Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Health Food Conquest #1: Quinoa

So here we go, experiment #1: Quinoa. Pronounced keen-wah. I've known of it's existence, but I've never tried it. Sounds like some kind of fruit, if you ask me.

First of all I should lay a little brick on this subject. Quinoa (as typically bought in the grocery store) is basically a seed. In more detailed terms it's actually a relative of leafy greens like swiss chard or spinach, but you'd never know it. Imagine tiny little brown seeds in a box. Not that appetizing, I know. But get over it. It's incredibly nutritious, with 1/4 cup containing 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and only 172 calories. 1/4 cup dry makes about 1/2 cup cooked (maybe even a little more). It's gluten free, and considering it's low number of calories in relation to nutrients like magnesium, iron, and phosphorus, it's an incredibly nutrient-dense food.

I know, I know, I get it. Besides the obvious nutrient content, why do you care? Let me put it this way: it makes you full, quick. It's an adequate protein source for vegans, and the amount of magnesium it contains has been shown to help things like migraine headaches and diabetes (specifically, insulin regulation).

Now I can spout off all this nutritional information 'till the cows come home, but the fact remains that if it tastes like dried up marshmallows shoved in an effin' cigarette box no one is going to eat it. So I tried it tonight, with some adjustments.

First I made it just how the box said, I just cut the amount in half (as I would be the only one eating it). The box says to boil 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 1/4 cup water, reduce to a simmer until it absorbs the water (about 15 minutes).

The verdict? Tasted like shi*t. I'll admit it, the texture was pretty good though. Fluffy, but with a bite. Definitely unique, but the taste was so bland I actually felt insulted for a moment. That's right, insulted by a seed.

So for the second time, I made it with chicken stock instead of water. Muuuuuuch better. "That's not too bad at all," said my boyfriend, with a surprised look on his face after eating the fork full I shoved in front of him. "I'd eat that." Alriiiight, now we're talkin'. Score one for the crazy hippy in the kitchen.

Now the main issue with foods like this (rice, pasta, etc), is we tend to eat way more than just one serving. One way to combat this is to fill as much space as possible with low calorie healthy alternatives. That way, no matter how good it is, it doesn't turn into an absolute calorie bomb if you decide to overindulge. So for this, I decided to go the vegetable route. One medium zucchini, for example, has about 30 calories. That's it. That's a helluva space filler.
The best way, hands down, that I've found to get the most flavor out of your vegetables, is to roast them. Chop them up, but them on a frying pan with some olive oil, garlic salt, pepper and onion powder, bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes and you're golden. Tonight, I had zucchini, yellow squash and baby tomatoes in my 'fridge, so that's what was going in the quinoa.

After the veggies were done roasting and the quinoa was done cooking, I combined everything together, and added a bit of lemon juice (to taste), some grated parmesan, and some chopped basil. The end result? Not too bad at all, if I do say so myself. Actually, the more I ate it the more proud of myself I became. By the third bite, I was in pure quinoa heaven. This stuff is fantastic!

Oh but here's the kicker folks...that whole "it makes you full" claim? Totally true. I planned on just making this for a side dish, and having something else as the main entree, but after I finished eating my side dish, only half of what I had made, I couldn't put another thing in my mouth. I was stuffed. And it's a different feeling than if I had just gorged myself, it's just...I don't know how to explain it. I'm just not hungry anymore. I'm sitting here blogging and watching baseball on TV, my roommate and boyfriend eating a plateful of spaghetti, and I don't have a single urge to get up and help myself to some noodles and sauce. Odd, but I'll take it!

Another great thing is you can add pretty much whatever you prefer. Want more of a "chicken soup" feel? Add some baked chicken cut into bite size pieces, and some roasted carrots and celery. Finish with some fresh thyme and parsley. Maybe go Greek, and add some artichoke hearts, olives, sundried tomatoes and feta cheese, lemon juice and salt and pepper. I even found a recipe with dried cranberries and cashews. I'm going to try that tomorrow night. Frankly, I'm looking forward to it. Why they heck have I never tried this stuff before? I'm absolutely a new fan of quinoa!

So for tonight's recipe:

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup chicken stock (or broth, always the lowest sodium you can find)
1 medium zucchini (cut into cubes/slices)
1 small yellow zucchini squash (cut into cubes/slices)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil (for roasting, not all will be added to quinoa)
2 Tbsp chopped basil
2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Makes 2 servings: 260 calories per serving.

A word to the wise: go easy on the salt. Between the chicken stock and parmesan cheese, this has a bit of a higher sodium content that some would prefer. I happen to make my own chicken stock (with no salt whatsoever), but this time I used store bought, taking into account most people don't have a cup of homemade stock on hand. I was lucky enough to find one with only 170 grams of sodium per servings, but a typical store bought low sodium broth/stock has about 570 grams of sodium, which is pretty high.

If you try this let me know, I'm going to try another version tomorrow...and I'm freakin' pumped about it!

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  1. Sounds great. This is exactly what I need, low calorie and filling, plus I love most veges. How about some (keen-wah) with roasted pumpkin, spinach, feta and toasted pine nuts - making myself hungry now.

    Absolutely loving your blog and can't wait to see more of your 'trial' recipes. I have added you to my favourite list so I never miss a single post :)

  2. Thanks for following me! I'm following you right back.


  3. Yup, That's about what I remember of "the devil seed". Good in stir fry but inedible plain.

    ~ The Tuckerbag ~

  4. I don't know what the odds are but I started researching where I could get this stuff after reading your post and my office mate literally brought in some for lunch as well. I had never heard of the stuff yesterday, and today it's all over the place.

    Thanks for the recipe. It looks a lot better then what my friend brought in today.

  5. I love it! I prepare it with chicken broth, and in a separate pot I saute some zucchini with soy sauce and olive oil, then combine them! Even the kids love it, and it works with cous cous as well!
    Visiting and now following on GFC via I Love Blogging Hop...hop on over to my blog and follow back if you like!

    Jessica K

  6. Awesome!!! I'm going to put this on my grocery list. I often cook some sort of stir fry with rice, and I bet this is the perfect subsitute. I hope it's not terribly expensive though.

  7. i love quinoa!!!! nom nom nom! you should try it with chickpeas and grilled hallomi ( cheese) sooo tasty!

  8. I like the slightly nutty flavor. Sometimes I will make quinoa (or millet) with stock, add some yogurt, parsley and a raw egg and eat it like that. ^^

  9. Never tried it sounds intriguing.

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  12. When I first leaned about Macchu Picchu and how it was discovered, I learned more about the Incan culture. They eat a lot of quinoa, so I had to try it. I used to make my quinoa as I would my cous cous- with feta, olives, a little onion. Maybe some olive oil to taste. Good for you for trying it! If only I could get my hubby to try it....I barely got him liking cous cous.

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  14. I love quinoa! I actually just had some for dinner yesterday. I just eat it plain, maybe mixed with peas, kidney beans, or chick peas --I'm strange like that, haha.


  15. I'm gonna try this recipe, I never thought of using chicken broth!

    Aloha- new follower from Thursday Blog Hop

  16. In never new it was a seed I always thought it was a grain. So thank you for sharing that information. I will diffently try it now. I thought it was just like another pasta or something like that.

  17. Great recipe!

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  18. I just wanted to stop by, since I haven't it awhile, and invite you to my weekend hop open tonight thru Sunday. I hope you will come by and link up! If not, I hope you have a great weekend!

  19. Great info! I've never had it before. I'm definitely going to try some kid friendly recipes with it!

  20. Can you believe, I have never tired it. I should, I know. You have kind of convinced me.

    Thanks for linking up to Diminishing Lucy's Drab to Fab...

  21. I haven't made the quinoa yet- I bought some but just haven't gotten around to making it. I did roast vegetables in the oven like you said for dinner and they were so good! Of course no one else would eat them...more for me I guess!

  22. I have been curious about Quinoa for a while now and I can get it at Costco so I'm gonna give it a go, thanks for the recipe I will give it a try and thanks for sharing it on my recipe exchange blog hop:) I'm following you:) and I will try and organise a button/badge.

  23. So I tried to make this last night... I get the feeling I FUBARed the Quinoa because it was mushier than I like. I might try using my rice cooker instead of manual pot work next time!

    I used the yellow zucchini squash & grape tomato portion and used a handful of fresh green beans because I had them on hand. I know for future reference to roast the green beans for about 5 minutes before adding the other veggies.

    But all in all, the use of broth/stock is a good one. I can't imagine the quinoa tasting all that great without the aid of the broth/stock.

    I also added chopped fresh basil to the quinoa, some red pepper and garlic grinder that I had to the veggies, and tossed together with a sprinkling of grated Romano & Parmesan on top.

    and I must be an oddity. I ate one portion and was still snacking afterward because I was still hungry :-(
    oh well, I'll probably end up using this as a side dish!


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