Your one stop quinoa shop

I work in the bulk section of a grocery store (Central Market) and I think my favorite thing about working there is listening to people try to pronounce quinoa.  My second favorite thing about working there is helping people who get overwhelmed by all of the different types of grains we have. 

I thought it might be fun to have a series of posts about some of the different types of grains, and I wanted to get started with the powerhouse of them all- quinoa!

So first for the record quinoa is pronounced keen-wah.  I hear it pronounced every which way and it makes me giggle at the different ways that people say it!  So now that we’re done with that we can get right into the good stuff!

What is quinoa?

Quinoa is technically a seed, not a grain though we do tend to refer to it as a grain because it’s grain-like.  It’s sometimes called a pseudocereal since it’s not technically part of the grass family like the other grains.  Quinoa is related to beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds.

Quinoa has been around for 3-4000 years and it originated in the Andes of South America.  The Incas referred to it as the ‘mother of all grains’


What’s so great about quinoa?

Quinoa is considered a nutritional powerhouse because it’s protein content is so high and because it is considered a complete protein (it contains all of the essential amino acids- other plant foods tend to be low in some of them.  For example wheat and rice are a little low in lysine).  Quinoa is also a great source of fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron (one serving= ~20% DV of iron!!).  Also 1/2 cup of uncooked quinoa is only about 155 calories, making it a BIG bang for your nutritional buck!


Do you suffer from migraines?

Because quinoa is so high in magnesium it is a great idea to add some to your diet if you suffer from migraines.  Magnesium is a mineral, and it helps relax blood vessels and could help prevent migraines.  Increased intake of magnesium has been shown to be related to a reduced frequency of headache episodes reported by migraine sufferers.

Since we’re talking about magnesium and relaxed blood vessels, quinoa is also great for your heart!  It can help decrease hypertension and rates of heart disease!



In it’s natural state, quinoa has a coating of something called saponin for protection.  This makes it bitter so that nothing will want to eat it.  Saponin is toxic and can be irritating to the respiratory and GI tract, so make sure to give your quinoa a good rinse before you cook it (I rinse it in a mesh sieve until all the soapy-ness of the saponin is rinsed off)


What do I do with quinoa?

You can do so much with quinoa!  You can use it in place of the grain in pretty much any recipe.  It cooks up just like rice.  I usually make mine in my rice cooker with the same ratios as I would use with rice…one part quinoa to two parts water or vegetable broth(it tastes soooooo good when you make it with vegetable broth!!)  If you cook it on the stove, do the same ratios, but let it simmer very low for about 15-20 minutes.



Quinoa Recipes

I thought I ‘d share a couple of my favorite quinoa recipes just to get you started.  I posted them earlier today since I knew that this post would be long enough, so I’ll just link you to the recipes!

Black Bean Quinoa Salad

Mexican Quinoa Casserole


Well, that’s it for now!  Hope you come to love quinoa as much as I do.

Happy snacking!


Mexican Quinoa Casserole

Mexican Quinoa Casserole

(Print this recipe!)

3 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 cup frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 jar of your favorite salsa
a couple of handfuls of your fav vegan cheese- I like Daiya

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Sautee onion, bell pepper, and garlic until tender.


Stir together the quinoa, sautéed veggies, beans, corn, and salsa.


Pour into a 9×13 pan and sprinkle the top with your cheese.


Bake for about 30 mins or until the cheese is nice and melty.



Serve with more salsa, a big spoonful of guacamole, and some tortilla chips for optimal scoopage!




Oh, and the leftover casserole makes a KILLER burrito filling!!!


Black Bean Quinoa Salad

Black Bean Quinoa Salad

(Print this recipe!)

1 ½ cups quinoa
3 cups vegetable broth
1 can drained and rinsed black beans
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1 cloves garlic, minced
handful of chopped fresh cilantro

Ingredients for Dressing:
6 T fresh lime juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
3 T olive oil

Rinse quinoa thoroughly

Bring veggie broth to a boil.  Add quinoa and reduce to a simmer.  Cook covered for 15-20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool.  (OR you can skip this if you have a rice cooker- just throw it all in there, turn it on and let it do its thang!)

When the quinoa is completely cooled add the black beans, corn, bell pepper, green onions, garlic, and cilantro.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients- lime juice, salt, cumin, chili powder, and olive oil.

Pour the dressing over the mixture and stir thoroughly.



You can serve this at room temperature immediately or you can let it hang out in the fridge for a while- it tastes even better the next day!  I like to serve this over a big handful of spinach or kale!




Terrific Tempeh

I am absolutely obsessed with tempeh right now!  If you’ve never tried tempeh, you are missing out my friend!  You need to try it ASAP!  I thought I’d take a minute to tell you all about this wonderful food!

What is tempeh?

Tempeh is a traditional soy product originally from Indonesia(it’s been a staple food there for over 2,000 years!!!). It is made by fermenting soybeans and forming them into a cake.  Tempeh is a whole soybean product.  Because of the fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean, it has a higher content of protein, fiber, and vitamins. It also has a very firm texture.

Tempeh Nutrition

Tempeh is a great source of protein, fiber, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium. 

What does it taste like?

Tempeh has a wonderfully nutty taste!  It’s also got a nice “meaty” chewiness to it.  Like tofu, it takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with.  It soaks up marinades really really well!

What do I do with tempeh?

The opportunities are almost endless!  You can simply slice it and put it on a sandwich.  You can cube it up and throw it into your favorite stir fry.  You can marinate it any which way and sear it in a pan or bake it in the oven.  You can crumble it up into just about anything you can think of- sloppy joes, spaghetti sauce, BBQ sauce, etc… 

One thing I always do with it before I cook it is STEAM it!  Tempeh can have a bit of a strong(some people say a little bitter) taste.  Steaming it before you use it completely gets rid of that strong flavor leaving it with a nice, nutty, mellow flavor!  I also think it absorbs the marinade better when you steam it first.  Just throw it in a steamer basket in a pot on the stove and steam it for 10 minutes.

My favorite brands of tempeh

There are two brands of tempeh that I usually get- one is Lightlife, which you can get in soy, three grain, and wild rice.  The other is Turtle Island Foods, which comes in soy, 5 grain, and several different flavors. 


Whatever brand you choose, make sure it’s organic.  When it’s organic the soybeans used are not genetically modified!


One of my favorite things to do with tempeh is to make tempeh bacon!  It hits all the same notes as bacon, but no little piggies have to die!  It’s salty, smokey, and sweet.  What more could you ask for!  There are many different recipes out there, but here’s what works best for me…

Tempeh Bacon  (click here to print this recipe!)

1 package of tempeh
1/4 cup of tamari soy sauce
2-3 Tablespoons maple syrup (depending on how sweet you want it)
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
a little canola oil (to brush on the tempeh while you bake it)


Slice tempeh as thin as you can without it falling apart.


Throw it in the steamer basket and steam it for 10 minutes.


While the tempeh is steaming whisk together your marinade- the tamari, maple syrup, water, and liquid smoke.


When tempeh is done steaming, place into a bowl and pour the marinade on top.


Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 mins, I usually do an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.


Place tempeh strips on parchment paper. 


Brush strips with a little canola oil and bake them for 15 minutes (if you like yours a little saltier sprinkle with a little salt before baking). 


Flip them and bake for another 5 or so minutes until they are crispy.and dark brown.

The finished product:



My favorite way to eat my tempeh bacon:  Tempeh BLT!!!  Whole wheat bread, a little mustard, avocado, spinach, and tomato!



Wow!  This was a long post!  Hope you stuck with me and that you decide to give tempeh a try- I know you’ll love it!

Happy snacking!