Keeping it clean with quinoa

It dawned on me recently (dawning can often come surprisingly late): I grew up surrounded by grains. Living in the rural Midwest, our farm was a cluster of trees centered in vast open fields that yielded oceans of golden wheat. Sometimes, the fields were planted with sorghum (we called it milo), whose bristly rust-colored heads we heated and popped, then crunched on the tiny white tufts that looked like popcorn in miniature.

I never knew of any quinoa being grown in my region, but then again, I never knew of quinoa until recently. Quinoa has cropped up all over the culinary map, as super grains and wheat-alternative flours, such as teff, have given new choices for those desiring healthier options for breads and rice dishes.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has been touted as superfood and has been around for ages. In my Internet noodlings, I discovered that quinoa (named by the Spanish, originated in South America. Some research has claimed that the Incas called quinoa, “the mother of all grains.”

Quinoa is a tiny seed that cooks up like rice or couscous, with a deep, earthy flavor, just a tad bitter, with a light, but substantially fluffy texture. A box of quinoa will go a long way…it really expands upon cooking. The nutritional benefits attributed to quinoa are bountiful. Full of fiber, it also packs some protein and includes iron, B vitamins, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese, which activates certain essential enzymes in the body, along with maintaining bone and nerve health and regulating blood sugar. It has been claimed that quinoa can tone your colon (and whose colon couldn’t use a good toning?).

Quinoa, like rice, takes on whatever flavors you care to impart to it (though its unique nutty flavor makes it far from bland), and has the versatility of any grain, particularly because it is somewhat diminutive, delivering bulk without seeming bulky. My longtime friend and collaborator was curious about quinoa before I was, and decided to create a salad of some of his favorite flavors (think mediterranean tabouleh, with cool cucumber and tangy feta cheese). A cool salad, it is refreshing, winter or summer.

Kim’s Quinoa Salad
Serves 6

2 cups of quinoa, uncooked
1/2 of a cucumber, seeds removed, diced
1 cup plum tomatoes, quartered
6 oz.fat-free feta cheese
1/2 to 2/3 cup of Trader Joe’s hummus dressing (if not available, a creamy Italian vinaigrette will work)
1/4 cup minced Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Let cool completely. Add all other the other ingredients, stirring well to incorporate everyone. Chill in the refrigerator at least one hour. Serve and enjoy.

A recent issue of Yoga Journal, featuring an article on grains had a recipe for Blueberry Quinoa Muffins. I decided to give them a try. A deeply hearty muffin with a little heft, they were not overly sweet (using maple syrup and no granulated sugar) except for the delightful bursts of blueberries. They are also wheat -free, incorporating both cornmeal, rice flour and cooked quinoa, the muffins were substantial. I took some to work and one friend remarked after eating one, “It’s alike a meal.” My experiences with quinoa were making me realize that quinoa offered the kind of fullness and satisfaction that came from eating something that met many of the body’s needs.

Blueberry Quinoa Muffins
From Yoga Journal
Makes 10 to 12 muffins

1 cup cornmeal
1cup rice flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup rice milk
1/2 cup applesauce
1 tablesppon lemon juice
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 10 muffin cups or line with paper baking cups.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together cornmeal, rice flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. s. In a separate bowl, whisk together cooked quinoa, maple syrup, rice milk, applesauce, lemon juice and oil.

3. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in blueberries, spoon batter into prepared tins and bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan and place on a wire rack to cool.

I kept thinking that quinoa would make a great pudding, a rice pudding in miniature (like my popped milo). I found a recipe for a dessert quinoa pudding on the Food Network website and made several changes to suit some of my favorite tastes. With the addition of honey, orange zest, rum flavoring versus rum, vanilla and a small pat of butter melted in at the end of the cooking time of this stovetop pudding, this dessert is creamy, rich, flavorful and actually fiber-full. White rice pudding (or tapioca pudding) cannot make such a claim. I think what really makes this recipe kick is the orange zest…it counterbalances that grainy depth of the quinoa and lifts the whole dish. It made enough pudding for three nights of dessert, so it lends mileage, much like the grain inspiring it!

Quinoa Pudding
Makes 6 to 8 servings

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups quinoa, rinsed, well drained
2 cups low fat milk
11/3 cups whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter

Combine raisins, water, orange zest, cinnamon and honey in a pot.t. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. Set aside to plump. Cook quinoa in large pot of boiling water until tender.

Combine quinoa, milk, cream, sugar, salt and nutmeg in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low. Cook until the mixture is thickens, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Whisk egg yolks in large bowl to blend. Add 1 cup pudding mixture and whisk in to temper the egg. Return mixture to saucepan. Add raisins (with liquid) and continue stirring until mixture is thick and just begins to bubble. Add rum and vanilla extracts and tablespoon of butter.. Transfer pudding to large glass bow, cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cool. Sprinkle with cinnamon or top with whipped cream before serving.

Comments are closed.