Adventures in Trying New Foods: Quinoa Update

Over the past couple of years, trying out more grains (or grain-like foods) has been something I’ve been interested in. I love going into places like Whole Foods, where you can grab a few spoonfuls of out-of-the-ordinary grain salads, made out of quinoa or couscous, barley or wheat berries.

And yet, I haven’t tried too much of that at home, save for my Balsamic Barley Salad.
So I was looking forward to the quinoa challenge for the month of June as a part of my Adventures in Trying New Foods challenge.

I started off strong, picking up a box of plain quinoa, as well as a package of pre-seasoned, Mexican-inspired quinoa and black beans. As my foray into the world of quinoa, I started the month off with the quinoa-in-a-bag, since I figured that would be the easiest.

It was so simple; just rip open the bag, pour into a pot with some water, boil it for 15 minutes or so, and it was delicious. I added a cup or so of additional black beans, and we spooned some salsa over top. I’m not typically a big pre-packaged fan, but this stuff was totally worth it, although I’d really love to figure out how to recreate it on my own. I haven’t found a good replacement recipe yet.

With that attempt stamped successful, I decided to venture out into trying making a quinoa dish from scratch. I received the book Quinoa Cuisine for review with this challenge, and it’s filled with 150 different recipes for using quinoa, whether it’s whole quinoa or quinoa flour and flakes. Some of the recipes in it were more obscure or involved than I was looking for (particularly the ones using quinoa flour, since I don’t have a gluten allergy and can readily use wheat flour).

However, I did try the traditional recipe for mixing up a tabouleh salad, a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine. It came out okay, but I think in the future I want to try using less mint. The book also has some tasty looking recipes for a black bean, corn and quinoa salad as well as a dish of quinoa, sweet potato and orange pilaf, which is supposed to make a super-healthy version of your typical sweet potato casserole. I never got around to making either of those for this challenge, but really want to.

I also tried a quinoa pizza casserole recipe I’d found on Pinterest that was okay, but not one I’m in any hurry to repeat. Plus it was kind of involved to make your own sauce, when I imagine I could have just used some of my own pizza sauce and called it a day.

Finally, I also tried whipping up a quinoa creation of my own, loosely inspired by the original Mexican one from the bag. I cooked some quinoa, threw in some corn, black beans, red peppers and scooped some salsa over top and ate it with tortilla chips. Pretty good, but I still need to figure out the seasonings to add. I’m thinking some lime juice, cumin and crushed red pepper maybe?

We’ll see, but in the meantime, I’m still experimenting with this new-to-me food and enjoying branching out, especially since quinoa is a super good-for-you food (packed with protein) that the Incas referred to as “gold.”

Do you have any good tips or recipes for making use of this “gold” in your own kitchen? I’d love to hear any of your recommendations in the comments!

(You can read up on all the posts in this challenge here.)

Related Posts
Adventures in Trying New Foods: Brussels Sprouts
Adventures in Trying New Foods: Kale Update


  1. So funny- I was just looking back in posts and wondering what happened to your food challenges! Quinoa is one of my favorite things. I love it as a hot or cold side dish, but my hubby prefers it cold. Here is a salad we've been enjoying all summer:

    2 cups cooked, cooled Quinoa
    4 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
    1/4 cup pine nuts
    1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese (finely grated)

    2-3 cloves garlic, minced
    5 tbsp olive or grape seed oil
    2 tbsp lemon juice
    salt and pepper to taste

    I also like to add fresh basil. We buy it in the squeeze tube, and I just add a few tbsp to the dressing, but I've also put finely chopped fresh basil leaves right in the salad. You can toast the pine nuts if you prefer, but I like the ease of throwing them in untoasted.

    I've also doubled this recipe (just last night actually) to bring to BBQ's, and it always gets great reviews!

    1. Oh, and I forgot to say - because the dressing is so light, and the spinach being less wilty than lettuce means that this salad lasts up to a week in the fridge in an airtight container.

    2. Awesome! Thanks so much for the recommendation. I've really appreciated your suggestions in the past, so I really want to try this. Seems so simple! I've never bought basil in a tube, but that sounds like a great way to get it without feeling like you have to use it all at once (and end up wasting a bunch). Thanks for the ideas!!

  2. Try adding some fresh minced cilantro to your Mexican dish. Here is one of my favorites:

  3. I love cooking with quinoa! Here's one of my favorite quinoa recipes:

    1. Wow, that looks incredible! Thanks for passing it along!

  4. I make this one a lot and love it! I bring to church functions and people eat up the stuff! I don't use the cayenne pepper or the cumin because I didn't have any but still seriously delicious! Quinoa is possibly one of my favorite foods and its so versatile!

  5. Sarah (Proverbs 31:30)August 12, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    My mom adds chicken (or turkey) kidney/black beans, sundried tomatoes, various seasonings like salt, pepper, italian, and really whatever. Also red curry powder and turmeric makes it really good. And being a mother, there is ALWAYS spinach. And being her daughter, I love it. Yeah, with the spinach. In fact she inspired me to try green smoothies. It's basically 50% of my diet now :) Here are two we've tried and loved.
    I TOTALLY recommend the last one!!!


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