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?


Also on MNN:

5 ways to enjoy quinoa
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