Yeah, I just used a redundant negative like that. What can I say? I’m a rebel without a cause. Who happens to like quinoa. A LOT.
Have you met quinoa? If not, please allow me the honor of introducing the two of you. This, my friend, is quinoa (or quinua, in Spanish):
I first came across quinoa ten years ago while I was working at a natural foods store. My bosses bragged about how they had imported it from far, far away, all the while raving about its many health benefits. All I heard as an irreverent college student was “blah, blah, blah,” but I ended up taking a bag of it home anyway because it’s so cute and small and I am infatuated with tiny things. I arrived home to decide what to cook it with, forgetting that I had been living off of peanut butter quesadillas, meaning the only two ingredients my cupboards boasted were peanut butter and tortillas (Dear Lindsay of the past, You disgust me.). The quinoa would have to be cooked and eaten all by its lonesome.
I boiled it, added a bit of salt, and served myself a bowl. OOH LA LA, it was love at first bite. For something so drab in appearance, quinoa is unexpectedly flavorful. It is subtly nutty, like me, so we hit it off from the start. What I appreciated most though was its texture. After being boiled, it pops into these mysterious curly-q’s that are simultaneously crunchy and soft.
I can’t even wrap my brain around the contradiction that is quinoa, so I decided to rap about it instead. How else are you going to learn more about this groovy grain-like seed, after all? My rap is set to the tune of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which I know you are familiar with. So sing along, as you have no excuse not to.
In western South America where llamas graze,
In the Andes is where I spend most of my days,
Growing tall under the sun in a breeze that’s so cool, and all
Waiting for farmers to cut me down with their tools.
When a couple of academics, who were up to some good,
Starting saying that I was a “superfood”.
Now I’m part of the health craze, and this is my dare:
Try to find a more complete protein than me, I ain’t scared!
That’s as far as I got before I started feeling bashful about using my free time to whip up food ditties. We’ll conduct the rest of our quinoa class in a more conventional format. Perhaps you are wondering why quinoa is considered a superfood? I have absolutely no idea.
Syke, I do. It contains all nine essential amino acids, giving it more protein than any other grain. It is also packed full of other goodies such as iron, potassium, calcium, and dietary fiber (Whoa! Look out pasta and rice!). Its magnesium content helps to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, and the copper and manganese it contains serve as antioxidants to help your body ward off toxins. Now that I am older and wiser than I was in college, I appreciate this. Additionally, quinoa has been around for so long that the Incas worshipped and ate it, which should give you extra incentive to try it since the Incas were badass. It’s also super simple to cook (2 cups of water for every cup of quinoa, boil for 10-15 minutes and voilà!). Why don’t you just jump on the bandwagon already? Here are a few simple recipes to get you started:
Our first recipe comes from my friend Erin, who feeds me delicious homemade meatballs when I visit her and generally dominates in the kitchen. This is a warm and filling breakfast drink that is reminiscent of the oatmeal beverages served in Colombia and Ecuador. This is obviously healthier though since it has quinoa in it (don’t make me revisit my rap!).
Jugo de Quinua– This recipe makes about 4-6 servings.
- 1 cup raw quinoa
- 2 cups of water
- whole cloves and cinnamon (I put a lot in, but it depends on how much you like the flavor of these things)
- 2-3 tablespoons of sugar
- 3 cups of milk (any kind, try it with soy or almond!)
- Boil quinoa with the cloves and cinnamon until all water evaporates. Remove the cinnamon and cloves.
- Warm the milk separately.
- Put quinoa and milk in a blender with the sugar, and blend until the mixture becomes thick and smooth, which will take a few minutes.
- Pour into a mug and enjoy!
This picture I am about to share with you serves no purpose at all aside from showing you that jugo de quinua and my kitchen happen to be EXACTLY the same color. Now you know.
Curried Quinoa Salad with Fresh Fruit– This is for all of you who can’t get enough of salty and sweet combos. This recipe makes about 6 servings.
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (I like to use the reduced salt kind because the salad tastes too salty otherwise)
- 3/4 cup quinoa
- 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- dash of black pepper
- 1 mango, diced. Sometimes I use 10 chopped dried apricots instead.
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 20 whole almonds
- a stalk of celery, diced, but only if you really like celery
- 15 strawberries, sliced
- Bring chicken stock, quinoa, curry powder, garlic powder, and pepper to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender.
- Remove quinoa from pot and let cool to room temperature. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
- Serve either at room temperature or cold.
The last time I made this recipe, I added these to it:
Do you know what that is? It’s an aguaymanto, which I believe is “gooseberry” in English (not to be confused with a tomatillo). This is what it looks like inside:
Along with being individually wrapped in nifty flower packages, aguaymanto is brimming with Vitamin C and happens to taste just like a SweeTart. Can you imagine if all nutritious foods tasted like candy? Well, leave it to aguaymanto to get the job done! If you can find some in your local store, grab it and add it to your curried quinoa salad. For those of you who aren’t into intense flavors, you might want to cut out some of the fruit varieties from this recipe.
Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes– I couldn’t help myself, I had to include a cupcake recipe.
- 2/3 cup quinoa
- 1 1/3 cup water
- 1/3 cup milk (any kind, I like this recipe with coconut soy milk)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1 1/2 cups cane sugar
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Bring the quinoa to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat but leave covered for another 10 min. Fluff with a fork and let cool.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a cupcake pan or line with cups.
- Mix the milk, eggs, and vanilla together.
- Add the cooked quinoa to the butter and blend until smooth in another bowl.
- Mix together the sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a third bowl.
- Add all ingredients together and mix well.
- Fill cups 3/4 full with batter and bake on the center rack for 40-45 min or until you can insert a fork into the center and have it come out clean. Wait until cupcakes are cool to ice them. I prefer cream cheese icing.
I love this recipe because I feel the quinoa adds another dimension to the cake. Unfortunately, sometimes the cupcakes don’t turn out just as I’d like, such as this last time when I tried to bake them to take pictures for you. Lemme give you some background info. Where I am living, cupcakes don’t exist, which means cupcake pans don’t exist, which means I had to smuggle some disposable aluminum ones in last time I visited the U.S. That was dumb, they got crushed in my travels, and I used them anyway. Repeatedly. Of course I forgot to bring back cupcake cups, and when you use disposable cupcake trays 400 times sans cups, they start to look like this:
Add that to the fact that my oven knob looks like this:
Would it have killed them to include temperatures? They paint a little thermometer next to the OFF indicator (what sense does that make?) but they absolutely refuse to let me know exactly how hot it is in there.
So don’t blame me that the cupcakes turned out looking like this:
Lesson learned. Never bake cupcakes in Peru. But please do bake these cupcakes in your own home because I think you’ll like them.
- Quinua is good.
- You should eat lots of it.
- You can thank me later. But first, try the above recipes.
Okay foodie friends, I’m about to travel for a couple of weeks and I hope to return with a bunch to share with you! See you soon!