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Cooking with Quinoa is Healthy and Delicious

Updated on June 25, 2015

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa pronounced (keen-wa) is considered a super grain, it contains more quality protein than any other grain and provides all the essential amino acids. It is a light tasty grain that is easy to digest with six grams of fiber per serving it is filling but not heavy like other grains and pastas and the best part is it’s easy to prepare and can be incorporated in hundreds of different recipes for any meal, even breakfast. It is technically not a cereal grain but a pseudocereal, in other words it is essentially a seed but is prepared and eaten similarly to other grains.

Quinoa originated in the Andean region of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chili and Colombia over 3000 years ago, Incas called it the "mother seed," and it was considered sacred. It has been a staple in South American diets for thousands of years, but in recent years it has become popular worldwide and now you can find it in almost any grocery store.

There are three main types of Quinoa, Red, White and Black. It is considered easy to cultivate, farmers have been growing it for thousand of years in the Andean regions of South America, but today it is being grown worldwide. It has been considered as a food source to help with worldwide hunger. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN declared 2013 the Year of Quinoa, FAO Director General Jose Graziano de Silva said at the official launch of the year that Quinoa can play an important role in eradicating hunger, malnutrition and poverty.


Healthy Benefits of Quinoa

Quinoa has many known health benefits as it is loaded with many important nutrients.

  • It is very high in fiber
  • Gluten Free and a much healthier alternative to some of the other ingredients people often use to create gluten free recipes such as rice flour, potato, tapioca, and corn
  • It is considered a "complete protein" because it contains all the essential amino acids
  • Quinoa has a low glycemic index which means it isn't quick to raise blood sugar and keeps you feeling full for longer
  • It is high in minerals that many people don't get enough of, one of the most important minerals found in quinoa that is hard to find in other foods but essential to our diets is Magnesium.
  • It is very high in antioxidants
  • It contains large amount of flavonoids including, Quercetin and Kaempferol, which have been shown to have many health benefits such as anit-inflamatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer, etc.
  • It is easy to prepare and incorporate into your diet

Cooking Quinoa

Quinoa is now readily available in most grocery stores, it is easy to prepare and can be incorporated in many different recipes, even breakfast meals. I cook quinoa all the time and have experimented with it for years, below are some of my favorite recipes.

But first, preparing the quinoa is quick and easy. You can try one of my recipes below, I also have many others, or create your own. Quinoa is a great addition to salads, soups, casseroles, etc.

Cooking Quinoa:

1/2 - 1 cup is usually plenty for any recipe. Use a 1:2 ration of quinoa to liquid. I most often cook quinoa in vegetable or chicken broth, but you can just use water. Add the liquid and quinoa to a sauce pan, bring to a boil, reduce and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, usually 10-15 minutes depending on how much you are making.

Southwest Quinoa

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Southwest Quinoa Recipe

One of my favorite summer side dishes is this Southwest Quinoa Recipe. It is a perfect side dish to bring to tailgate parties or backyard barbeques because it can be served cold or at room temperature, you can make it ahead of time and the recipe makes quite a bit so it’s good for large groups. I sometimes serve it with pita chips or crackers as a dip or it makes a perfect flavorful and healthy side to any summer menu.

Ingredients

1 can sweet or white corn (sub 3-4 fresh roasted if you have the time!!)
1 can black beans
1 - 2 finely chopped Jalapenos (if you want it to be a little spicy, leave the seeds)
1/2 a cup of chopped fresh cilantro

½ a Cup of Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
1 diced red bell pepper
2 diced avocados
1 cup Quinoa
*1/2 cup Red Quinoa (optional)

1 Diced Red Onion

Cojita Cheese
3 cups chicken broth
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
Fresh Lime Juice form 2 limes and the zest from one lime
Balsamic Vinaigrette to taste

**I buy Ancient Quinoa Harvest Brand which you do not have to rinse and I can readily find in my supermarket. However, if you buy unwashed Quinoa you need to rinse it in a fine sieve to remove the bitter flavor**

Prepare:

  • Place the chicken broth and Quinoa in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover, cooking for approximately 20 minutes or until tender.
  • While the Quinoa is cooking chop all other ingredients and put in a large bowl
  • Let the Quinoa cool before adding to the other ingredients. When it is cooled mix all ingredients together. Squeeze the juice from 1 and 1/2 limes and lightly drizzle the balsamic

*I add the Red Quinoa because I like the color it adds, it tastes the same as white quinoa.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa

Source

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa

This is a great fall appetizer served with pita chips or a vegetarian entree.

Stuffed Acorn Squash:

Ingredients for 1 stuffed Acorn (Make more if you choose to serve as an entree):
1 medium Acorn Squash
1/2 Cup Quinoa
1 Cup Chicken Broth
The Seeds of 1/2 a Pomegranate
1/4 cup Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
1/4 Cup Chopped Toasted Pistachios
Olive Oil
Strawberry Balsamic (we had this from an Olive Oil wine tour we did. (If you can't find it...drizzle any balsamic or even a red wine vinegar would be good).
1 tablspoon Lemon juice (optional)
Zest of one lemon (optional)
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
***Lemon is optional and I actually didn't put in my recipe but I think I will on Thanksgiving**

Directions:
Preheat Oven to 375
Slice the bottom of the Acorn Squash slightly so it will stand up. Remove lid and take out all of the pulp and seeds. Roast in the oven until tender about 20 minutes.
Place Quinoa and chicken broth in sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer until all liquid is absorbed. (about 15 minutes)
Meanwhile toast Pistachios in a dry skillet for about 3 or 4 minutes, tossing often.
Chop Pistachios. Remove seeds from Pomegranate (this is not fun or easy and can be messy so watch out for your clothes)
Mix Pistachios, Pomegranate, Chopped Parsley, Cooked and Cooled Quinoa, Lemon (if using), salt and pepper, drizzle lightly 1/2 Tbsp of Olive Oil and 1/2 Tbsp to 1 tbsp Strawberry Balsamic. Spoon mixture into Cooked Acorn. Serve Warm with Pita Chips.

Veggie Burger with Quinoa

Veggie Burger with Quinoa
Veggie Burger with Quinoa

Veggie Burger with Quinoa

While on vacation this summer my family was grilling burgers for dinner, and since I rarely if ever eat beef, I decided to come up with a Veggie Burger Recipe. I was hoping to find farro for the burger, but couldn't find it at the grocery store near the home we were renting. So instead I decided to use lentils and my favorite ingredient quinoa. These came out way better then I had expected and I've made them twice since, everyone (even the pickiest eaters in my family) love them!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Lentils (sorted and rinsed)
1/2 cup Quinoa
1 Can Black Beans
2 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
1/2 Cup Plain Bread Crumbs
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 small Zucchini finely diced
1/2 cup finely diced white or yellow onion
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup grated cheese (optional)

Prepare
In a small saucepan bring one cup chicken broth to a boil, add the lentils and cook until tender (about 20 minutes). In another small saucepan bring one cup chicken broth to a boil and add the quinoa, cook until all liquid is absorbed. Meanwhile, heat a medium saute pan over medium high heat and add 2 tbsp olive oil, add the onion and saute 2-3 minutes until tender and translucent, add the zucchini and saute another 3-4 minutes until tender, add the red bell pepper and saute another 2-3 minutes until all vegetables are tender, add the garlic last so it will not burn and saute another 2 minutes or so stirring occasionally. I lightly salt and pepper each vegetable as I add them to the pan (this is optional, I feel it brings out the flavors of each vegetable). Add the black beans and cook until warm, stir in the lentils and quinoa add the red pepper flakes (optional) and cook on medium low for about five minutes to combine all of the flavors. At this point you might want to pull some of the mixture out and eat it just like this, it makes an excellent side or even a main vegetarian course. My mom prefers it this way so I always pull some out for her. Put the mixture in a food processor and blend with the bread crumbs and optional cheese, mix in the egg. Let the mixture cool so that you can handle it and form patties. Saute the veggie patties on medium high heat about 4-5 minutes on each side until browned and to ensure the egg is cooked. Serve on a warm roll with Lemon or Red Bell Pepper Aioli (recipes below) and your favorite burger toppings.

Red Bell Pepper Aioli:
Roast the remainder of the bell pepper you didn't use for your Burger mixture in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, flipping once 1/2 way through. Puree the pepper in a food processor. Let it cool completely and add to 1/2 a cup of mayo.

Lemon Aioli
Mix 1/2 a cup of mayo with the zest of 1/2 one lemon and the juice of 1/2 one lemon.

Spicy Breakfast Quinoa Bites

Spicy Breakfast Quinoa Bites Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Quinoa, Any Color
  • 1 Cup Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • 3/4 Cup Chopped Spinach
  • 2 Cloves Minced Garlic
  • 1 tsp Sriracha Sauce
  • 2 Egg Whites
  • 1/2 Cup Shredded Pepperjack Cheese
  • 2 Morning Star Veggie Sausage Patties, Cooked and Chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Ham, Optional
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Prepare the Quinoa Bites

  1. Place the Quinoa, Broth and Minced Garlic in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil, reduce and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, approximately 10 minutes (let cool completely)
  2. Mix together the egg, garlic, spinach, sriracha, salt, pepper, cheese, ham, and sausage. Add the Cooled Quinoa
  3. Spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray and spoon the mixture into each tin. Cook at 375 for approximately 20-25 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Breakfast Quinoa

Breakfast Quinoa

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Quinoa
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut, Almond, or Skim Milk (I like coconut)
  • 1 tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Nuts (your favorite nut)
  • 1/4 Cup Dried Fruit (your favorite fruit)
  • 1/2 Cup Blueberries
  • 1 tsp Honey

Directions:

  • Bring the Quinoa, Water, Milk, Cinnamon, and Brown Sugar to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until all liquid is absorbed
  • Mix the Nuts, Dried Fruit, Honey, Blueberries together and add to the cooked quinoa

Veggie Quinoa Cakes

Veggie Quinoa Cakes

I created these delicious Veggie cakes a couple of days ago and loved them so much I made them again the next day. I wanted to use up some leftover spaghetti squash and was planning to just saute it with some chopped veggies, onion and garlic. My favorite thing to do with veggies is pile them all into my food processor and chop them until they are very very small (almost a puree). This is a great way to sneak them into my children's and husband's food and adds so much flavor to so many dishes. So as I pulsed the veggies I thought I bet if I mixed this with my spaghetti squash and my other favorite ingredient, Quinoa, I could make a great veggie cake!

Ingredients:
1 small white onion
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 carrot (or a handful of baby carrots)
2 stalks celery
3-4 gloves garlic
Spaghetti Squash (cooked and shredded)
1/2 Cup Cooked Quinoa
1 Cup Organic Chicken Broth
1 Egg
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
Salt
Pepper
Garlic Salt
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

Directions:
Saute the onion first, then the garlic, and then all other veggies together. I usually prefer to layer the veggies one by one, building flavor as you cook them. However, when you have chopped them in the food processor it's much quicker to do them all at once and since they are all the same size it really doesn't matter if you cook them all together. So start with the finely chopped onion, sauteing for three or four minutes, then add the garlic, saute stirring every so often for another one or two minutes, then add the other finely chopped veggies. I usually chop the veggies in to big chunks and then put them in my food processor and pulse until they are very small.
While the veggies are cooking, salt them and add any spices you might like. I added about a tsp of salt and then when adding the pepper the lid fell off and half the container ended up in my pan. UGH! I scooped as much of it out as possible and actually enjoyed the mishap because my veggie cake was spicy with all that pepper. You probably don't want to try this method, so add as much pepper as you like, I like a lot. I also added about a 1/2 tsp of Red Pepper Flakes, and garlic salt. After sauteing the veggies for about 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly, turn them down, cover and cook on low another 15 minutes, stirring often.
Meanwhile cook the quinoa in chicken broth. While that cooks slice your spaghetti squash lengthwise and remove the seeds and pulp. Typically if you have time, roast it at 375 in the oven for 30 minutes. Place it in a large casserole pan face down with a about 1/4 inch of water. You don't have to roast it in the oven, it's quick, easy and still great when cooked in the microwave for 15 minutes.
When quinoa is ready remove it and let cool, also remove the veggie mixture and let it cool (sneak lots of bites). When the spaghetti squash is cooked and cooled use a fork to scrape the spaghetti like strands out. Save half for another recipe.

Place the other 1/2 of the spaghetti squash in a large bowl, add the veggies and quinoa, Parmesan cheese and 1 egg. Mix it all together. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Form the mixture into patties and place on the cookie sheet. Cook the veggie cakes at 375 for about 20-30 minutes.
Enjoy!

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