If you read our blog regularly, then you should know that we strongly believe in the “everything in moderation” principal.  One of our biggest pet peeves is when people claim we don’t post healthy food, or that they’d love to cook food from our blog but they’re on a diet or trying to eat healthy.  Our blog is FULL of healthy food and also recipes that can be easily adapted to be more healthy.  Our entire approach to cooking is that good-for-you-food doesn’t have to be “diet food”.  We believe that when you eat a balanced diet, and incorporate exercise into your lifestyle, then you can also enjoy a piece of chocolate cake every once and a while.  Or have Cookie Pie for dessert.  Or breakfast.  It’s all about a happy balance and we practice what we preach around here.  So on that note- I’m sharing something extra healthy today.  Even though it’s been around forever,  in recent years Quinoa has become more and more popular- and we’ve had tons of requests for information and recipes with it.  So I thought I’d do a little introduction today and then share a recipe next week!

What is it?
Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) is a grain-like crop that is grown for its seeds.  When cooked in water, it fluffs up sort of like couscous or rice and can be used in a lot of recipes where you would normally use those two things.  You can buy red quinoa, and this lighter colored white quinoa.  I hardly ever see the red in my stores, so I think this light one is more common.

What’s so great about it?
It has a mild, nutty flavor and it’s very good for you!  Quinoa has a higher protein content than any other grain, and it’s complete protein, meaning that it provides 9 essential amino acids.  It’s also rich in fiber, and low on the glycemic index.  It’s especially great for those who eat gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian diets because it is such a great source of nutrients, including both calcium, iron, and protein.

Where can I buy it?
As quinoa is becoming more and more popular, it is fairly easy to find it in a normal grocery store.  It’s stocked near the dry rice and couscous.  Also, check stores that carry grain in bulk.  I buy quinoa from a bulk bin where I get a much better price than from a box.  You can also find large bags in most Costco stores.

How do I cook it?
It’s cooked much like rice, I’ll outline the steps below.  I’ve heard you can also cook it in a rice cooker with the same measurements and cooking time as rice.  I prefer to just cook a small amount on the stove top.

How to Cook Quinoa:  Step 1 – Soaking
Most boxed varieties of quinoa come “pre-rinsed” but I always rinse mine regardless.  It helps remove any lingering saponins (a coating the grains have in their natural state that can make the finished product a little bitter if not rinsed off) and it helps soften the outer shell and also remove any dust particles.  But mostly, it just makes me feel like it’s clean :)  Because we’re only soaking for about 5 minutes.

So just place the quinoa in a bowl

and cover with water.  I give it a good stir and then rinse and then pour off the excess and re-fill with water a couple of times.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes.

Step 2:  Cook
Drain the quinoa to remove water from soaking and place grains in a small pot with a lid.  Make sure your pot is large enough for the amount to triple in volume.  Remember the basic ratio for quinoa is 1 part dry quinoa to 2 parts water or broth.  Honestly, quinoa doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor on it’s own.  In a lot of recipes I think of it as sort of a healthy “filler”.  It can take on the flavor of whatever you’re cooking.  If you want to add more flavor to the quinoa itself, definitely cook it with broth.  Start with the 2:1 ratio and you can adjust from there.  If I’m making something with a sauce, or added liquid, I use a bit less water for a drier result.

Place the lid on the pot and bring water to a simmer.  Simmer with lid on for about 15 minutes or until all the water is used up.  Remove pan from heat.  I let mine sit on the stovetop (off of the heating element) for 5-10 minutes before taking the lid off.

Step 3:  Fluff and Eat
Yep.  That’s it.  Just fluff with a fork.

And you’re done!  It’s all fluffed up and looks sort of like funky couscous.

At this point it’s ready to use in any sort of recipe you like.

What do I do with it?
Try it as a substitute for rice, couscous, or orzo in recipes you already make!  Many people have said it’s great instead of the rice in these Stuffed Bell Peppers, and I bet it would be great in place of orzo in this Lemon Orzo salad.  If you have the Our Best Bites Cookbook, it would be great in place of couscous in the Greek salad on page 79.  Also, it makes a great high-protein breakfast.  Try it like oatmeal with a little honey and fruit, or with brown sugar and maple syrup.  It’s incredibly versatile.


And as you can probably guess- I have a great quinoa recipe coming up!

Lastly- I’m SO excited to share this with you today!  One thing you may not know about me is that I’m a total font nerd.  I love finding and downloading cool fonts and using them in projects, and my digital scrapbooking, etc.  One of my favorite places for great Handwriting fonts has always been the blog Kevin and Amanda.  Even before I started blogging or really knew what a blog was!  The amazing thing is that Amanda actually takes people’s real handwriting and turns it into a computer font. I have gotten to know and love Amanda and I was beyond excited (like, I almost peed my pants) when she asked if she could turn MY handwriting into a font for a special project.  Eeek!  You guys!  You can actually download my writing, as well as the fonts of some other really awesome bloggers.  It’s all in honor of helping out a great cause.  Check out this post– and see if you can guess which one is mine!

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