Buzz, buzz, buzz, quinoa, buzz, buzz.
I kept hearing about it and reading about it, seemingly everywhere. What was this food? And how the heck does one pronounce its name?
The first question is easier to answer: “KEEN-wa.”
The second question is a little more complicated. Quinoa is described as having a fluffy, slightly crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor when cooked. While most consider it a grain, it is actually a seed related to veggies like spinach and beets. It is originally from the Andes but, fortunately for you and me, can now be found in most health food stores. The buzz stems from the fact that quinoa has great nutritional value, and is loaded with vitamins, minerals and protein. It’s a great source of healthy carbohydrates. And it’s gluten free. Recipes vary greatly from just preparing it as a simple rice alternative with no seasoning, to either a savory or sweet side dish or main course with lots of add ins. Breakfast, lunch or dinner.
My husband and I were intrigued enough to buy a huge bag at Costco several months ago. (The smaller bags in the health food section of our grocery store were wayyyy more expensive.) But the bag sat in our pantry unopened. Until two of my favorite bloggers (thanks, Jody and Tami) posted recipes within days of each other. Fate had struck. Hubby and I were inspired to experiment with our combined total of very limited culinary expertise. And I became determined to bring a quinoa dish as my healthy side to our family Thanksgiving buffet.
I find quinoa to taste “interesting.” I like it, but it is hard to really explain what it tastes like. Different. Hubby and I both agree it is a keeper in our house and will likely become a staple after our nest empties (i.e. no more picky teen at home) next year. We even served it to house guests this week; a long conversation ensued as we tried to explain it, since no one had tried it or even heard of it yet.
Here are two of the recipes that hubby and I tried. The first one (which can be found here) comes from Linda and is for quinoa burgers, although I would probably describe ours as more like pancakes. I even liked these cold the next day. The recipe calls for frying, which we did the first time and yields the tastiest results. But, to be healthier, now we “fry” them in a bit of cooking spray and may try baking the next time.
The following recipe is the side dish that we brought to Thanksgiving and that I will bring to Cammy’s Virtual Holiday Potluck. She’s hosting this calorie-free gathering of the blog world, and the more the merrier, so if you’d like to join in just click on the link for details.
What new foods have you tried? Have you jumped on the quinoa bandwagon yet?
Quinoa with Toasted Almonds and Cranberries
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
1 cube broth stock (we used chicken)
1.5 cups boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dried cranberries (we could only find Craisins)
Soak quinoa for 1/2 hour in cold water. Rinse thoroughly. On medium heat, stir and toast the slivered almonds until golden. (I roasted the nuts in the oven instead.) Stir and roast the quinoa until dry and turning color. Transfer toasted quinoa and almonds and cranberries to a 2 quart saucepan. Add boiling water, broth cube, salt, bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Return to boil, cover and turn heat to simmer for 20 minutes. Remover from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Fluff gently with a fork and serve.