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Michelle Warner

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Cooking With Quinoa

Posted on April 18th, 2011

Monday Morsel

sometimes random.
sometimes deep.
just a little something
to begin your week.

When I was younger, one of my favorite quick dishes to eat was rice with soy sauce. I remember coming home late after cheering at a basketball game and looking forward to eating my beloved dish. Who knew such a simple dish could bring me such delight?! Years later, I still love rice, but after doing much nutritional reading this past year, I have gravitated toward quinoa, a healthier substitute for rice.

Although quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is prepared like a grain, it is actually not a grain but a plant seed. Believe it or not, it is a relative of swiss chard and spinach. However, it tastes a bit nutty and resembles the taste of rice or couscous.

I recently read an article from Dr. Andrew Weil, a health expert, about four reasons to eat quinoa:

  1. Quinoa is high in magnesium – magnesium helps relax blood vessels, which may result in fewer headaches for migraine sufferers and decreased risk of hypertension and stroke.
  2. Quinoa is a good source of manganese, iron, copper, phosphorous, vitamin B2 and other essential minerals.
  3. Quinoa has the highest protein content of any grain (it is especially high in lysine, an amino acid that is typically low in other grains). Quinoa’s protein is complete, containing all nine essential amino acids – a rarity in the plant kingdom.
  4. Quinoa is gluten-free and easy to digest.

Over the last couple of years, I have enjoyed trying my hand at preparing different recipes, especially tweaking recipes to make them healthier. In my recipe notebook, I have gathered several quinoa recipes; I have not tried them all but they looked too delicious not to post. If you have a favorite quinoa recipe, I’d love for you to share it as well.

Warm Quinoa, Spinach, and Shiitake Salad

½ cup red-wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 lbs fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps halved
1 ½ cups quinoa
1 lb baby spinach
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled

  1. Heat broiler; set rack 4 inches from heat. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, 1 tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper.
  2. On a large rimmed broiler-proof baking sheet, toss mushrooms with half the dressing (reserve the rest); broil, tossing occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are tender, 20-25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine quinoa, 3 cups water, and 1 ½ tsp salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium. Cover, and simmer until liquid has been absorbed, 15-20 minutes.
  4. Place spinach in a large bowl; add hot mushrooms, quinoa, and reserved dressing. Toss to combine (spinach will wilt slightly). Top with crumbled feta, and serve immediately.

Rosemary Quinoa
(courtesy of my friend Kristen from our supper club)

1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil or sesame oil
1 1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup peas
1 tsp rosemary, chopped
2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Heat olive oil in a pot, sauté onion and quinoa for 4 minutes.
  2. Add broth, soy sauce, peas and rosemary and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add walnuts at the end.

Quinoa with Mushrooms, Kale, and Sweet Potatoes

1 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾- inch pieces
10 oz button mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bunch kale, stems discarded and leaves torn into 2-inch pieces
¾ cup dry white wine
salt and pepper
¼ cup grated Parmesan

  1. Place the quinoa and 2 cups water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12 – 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes and mushrooms and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden and beginning to soften 5-6 minutes. (*After making this tonight, I would recommend heating the sweet potatoes first for a couple of minutes before adding the mushrooms.)
  3. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the kale, wine, ¾ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Cook, tossing often, until the vegetables are tender, 10 – 12 minutes.
  4. Serve over the quinoa and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Quinoa with Toasted Almonds and Cranberries

1 cup quinoa
½ cup sliced blanched almonds
1 ½ cups boiling water (or chicken stock)
½ tsp salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
½ cup dried cranberries

  1. On medium heat, stir and toast the slivered almonds until golden. Stir and roast the quinoa until dry and turning color.
  2. Transfer toasted quinoa and toasted almonds and cranberries to a saucepan. Add boiling water, salt, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. Bring back to a boil, cover and turn heat to simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Serve.

Quinoa Pilaf

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ chopped onion
2 carrots, chopped
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

  1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook onion in oil for 5 minutes or until translucent.
  2. Add carrot and cook for 3 minutes more. Stir in quinoa and vegetable broth, bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender and fluffy.
  4. In a bowl toss quinoa together with walnuts and parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Quinoa Taco Salad
(courtesy of Katie Goodman,

1 cup quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ tsps cumin
½ tsp oregano
1-2 tsps chili powder
Dash cayenne pepper
Half each red, green, and yellow bell peppers, chopped
1- 15-oz can black beans, drained
¾ cup diced tomatoes
2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste
6-8 oz baby spinach
1 bunch cilantro
1/3 cup cheddar or feta cheese
1 avocado, diced

  1. Cook the quinoa according to package instructions.
  2. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat; add onion and sauté for 3 – 5 minutes, until translucent and tender. Add garlic, cumin, oregano, chili powder, cayenne and peppers; sauté an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in the black beans, tomatoes and the juice of 1 lime. Stir in quinoa. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill.
  4. Roughly cut baby spinach into strips. Remove about 1 cup of cilantro leaves from the bunch, rinse and pat dry, and toss with the spinach. Divide spinach and cilantro mixture evenly among 4 salad plates. Top each plate with a scoop of the quinoa salad. Top each salad with your choice of cheese and diced avocado. Cut the remaining lime into slices to garnish the plates.

Bon Appetite!

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