Friday, August 10, 2012

Spice It UP!!! Quinoa

Welcome to my Spice It UP series!  This series is to help my {WONDERFUL} readers add variety and spices (literally!) to their cooking.  I'm very excited to start this!

First up is my FAVORITE grain of all time!!!  I generally don't eat grains/pasta/bread for weight reasons, but I do eat quinoa every once in a while.  A little history on quinoa:

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH) is native to South America.  This super-grain is very nutrient dense and is the only grain that has all nine essential amino acids.  It provides a variety of antioxidant phytonutrients; antioxidant flavonoids are also especially plentiful in quinoa.   Quinoa has many anti-infammatory porperties and is a good source of vitamin E. 

Quinoa is a very good source of antioxidant-promoting manganese.  It is also a good source of heart-healthy magnesium, folate, and fiber, as well as bone-building phosphorus and copper.  However, this grain does have a higher fat content so make sure you watch that portion size!  Quinoa is cheap and gluten-free, and it cooks FASTER than rice or other grains!  The taste is slightly nutty and earthy.  Source and Source

Quinoa can be used in place of any grain in a recipe. I do recommend that you at least rinse before use since it naturally comes with a bitter coating called saponin. Most quinoa that is bought in the U.S. has been pre-rinsed and dried, but it never hurts to be sure!


Serves 2


1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups chicken broth (you can use beef broth or water)
1/2 onion, diced*
2 cloves garlic, minced*

  1. Place all ingredients into a saucepan.
  2. Turn the saucepan to medium-high heat.
  3. Place lid on pot and cook for 15 minutes or until quinoa has "popped" open (seriously--it looks like popcorn!).
  4. Fluff with a fork.
  5. Serve, mix into a salad, or save some for another day!
*I put onions and garlic in everything--these can be left if you choose!)

Quinoa Pilaf

Serves 2


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf

  1. Sweat (means no browning!) onions and garlic in the olive oil until clear and fragrant on medium heat.
  2. Add quinoa and stir to coat in the oil.  
  3. Saute quinoa for 2 minutes.
  4. Add broth and bay leaf and turn the heat to medium-high. 
  5. Place lid over quinoa and cook for 15 minutes.
  6. Fluff with fork when quinoa is "popped" but firm.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve.

I substitute quinoa for just about everything.  In fact, one of my favorite ways to eat quinoa is in Tabouli which is usually made with bulgur or couscous.  (I LOVE Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine!)

Quinoa Tabouli

Serves 4


1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups parsley, chopped finely
1/4 cup chives, chopped finely (green onions or regular onions work too)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
  1.  Mix quinoa and chicken broth in a saucepan; turn to medium-high heat and cook for 15 minutes, or until done.  Fluff with fork, and set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients together.
  3. When quinoa has cooled, add to parsley mixture.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Allow the salad to set at least 1 hour but best if allowed to set over night.

I have seen recipes for quinoa burgers and pudding and salads (I have them on the list!) and just about anything else imaginable!  Quinoa also is ground into flour to be substituted in baked goods.  I have not attempted to bake with quinoa flour because it has only recently hit my shelf, but when I'll definitely try it out in the future!

Some sources for more quinoa recipes are here and here.

I haven't seen quinoa in main stream stores (unless they have a very large organic/all natural/health food section), but I can get them at my local co-op/health food store.  Quinoa comes in white (most common and cheap) and red (more expensive) varieties.  I have used both; the red requires a bit more cooking time (about 20 minutes), but other than that, they are similar.  I have seen a company (can't think of the name) starting to make pasta and such out of quinoa for those with gluten allergies; in fact, I have had the spaghetti, and it's really delicious! 

Are you intrigued?  I urge to go and try it!  My finicky/picky hubby-to-be even loves quinoa! (seriously!)  Have you had it before?  Tell me what you think of it!

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