{stories and snapshots from my new york city life.}


Quinoa: I Think I Love You

Last year, a friend introduced me to the wonder-kid of whole grains--quinoa--and dinner hasn't been the same since. In fact, dinner with quinoa is tons of fun because whenever I make it I yell "It's Keen-Waaaaaaaaaah!" as if Oprah has just introduced her studio audience to the biggest secret in the grocery store.
If you haven't been schooled on the health benefits of quinoa, allow me to give a quick mini-lesson. This tiny seed is a nutritional powerhouse, offering up folate, magnesium, magnesium and zinc. On top of that, it's gluten-free, easy to digest and the only grain that is also a complete protein. That's why you'll often hear vegetarians singing Hallelujah into their dinner plates. They get sick of beans, you know.

Preparing quinoa is easy, but there's one essential step that must not be forgotten. There's a bitter coating on quinoa seeds called saponins that must be rinsed off before preparation. Many brands pre-rinse their quinoa before packaging so you can skip this step, but if yours are not pre-rinsed, simply find a mesh sieve with very small holes and run under water for about a minute.

Then, you'll pretty much cook quinoa as you would rice--2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa for about 10-15 minutes. It's so easy and takes well to plenty of different toppings, both savory and sweet. Allow me to elaborate...

{Quinoa with cherry tomatoes, sauteed portabellas, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan}

{Quinoa with black beans, zucchini, red bell pepper, onions, cumin and garlic}

{Quinoa with sauteed kale, butternut squash, garlic, shallots and a drizzle of truffle oil}

{Curried quinoa with zucchini}

 {Quinoa tabbouleh with parsley, mint, tomato, lemon, red onion and olive oil}

In fact, the only gripe I have with quinoa is its price. Those great little great grains tend to cost a pretty penny. And by penny, I mean $6 to $12 a bag, depending on the size.

See. Told you so. 

But hold the phone for a second. Because now I'm about to reveal the biggest secret of all. I know how you can get quinoa for much, much cheaper. Lean in close. I will whisper it to you.

Stop shopping for quinoa at health food stores. Shop for quinoa at Latin American stores.

Oh sorry...you couldn't hear that? Ahem. I said: Stop spending all your money at Whole Paycheck and try to scout out a Latin American store (or the Latin American aisle at your grocery store if you have one). I've found that it costs anywhere from $2-4 dollars less than a similarly sized bag of the more mainstream brands. That means I'm able to eat it much more often than I would otherwise.

Granted, I live in Queens, New York, the most ethnically diverse place in the whole country, so I realize this option might not be available to everyone, but if it is, you should definitely look into it. 

This bag is the exact same weight as the green box that sells for $5.29 and costs $2.99.  They were found in the same grocery store, just different aisles. You do the math. No seriously...you do it. I suck at math. Goya is another brand that offers up a really affordable bag of quinoa (these below were $3.00 each). Keep in mind that these are generally not pre-rinsed brands, but how hard is it to run something through water for a minute?

So today, I tip my hat to the whole grain that's been rocking my world two to three times a week for the past year. Here's to you, my sweet, sweet quinoa...


  1. Oh, yes, the great little grain has been rockin' our world, too. I'm happy to have some more inspiration combos, too. I CANNOT however, get over how freakin' cheap you can get it!
    A (small) box of it is 21 Brazilian Reis (about $11 USD) = nutso. So, I order it from Amazon in bulk, but it's still not dirt cheap.
    I'm no vegan, but I'll still sing its Hallelujahs!

  2. LOVE THIS, Jenn! Man, I really want to get the hubs to like this little grain. I have it in my pantry, quietly awaiting some attention. I love it...and I've only had it one way. The hubs, however, did NOT like it at all. Thank you for these inspirations. I needed them so badly! Quinoa is on the menu tonight!

  3. I just tried it like 2 weeks ago. Granted it was a frozen bag from trader joe's with some weird spices but it was damn tasty. I went back looking for a plain bag or box but couldn't find any though. John hated it but I think it was the spices, so I am totally pumped now that I can look for the plain shizz in the goya aisle. You saved the friggin day my friend. And also, thank you for the pronunciation...my mom and I have been duking it out about it. I WAS RIGHT!!!

  4. Look at you Super Quinoa Sleuth! Thanks for the tip.

  5. Gosh darnit it that's a fabulous tip! Do you guys have Trader Joes out there? It's much cheaper there too and it's also available in the earthy flavor that's red!
    xox tash

  6. Red is the BEST!! Get it at Trader Joes for a steal.
    And try this quinoa salad, served room temp: Toss cooked red quinoa while still warm with shelled edamame and chopped red bell pepper, shiitake mushrooms, and green onions. Make a dressing using orange juice, minced ginger, tamari or soy sauce, sesame oil, diced red onion, grated orange zest, sesame seeds. Mix that in. Then toss in some orange segments sliced in half. Yum!!!

  7. Quinoa is my new obsession! We just had it for dinner last night. Love this post and just became a follower, Come follow us at www.bornandbread.blogspot.com

  8. Barb & CB: Can you believe I've never had red quinoa? That salad you suggested sounds fantastic, Barb! I'm copying that one down! I'll have to hit up TJ's soon for some red.

  9. I have been loving quinoa since I discovered it a few months ago - it goes with EVERYTHING!! (I am vegetarian & yes, there are days when beans are not going to cut it :-) Thanks for the tip -I love saving a few bucks anyhere I can!! Happy Friday to you!

  10. Hey Jenn! I don't eat this but there is such buzz about it I really must start! I love how you showed so many ways to use this grain. Well done.

  11. I'm definitely going to hunt down a Latin American store. Then I have an excuse to buy loads of stuff in cool packaging that I have no idea what to do with, heaven!! Thanks for stopping by my blog, happy to have found you!

  12. I never really been a fan of quinoa- we bought the huge warehouse box size of it, and I only knew to cook it one way, like rice. Eventually I got sick of it! But these are AMAZING idea's on how to do it up girl!

    xo Carlina

  13. My mom swears by quinoa and I just haven't got into it yet, your meals look way too delicious to pass up though! And when something is that good for you, it kind of seems silly not to have more of it in my diet!

  14. Great to meet you last week at Albert Hall as well! I was actually cooking quinoa as I read this. Looking forward to reading more.
    ~Sara (NYCNomNom)

  15. i love quinoa more than other seeds and usually buy it from bulk section at my grocery store, is about $3 per pound.
    your dishes look so delicious. thanks for sharing