quinoa – the mother of all grains

I have a new favorite thing. And, amazingly enough, it’s not covered in chocolate, it doesn’t have more fat grams than I need in one day, and… wait for it… it’s good for me. Crazy, I know. It’s quinoa.

warm breakfast quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), though new to many of us, has been around since pre-Columbian civilizations. Because of its amazing nutritional properties and its ability to survive in even the harshest of environments, the Incas considered it so sacred that they referred to it as chisaya mama – mother of all grains. It’s been classified as a “super crop” by the United Nations because of its high protein content. In fact, quinoa is what’s considered a complete protein, meaning that it has all nine essential amino acids. It’s also an excellent source of lysine, manganese, magnesium, iron, copper, phosphorous. Oh, and it’s an excellent source of dietary fiber. Want more? It’s gluten free and it’s easily digestible. See? It’s amazing.

There’s just one thing about this mother of all grains… it’s not actually a grain. Though it can be used in most any application that you would normally use a grain like rice or couscous, it’s actually the seed of a plant called chenopodium quinoa and is related to beets, spinach, and chard.

Grain or not, I love this little super food. Its nutty and earthy, crunchy and chewy, and is just so much more fun than plain old rice. Add to it that it’s actually better for me too? Quinoa was an easy sell.

We started small with the Quinoa Encrusted Salmon last week. Bolstered by the success of that, I was ready to tackle something bigger. So, I cooked up a batch of quinoa with the intent to use it in whatever sounded good over the course of a few days. I was not disappointed. We used it in a stir-fry with shrimp and veggies. We ate it in conjunction with a stew which I’ll post about later this week. And, this morning, I had it for breakfast. I think I may be in love.

First… let’s talk about how to cook quinoa. It’s dead easy and pretty quick.

Cooked Quinoa
In a medium (3-4 quart) pan over high heat, bring 3 cups water to a boil. In a strainer, rinse 1 1/2 cups quinoa under running water and drain thoroughly (this ensures you remove any remaining saponins which can make your quinoa bitter). Add quinoa and 1/4 teaspoon salt to pan with boiling water. Adjust heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender to bite, 20 to 25 minutes. (Makes 5 cups or about 4 servings.)

quinoa

We kept (and will continue to keep) the cooked quinoa, covered, in the refrigerator for easy meals. Case in point… breakfast.

Susan and K both mentioned that they enjoy quinoa for breakfast – something I hadn’t even considered. Turns out that it’s quite popular in that application as well and I was excited to discover yet another way to enjoy my new favorite thing. And enjoy I did…

warm breakfast quinoa

Warm Quinoa Breakfast Cereal
1 cup prepared quinoa
1/2-3/4 cup skim milk (depending on the consistency you like)
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup toasted almonds

Place prepared or leftover quinoa in a sauce pan. Add milk, butter, honey, cinnamon and raisins. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until the cereal thickens slightly. Garnish with nuts and an additional drizzle of honey if you like. Makes one very hearty serving or two more modest ones.

You can also cook the quinoa IN milk, but I don’t find there’s much of a diffeence and using the prepared quinoa fits better into my morning routine. And you can vary your fruits (think peaches, apples, blueberries) and your toppings (pecans, sunflower seeds). I don’t foresee myself getting bored with this one for a while… if ever!

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55 thoughts on “quinoa – the mother of all grains

  1. Kevin says:

    Having quinoa as a breakfast cereal sounds like a great idea! It looks really tasty.

    ***
    It’s surprisingly good and very filling! Thanks, Kevin!

  2. I’m loving quinoa right now too. I cook mine in a rice cooker with 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa. Quick and easy.

    I’m gonna try it for breakfast tomorrow with some soy milk. :)

    ***
    I hope you enjoy it! :)

  3. I love quinoa but had never thought of it for breakfast. Thanks for the idea… and for the gorgeous photos to entice me to eat this tomorrow :)

    ***
    Happy to spread the quinoa love! :)

  4. Ann says:

    Been eating quinoa for years and loving it! We make a breakfast version too… with fruits and walnuts. Delicious!

    ***
    I’ve got a list a mile long of yummy breakfast combos that I want to try out!

  5. Erin says:

    You’ve sold me on quinoa! This looks like the perfect breakfast. I can’t wait to try it out.

    ***
    It IS perfect! Check back over the weekend to see the savory side of quinoa!

  6. Suzana says:

    I’ve never had it for breakfast but it doesn’t surprise me that it’s so yummy. Quinoa is so wonderful and versatile!

    Michelle, those are beautiful photos!

    ***
    Thank you, Suzana! :)

  7. I actually tried Quinoa for the first time at a healthy eating – Cancer prevention cooking class. But haven’t been able to find it in the chain grocery stores. What aisle is it in? I’m a super busy working single mom so finding the time to run to another store entirely is tough. Thanks for the great post!

    ***
    I haven’t yet found it in my normal chain grocery stores, I have to make a trip over to my local Whole Foods and get it from their bulk bin section. However, I’d check the organic section – I imagine that’s going to be your best bet. You can also order it online if that’s easier for you. (www.bobsredmill.com).

  8. K says:

    I’m so glad to see that quinoa is finally breaking out into the mainstream. My parents and I have been eating and loving it for years. I’m happy that it’s no longer seen as a weird health food anymore, and people are realizing how delicious it is! :)

    ***
    It’s amazing! I wish I’d discovered it sooner!

  9. eyeeatmusic says:

    Love the Quinoa, Salmon Encrusted with sounds Fab

    ***
    Thanks!

  10. Mish Lee says:

    I *love* quinoa and its versatility. I make stuffed squash and vegetables with quinoa as a lighter alternative to rice.

    Thanks for sharing.

    ***
    Stuffing squash with quinoa… another thing to put on the “must try” list. Thanks for visiting!

  11. Gotta love those Peruvian grains!

    -JS-

    ***
    There’s nothing not to love!

  12. Ben says:

    Although I’ve know it existed for a long time, I’ve never had it before. That’s it. I am getting a bag (does it come in bags?) in my next grocery shopping trip. Great tip!

    ***
    I’m getting mine from the bulk bin section at my local Whole Foods. I’ve seen it in bags on the internet and in a box today on Semi Home Cooking, though!

  13. Katie says:

    I’ve just discovered quinoa, myself, in the last year and I also love it. I have not tried it for breakfast – that actual cooking thing kind of put me off. But your way sounds easy…and tasty. Now to break it to mon mari that he doesn’t get the leftovers for lunch…

    ***
    I don’t find the cooked in milk thing to be any better than heating the leftovers in milk… and it’s certainly easier! Hope mon mari takes it okay! :)

  14. Lydia says:

    So glad Katie introduced you on her blog! I’m going to have fun reading through your archives.

    ***
    Hi, Lydia! I think I’ll be enjoying yours as well! :)

  15. Pam says:

    I have never had this before! I am really trying to eat healthier this year (aren’t we all), so I’m going to see if my local natural foods store has it.

    ***
    Yes, Pam, I think we’re all trying to eat healthier this year. Wonder how long we can hold out? ;) I hope you can find quinoa locally – it’s been really wonderful EVERY way I’ve made it. Keep an eye out for more applications here as I play more with it.

  16. bendersbetterbrother says:

    After it’s prepared, does it freeze well or does freezing turn it to moosh?

    ***
    You know… being a quinoa newbie, I’d never frozen it. However, I put a little into the freezer and I’ll let you know how it comes out.

    UPDATE: I threw about 1/2 cup into the freezer for a week. Defrosted it in the microwave on high power for about 50 seconds. Taste and texture are both fine. So… freezing seems like a viable option.

  17. Paul from Peru says:

    You should try a Quinotto which is a creamy version of Italian risotto using quinoa instead of rice -

    ***
    Thanks for the tip, Paul. This sounds *amazing* and I’ll absolutely be giving it a try!

  18. peabody says:

    Never thought about it for breakfast but I bet it would be good and hearty.

    ***
    It is, indeed! Perfect on a cold morning!

  19. Mimi says:

    I am a recent convert to quinoa as well. I live in Colorado and can get locally produced quinoa at my food co-op. Thanks for the background and breakfast recipe!!!

    ***
    Locally produced quinoa? Lucky lady!

  20. Dani says:

    I’ve recently become a quinoa fan, and I’m definitely going to try this out in the morning, thanks!

  21. Anticiplate says:

    I am in the process of making this right now! I am adding dried cherries, pecans, maple syrup, and banana slice. MMmmmmm!

  22. Cmoore says:

    I do love quinoa, but I’d never think to use it as a breakfast grain. Thanks for this!

  23. joey says:

    This looks like a fantastic way to use quinoa, a grain I am still discovering, and yes, also enjoying! :) Thanks for sharing this…

  24. mag says:

    Wow i just discovered quinoa and I love it…

  25. Sharadha says:

    Looks interesting and delicious. will try soon.

  26. IPerrot says:

    I have loved quinoa for years, just tried the breakfast cereal and love it also! Quinoa is also great in a tabbouleh salad instead of couscous, but my whole foods has been unable to order it these last two months in the bulk section and I am a bit worried. What is going on in the quinoa market?

  27. Moya says:

    I cook mine with ginger & garlic – it’s how I used to cook rice. Cook some chopped ginger & garlic in a pan with a little oil, add the quinoa & cook for a minute or two. Add required amount of chicken or vegetable stock, bring to boil, stir. Reduce heat, cover & simmer till cooked.

    Tastes great with lots of things

  28. Bob says:

    Another great breakfast recipe that I use in the mornings:

    Using a coffee grinder (clean) grind up 1/2 cup quinoa into a fine flour

    Add 1 cup boiling water

    Whisk together until solid-ish.

    This makes a great quinoa farina sort of substance that’s great with fruit and other additivies.

  29. Sophia says:

    I just discovered quinoa milk today!
    I usually use almond milk because my body does not react well with dairy and im not a fan of soy. Almond milk tends to be a bit creamier than rice milk, which is a bit thin, but i never imagined id find quinoa milk. I havent tried it yet, but im quite stoked to do so. Also, i believe its sweetened a little with agave.
    maybe give it a try!

  30. Carrie says:

    In your cooking directions, I noticed that you didn’t say anything about soaking the quinoa before cooking to remove the bitterness (I have read to soak for 2-4 hours). I purchased quinoa from Whole Foods’ bulk section and don’t know if it is presoaked – don’t think so. Is soaking not necessary if I just rinse it?

    ***

    Carrie,
    I’ve never soaked quinoa… a good, very thorough rinse has always worked just fine for me. (Including that which I bought from the bulk bin at Whole Foods!)

  31. Carrie says:

    Thanks! I made it and it was wonderful. I tried it both plain and then added a little raw butter, maple syrup and rice milk. I liked them both.
    Have you tried sprouting it, and if so, does it taste good?

  32. Darlene says:

    I am so anxious to try it for breakfast. I have eaten pearl barley for breakfast for awhile, however, it caused extreme gas by afternoon. I am thinking that quinoa is different from barley, am I right?

  33. Liz N says:

    I love the idea of having it for breakfast too.

  34. ~M says:

    This looks fabulous. Costco now sells 4 lb bags of quinoa for $9.99 (or less), making it the cheapest option!

    I’m going to try this with coconut milk.

  35. Courtney says:

    Nice write up, thank you!

    Just cooked a ton of quinoa last night in place of rice, and have a LOT leftover! Was googling how to use the leftovers and your post came up.

    Do you know at all how long the leftover quinoa lasts in the fridge?

    Cheers!

  36. Darlene says:

    I have been eating quinoa for breakfast for the last month or so. Love it, love it, love it. I cook enough ahead on Sunday for breakfast all week. I warm up one cup in micro, add cinnamon, freshly ground flax seed, whatever fruit in season, and soy milk. It is like porridge, with a really great taste. It does keep me filled till mid morning but I still need a snack or two (fruit usually) before lunch. I am hooked for life I think.

  37. helen says:

    how long dothe cooked quinoa leftovers stay fresh in the fridge? thanks.

    • culinography says:

      Helen –
      Not sure, but I can tell you that we’ve had it in the fridge for up to about five days with no negative consequences! Thanks for visiting!

  38. Darlene says:

    I usually make 1 1/2 cups on Sunday and put in the fridge for the week. I eat about 1 cup a day, mixed with soya milk, flax seed, and cinnamon, similar to porridge I think. I have only had it go bad on me once, a bit of mold on it, after about 7 days. I now know that it has to be eaten within a week.

  39. Melyssa says:

    I’ve just started eating quinoa too..and man..is it good!!!
    my question if anyone can help..is how long can you keep it stored for? I keep mine in an airtight glass jar..and i’d like to buy in bulk, but don’t know if i could eat it before it gets too old..
    thanks for your help in advance!

  40. Deb says:

    I started having a problem with wheat so I started eating quinoa for breakfast and I love it. I am looking forward to trying muffins and whatever else I can think of to cook with it.

    I buy my quinoa from Bob’s Red Mill and I don’t rinse it at all. It is already well cleaned and rinsed.

  41. Liv says:

    I love quinoa! Haven’t tried it for breakfast yet, but I think I will tomorrow morning!

  42. Maria says:

    How wonderful to read all these positive comments about Quinoa, which is grown in Ecuador, my home country. Thank you for spreading the word about this amazing grain/seed so that others can enjoy quinoa’s health benefits, delicious flavor and versatility. Muchas Gracias!

  43. Nancy says:

    Red quinoa costs and tastes the same, but looks pretty in some salads.

  44. Skip says:

    I am a type 2 diabetic and must watch my carbs. Is Quinoa OK instead of Oatmeal for breakfast.

  45. Skip says:

    I am a type 2 diabetic and must watch my carbs. Is Quinoa OK instead of Oatmeal for Breakfast

  46. Love quinoa!! Such great ideas here…thanks for sharing the breakfast option!

  47. Precious says:

    I love quinoa! We don’t eat much rice, quinoa is definitely healthier for you. I’ve never tried it for breakfast though. I use quinoa flour for baked goods, it makes stuff nutty. It’s great!

  48. Christina says:

    What most people don’t seem to realize is that most (almost all) grains, seeds and nuts NEED TO BE SOAKED for anywhere from 2 – 8 hours. Just rinsing the quinoa may remove some of the saponins — if you go to the trouble of rubbing the grains gently between your fingers while rinsing — but only SOAKING will remove all or most of the phytic acid! PHYTIC ACID is an enzyme inhibitor (keeps the grain/seed/nut from sprouting while being stored) that can makes digesting these foods difficult or problematic, i.e., can cause gas and intestinal discomfort, not to mention inefficient assimilation of the nutrients.

    Soaking quinoa is very simple. Put quinoa in a bowl or jar, something you can cover to keep dust and other things out, cover with plenty of good quality drinking water, add an acid medium like apple cider vinegar, lemon or lime juice, or real whey, about 2 Tbsp per cup of dry quinoa, and soak for 4 – 8 hours or overnight. Discard soaking water, rinse the grains extremely well, several times, to remove all the stuff that’s in the soaking water, then cook. Keep in mind that by soaking it with the ACV or lemon you’ll need less water and shorter cooking time. Just keep an eye on the pot and add more water if necessary, depending on whether you like your grains mushy or more al dente.

    I always cook up a big batch al dente, then freeze in individual portions. I don’t use a microwave (why prepare a healthy food, if I’m going to irradiate and kill all the nutrients in it…), so by leaving the grains a little firmer to start with, I can reheat the frozen serving with just a minimum of liquid in a pot stove-top, and add whatever I want — some chicken stock, veggies, savory herbs, seasoning for lunch or dinner, and fresh or dried fruit, cinnamon and/or nuts for breakfast.

    Bon App├ętit!

    THE SCIENCE BEHIND SOAKING:
    Whole grains, some seeds, nuts and fresh legumes are problematic, unfortunately, because of their naturally high level of phytic acid, which inhibits the absorption of key minerals that we are trying to increase in our diets: iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium specifically. Phytic acid, or phytate, binds to minerals in your digestive tract and escorts them out through your bowels. There will be no cell building with these minerals, even though the label on the grain or legume suggests you are eating mineral-rich food.

    Phytic acid not only grabs on to or chelates important minerals, but also inhibits enzymes that we need to digest our food, including pepsin, needed for the breakdown of proteins in the stomach, and amylase, needed for the breakdown of starch into sugar. Trypsin, needed for protein digestion in the small intestine, is also inhibited.

  49. barb grossi says:

    I use quiona in any recipe that calls for couscous because we have gluten issues. Okay, it doesn’t taste exactly the same as couscousm, but that’s okay, it tastes better and you get the protein benefit!

  50. Anne says:

    I love love LOVE it! My family thinks I am nuts and say I have a new fad. I want to eat it every day, or a couple of times a day. I recently made some cream of asparagus soup and added some cooke quinoa to it, it gave it a nice conscientcy. I buy it at Costco in bags and it is already rinsed. I also added some cooked shrimp to a cup of cooked quinoa and then added some mango curry dipping sauce. MMMMM! And add it to some canned tomatoes with herbs and spices. I am sold on it.

  51. Ambroses says:

    Just started dining on it and have begun using it as a cereal and I do absolutely LOVE it to death….crazy about it. I am excited to try it in many different ways. Plus I am a ‘protein type’ so it is even more perfect for me and I also need a lot of ‘lysine’ which it supplies as well….I am so tickled that I discovered this little super seed :))

  52. carole LeRoy says:

    I make pancakes out of quinoa and serve it with fresh fruit on top. The guests love it. I do fry them and freeze cakes for a quick protien pick me up. Carole

  53. carole LeRoy says:

    I make pancakes for my B&B with quinoa and the guest love them I serve fresh fruit on top.

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