Saturday, July 27, 2013

All aboard the quinoa train: it's worth the trip

Submitted by Mary Jane Maffini, who also blogs here as one half of Victoria Abbott.

Lately my friends have been whipping up these amazing quinoa salads – no two alike – claiming that quinoa is a super food. Well, the only super food I recognize is chocolate, but there is not much of that on my diet (eleven pounds, thanks for asking). Still I am looking for filling but healthy additions to change the menus and there are a gazillion variations on this. What can I say? Everyone seems to be trying it. They even do a decent takeout version at our local super market.

 It doesn't look like much before, but it pairs up with sweet and savory ingredients to make for happy eating.

We really liked our adaptation . It may not be chocolate, but it’s easy, healthy and a bit different. Not so sure about the calorie count, but I stopped caring when I tasted it. 
  • 1 ¼ cup quinoa, well rinsed (do not omit this step - see below). I used white, but will try red the next time.
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup raw unsalted chopped cashews
  • ¼ cup salted sunflower seeds (oops - ours were the honey variety)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp sea salt 

  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions. If you buy your quinoa in bulk, make sure you rinse it really well.  Cover the quinoa with plenty of water and let it stir it a bit. Drain after three minutes and repeat twice . Cover with 2 ½ cups water, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to lowest setting. Takes about 17 minutes. Fluff it with a fork and let it cool completely.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk oil, vinegar, lemon, Dijon and maple syrup. Add about ¾ of the dressing to cooled quinoa. Stir in cranberries, cashews, green onions, sunflower seeds and salt. Refrigerate overnight. Serve cold or at room temperature; just before serving, stir in remaining dressing and check for salt and pepper.
  3. Go ahead, have a little square of chocolate later on, but you may not even need it.

Mary Jane Maffini is one-half of Victoria Abbott and the author of three other mystery series: the Camilla MacPhee books are set in Canada’s capital (as it is spelled north of the 49th parallel) and feature a lawyer and victims' right activist, the Charlotte Adams series features a slightly bossy professional organizer from upstate New York, and the Fiona Silk comic capers unfold in West Quebec. There is no quinoa in any of them, but you may find chocolate.  Also spoiled little dogs, like these two who hang out in the Charlotte Adams books. 

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  1. Of course we concerned foodies have all those unusual and healthy grains lurking in our pantries--and no idea what to do with them half the time. Yes, I have quinoa. I have amaranth (mostly because I love the name--I don't think I've cooked with it yet). I have spelt, where the drawback is that you really need to soak it overnight so you have to decide you want to use it a day ahead.

    This looks like an interesting recipe--I'll have to try it.

    1. Thanks, Sheila. Amaranth is next up for me. Now that I've tried quinoa, I won't be afraid of it! I think you can put almost any combo of sweet and tangy ingredients and have a good result.

  2. I'm not on the quinoa train yet MJ, though my sister has been touting its merits for years. this looks like a good recipe for a buffet or potluck!

    1. I hear you, Lucy(and Roberta). I resisted for a long time! But I am missing carbs a bit and this is more protein than carb, so I feel like I'm getting away with something!

      My friends have been bringing quinoa salads to potlucks and that's was tipped the balance for me.



  3. Huzzah! Quinoa and spelt are in my pantry, too, and I use amaranth as a "secret ingredient" in my breakfast cornbread (recipe to be blogged here in the fall, lol). I'm not sure how easy these grains are to obtain across the US and Canada, but in Queens, I can find them at my local supermarket under the Bob's Red Mill brand. Your salad looks delicious and very healthy, thanks for sharing and I do agree with you, MJ...Chocolate is a super food, too!

    Have a delicous weekend,
    ~ Cleo

  4. Thanks, Cleo! We have Bob's Red Mill here in our supermarket. Our President's Choice brand also had lovely varieties and blends. Also have Bulk Barn and a lot of health food stores that sell from bins. Feel pretty lucky about that!

    I think that you New Yorkers have the best access to a variety of foods. Lucky!!!!

  5. I was on a quinoa kick last year and really should get back to it. I even bought a quinoa cookbook but their strange way of cooking it never worked for me. Isn't that weird? I'm a-okay with Mary Jane's 17 minutes. This sounds delightful. Must pick up cashews.

    And BTW, those dogs deserve to be spoiled! Look how perfect they are!


    1. Forgot to congratulate you on losing 11 pounds! That's a lot of weight. Good for you, Mary Jane! Now if only I could do that . . .


    2. You had some great quinoa recipes on MLK last year, Krista, before I got on the quinoa train. I'm going to try them now!

      You trendsetter!

    3. And thanks for the congrats, Krista. Slow going but worth it!

  6. I made a lot of quinoa salads last year but forgot about the box in the pantry. Maybe I'll try this tonight!

    1. The nice thing is you can put anything in it, Peg!

  7. Mary Jane, as a gluten-free person, I've known about quinoa for years. I did not it was packed with protein. Good to know. Congrats on losing 11 pounds! Here's to good health!!


  8. Thank you, Daryl. I'm avoiding big white carbs and I find your posts very helpful!