QUINOA, MY WAY!

Quinoa has not only become a staple food in my diet, it is my absolute favorite go-to food!

Quinoa is extremely high in protein, fiber, magnesium, & iron, & is filled with essential amino acids making it the most unique & complete protein source among all plant foods. Although it closely resembles wheat or rice, this grain-like seed is actually more related to beets, spinach, & tumbleweed!

Besides the nutritional value & superb delicious taste, it turns out that cooking with quinoa is just as fulfilling & adds character to any every meal. From sweet dishes to more hearty & savory meals, in my opinion, the versatility of quinoa is unmatched by any other food.

A lesson in Quinoa Variety:

1. If you’ve never tried quinoa, don’t start with the “flakes”. I made the mistake of eating the flakes which sort of resemble grits or potato flakes that come out of a box (I remember eating mashed potatoes this way as a kid- trust me, those flakes are way tastier than quinoa flakes!). I found that the flakes are much better utilized in cooking/baking rather than as a morning cereal alternative to oatmeal or cream of rice. Perhaps if I wasn’t such a hardcore dieter adding brown sugar, cinnamon, & milk might spruce up the flakes a bit. To each his own, but I’ll pass & just stick with my many varieties of quinoa seed in a bowl!  *recipes below*

2. Quinoa Flour is enlightening! When I discovered the flour version I was thrilled & needed to go home and bake immediately to test out the goods. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked for baking all sorts of goodies but at the same time a bit disappointed at the “raw” taste of the batter when I used it. If you know anything about me it is that I L-O-V-E batter! Half the time I cook or bake, it is so that I can taste the process…I’m constantly craving dough-ish sort of sweets even more so than the finished product like cookies, cakes, etc. The batter is what I get excited about- licking the spoon & the bowl is pure pleasure to me. Once it’s baked I feel like it doesn’t taste as good!LOL! Soooo my point is, quinoa flour has a nutty flavor. It tastes nice but not for my “raw batter binging”! 🙂 But like I said, it bakes great & can be combined with a variety of flours or almond meal/peanut flours, etc. for a low carb & gluten free alternative to regular white flour!

3. The quinoa seed comes in many different shades of ivories, pinks, brown, & reds! Grind it up & you’ve made your own quinoa flour- great for baking, breading foods, or adding protein to any meal!

Quinoa Mint-Lime Cold Salad- DELICIOUS & VERY SIMILAR TO THE MIDDLE EASTERN DISH, TABBULI

1 cup dry quinoa
2 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil
Juice from 2 limes
2-3 fresh mint sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves or parsley
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup sweet and ripe cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons diced red onion- or use 2 chopped scallions
1 garlic clove, minced
1. Rinse your quinoa.
2. Cook the quinoa as you would raw rice: in 2 and 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups fresh salted water, covered, until all of the water is absorbed. I personally cook mine in the microwave for a quick & perfectly fluffy batch of quinoa!
3. Scoop the cooked quinoa into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, tossing lightly with a fork until combined.
4. Taste test and adjust seasonings. Cover and chill- the longer, the better. In fact, I think this salad tastes better the second day- so plan ahead and make it the day before.
(Makes 4-6 servings.)

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers- GREAT AS A SIDE DISH OR BY ITSELF FOR ANY MEAL

1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 ribs celery, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 Tbs. ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
3 cups of Spinach or 1 10-oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups chopped Hot House Tomatoes or 2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 cup cooked black beans or 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup quinoa
OPTIONAL: 1 1/2 cups grated fat free or reduced-fat pepper mozorello, divided
4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed
1. Rinse your quinoa.
2. Cook the quinoa as you would raw rice: in 2 and 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups fresh salted water, covered, until all of the water is absorbed. I personally cook mine in the microwave for a quick & perfectly fluffy batch of quinoa!
3. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in spinach and drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.
4. Stir in black beans, quinoa, and 2 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Stir in 1 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish.
6. Fill each bell pepper half with heaping 3/4-cup quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour. Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with 1 Tbs. remaining cheese. Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and drizzle each with pan juices before serving.

Quinoa & Chicken Fried Rice- HIGH PROTEIN FOR ANY MEAL!

(Tastes just like fried rice minus the rice & sodium & fat! LOL!)

1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. onion chopped
1/3 c. chopped mushrooms
1-2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (low sodium) or Hot Sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
6 egg whites (1-2 whole & 4-5 whites or just 6 whites)
1. Heat Olive oil in a frying pan & add onion & mushroom. Cook till they begin to soften & brown slightly.
2. Add cooked quinoa, mix up in pan on medium heat.
3. Add eggs/whites & continue to cook & fry up. Flatten the mixture & spread out into the pan then let it cook for a few minutes.
4. Add the Worcestershire sauce & use spatula to chop up & flip over mixture to combine.
5. Let cool & enjoy! Serves 1-3 (depending on appetite! )

Quinoa Breaded Chicken Nuggets- Eat your heart out McD’s!

3-4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
2 Egg Whites
1/2 cup quinoa flour (or 1/4c. whole raw quinoa ground in a coffee grinder)
1 T. Mrs.Dash “Garlic & Herb” Flavor
2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
Dash of Salt & Pepper to taste; optional
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees & prepare a baking sheet covered in foil & sprayed with olive oil. (Optionally you can fry the battered chicken nuggets in a pan on the stove- use 2-4T. of extra olive oil)
2. In a bowl add egg whites & whisk lightly, set aside.
3. In a large ziplock bag add the quinoa flour & seasonings, shake up to combine mixture.
4. Cut the raw chicken up into 2″ pieces- nugget size.
5. Dip/soak the raw chicken breast first into the egg whites then place them into the ziplock bag of seasonings. Once in the bag shake up the mixture to coat the chicken pieces with the seasoning. Follow & repeat these steps until all the chicken pieces have been breaded.
6. Place coated chicken breast pieces on a prepared baking sheet & into the oven for approximately 25 minutes or cooked through, flipping the chicken over once. (If cooking in a frying pan, add breaded chicken into the preheated heated olive oil & fry in pan about 6 minutes each side- watch carefully so they don’t burn)
7. Makes 4-6 servings depending on chicken breast sizes. Enjoy your chicken nuggets with low sugar ketchup or mustard! YUM!

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