Getting back to basics, quinoa is one of the best staples to have in your kitchen. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a super healthy, protein-packed, high-fiber grain that’s a perfect compliment to any weeknight meal (you’ve seen it pictured with my bacon, blue cheese, and spinach stuffed chicken). Added bonus: it’s gluten-free for those who have difficulty with other grains. Basically, it’s an even healthier alternative to rice because it has more protein, more fiber, and less carbs – and by healthier, I don’t mean less tasty.
The first time I had quinoa was a few years ago. My parents came home from Costco with this mystery grain. Odd, I thought, but I’m not picky so I tried it. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad. And that was before we even put anything in it (my mom had cooked it plain with just water like we’re used to dong with rice). After finding out how incredibly healthy this grain is, I’ve played with different ways of cooking it and come up with some pretty yummy ideas while keeping it super nutritious.
So, rather than a traditional recipe this time, I’m going to share some ideas. For the basic starter of any quinoa…
What you’ll need:
1 part quinoa
2 parts water
What you’ll need to do:
Put your water and quinoa together in a pot on the stove starting at room temperature. Set the heat over high, and watch until your water boils rapidly. As soon as your water boils, immediately turn the heat down to low and cover your pot. After about 10 minutes, you should see little tendrils spiraling away from your quinoa – that’s how you know it’s done (see the top picture for a close up). It’s as simple as that!
Okay now for some fun ideas. Quinoa by itself is okay tasting, but it honestly doesn’t knock anything out of the park. To add some fun flavor without sacrificing nutrition, here are some ideas:
- Add a couple tablespoons of lemon juice and lemon pepper! This adds a citrus flavor that brightens up your grain and pairs perfectly with fish or your healthy, yummy chicken piccata. Besides, these are in your kitchen staples anyway.
- Add a couple tablespoons of light balsamic vinaigrette. Seriously, it’s hard to guess that the balsamic vinaigrette is even in there, but it really elevates the flavor of an otherwise-slightly-boring side dish. This is what I paired with my bacon, blue cheese, and spinach stuffed chicken.
- Add a couple tablespoons of soy sauce. Again, it’s in your kitchen staples anyway, and it’s a great addition to pair with your mango chicken.
No matter what you put in it, quinoa is a perfect side dish when you’re looking for something super healthy and super easy. And if you shop at Costco, it’s pretty inexpensive (seriously, Costco is the best)! Better yet, quinoa is not only great as a side dish, but it’s also a fantastic high-protein addition to a salad. But more where that’s coming from another time 🙂