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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: quinoa

Quinoa is a complete protein containing all eight essential amino acids. It’s light and fluffy in texture but has that whole grain ability to fill people up.

The quinoa plant is native to the Andean regions of Peru, Bolivia and Chile on the continent of South America. There are many different types of quinoa, including wild quinoa which is still grown today. While wild quinoa has been cultivated as a crop in some areas, it is considered a weed in others. The quinoa we eat today has been cultivated in South America for around 5000 years. Archeological evidence suggests that some of the wilder forms of quinoa were also cultivated in this same region as long ago as 9,000 years.

Cultivating Quinoa

In the 16th century, when the Spanish invaded the Andes region, the Incas were forced into submission and the cultivation and consumption of quinoa was banned due to its association with non- Christian ceremonies. The Incas were forced to grow corn and potatoes instead, but some wild quinoa continued to grow and a small amount was able to be cultivated. So in secret, quinoa survived.

Quinoa was imported into the US in the 1970’s and has seen an increase in popularity in western cultures, particularly in the last 5  years. While quinoa is now commercially grown in some other areas of the world, the majority still comes from the same South American regions that it originated from.

Quinoa is generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. Whether purchasing quinoa in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure that there is no evidence of moisture. When deciding upon the amount to purchase, remember that quinoa expands during the cooking process to several times its original size. If you cannot find it in your local supermarket, look for it at natural foods stores, which usually carry it.

The most common type of quinoa you will find in the store has an off-white color but red and black quinoa are becoming more available.

Store quinoa in an airtight container. It will keep for a longer period of time, approximately three to six months, if stored in the refrigerator.

Quinoa has a coating on it called saponin that is very bitter. Place the quinoa in a fine strainer and run it under cold water for a few minutes before placing it in boiling water.

Quinoa has a light, fluffy texture when cooked. Its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it a great alternative to white rice or couscous. Quinoa cooks quickly, so it adds an element of ease to any recipe. This is not typically a grain used by Italian cooks, but it provides much nutritional value and flavor when added to Italian flavored soups.

How To Cook Quinoa

Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

Method: Rinse quinoa in a fine sieve until water runs clear, drain and transfer to a medium pot. Add water and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside, off the heat, for 5 minutes; uncover and fluff with a fork.

Italian Style Quinoa

Serves: 4-5

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 celery, chopped
  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped and loosely packed
  • 1 teaspoon oregano

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package (usually takes about 10-15 minutes).

While quinoa is cooking heat oil over low/medium in separate pan.

Add diced onion, tomato, celery, green pepper and cook until soft, approximately 10 minutes, stirring often.

Add tomato paste and garlic, stir to combine all ingredients, cook two minutes.

Add basil and oregano, stir to combine, and cook for two more minutes.

Once quinoa is done cooking combine the vegetables mixture with the quinoa and mix well.

Garnish with fresh Italian parsley and serve warm.

Lentil Quinoa Salad

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/4 cups water, plus 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 green onions (scallions), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Put the quinoa in a sieve and rinse in cold water. In a large microwave-proof bowl with a cover, add the rinsed quinoa and 1 1/4 cups water. Cover and microwave on high for 9 minutes. Let it sit for 2 minutes then stir. Quinoa should be tender enough to eat, but with a little bite.

Put the lentils in a sieve and rinse in cold water. In a saucepan, simmer the lentils in 2 cups water until the lentils are tender, but not mushy, about 25-30 minutes. Drain and cool.

In a small bowl, whisk the mustard and vinegar together. Drizzle in the oil to make an emulsion. Add the garlic powder, lemon zest, salt and pepper.

To assemble the salad:

Mix the quinoa, lentils, green onions, tomatoes. olives and chopped mint. Top the salad with the dressing, toss to coat and serve.

Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 medium zucchini 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 links turkey Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup fresh plum tomatoes, chopped
  • Handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme and oregano, leaves removed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa, cooked
  • 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese plus more for topping
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut a slice off the side of the zucchini to create a large boat. Scoop out the inside of the squash leaving a shell and bake the shell in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Dice the scooped out zucchini to use in the filling.

While the zucchini shells bake, brown the turkey sausage in olive oil over medium heat, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks.

Add the onions, garlic, tomatoes and diced zucchini. Cook until softened (about 5-10 minutes).

Add the herbs, quinoa and broth and cook for a few more minutes.

Remove from heat and mix in the cheese and salt and pepper.

Removes the shells from the oven and stuff them all as full as possible with the sausage mixture.

Sprinkle with additional Pecorino-Romano cheese and return to oven to bake for at least another 20 minutes or longer depending on the size of the zucchini boats.

Wild Mushroom Quinotto

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish or appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 3 cups warm low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth and the liquid used to rehydrate porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, broken into small pieces and rehydrated (see Step 1)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 8 ounces cleaned fresh mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, porcini, chanterelles, etc.) sliced or cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • A grating of fresh nutmeg
  • Several leaves fresh basil, shredded

Directions:

1. To rehydrate porcinis: cover in boiling water and let soften 20-30 minutes; or you can boil them for about 5 minutes to rehydrate faster. Save the liquid to add to the broth for cooking the quinoa, but make sure to strain the liquid through a coffee filter to remove any sand or residue.

2. In a heavy nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat, lightly toast the quinoa until slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Pour in 1 cup of the liquid, stirring as you go. Add the rehydrated porcini mushrooms and stir frequently.

3. When the liquid has been absorbed by the grains, add more of the liquid a little at a time, continuing until the grains have absorbed it all and are tender but al dente, about 15-25 minutes total.

4. In a saute pan melt butter over medium-high heat and add the fresh mushrooms and the onion ,cooking until lightly browned and softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic about halfway through.

5. Add the mushroom mixture, sour cream and nutmeg; to the quinoa, cover and remove from the heat. Let stand for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork, garnish with the basil and serve.

Quinoa Pasta

Try this pasta with your favorite spaghetti sauce and meatballs. It is also great with basil pesto sauce.

Quinoa Spaghetti With Meat Sauce

Makes 4 servings

1 lb. quinoa spaghetti

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1/2 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 lb. Italian turkey sausage, casing removed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-6oz. can tomato paste
  • 2 26-oz containers Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the ground turkey and the turkey sausage and cook until no longer pink. Add the onion and cook until softened, 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, another 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar, red pepper flakes, and oregano and stir to combine well. Simmer until thickened.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the quinoa spaghetti according to package directions. Do not overcook. Drain and set aside.

To serve, toss the cooked spaghetti with the meat sauce and place in a large serving bowl. Garnish with sprigs of fresh basil. Serve with crusty Italian bread and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on the side. 

 

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Whole Grains

Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and nutrients of the entire seed. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver approximately the same balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.  

LIST OF WHOLE GRAINS

The following are examples of generally accepted whole grain foods and flours.

WHOLE WHEAT VS. WHOLE GRAIN

A question that gets asked regularly is, “What is the difference between whole wheat and whole grain?” The answer is in another question: “What is the difference between a carrot and a vegetable?”
We all know that carrots are vegetables but not all vegetables are carrots. It’s similar with whole wheat and whole grain: Whole wheat is one kind of whole grain, so all whole wheat is whole grain, but not all whole grain is whole wheat.
If you’re reading this in Canada, be aware that Canada has a different regulation for whole wheat flour. Canada allows wheat flour to be called “whole wheat” even when up to 5% of the original kernel is missing. So in Canada you’ll hear two terms used:

  • Whole Wheat Flour in Canada — contains at least 95% of the original kernel
  • Whole Grain Whole Wheat Flour in Canada — contains 100% of the original kernel

“Whole grain whole wheat flour” would be redundant in the U.S.A. — whole wheat flour is always whole grain in the United States. 

Source of Essential Nutrients

The charts below list some of the nutrients that whole grains contribute to a healthy diet, and the proportion of the Daily Value for each.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers a food to be a “good source” of a nutrient if a standard-size serving provides 10% of the recommended daily value; an “excellent source” provides 20% or more than the recommended daily value. We’ve noted when some nutrients in whole grains go even farther above these levels.  Note that a blank, white block does not mean that a particular grain contains none of that nutrient. Very often levels fall just short of reaching the “good source” level – but these foods can still make important contributions to your nutrient needs, in combination with other healthy foods. Whole Grains Council May 2004

A SERVING OF 100% WHOLE GRAIN FOODS

If you enjoy foods made entirely with whole grain, you can follow the suggestions in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, where a serving of whole grain is defined as any of the following:

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice or other cooked grain
  • 1/2 cup cooked 100% whole-wheat pasta
  • 1/2 cup cooked hot cereal, such as oatmeal
  • 1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain
  • 1 slice 100% whole grain bread
  • 1 very small (1 oz.) 100% whole grain muffin
  • 1 cup 100% whole grain ready-to-eat cereal

The Whole Grains Council has created an official packaging symbol called the Whole Grain Stamp that helps consumers find real whole grain products. The Stamp started to appear on store shelves in mid-2005 and is becoming more widespread every day.The 100% Stamp assures you that a food contains a full serving or more of whole grain in each labeled serving and that ALL the grain is whole grain.

You can easily add whole grains to your meals, often using favorite recipes you’ve always enjoyed. Try some of the following:

MAKE EASY SUBSTITUTIONS

  • Substitute half the white flour with whole wheat flour in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins, quick breads and pancakes. Or be bold and add up to 20% of another whole grain flour such as sorghum.
  • Replace one third of the flour in a recipe with quick oats or old-fashioned oats.
  • Add half a cup of cooked bulgur, wild rice, or barley to bread stuffing.
  • Add half a cup of cooked wheat or rye berries, wild rice, brown rice, sorghum or barley to your favorite canned or homemade soup.
  • Use whole corn meal for corn cakes, corn breads and corn muffins.
  • Add three-quarters of a cup of uncooked oats for each pound of ground beef or turkey when you make meatballs, burgers or meatloaf.
  • Stir a handful of rolled oats in your yogurt, for quick crunch with no cooking necessary.

TRY NEW FOODS

  • Make risottos, pilafs and other rice-like dishes with whole grains such as barley, brown rice, bulgur, millet, quinoa or farro.
  • Enjoy whole grain salads like tabbouleh.
  • Buy whole grain pasta, or one of the blends that’s part whole-grain, part white.
  • Try whole grain breads. Kids especially like whole grain pita bread.
  • Look for cereals made with grains like kamut, kasha (buckwheat) or spelt.

Whole-Grain Spaghetti with Peppers, Turkey Sausage, and Cheese

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

12 ounces whole wheat or dark spelt* spaghetti (available at some supermarkets and natural food stores)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet Italian turkey sausage link, (about 4 to 5 oz.) casing removed
1/2 red onion, sliced
4 bell peppers (one each red, green, orange, and yellow), cored and sliced
1/2 crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar, or to taste
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, finely diced
Black pepper

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Cook per package instructions until al dente, then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and saute, crumbling it with a spatula, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
3. Pour off any fat, then heat the remaining olive oil in the pan. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the bell peppers and crushed red pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are soft and beginning to brown, 15 minutes. Stir in the vinegar.
4. Add the drained pasta and reserved cooking water to the pan and toss over medium heat for 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and toss the pasta with the cheese. Season with black pepper and serve.

Notes * Spelt is related to wheat, but it’s higher in protein and vitamins. Its deep, nutty flavor gives pasta and breads a rich taste.

3-Grain Salad with White Beans, Tomatoes, and Parmesan

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup hulled barley*
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup farro**
1/4 cup bulgur
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 smashed garlic clove
1 cup drained, rinsed cannellini beans
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
Black pepper
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the barley and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; boil for 30 minutes. Add the farro; boil for an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until both grains are tender. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, bring 6 tablespoons of water to a boil in a small saucepan; add the bulgur. Bring the liquid back to a boil, then cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let sit for 25 minutes, until the water is absorbed.
3. In a large bowl, toss together the vinegar, onion, garlic, and remaining salt.
4. Add the grains to the vinegar mixture while still warm; toss well. Remove the garlic and stir in the beans, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil; season with black pepper to taste. Fold in the Parmesan and serve.

Notes:* With its chewy, pasta-like texture, barley is a great addition to soups and stews. It’s loaded with satisfying protein and fiber.
** A hearty grain with plenty of protein, farro is used in soups and salads. It has a distinct nutty taste.

Spicy Salmon with Olives and Lemon Quinoa

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped scallions
Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch salt
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Nonstick cooking spray
1 pound skin-on salmon fillet
1 cup quinoa*, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons pitted, chopped black olives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the scallions and red pepper with the salt and 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil.
2. Spray a small roasting pan with nonstick cooking spray and lay the salmon in it skin side down. Cover the fish with the scallion and red pepper mixture. Roast the salmon in the top third of the oven until it is opaque at the center of the thickest part, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the quinoa; cover and cook over low heat until the water is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add the remaining olive oil and the pine nuts, olives, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Serve the salmon over the quinoa.

Notes * Technically a seed, quinoa is packed with protein and magnesium, a nutrient that lowers blood pressure. Light and fluffy, quinoa is perfect for salads and side dishes.

Tabbouleh with Feta and Shrimp

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup bulgur*
1 packed cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch salt
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
8 ounces medium cleaned, shelled, tail-on shrimp, thawed if frozen
1 large pickling cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup chopped scallion
1/4 cup crumbled feta

Directions:

1. Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and add the bulgur. Bring the liquid back to a boil and then cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let sit for 25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together 1 teaspoon of the parsley with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, oregano, and mint.
3. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the shrimp and simmer for 1 1/2 minutes. Drain, then rinse under cool water.
4. Place the bulgur in a serving bowl and toss with the shrimp, cucumber, tomato, scallion, feta, the remaining parsley, and the dressing. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Note:* Bulgur cooks quickly and has a subtle, nutty flavor. Try it in soups, salads, and stuffings or as a substitute for rice.

Creamy Cannellini Bean and Amaranth Soup


Cannellini beans, fresh herbs, and amaranth, a wonderful whole grain thickener,  makes this hearty soup filling enough to be a main dish. For a thick and creamy soup, puree all of the soup rather than leaving half of the beans whole.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons. extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, white parts only, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup amaranth
2 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 cup tomato paste
2 cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon. sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, then add the amaranth grains, stock, bay leaf, and tomato paste and bring to a boil.

2. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

3. Remove the bay leaf from the amaranth mixture, add 1 cup of the beans, and use a handheld immersion blender to puree in the pot until smooth. (Alternatively, puree the beans in a food processor, add the amaranth mixture – working in batches if necessary – and puree again until smooth, then return to the pot.)

4. Stir in the remaining beans, the herbs, and the salt. Warm gently just to heat through. If desired, thin the soup with additional stock. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Robin Asbell’s The New Whole Grains Cookbook, published by Chronicle Books, has more than 75 recipes that take advantage of the abundance of grains now available in both supermarkets and specialty stores.



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