How To – Quinoa

Since embarking on my journey to eat more nutrient-dense food, there has been one discovery that has really impacted my life.

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It’s called quinoa, and without it I feel as if my life would be empty. That’s a bit exaggerative; but basically, I’m trying to say I’m obsessed with the stuff. Not only is it simple to make, it’s easy on  your digestion (it’s a gluten-free pseudo-cereal or seed), full of fiber and one of the most complete proteins on this earth. Because of that fact, I like to sub quinoa and beans for a meat free dinner.

Once cooked, the seeds taste slightly nutty and can have a texture that ranges from mushy to chewy. It all depends on preference. I’m partial to something in the middle. So, if you follow this recipe, your finished product will be tender, fluffy and slightly chewy. I have made an incredible amount of quinoa since purchasing my first bag at Sam’s Club almost three years ago (which feels like yesterday; time is a crazy thing).  Thus far, this is my favorite way to prepare it. The recipe calls for a simple saute and quick boil to cook through the quinoa through. Start to finish, this dish takes a mere 25-30 minutes which makes it perfect for weeknight meals. There are a variety of ways to enjoy this recipe:

  • Enjoy the recipe  as is for  a simple starch side at dinner. It pairs well with a lean protein like grilled chicken and some sort of roasted vegetable.
  • Prepare the recipe to add to other dishes like tossed salads, casseroles or stir-fry’s.
  • Use the leftovers to serve (cold, room temperature or warmed) over a green salad dressed in a vinaigrette.
  • Use as a substitute for noodles in macaroni and cheese.

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The foundation for this recipe is using the right sized pot. I recommend a medium size sauce pan with a tight fitting lid. To start, place the sauce pan over medium, teaterting to high heat. Add a splash of your favorite cooking grease. I’ve used every kind of fat for this recipe, and believe me you really can’t go wrong. Coconut oil adds a trace of sweetness while a combination of butter and olive oil imparts more savory elements.

Once the oil is heated (when the oil sizzles with contact of ingredient), add finely chopped onions and stir to coat. Season with a bit of salt and continue to stir the onions every few minutes to brown evenly. Cook until the sides appear translucent. As the onions soften, they become much sweeter and more palatable than compared to raw.

Next, I like to toast the quinoa to help develop  a layer of nuttiness. Simply add rinsed, uncooked quinoa to the pan with sautéed onions and stir until well coated in oil. Cook over medium heat until it becomes fragrant. Deglaze the pan with your stock and quickly scrape to release the brown flavor bits on the bottom of the pan.

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Give it one more good stir and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and nudge the heat toward medium-high. Watch closely as you continue to prepare the rest of your meal or whatever else you have to get done in that moment. Once you see the stock has come to a rolling boiling, turn the dial to low heat, near a one or two. Let the quinoa steam until the seeds completely absorb the liquids. This is where patience is well awarded — in order to get fluffy, light quinoa you must wait a few minutes after removing the quinoa from the heat to remove the lid. Once ready, remove lid and gently fluff with a fork before serving or using for another recipe.

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This recipe makes enough quinoa for two people. You can easily double the recipe to make as many servings as you need. Store leftover quinoa in an airtight container and chill in the fridge for up to a week. For this recipe I used a multi-color quinoa, but you could also sub white, red or black quinoa. I like to get my quinoa from the bulk bins to save money and wasteful packaging, but you could also find it in the rice aisle or gluten-free section.

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How To: Quinoa

makes 2 servings, easily doubles

1/2 cup organic uncooked quinoa

1/2 tablespoon oil or butter

1/4 onion or 1/2 shallot, chopped finely

1 cup vegetable, chicken or beef stock

salt to taste

  1. Place a small or medium size saucepan over medium heat. Add butter or oil.
  2. Once heated (onion pieces should sizzle when hitting the pan), add chopped onion or shallots and season with a little salt. Stir until onions are coated in fat and evenly dispersed. Stir the onions every few minutes to ensure even caramelization. Cook until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add quinoa and stir until evenly coated in fat. Toast for an additional 5 minutes or until the quinoa becomes fragrant (it will smell nutty).
  4. Add broth to pan and begin scraping the bottom to release brown bits for flavor. Give it one more stir and cover with a tight lid.
  5. Once boiling, lower the heat (my dial goes between 1 and 2). Set a timer for 15 minutes and walk away.
  6. After 15 minutes, check that the quinoa has soaked up the liquids (this is where a clear lid comes in handy). If the quinoa appears soupy, let it steam for another 2-3 minutes. If the quinoa appears firm, remove from heat and let rest for an additional 5 minutes.
  7. Remove lid and gently fluff with a fork to serve.

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