My daughter has started to explore cooking more regularly on her own. She loves the quinoa dishes I make and asked me what my trick is for avoiding bland quinoa. Quinoa on its own is underwhelming so I opt to cook mine in stock or broth instead of water. If animal products aren’t your jam, opt for stock or broths that are vegetable based. See my last post for making your own veggie broth base. I also toast my quinoa and use herbs and spices before the liquid is added for more flavor. This is called blooming your spices. It brings out more flavor to your dishes and you can bloom them in a dry pan or in oil.
My son has always been a picky eater but once I started creating flavorful dishes with veggies and grains center stage, he was even surprised at how much he enjoyed the dishes. Veggie sautés are some of our go-to quick meals during the week. Quinoa is a grain I use regularly in salads and to bulk up a veggie sauté. It’s a super food because it has all nine essential amino acids our bodies cannot make on their own making is a complete protein. It’s filling and great as a side dish, on salads or to bulk up veggie-based entrées, sautés or as a base in soups. I typically make a big batch of Quinoa so that I can leave it in the fridge and use it all week.
My favorite plant-based cooking pantry staples are grains and legumes. They are easy to prepare and have a long shelf life and are relatively inexpensive. You can buy multiple varieties and even mix and match them to make delicious dishes. Most supermarkets have a bulk food section which is a great place to explore different grains in small quantities. It’s also a great way to make your own blends.
Here are a few of my favorite grains and legumes.
Quinoa is my favorite. I typically make the tri-color quinoa and I use the Organics brand of Quinoa. It only takes 15-20 mins to cook. Be sure that you rinse the quinoa prior to cooking it.
I also really love the Organics 7 Grains and Lentils blend in their 90 second pouches. It’s great for those days when I don’t have extra time to spare. You can dump it on top of a salad, serve as a side with a protein or add to a stir-fry or sauté to bulk it up.
Whole grain bulgur wheat is another great choice for side dishes and salads. Whole Foods carries a nice variety of bulgur combinations, and you can cook most with in 12 mins.
Barley, peas, and yellow lentils are another great combination together and are great for quick soups. You can find this combination packaged together at Whole Foods and they cook in just 10 mins. Or you can visit the bulk food section of the supermarket to create your own combo for less money.
Bob’s Red Mill red lentils are another one of my favorites. Any time I want to add a creaminess to a dish I add red lentils. Cooked red lentils are great for thickening soups. Simply blend the cooked lentils with some homemade veggie stock using an immersion blender and add to your soup. This will give your soup a creamy texture like a cream soup but without the dairy or extra calories.
Butter beans, garbanzo/chickpea beans and cannellini beans are some of my favorites for whipping up warm tapas dips, hummus spreads, adding bulk to salads, pasta, and slow cooker meals. Kidney beans and black beans are my go-to beans for tacos, fiesta style salads, hearty chilis, stoups or mixed with grains for a side dish. They are a great source of protein on meatless Mondays if you are a flexitarian or if you don’t eat meat at all.
When using canned garbanzo/chickpea beans, you can save the liquid the beans are packed in also known as aquafaba and use it as an egg replacement in dairy-free and vegan baking. 3 tablespoons equal one egg and you will want to whip them to medium peeks to aerate the aquafaba. It’s great for binding and creating lift in recipes. Once baked the beans are flavorless.
Black beans aren’t just for savory cooking. They also are great for making gluten-free brownies, making them moist and fudgy.
In my next blog post I will discuss dairy replacement options including milk and cheese options for plant-based eating.
How to cook Quinoa
If you have never cooked Quinoa before here are a few suggestions for a delicious outcome every time.
Toast the quinoa before simmering it to further emphasize its nutty flavor.
Simmer the quinoa in a measured amount of liquid to ensure a tender result.
Choose bone broths, stocks, or veggie broths instead of water to add an extra savory flavor.
Use visual cues to know when the quinoa is done. When the seeds have turned completely translucent beside a small opaque dot in the center and their little curlicue tails unfurl, it’s time to remove the quinoa from the heat.
Covering your pan lid with a clean tea towel and placing it on your pot of cooked quinoa undistributed for 10 -15 minutes will trap the moisture in the tea towel and separate your grains making them fluffier.
Fluffy Quinoa Recipe
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (190 g) blond or rainbow quinoa, rinsed
¼ teaspoon table salt
4 cups (950 ml) chicken or veggie broth
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering.
Add quinoa and salt and cook until quinoa is fragrant, about 3 minutes.
Stir in broth and bring to boil.
Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until quinoa is tender, 15 to 18 minutes. 15 minutes for blond quinoa, 20 minutes for black, red, or rainbow.
You will see a little thread spiraling out from the blond and red quinoa when it is done.
Remove saucepan from heat. Drain, shake well in the strainer to remove excess water, and return to the pot. Place a clean towel over the pan, cover, and let sit undisturbed for 5 to 10 minutes.
Fluff quinoa with fork. Season with salt to taste and serve.
Upcoming Cooking & Baking Classes