I  haven’t forgotten about my blog, I promise! Things have been a bit nuts around here lately, and I feel like I’m starting to get back to normal a bit. Our house has been turned upside-down the last couple weeks as we’ve prepared for a new floor on our main level. I’m hoping to do a blog post about that this weekend.

In the meantime, I’m back at it with my “Friday Favorites.” Today’s favorite is a staple in our pantry. It’s called Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), and we love it! Even my 6-month old eats it!

Quinoa is most commonly considered a grain; however, it’s actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. It is supposedly an ancient “grain” once considered “the gold of the Incas.”

We use quinoa to replace rice in all of our cooking. I LOVE that it is a great source of protein. The protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. This is great stuff!

It’s much faster to cook than whole-grain brown rice, which is what we had previously used. It only takes 15-20 minutes to cook thoroughly. If using it as a side dish in place of rice, I simply cook the quinoa in homemade chicken stock (for added flavor and nutrition), and then toss in parsley and Parmesan cheese after it’s cooked.

Quinoa is so versatile, and can be used for much more than a side dish, as well. Because it’s so high in protein, it can be used as the main part of a meal. Cheap, easy, and good! Here are a few of our favorite dishes with quinoa.

2 pounds ground beef
1 medium diced onion
4 cups cooked quinoa
1 can corn
1 can black beans
2-3 teaspoons sea salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon dried basil

Brown the ground beef and diced onions in a deep skillet. Add the cooked quinoa, seasonings, corn, and beans. Heat thoroughly, but try not to stir it too much-it will get mushy. Add enough salsa to make the mixture moist. Serve over top of warm cheese quesadillas.

1 cup quinoa (uncooked)
2 cups water
1 Tablesppon olive oil
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons honey
black pepper
1/2 cup toasted pecans

Bring the quinoa and water to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork, cool slightly, and add the remaining ingredients.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
2 carrots, chopped
1 cup quinoa (uncooked)
2 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook onion until translucent. Add carrots and cook an additional 3 minutes. Stir in quinoa and broth, bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook 15-20 minutes, until quinoa is tender and fluffy. In a bowl, toss the quinoa together with the walnuts and parsley. Serve hot.

Quinoa was hard to find a couple years ago, but it’s becoming much more popular. HyVee sells it in their Natural Food section; however, it’ MUCH cheaper at Costco or through a natural food co-op.

I have lots more recipes I want to try, including Quinoa Mac & Cheese I’ll be making for lunch today. It’s a fun food to experiment with, and I hope you’ll give it a try. Let me know how you like it!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!!