Last year I made what was perhaps one of my dorkiest and most utilitarian purchases from Amazon.com ever. One paper shredder. One toaster. One book on quinoa.
While the shredder is pretty awesome (though the toaster kind of sucks, but at least the button stays down and the toast pops up), the quinoa recipe book is bringing us a surprising amount of joy.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is touted as a “superfood”—a term I hate—because it’s gluten-free and has a high protein content and complex carbohydrate structure, meaning it doesn’t break down into sugar as fast as more refined grains or starches. It’s also technically not a grain, which I found interesting. The three-second explanation: the plant it comes from is not a grass, therefore it is not classified as a cereal grain. But, like real grains, what you’re eating is the seed of the plant.
I couldn’t care less about the gluten-free part. (I totally support those who eat gluten-free because of an actual dietary ailment. Those who think that “gluten-free” equates “low fat” or “diet food” make me insane.) But I am trying to keep refined foods to a minimum in our house (although we’ll never give up our breads, white sugar and baked desserts!) as well as cut back on the amount of meat we consume, so quinoa has been a great introduction into our kitchen. In addition to its other benefits, it’s quite filling and it has a fun, crunchy texture and nutty taste that we like. The easiest way to add it to meals is to toss it with vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers to make a “grain salad.” In fact, Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood includes a great many essentially basic recipes that simply add a half-cup or so of quinoa to the mix. So, not such a huge departure from regular cooking. Still, it’s not like I would ever think of adding quinoa to a lot of these things—pancakes, guacamole, soup—so it certainly was worth the purchase to me.
I’ve tried a few recipes over the past several months, though none that I’ve followed faithfully yet, so no Cooking By the Book posts on quinoa at this point. A couple weeks ago, we really went on a quinoa tear and had it for dinner three days in a row. Plus I had the leftovers from each day for lunch and then made us a weekend snack with it. All in all, I think I had about six meals in a row (I never eat breakfast) consisting of quinoa. Quin-whoa.
This recipe is, so far, our favorite. I turned it into two different dishes and actually thought of a couple more things I wanted to do with it, but I only made enough for one dinner/leftovers lunch and a snack.
I stuffed red bell peppers with this tasty turkey–quinoa mix (the original Quinoa 365 recipe use) and then made us nachos later in the week. I also thought about making a tofu stir fry, filling an omelet with it or just eating it plain with some rice, but like I said—there was only so much to go around.
Below, you’ll find my “master mix” recipe for the quinoa–turkey mix as well as the recipe for the nachos I made. I normally make chicken nachos with seasoned chunks of chicken breast, but this turkey–quinoa version seems more virtuous. I’m sure it’s only marginally healthier than standard nachos, but every little bit helps, right? Plus at least it will make you feel less guilty about eating nachos and then you’ll avoid the guilt stomachache. Even if you can’t avoid the gooey cheese regret.
Sugar’s Turkey–Quinoa “Master Mix”
Adapted from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood by Patricia Green & Carolyn Hemming
Use this mix to stuff bell peppers, top nachos (see recipe below), fill omelets, add to pasta, make a stir fry…pretty much anything you might use ground beef or pork for.
- 1/3 cup quinoa
- 2/3 cup water
- olive oil (for sautéing)
- 1 lb. ground turkey
- ½ onion, diced
- 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- ¼ cup grated Manchego cheese
- ½ cup chicken broth (or water)
- Garlic salt
- Mrs. Dash seasoning
Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover, reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. (You’ll know it’s done when you see the little quinoa “tails” pop out.) Turn off the heat and allow to sit for another 5 to 6 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.
In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat the oil. Add onions and garlic and cook until fragrant and onions begin to start to turn translucent. Add turkey and season liberally with garlic salt and Mrs. Dash. Sauté until turkey is cooked through. Add quinoa, tomato paste, cheese and broth. Mix together thoroughly.
- 1 cup (or more) Turkey–Quinoa “master mix” (see recipe above)
- Tortilla chips
- Shredded cheese (Mexican blend or whatever floats your boat)
- Black olives, halved
- Red onion, diced (optional)
- Salsa (we happen to like the Tostitos jarred kind for this purpose)
- Sour cream
If you happen to have some guacamole around, you can toss some on. Note that the red onions are totally optional; I will often make two separate plates of nachos just so Shake can have onions (he loves them) and mine can be onion-free.
In a dish or on a plate, make a bed of tortilla chips and sprinkle with some cheese. Top with turkey-quinoa mix, onions and more cheese. Microwave until cheese melts. Top with salsa, sour cream and red onion (if using). Serve ooey-gooey and hot.