrients, but more importantly, it imparts a subtle, nutty flavor that kids (and adults) actually like — no trickery necessary!

oatmeal quinoa cookies


Cooked quinoa is so perfect in these soft, chewy oatmeal cookies. I made this batch with dried cherries, which my kids and I love. (Don’t tell, but dried cherries also happen to be rich in antioxidants and vitamin C.)

You could substitute regular or golden raisins, or chopped, dried dates, or dried cranberries, or whatever you like.

Just don’t add any grated beets. Trust me on this.


oatmeal cookies with quinoa

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Quinoa and Dried Cherries

These classic cookies get a secret protein boost from healthy, nutty quinoa.

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled (learn how to cook perfect quinoa here)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup dried cherries (or substitute raisins)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, brown sugar and honey with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, vanilla and almond extract and beat another 2 minutes. Add flour mixture and mix just until combined. Stir in quinoa, oats and raisins and mix until combined, using your hands, if necessary.

Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough and roll into balls; arrange on the baking sheet, spaced 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are just lightly browned around the edges, about 12 to 15 minutes. (For chewy cookies, don’t overcook.) Remove from oven and cool for five minutes before removing cookies from parchment and cooling on a wire rack. Store in a sealed container. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.


The signature for Eliza Cross

The Quinoa QuookbookP.S. If you’ve been thinking of trying quinoa and want some easy, family-proven recipes, this week until June 1st the eBook edition of The Quinoa Quookbook is on sale at Amazon for just 99 cents.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Pea shoots in the garden


Our garden is getting a slow but promising start this year. Here in Colorado we had snow on Mother’s Day weekend, a big wet spring storm that bent trees here but didn’t break branches.

Spring Snowstorm in Colorado


“We need the moisture” is what we Coloradans always say when this happens in May, and that moisture really did jump-start the peas we planted the weekend before.

Garden peas


The leeks are about the diameter of a pencil right now. Just ignore those dandelions.

Growing leeks in the garden


Hoping that the snow is over (dare I even say those words), we planted heirloom Amish Pie pumpkin seeds in the sunniest raised bed. I’ve never grown this type of pumpkin before, but I was won over by the charming seed packet.

heirloom pumpkin seeds


We harvested a little spring spinach last week, too.

Fresh spinach from the garden


A pretty viola that Mom gave us seems very happy in a partially shaded area of the front garden. Last year a gardening expert I interviewed suggested pine needles for mulch, and since we have an ample supply I’ve been using them quite a bit with good success.

Viola plant


Still to get in the ground:  tomato plants, basil seeds, bell and jalapeno pepper plants, and several BrazelBerries blueberry bushes I’m excited to try this year.

How about you? What have you planted, and what’s popping up in your yard? May your gardens grow exceedingly well this season.

Hugs and happy digging,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. From the archives, you might enjoy 11 Frugal Gardening Ideas and 11 Easy-To-Grow Seeds You Can Direct Sow.

How I Ditched My Loyalty Rewards Cards and Created Wallet Space

Tips for reducing loyalty rewards cards | Happy Simple Living blog

You can’t blame retailers for loving loyalty rewards cards.

If we shoppers don’t agree to use the card, the store charges us higher prices–Ka-CHING! If we do sign up to use the card, we have to share our contact information, phone number and e-mail address–Ka-CHING! When we use the card, the retailer can track all of our purchases and buying habits–Ka-CHING! Meanwhile, we carry around a little plastic ad for the company in our wallets. What’s not to love?

We’re promised **BIG** rewards and special discounts for carrying and using these cards. I’m excited to receive my meaningful rewards, which should arrive any day now. Have you gotten yours? I like to imagine that you’re cashing in lots of valuable freebies, rebates, and luxury vacations.

Fat Wallets ‘R’ Us

Card-lovin’ retailers don’t seem all that bothered that it’s physically impossible for your average consumer to carry a thick stack of cards around. Neither do they care that we can never quickly access the correct card at checkout time.

Have you ever muttered while you’re digging through your bulging wallet something to the effect of, “I have so many of these cards, and I can never find the right one!”

Cashiers must hear this muttering all the time. This is my fantasy reply:

“I so feel your pain. You know what? You’re a valued customer, and I don’t need a plastic card to tell me so. We’ll give you the discounted price AND a $50 gift card for your trouble. Furthermore, I will pass your helpful feedback along to management and suggest that they come up with a better, less cumbersome program–like maybe just charging everyone fair prices and eliminating the cards. Did I mention that we’re giving shoppers a free SKOR candy bar today? It’s Loyalty Card Customer Appreciation Day.”

A Possible Solution?

Key Ring AppLast month I wrote about purse and wallet decluttering tips, so I decided to give the Key Ring app a try. Once you download the app, you hold your loyalty cards’ bar codes in front of the phone and it instantly copies the codes and logs your membership numbers. You can also photograph your cards as a back-up if you’re paranoid, which of course I am. It took me about twenty minutes to scan and photograph all of my cards, but I didn’t feel comfortable discarding them (paranoid) until I was sure the app would actually work.

At Walgreen’s last week, I proudly handed the cashier my phone with my Balance Rewards bar code showing. (I felt so high tech!) When he scanned my phone, it didn’t pick up the code so he entered the number manually which took another ten seconds or so. “This scanner has been acting up,” he said, handing my phone back. Because the app now holds all of the membership numbers, even if it doesn’t always scan I think it’s good enough and I’ve removed the bulky cards from my wallet.

UPDATE: I used the app successfully at another store last week; the cashier easily picked up the bar code from my phone.

How about you?

Do you participate in store loyalty rewards programs? Have you scored some fabulous rewards? Please, do tell.

Have you ever been forced to buy a second, auxiliary wallet to hold all of your loyalty rewards cards? Have you tried an app like Key Ring? I’d love to hear your experiences and ideas.

Meanwhile, here’s to free SKOR candy bars and slimmed-down wallets for all of us!


The signature for Eliza Cross

Planting Peas and Hoping for the Best

Planting Peas

I planted peas last week, so the 2015 summer garden is officially underway.

I probably should have gotten them in the ground earlier, but we had heavy, wet snow last weekend and I was ensconced inside with a good book and hot tea.

With our changing weather patterns it’s hard to know exactly when to sow seeds and how our plants will respond to temperature extremes, but we do our best and keep trying.

Gardening always has been, at its heart, an act of faith.


How to plant peas


These are organic Oregon Sugar Pod snow pea seeds. They soaked in filtered water inside for 24 hours before planting, so they were nice and plump. I planted half of the packet, and will save the other half for a fall crop. The seeds are planted about an inch apart — twice as dense as the recommended 2-inch separation. When the plants emerge I’ll thin them and we’ll enjoy the tender pea shoots on pasta.

Close up of peas before planting


To give the vines something to climb on, I planted them around a cone-shaped support woven of willow:

Willow support for peas


How about you? Have you started planting your summer garden yet? What do you hope to grow this year? I’d love to hear about your plans.

Hugs and happy digging,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Nepal-childP.S. My heart is heavy this morning, mourning for the people of Nepal. So far away, all I know to do is offer the two things that can help — prayers and support. Organizations like Mercy Corps and American Red Cross are on the ground right now providing assistance, and we are grateful.

Photo: Mercy Corps


Happy Simple Supper: Fried Rice Quinoa


If you haven’t cooked much with quinoa, you might enjoy trying this recipe. I developed it for my book The Quinoa Quookbook, and based it on a fried rice recipe that was one of my family’s favorites for years. Surprisingly, they now prefer quinoa to rice, which maybe isn’t all that surprising given quinoa’s nutty flavor and wonderful texture.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can make it with whatever you have on hand. I used snow peas, carrots, celery and onions plus some lean pork, but you can substitute other veggies and meats. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, just omit the pork and eggs.

At the end of the recipe, I’ve included a link to a Goodreads giveaway where you can win a copy of The Quinoa Quookbook and a pound of organic quinoa. You’ll also find complete directions for cooking quinoa. Enjoy!

Fried Rice Quinoa

This updated take on traditional fried rice is my family’s #1 favorite way to enjoy quinoa. Serve it hot from the skillet and see if you agree.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound lean pork, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
2 stalks celery, cut in 1/2-inch diagonal slices
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 medium carrot, scraped and cut in thin slices
1/4 pound snow peas, trimmed and cut in 1-inch diagonal slices
3 cups cooked quinoa
1 tablespoon tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten

In a skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until it just begins to shimmer. Add the pork, celery, onion and carrot, and cook until the vegetables are tender. Add the snow peas and cook for 1 minute. Add the quinoa and soy sauce and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour the eggs over the mixture in a stream, stirring constantly, and cook just until eggs are cooked. Remove from heat and serve at once. 6 servings.

Between now and April 30, 2015, enter to win a copy of The Quinoa Quookbook and a pound of organic quinoa:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Quinoa Quookbook by Eliza Cross

The Quinoa Quookbook

by Eliza Cross

Giveaway ends April 30, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win


Quinoa is extremely easy to cook, and because it’s not starchy it doesn’t require lots of picky timing. But before you cook it, you do need to give it a good, brisk washing.

Step 1 (the MOST IMPORTANT step): Rinse and repeat.

Mother Nature gave quinoa a natural coating that protects the grains, a soap-like substance called saponin. To remove the saponin, pour the uncooked quinoa in a bowl, add water and swish it around with your hands to remove the coating.

Now, dump the quinoa in a strainer and rinse it again under running water to get off every last bit of the coating.

Step 2: Add liquid and bring to a boil.

You can cook your quinoa in many liquids. Water is commonly used, but stock and broth will impart quinoa with a nice flavor. In this book, I generally recommend 2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa, but you may need more or less liquid depending on your climate, altitude and the moisture content of your quinoa.

Unlike rice, quinoa won’t get mushy or stick together if you add a little liquid if it’s too dry, or cook off a little extra liquid. So relax, and simply combine your quinoa, liquid of choice and salt (if using) in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.

Step 3: Cover and cook.

Reduce the heat to simmering and cover the pot with a lid. Let it cook for about 15 minutes without peeking or stirring.

Step 4: Sample.

Remove the lid, taste a bite of the quinoa to see if it’s tender, and put the lid back on the pan. If the quinoa’s texture is chewy you may wish to cook it for a few more minutes.

Step 5: Just walk away.

Once it’s cooked to your liking, remove the pan from the heat and let it sit, covered, for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Step 6: Fluff time.

Use a fork to gently separate and “fluff” the grains. Serve and enjoy.

How About You?

Do you enjoy cooking quinoa? What’s your favorite way to enjoy it? I always love hearing your comments.


The signature for Eliza Cross

Could Your Wallet, Keys or Purse Use a Spring Cleaning?

Oversized purse

A dear friend of mine went to the doctor because she was having chronic shoulder stiffness and back pain. The doctor was puzzled, finding no evidence of an injury or obvious cause for her ongoing pain. As my friend prepared to leave, she hoisted her designer purse on her right shoulder.

“Wait just a minute,” the doctor said. “How much does that thing weigh?” With the scale handy, they weighed that bad boy and discovered she was carrying around 22 pounds of stuff every day. A too-heavy purse is not only a pain to carry around, it can cause asymmetrical posture and an unbalanced gait.

She traded in her purse—which was heavy to begin with because of its extra zippers, studs and metal buckles—for a lighter model, and removed all but the necessities. Within a month, her pain had vanished.

Last year during a simplicity workshop at the Pagosa Springs Women’s Retreat, we did a fun exercise to see who had the oddest thing in their handbag. One woman pulled out a jar of jalapeno jelly, another had a ceramic camel, and the winner carried a life-sized replica of the U.S. Constitution. Our purses can sometimes become receptacles for everything—and anything.

How Many Keys Are Too Many?

Too many keys

Another friend told me that she had gone to the mechanic because her car sometimes wouldn’t start. She learned she’d damaged the car’s ignition switch. How? Her massive key ring contained 22 keys and a number of decorative fobs; its weight had pulled on the switch over the years and worn it out. (UPDATE: Thanks to Money Beagle for alerting us to the scary fact that heavy keys may have contributed to more than a dozen deaths due to ignition-related accidents in GM cars. You can read more about the affected car models and recalls in this USA Today article.)

When I left the publishing company, it seemed like a good time to simplify my keys. At the time I owned a ring that looked like something a prison guard would carry, filled with keys for everything from my safety deposit box to the keys for a house we no longer owned. After removing the nonessential keys, I was surprised to discover that I only needed to carry two—a car key, and a house key. My purse instantly lightened up by several pounds.

Wallets can get jammed with an over-abundance of stuff, too. Over time, things like old receipts, notes and expired cards can accumulate, until the wallet will barely close. How about those membership and loyalty cards we all hate to carry (but which retailers love)? If you have a smartphone, you might try an app like Stocard or Key Ring Rewards Cards, which lets you enter and store the numbers—and lose the plastic cards.

Lightening Up and Letting Go

It’s not easy for me, but simplifying helps me let go of my desire to control everything. Carrying less means accepting that I won’t always be prepared with every little thing I might need in every circumstance. The payoff is that I can go shopping or strolling without experiencing shoulder pain from a too-heavy purse. It’s also easier to find things inside the bag without having to dig.

How about you?

What items do you deem essential to carry in your purse or wallet? How many keys do you carry? Is your wallet svelte or bloated? If you’ve discovered any strategies for carrying less, we’d love to hear from you.

Hugs and happy springtime,

The signature for Eliza Cross


Photos: Jeffrey Pott and Simplerich