Quinoa & how we love it.



Hot, steaming red and white quinoa ready to serve.... or host any number of delicious additions!

Oh, how we love you, dear ancient grain! 

Initially discovered because of gluten sensitivity in the family, we quickly grew to appreciate the versatility and flavour absorption of this great little seed. 

By now, I think everyone knows about everything there is to know about quinoa. Just in case you want the details fleshed out a bit before I share my favourite recipes, read on.

Harvested for thousands of years by people in Central and South America, it is the tiny, tasty seed of the quinoa plant, with a nutty flavour and crunchy-soft texture. It cooks up much like couscous (which is a pasta containing gluten), but is gluten free and packs a nutritional punch - it is the only grain that contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.  It is 15%+ protein and also high in vitamins E and B, calcium, iron and phosphorous. Once rinsed of its bitter saponins and simmered in water or broth, it is easy to digest, and beautifully absorbs the flavours of the dish it is prepared in. 

You can prepare it and serve just like rice, or you can create any number of lovely salads, pilaffs, side dishes and mains, using quinoa as your base.

To prepare quinoa, use 2 parts water or broth to 1 part quinoa. It will double in size. Rinse the seeds well under running water (still a good idea even if you buy pre-washed quinoa), and then drain.

Bring quinoa and liquid to a boil, then cover. Cook on medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and the seeds have a translucent quality. 

Toasting your quinoa adds a deeper flavour and crunchier texture. After rinsing and draining, toast the seeds in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring, until quinoa dries out and becomes golden. Then cook as directed above. I like using this brand of Canadian quinoa - supporting something grown here makes me happy.

Here are some of my family's go-to quinoa recipes. 

Let me know what you think!

Greek Salad with Quinoa

It's just your standard Greek salad.... but with enough protein to make it perfectly hearty. 

lettuce of choice
1 c quinoa, cooked as above

red onion
tomatoes, diced
cucumber, finely diced
kalamata olives to taste

1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano

Layer the salad in order shown and drizzle with dressing. Voila!

Quinoa Black Bean Salad

This is the first quinoa salad I was introduced to, and it still makes its way to the table on a fairly regular basis. The Southwest inspired flavours of cumin and coriander are ignited by the lime. The black beans round this out to be a great vegetarian meal option.

1 c quinoa, washed, rinsed, and cooked in 2 c water
1/4 c olive oil
2 limes, juiced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 can black beans
1 1/2 c cherry tomatoes
5 green onions, chopped
1/4 c fresh cilantro

Optional additions: avocado, cucumber, or whatever you feel like throwing in.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, cumin, red pepper flakes, and salt to taste. Once your quinoa is cooked and cooled, toss it together with the rest of the ingredients and the dressing. Best when flavours have a chance to mingle. Enjoy!

Ancient Grain & snap pea salad

Quinoa Snap Pea Salad

This recipe originally called for couscous, but quinoa makes it so much better! This is the recipe in my blog's header - and an oft-requested share.


2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 half pint cherry or grape
tomatoes, halved
1 cup snap peas, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup fresh basil, torn
In a medium-sized bowl, combine oil, paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Add chicken and turn to coat evenly. Marinade in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or all day if you like.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat and cook chicken, 6 to 7 minutes per side. Once cooked, transfer to a cutting board and slice.
Quinoa Snap Pea Salad
Gorgeous, sweet, savoury, zesty final product!

Meanwhile, cook quinoa as above. Add lemon zest and juice to quinoa, top with tomatoes, snap peas, basil, a pinch of salt and pepper, and sliced chicken.

Quinoa Salad with Artichokes, Kalamata Olives, Lemon, Garlic and Peppers

This colourful and intensely flavourful salad can be served as a side dish or a vegetarian main. To make it even heartier, add grilled or poached chicken chunks to the works.

2 c chicken broth
1 c quinoa
1/2 c diced yellow pepper
1/2 c diced red pepper (you can change this up and use as much of whatever colour pepper you like)
1/2 c diced artichoke hearts
2 – 4 oz feta cheese crumbles (depending on taste and health goals)
1/2 c chopped and pitted kalamata olives

Amazing Dressing:
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp grated lemon rind
2 T lemon juice
1 T minced fresh basil
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 – 5 cloves garlic (don't be stingy!)


Combine all ingredients for dressing and set aside.

Rinse Quinoa. Add chicken broth and quinoa to a saucepan. Bring

to a simmer. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and cover. Cook  until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and cool. Combine quinoa, peppers, artichoke hearts, feta and olives. Add dressing. Chill and serve. 

I prefer to let this salad's  flavours mingle for a few hours (or a day) before serving. It makes fantastic leftovers! This is a favourite potluck dish of ours. It is the absolute best quinoa salad I've ever had.

I hope you've enjoyed this post! I have had so many requests for these recipes, so I figured that the best way to share them is somewhere like this, with pictures, that can be referred to again and again. I welcome your questions or comments.