For our first post, we want to talk about quinoa.  Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), is related to spinach and beets but acts like a grain (and looks similar to pearled cous-cous when cooked).  Quinoa is highly nutritious; it is a complete protein and is high in fiber, minerals, vitamins, is low in fat, and is gluten-free.  It can be substituted in any recipe calling for rice, cous-cous, or any other grain; it can be made into patties, cooked like oatmeal, or served cold in a salad.  Basic quinoa preparation is one part quinoa to two parts water or liquid, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and the grains are translucent. Always be sure to rinse your quinoa before cooking, as the grain has a bitter coating until rinsed. To give you an idea of how versatile and delicious quinoa is, and how easy it is to include in your diet, we're going to give you quinoa recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!


Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Quinoa
Serves 4
1 C uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 C milk (cow, almond, coconut, rice- whatever you like) plus 1/2 C more for serving, if desired
1 C water
2 tsp vanilla extract, if desired
1 tsp cinnamon
1 medium apple, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup raisins
Combine quinoa, milk, water, vanilla, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan (trust me, it grows!) and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook about 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in apple, raisins, and cinnamon. Warm additional milk and stir in until you reach your preferred consistency.  If you find you need to sweeten your dish, stir in a small amount of honey or agave. Enjoy!
Note: you can use the same basic recipe and vary the fruits or include nuts if desired.  Pears, bananas, peaches, berries, almonds, and walnuts all work nicely in this dish!


Lunch: Greek-style Quinoa Salad
Serves 4
For the salad:
1 C uncooked quinoa, rinsed
2 C water or low-sodium chicken broth (you can also use a bit of white wine- as long as the liquids total 2 cups)
1 C grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 or 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped (I like alot of cucumber in mine)
1/4 C red onion, diced
1/4 C pitted Kalamata olives, if desired
1/3 C feta cheese, crumbled

For the dressing, whisk together then set aside:
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
3-5 Tbsp white wine vinegar (depending on your preference)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp dried herbs (I use a combination of basil, oregano, dill, and sometimes mint)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine quinoa and water or broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  In a large bowl, combine quinoa, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives, and feta.  Drizzle dressing over the salad and toss to mix.


Dinner: Quinoa-Veggie Burgers
Makes about 10 burgers
1 C quinoa, rinsed and cooked according to basic directions (1 C quinoa to 2 C water, bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 min or until liquid is absorbed)
3/4 C shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 C low-fat cottage cheese
1 medium carrot, grated OR 1 C shredded zucchini, squeezed dry
3 eggs
3 Tbsp flour
1/4 C chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 tsp olive oil, for frying

In a large bowl combine all ingredients. Heat a frying pan and a couple teaspoons olive oil over medium-low heat.  Mixture will be slightly sticky, so using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop mixture into pan and lightly flatten to 1/2 inch thick.  Fry until golden-brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Serve naked (no bun) or on whole wheat buns with your preferred condiments. Enjoy!

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