Quinwhat? Quinoa! The internets will tell you this pseudo-grain – so called because it is the seed of a non-grass – has been around since the Dawn of People Eating Things. But truth be told, I’ve found it’s still a bit of novelty to most people.
Pronounced keen-wah, this sharp-but-earthy-tasting seed is a nutrient powerhouse. It’s full of B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, iron, and fiber. And I recently learned via nutritioulicious that unlike most other grains, quinoa supplies all nine essential amino acids (the ones your body needs but can’t make for itself). Quinoa is also full of gold-plated unicorns. Ahhhh, just kidding (they’re narwhals), but it’s still a pretty impressive food.
Still, all that nutrition stuff goes in one ear and out the other unless it appeals to your palate, right? Rest assured, quinoa is tasty, versatile and convenient. The small round grains cook in 12-15 minutes to a light consistency while retaining a pleasingly springy texture. And let’s talk versatility: quinoa can stand alone as a simple side, or it can be mixed with any of a zillion (I kid! It’s actually 2 zillion) other ingredients to compliment quinoa’s flavor and nutrition profile. For instance, this quinoa with black beans and corn is a comforting mix of sweet, bitter and nutty flavors that you can eat as a main dish (as I do) or a side to another main (like Mr. Eating The Week does).
Quinoa can definitely stand in for more routine grains like rice, providing a simple platform for more complex flavors. I took that idea and ran with it while adapting a recipe from Cooking Light to make this curried chicken salad.
As I discovered while hunting for recipes, quinoa is equally at ease at the dinner table and in your breakfast nook. Heck, it can even be ground into flour for use in all kinds of baking endeavors. See for yourself with this week’s recipe list:
- Curried chicken and quinoa salad (recipe follows below)
- Coconut cashew red quinoa, from Dish By Trish (here)
- Brussel sprouts, spinach and quinoa salad, from Salad Pride (here)
- Quinoa with avocado and nori (seaweed), from Blondie’s Cakes & Things (here)
- Quinoa with black beans and corn, from All Recipes (here)
- Beet and quinoa pancakes, from Art is the Handmaid of Human Good (here) – this may be a stretch for the theme, because it uses quinoa flour rather than whole quinoa. Do I care? Qui-no.
- Breakfast quinoa with fruit, from Delicious Dishings (here)
Want to learn even more quinoa trivia? Head over to Wikipedia. And if you’re ready to kick off your own quinweek, here’s the chicken salad recipe.
Curried chicken and quinoa salad (text file here)
Adapted from Cooking Light (here). You can use any type here, but I like brown sprouted quinoa in this recipe.
(2 servings, approx. 390 calories each)
¼ cup fat-free sour cream
1 Tbs fat-free Greek yogurt
¼ tsp curry powder
2 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 Tbs slivered almonds
½ cup (dry) quinoa
3-4 leaves romaine lettuce, chopped
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Prepare the quinoa according to package instructions (this will probably entail bringing 2/3 cup of water to a boil, adding the quinoa, turning heat down low and simmering for 12-15 minutes).
Combine sour cream, yogurt and curry powder in a large bowl. Add the next four ingredients (through almonds) and mix well.
When the quinoa is done, divide it among two bowls. Top each with half of the chopped lettuce, then half of the chicken salad. Grind a bit of black pepper on top, if you’re into that.