Sunday, June 20, 2010

Meatless Monday: Quinoa

This week I thought we'd take a look at quinoa. It contains more protein than any other grain (an average of 16.2%, compared with 7.5% for rice, 9.9% for millet and 14% for wheat). The United Nations has classified this super-food as a “super-crop.” Quinoa is also a great source of dietary fiber and is high in iron, magnesium, potassium and a good source of phosphorous, calcium, vitamin E and several B vitamins. It contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans.

Quinoa is cooked just like rice, bringing about two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 14–18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it like al dente pasta. When cooked, quinoa has a mild, slightly nutty flavor and can be an excellent alternative to rice, bulgur or couscous.

I've found that kids really like it too. It's one of Henry's favorite old-reliables as it's very simple for me to whip out in a hurry. Here's one of his favorites from an old post.

Planning for tomorrow's offerings and want to try out quinoa with your family? Here are a few ideas:

Spring Vegetable Quinoa Salad (from the helpful Veg Box Recipe site. I highly recommend a visit - so great when you're stuck wondering what to do with the last of your veg box!!)

Serves 4
150g quinoa
150g sprouting broccoli or broccoli florets
6-8 baby carrots (new season)
150g spinach leaves or baby chard leaves
150g broad beans, podded
Handful of pine nuts  (I leave these out for Henry)

2 tablespoons sunflower oil / walnut oil
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
Handful fresh herbs, chopped (e.g. parsley, thyme)


  1. Cook the quinoa according to the packet instructions (usually simmering, covered, in twice its volume of water for 10 minutes, then leaving to stand for 5 minutes).
  2. Wash the broccoli and drain well. Break into bite-sized chunks.
  3. Scrub the carrots, trim the green ends and the chop the carrots into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Wash the spinach leaves and drain thoroughly.
  5. Boil the carrots in a covered pan with 1 inch of water for 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and broad beans and cook for a further 3 minutes. Drain.
  6. Return to the pan with just a couple of tablespoons of water. Add the spinach leaves and cover the pan. Cook gently for 2 minutes until the spinach wilts.
  7. Mix together the dressing ingredients.
  8. Heat a frying pan (dry) until hot and add the pine nuts. Turn regularly for a couple of minutes until lightly browned. Don't let them burn.
  9. Mix together the vegetables, the dressing and the quinoa. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top of each serving.

Quinoa Black Bean Salad

1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups cold water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups cooked black beans. If using canned beans, drain and rinse well
1/2 cup chopped celery
Optional: 1 carrot, peeled, halfed lengthwise, sliced thin diagonally
Optional: 1 cup chopped fresh yellow or green beans
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced OR 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced, OR 1 tsp garlic powder
1 red pepper, sliced thin
1 green pepper, sliced thin
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro or basil
1/4 cup chopped scallions
Optional: 1 large ripe tomato
Optional: 1/2 cup sliced olives

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
Pinch cayenne or chili powder


  1. The quinoa can be made ahead of time and refrigerated
  2. Soak the quinoa 10 - 15 minutes in cold water
  3. Rinse well in water several times. For each rinse, pour off most of the water and finish draining through a large fine mesh strainer
  4. Place in a 2 qt pot with 1 1/2 c. water and 1/2 tsp salt
  5. Bring to a full boil, cover tightly, turn down to low, and cook for 15 minutes
  6. Remove from heat and allow to sit 5 minutes covered
  7. Fluff quinoa gently with a fork and set aside to cool
  8. Sauté jalapeno, fresh garlic, in 2 Tbsp oil until garlic is browned, pepper and celery are softened
  9. Add the green and red peppers and sauté briefly
  10. Add the cumin and coriander, cook and stir 5 minutes
  11. Blend dressing ingredients with a whisk or shake in a jar
  12. Gently combine sautéed veggies, tomatoes, black beans, quinoa and dressing in a large bowl
  13. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cilantro and scallions, and serve warm or cover and chill

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