Monday, December 7, 2009


When I attempted to replace white rice, white pasta, potatoes, and other starches in my diet with whole grains, I began experimenting with quinoa (keen-wah). I learned fast that just making it with water (like rice) is not very interesting and found other ways to spice it up. Only recently, did I learn that quinoa is not technically a grain (even though the Incas called it the "Mother Grain") but actually a seed. Quinoa has a higher protein content than any grain (about 16 percent) and the World Health Organization deems it to be as complete of a protein as milk. It is a good source of iron, calcium, folate and many B vitamins.

I have two recent favorite quinoa dishes that are going into regular rotation on my entertaining menus. The first is a side dish that we made for family dinner this summer. I remember that even though we doubled the recipe, it was gone fast. It has layers of flavors so don't skip any of the ingredients!

This weekend, at a holiday party with friends, I served it with grilled filet mignon and an amazing brussel sprout and wild mushroom dish that my friend Kristen made. By the way, even if you don't think you like brussel sprouts, you've got to try this recipe.

Two notes about the recipe: You could probably skip the bell pepper part at the beginning and use already roasted red peppers in a jar. It would make a great vegetarian main dish and Cooking Light suggests adding a can of chickpeas if you're going to serve it as a main dish. I followed the recipe to a tee and loved every bite!

Quinoa with Moroccan Pesto (6 side dish servings) Cooking Light 7/09

1 red bell pepper
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
12 oil-cured olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup chopped pistachios

Preheat broiler. Cut the red bell pepper in half lengthwise and discard the seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 12 minutes or until blackened. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand for 10 minutes. Peel and chop.

Combine quinoa, broth, 1/2 cup water, and juice in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 12 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

Place cilantro and next 7 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor (I used a mini chopper & you could probably also use a blender) process until smooth. Combine bell pepper, quinoa mixture, cilantro mixture, and olives in a large bowl. Sprinkle with pistachios.

On to the second recipe . . . I was looking for something else and stumbled across this. I've had great success the two times that I've made it. Once, I served it as a main dish and used pasilla chiles and once I served it as a side dish and used anaheim chiles. The original calls for poblanos which I rarely see. You'll need two pepper halves per person if you're doing this as a main dish.

Quinoa-stuffed Chiles (4 main dish servings, 8 side dish servings) Cooking Light 7/96

4 (5-inch) poblano chiles (or pasilla or anaheim)
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 T diced green chiles (from a can or you could use a few teaspoons of fresh diced jalapeno instead)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup minced green onions
1 tablespoon minced fresh or 1 teaspoon dried cilantro
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 cups tomato juice (I used spicy V8)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350°. Cut chiles in half lengthwise; remove stems and seeds. Set aside. Combine water and quinoa in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 13 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Set aside.

Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add bell peppers, onion, green chiles or jalapeño pepper, and garlic; sauté 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in quinoa, green onions, cilantro, soy sauce, and lime juice. Spoon 1/3 cup quinoa mixture into each chile half.

Pour tomato juice into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish; place stuffed chiles in dish. Cover and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over chiles; bake, uncovered, an additional 10 minutes or until cheese melts and chiles are thoroughly heated. Spoon tomato juice over chiles.


  1. I have a feeling our low carb days are coming to an end. It's just not working and it's a whole lot of work. So I think I'll have to try this sometime. Sounds great.

  2. Yeah, I'm pretty much done with plain white rice but I'm still liking quinoa a lot.