By now, we’ve all heard about—and maybe even tried—the exalted quinoa grain. But until I started tapping into the great minds of nutritionists like Keri Glassman, R.D., one of the Life Stylists featured in my book 20 Pounds Younger, I didn’t realize how incredibly versatile this ancient grain is. These days, I even eat it for breakfast! And why not? It’s delicious and filling and totally unprocessed.
What’s more, it’s a great source of protein for when I don’t want meat or dairy. It’s what they call a “complete protein,” one of the few sources in the grain family, because it contains all of the essential amino acids, just like eggs do. And like eggs, I eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My trick is to make a big batch on Sunday night so I have it on-hand several days in a row. Give it a try. Experiment with add-ins to develop your favorite recipes. To get you started, here are some terrific quinoa recipes—one for each of the main meals. You can even put your holiday leftovers to good use!
Sweet and Spicy Quinoa Hash
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 tsp coconut oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup cubed sweet potato
1/3 cup chopped kale
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of salt
Warm coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes and sweet potato, then sauté for about five minutes. Stir in kale, garlic, and salt. Sauté until kale has wilted, about three minutes. Add quinoa, and heat through.
Makes 1 serving. Per serving: 425.5 calories, 10 g fat (5 g sat), 71 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 206 mg sodium, 8.5 g fiber, 14 g protein
In a hurry? I toss a half-cup of cooked quinoa with almond milk and mixed berries when I’m on the go.
Quinoa and Salmon Salad
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup quinoa, warmed
3 cups mixed baby greens or watercress
1 pouch (7.1 ounces) pink salmon, flaked
Whisk together vinegar, honey, and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk in the oil until well blended. Stir in tomatoes, raisins, and quinoa. Place greens or watercress on two plates, and top with quinoa mixture and salmon flakes.
Makes 2 servings. Per serving: 467.5 calories, 20.5 g fat (3 g sat), 89 mg sodium, 44 g carbohydrates, 26 g sugar, 5 g fiber, 30 g protein.
Too much mixing? Try simply adding a half-cup of quinoa to greens and/or mixed veggies with a tablespoon of dressing and four ounces of the protein of your choice. Quinoa adapts well to any flavor combo.
Cozy Quinoa Casserole
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 acorn squash, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 lb ground dark turkey meat
1 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning or dried sage
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
1 cup quinoa
1/4 cup parsley, minced
6 oz reduced-fat Monterey jack cheese, shredded
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a skillet, sauté onion in olive oil on medium-high heat for two to three minutes. Add mushrooms, squash, and garlic. Cook for another two to three minutes. Add turkey, breaking into small pieces as it browns, about three to four minutes. Season with poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, stock, and quinoa. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer ingredients from pan to a 9×9” casserole dish or baking pan. Mix in parsley and three ounces of cheese. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of the casserole, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 354 calories, 17 g fat (6 g sat), 754 mg sodium, 26 g carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 3 g fiber, 27 g protein.
Cooking for one? Try mixing a half-cup of quinoa with two cups of baby spinach or arugula, eight ounces of grilled chicken, and a quarter-cup roasted red peppers.