I was introduced to quinoa a couple of years ago and have grown to love it. Quinoa is a nutritious, gluten-free, pseudo-grain that is delicious. It’s also high in protein. It comes in several different colors — white, red and black — but the most common form is white.


The question most of us ask when we are introduced to a new food is what do I do with it? Here are a couple of my thoughts and recipes that inspire me. I’d love fellow quinoa lovers to share their ideas and recipes as well!


1. Basic quinoa: First, the most important thing to learn is how to make a good basic quinoa. You need to wash the saponin coating off the quinoa because it is bitter. This takes quite a bit of rinsing, in my experience. But I've also found that a soaking period, which I do for nutritional and digestibility factors, helps with removing the bitterness from quinoa. You can get my basic quinoa recipe here.


We enjoy quinoa with a dab of pastured, organic butter, and sometimes soy sauce too. It’s delicious just like that. But you can do a lot more with it too. For example, you can make a Mexican quinoa bowl by topping it with avocado, Mexican beef, sour cream, salsa, or whatever else you like. You can also serve it instead of rice with a stir-fry.


2. In soups: Quinoa is excellent in soups. It adds a lot of flavor. You know your favorite chicken and rice soup? Substitute quinoa instead for a tasty treat. Quinoa and chicken have a real affinity for each other. I use them together in this Slow Cooked Quinoa and Chicken recipe, which is simple to put together and delicious too.


3. In cold salads: While delightful hot, it’s also delicious cold. I love it in salads. If you have leftover quinoa, keep it and sprinkle it generously over your green salad the next day. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I just recommend that you use a homemade dressing as it makes all of the difference. If you wanted a cold quinoa salad, I really love it with Mexican flavors. My first version is here, and a slightly updated version is in my cookbook, Fresh: Nourishing Salads for all Seasons.


4. As a stuffing: Like rice, quinoa can be used to make delicious stuffing. You could certainly use it to stuff a roasted chicken or turkey, but you can also make a stuffing side dish that’s equally delicious. One recipe I created is Stovetop Quinoa and Mushroom Stuffing. If you wanted to actually stuff quinoa into something but want a vegetarian option, this recipe for Squash Boats with Quinoa looks divine. I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but a friend loves it and she has excellent taste, so I know it’s good. It sounds delicious and the pictures are beautiful!


5. Quinoa patties or “cakes”: You can also form quinoa into patties and either pan-fry them or bake them in the oven. Heidi at 101cookbooks has delightful recipes. One recipe that looks very yummy is her Baked Quinoa Patties. This herby, kale-enriched recipe looks so perfect for a light lunch. Along the same lines is this recipe, Quinoa Cakes with Poached Eggs.


It’s your turn. What ways do you like to use quinoa? Have any favorite recipes?


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