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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What is quinoa?

I am sorry it has been awhile since I have been on. It was a busy week last week! However, I did still fit in some cooking which I will tell you about too. However, first, I wanted to talk to you about a delicious power food called: quinoa. Say it with's pronounced keen-wah. Quinoa is a protein-packed grain (actually it is a seed) and contains every amino acid, and is particularly rich in lysine, which promotes healthy tissue growth throughout the body. Quinoa is also a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium, and fiber. It looks a bit like couscous. You can pretty much use quinoa anywhere you would rice. It is very easy to cook and it has a rich, almost nutty flavor.

Quinoa seeds have a naturally bitter coating to deter birds.  This must be rinsed off before preparing. Packaged quinoa is usually pre-rinsed, but check before cooking. If it has not already been rinsed, put the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve, and wash with cold water until the water runs clear.   To cook, it is usually 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of quinoa.  It can also be cooked with milk (I like to use coconut milk) or chicken stock.  However, do not use the chicken stock if you plan to use it for baking or for "oatmeal".  A very basic way to cook the quinoa is:
  • Put the quinoa and water (milk or chicken stock) into a pot.  Bring to a boil, then cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for 15 minutes. 
  • Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes, covered. Fluff with a fork and serve.  It can also be chilled for a later use.

Quinoa can be eaten on its own as a side dish or chilled on top of a salad. It also makes a great breakfast dish mixed with dried fruit, cinnamon, milk, and maple syrup or honey. Paired with chili, stir-fries, beans or curries, quinoa is a healthy substitute for rice, and it also makes a tasty pilaf. As a main course, use it to make meat-free burgers or mix it into stews.  Quinoa works as a baking grain as well, and makes for delicious and nutritious breads and muffins.

The first recipe I want to share is one I made very recently for breakfast.  It was a Spinach Egg Quinoa Bake.  It was pretty easy.  The recipe I found used raw quinoa and so the baking time was almost 50 minutes.  I shortened it up by using already cooked quinoa.  
It depends on how much you want to make.  What I made today was in an 8x8 baking dish. You can use a 9 inch pie plate too…and it would make a little more that way.  

Spinach Quinoa Egg Bake
  • Fresh baby spinach 
  • Chopped or minced garlic 
  • Shredded Cheese (I used ½ cup part skim provolone and ½ cup asiago cheese) 
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa 
  • 8 eggs 
  • 1/4 cup milk 
  • Oil (see instructions) 
  1. Spray a 8x8 baking dish or 9 inch deep pie plate with non-fat cooking spray. I used the olive oil PAM. 
  2. In a small skillet, heat a Tbsp of the oil of your choice. I like coconut or olive oil. Then add chopped garlic (I used the jarred kind). Let that sauté a minute or so and then add 4 to 5 handfuls of fresh baby spinach. You can add as much or as little spinach as you want. Then sauté until it is cooked down and wilted. Set aside. 
  3. Add 8 eggs to a bowl. Whisk until blended and then add a ¼ milk. Whisk a bit more. Pour eggs into baking dish. 
  4. Then add the spinach and quinoa. I use a spoon and drop spoonfuls over it. Then top with cheese. I baked for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Its done when a toothpick comes out clean.

I hope that you enjoy this as much as I did.  I brought it to work to share with some co-workers and it was a hit!  I have one more for now I would like to share with you.  This one is a great snack.  I altered the recipe from the original a bit.

Chocolate Oatmeal Quinoa Cookies

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (I used cashew butter)
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup (I used 2 tbsp maple flavored agave nectar)
  • 2/3 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
  • Optional: I added 3/4 dark chocolate chips

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl just until well combined. Drop the mixture by a large spoonful onto the prepared baking sheet.
  3. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, until lightly firm.

Please be sure to come back for more!  Leave your comments if you have any questions!

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