When I first began my weight-loss journey, I had this bright idea that I’d share with you the new foods I tried. Um, yeah, I’ve done it once when I posted about spaghetti squash. I really did do think it’s a good idea, it’s just that I’m forgetful. And sometimes not quite so adventurous on the foods.
I have a new favorite, though: quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”). Quinoa is a high-protein grain from South America that can be simmered in milk for breakfast or cooked with broth to make a tasty side dish or even a cold salad. A great source of protein, fiber, and iron, quinoa is also gluten-free, which will be appreciated by those with allergies.
Quinoa can be found near the rice in most grocery stores…but you’ll probably have to search. I found mine at Wal-mart, in a tiny little box, high on the top shelf. It’s a bit expensive (a little over $4 for a 12 oz. box), but a little goes a long way.
Everything I read about quinoa said that it needed to be rinsed thoroughly so that it wouldn’t have a bitter taste. Even though the box I bought said “pre-washed” and “no rinsing necessary” I washed it anyway. Nothing like a bitter taste to leave a bad first impression and ensure that my picky eaters wouldn’t try it again.
Rinsing it was a little tricky. They’re tiny little grains and I didn’t have anything with small enough holes to keep them from going through. I would up improvising with a paper towel, but I’ll either purchase something like a tea strainer or cheesecloth before next time. Yes, there will be a next time. I really enjoyed the recipe I made with the quinoa.
It’s hard to describe the taste. As a friend commented to me recently, and I agree, that it doesn’t really have much of a taste of it’s own. You really pick up the flavors of the other ingredients. The Biggest Loser Simple Swaps book describes it as a “nutty” flavor. I’d liken it maybe to barley, but it’s not a really strong taste.
I really want to try it for breakfast and I saw a tasty-looking cold salad recipe in the Self issue with Jillian Michaels’ Jump Start Diet. The recipe I tried first, though, was from The Biggest Loser Simple Swaps, page 107: Quinoa with Spinach and Cheese.
2 tsp. olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1/4 diced celery (I omitted this because I didn’t want to buy an entire stalk of celery for 1/4 cup)
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 c quinoa, rinsed well
2 c fat-free chicken broth
2 c chopped spinach (I used about 1 c. frozen spinach)
1/2 c chopped mushrooms
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and quinoa and cook for about 1 minute longer, stirring occasionally. Do not brown garlic. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 12 minutes; the mixture will be brothy and the quinoa almost done. Stir in the spinach and mushrooms and simmer for 2 minutes longer, or until the quinoa grains have turned from white to transparent. Add the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.