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Cooking with Quinoa

Winter’s dreary days may make the reality of homegrown summer veggies from your garden seem far away. But the reality is you can still enjoy that taste of summer now by buying the same fresh vegetables at your supermarket. And quinoa is a tasty way to highlight your favorite veggies.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is an ancient grain of the Aztec and Inca and has been hailed as the supergrain of the future. As a complete protein source that’s gluten-free, it has more protein than any other grain due to a high concentration of essential amino acids. The texture is delicate and the taste slightly nutty, which makes it the perfect foil for showcasing your favorite veggies.

Often used as a substitute for starchier pasta and rice, quinoa is incredibly easy and quick to cook. And it can be cooked in a any pan that has a lid. You can even cook quinoa in a rice cooker using a 2:1 liquid to quinoa ratio. I especially like the Kenmore Digital Rice Cooker available at Kmart’s online store.

I’ve been cooking with quinoa long before it became mainstream, and in the past decade or so I’ve cooked it many different ways. What I’ve discovered is this: quinoa always comes out tasty when rinsed well under cold water before cooking.

Quinoa comes equipped with a protective shield of saponin compounds called glycosides that coat the outer shell. As such, the seeds will taste bitter unless you rinse off this coating prior to cooking. And trust me–you still need to rinse even if the box is labeled as pre-rinsed or pre-washed. Use a very fine mesh strainer to keep seeds from washing through, then rinse under cold water until the water beneath the strainer runs clear rather than cloudy.

Once the quinoa has been rinsed and thoroughly drained, toast the seeds with a little bit of oil over medium-low heat for a few minutes, stirring often, until it just begins turning golden. Stir in liquid and 1/4 teaspoon of salt along with any seasonings or spices you prefer. (You can use vegetable, mushroom, beef or chicken broth or stock for the liquid or any combination you like. Use twice as much liquid as quinoa; i.e., 2 cups liquid to 1 cup quinoa.) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for an additional 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork to separate the grains.

Quinoa can be used as part of a main dish, a side dish, in stir-fries, rice dishes, in soups, salads, or even bread and other baked goods. Try it today with your favorite veggies. Here’s a favorite recipe of mine to get you started.

FEATURED RECIPE:

1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey

1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

8 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large baking dish, toss the cherry tomatoes with olive oil, agave nectar, red pepper and salt. Arrange in a single layer in the dish and roast for 55 minutes. Add the green bean and garlic and roast for 5 to 10 minutes more.

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  1. We have been cooking with quinoa for years. I am terrible, though, have never rinsed it! I am interested to see the difference in texture and cooking if I do.

    Thanks for the yum recipe, too!

    1. In response to SHC-JulieK

      Hi Julie! I've also noticed that letting the cooked quinoa cool down before adding other ingredients also helps preserve the integrity/texture of the grain. What I usually do is make a batch, which will last in the refrigerator about five days or more. That way it's always on hand and all I need do is reheat the amount I'm using in the microwave for a hot dish, or simply dish out for a cold dish or salad.

    2. In response to SHC-JulieK

      We actually did this last week! My youngest son kept going in the fridge to snack on it, too! All I had to do was add some olives and he was good to go.

  2. I was looking for a new Quinoa recipe and this one looks delicious! I'm also going to check out that Kenmore rice cooker!! Thanks for the great info!

    1. In response to petfam

      Hey petfam--you will love having a rice cooker, especially this Kenmore as it can also be used to also steam veggies and fish. I'll put quinoa or rice to cook in the rice cooker, then the last 10 minutes of cooking time I add the veggies to steam. A meal all in one pot. I also occasionally use the rice cooker to cook pasta. Enjoy!

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