Monday, February 1, 2016

Keeno? Queena? Keenoah? QUINOA

Quinoa, it's a hot food item right now.  Full confession, I used to think quinoa was a weird food for weird people who wanted to be weird.  Sorry, I was terribly wrong, it's delicious if you know how to use it.

Quinoa is popping up in restaurants, and in recipes constantly.  If you haven't tried it yet, and put it off like I did, now is your time.  (I've even included a recipe below for you.)

This tri-color quinoa from Trader Joe's is what I typically use

First off,  know how to pronounce it like a pro--it's KEEN-wah. Yes, I know it doesn't like that's how it's pronounced. A former co-worker loved quinoa, but probably asked me once a week how to pronounce it.

Why is quinoa such a popular food? Here are my top reasons.

  • It's a complete protein (contains all the essential amino acids)
  • It contains fiber (almost twice as much as other grains)
  • It contains iron and lots of other great nutrients
  • It's very versatile
The versatility and the nutrients are the primary reason I love it so much.  It's delicious warm, cold, or room temperature (room temp is actually my favorite).  A quinoa salad can be a main dish for dinner, lunch, a side dish, or a snack.    There are some basic ingredients I use for each quinoa dish, but otherwise, it's easy to add in whatever ingredients you have on hand.  

If I'm making quinoa for dinner, I usually double the recipe and keep it on hand to eat throughout the week in various other ways.  From start to finish, a quinoa bowl for the whole family takes 30 minutes.  Once the quinoa is cooked, you can put together a meal in five minutes 

Uncooked quinoa, don't let the, um, "earthy" smell throw you off in it's uncooked state

Let's get cooking.  I always start with a basic plan for my quinoa dishes.  First, I substitute the water in the directions for a broth to give it more flavor.  Often times, I keep on hand a vegetable base instead of vegetable broth or bouillon cubes.  With the base, you use about 1 teaspoon for each cup of water.  It's easy to keep in the fridge whenever I need a broth.

The quinoa will soak up all the liquid and begin to sprout. Once it's cooked, you can leave it in the fridge for later, or serve right away.  

When you're ready to eat, it's time for your add-ins.  Really, this includes just about any vegetable, or protein source you like. I top it all off with a little oil and vinegar mixture and toss it all together.  

Cooking with broth and using the oil and vinegar mixture are the only two things I always do when serving quinoa.  If you cook it with water and try to eat it plain, I think you will be very unimpressed.
A quinoa bowl for the whole family
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
2 1/2 cups broth (I use vegetable broth, you can use chicken or beef if you want)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 sweet potato, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 avocado
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
Dash of pepper
Salt to taste

Rinse the quinoa well and cook according to the package directions, substituting the water for the broth.  Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is heating up, slice your sweet potato into small bite size pieces, and place on a baking sheet in a single layer. Let the sweet potato cook for about 15-20 minutes (depending on how small you cut the pieces), until tender.  Toss the corn in a hot skillet and cook until slightly blackened. At this point your quinoa, sweet potato, and corn are all cooking.  Put in a small jelly jar the last six ingredients and shake well, this is your dressing.  When the quinoa, sweet potatoes and corn are all finished cooking, combine in a large bowl with your dressing.  Cut your avocado into small pieces and stir in gently with the other ingredients.  I add the avocado last so I don't have to stir it as much.  Enjoy!

Other additions:
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Roasted red peppers (or unroasted)
  • Any bell pepper
  • Zucchini
  • Onion
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Butternut squash
  • Peas
  • Chicken
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Seitan
  • Tofu
  • Cilantro lime dressing in place of the dressing I use
  • Play with the spices in the dressing to find something you like
  • One of my favorite combinations is black beans, tomatoes, and avocado with the dressing in my recipe.  
Bonus tip:  a friend recently text me about using quinoa in place of the rice in her fajitas

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