Saturday, June 5, 2010

Breakfast of (Incan) Champions

Since going gluten free, I have discovered several foods I might otherwise not have tried. One such food,quinoa, sadly, might never have entered my consciousness, let alone my diet.

Quinoa (KEEN-wah), a small grain (well, technically a seed, but we're going with grain), originally hails from the Andes Mountains, and was sacred to the Inca. With at least as much protein as milk, ALL the essential amino acids and myriad vitamins, quinoa has been called a supergrain, and rightly so. It cooks like similarly to rice, but can be prepared to consistencies ranging from rice to creamy porridge. All depends on the type and amount of liquid used to cook it, as well as the cook time.

One of the cool things about this food is that you can do almost anything with it. Last weekend I used a 2:1 chicken broth to water combination to cook up a large batch to use with dinner. This leads me to the other cool thing about this grain. A small amount with last you for a while, a large amount with go on forever! When cooking quinoa, you MUST remember that it practically triples in size from raw to cooked. I wasn't thinking about the grow factor and made so much on Monday that I had to give some away or risk it going to waste. And that was after I packaged some in single serve bags in the freezer!

As I waited for the liquid to cook into my quinoa, I was engrossed in the book I'm currently reading, Gluten Free Girl by Shauna James Aheren. It just so happened that I came across the section discussing gluten free grains, among them, quinoa. After reading her ideas on the grain, I did some internet research and discovered the idea of cooking quinoa in fruit juice for breakfast rather than broth for dinner. I gave it a try the other day and made a few discoveries.

  1. I still have to work out how much to cook for a single serving
  2. Either quinoa takes longer to swell in fruit juice, or my slightly out of round pan is letting too much steam escape the edges of the lid
  3. Keep the temperature high
  4. If it's too dry/not done/didn't grow, just add more liquid and keep going!
Because I simply can't wait to share them with you, today will be a double feature in terms of recipes :)

Savory Quinoa
  • uncooked quinoa
  • broth of your choice, water or a mixture of them
  • cloves of garlic
  • fresh herbs such as basil, cilatro, thyme, oregano or a mixture like Mrs. Dash
  • sea salt

You'll notice I've not included amounts. This is because your needs will vary. To decide how much of these things you will need, decide how much finished quinoa you want to yield. You need twice as much liquid as grain, and you only need 1/3 the amount of finished quinoa when you measure the raw quinoa. If you want 3 cups of cooked quinoa, use 1 cup uncooked and 2 cups of liquid. The liquid I used was 2/3 low sodium, fat free chicken broth and 1/3 water. Experiment.

The spices are the same idea, if you make more, use more, and vice versa. Into the pan I tossed my qunioa and liquid. I peeled and chopped the garlic, adding it directly to the liquid in the pan, and adding the herbs at the same time. I ground a small amount of sea salt into the pan. Over a high flame, heat to a boil, cover and boil for 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

I served my batch with a chicken stir fry made of diced chicken breast, strips of peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and chopped carrots. It would stand all on its own though.

Cranberry Apple Walnut Quinoa

  • ½ c uncooked quinoa
  • 1½ c Cranberry Apple Juice
  • ¼-½ c chopped apple
  • ¼-½ c chopped walnuts
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan with a lid
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, cook for 15 minutes on high or until liquid is absorbed

If the consistency is not that of porridge, add more liquid (I just add water), put the lid back on and keep cooking. It might take longer than 15 minutes to get a softer texture, but if you like a couscous-esque texture, you can stop there.

After transferring the cooked cereal to a bowl, I like to add a little half & half or vanilla soy milk. Delicious!

More information about Quinoa

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