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.