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Sunday, July 24, 2011

For The Love Of Quinoa....

My husband recently had a conversation with someone who was finding it a struggle to go gluten free. He suggested quinoa, and got a wrinkled nose and "Yuck." My husband thought it was funny because he really enjoys quinoa, but we both forget it was a love we had to develop over time. Quinoa has a distinctive flavor that I've heard described as nutty or "healthy." I'll admit that the first few times I tried it, I wasn't its biggest fan. That changed as I learned some great ways to prepare quinoa and how amazing the grain is.

Quinoa is actually a small berry rather than a grain. It is in the psuedocereal family, a grain mimicker. I say all the better because this "grain" is jam packed with amino acids and lysine. When combined with a lower lysine grain like rice, sorghum, or millet, you have a protein that is more complete than animal proteins out there, but easier to digest. We use quinoa in a large variety of ways - hoe cakes, flat bread, sides, vegan burgers (recipe follows), and salads are a few. I generally recommend using this grain in savory dishes as opposed to desserts.

Easy Quinoa
1 cup Quinoa
2 cups Water
1/2 lemon, juice
1/3 tsp salt or to taste
pepper to taste
fresh chopped herbs like chives, oregano, thyme, etc.
garlic powder to taste (optional)

Soak the quinoa in water for 20 minutes, and then use a fine sieve to drain the water and rinse. Add 2 cups of water and salt, and bring the quinoa to a boil. Turn the heat down a bit and cook until the water is absorbed. Use a fork to fluff the quinoa up, much like you would couscous, and add the lemon juice, pepper, and fresh herbs. Serve with salads, main dishes, and more. The lemon helps lighten the flavor. My 2 year old nephew approves, and this was one of the first ways I made quinoa and enjoyed it.

I picked up the Veggie Burgers Every Which Way book during a going out of business sale at a book shop. At first I was slightly disappointed at how many of the yummiest looking burgers were lacto-ovo vegetarian instead of vegan, but then I snapped out of it and realized I could use my newest technique to vegan-ize them!

I have started using yamaimo, or Japanese Mountain Yam, as an egg replacer in several dishes. Yamaimo is a little hard to get a hold of, but if you have an Asian grocery market in your area, you may be in luck. These tubers grow as long as 3 feet, and have a really peculiar trait. Once they are cut open, you can feel SLIME on the surface of the flesh. When a yamaimo is shredded, it has the slimy texture of a raw egg. If you can get past the texture issue, it is a great binder and it is used in Chinese medicine as a healing agent for the stomach and intestines.

Yamaimo with plastic wrap around the exterior so it doesn't
leave a gooey puddle in my fridge

Yamaimo grated - you can still see the grated pieces because I used a normal
sized grater, but there is also a pool of slimy liquid.

If you look closely, you can see a slime bubble on the surface of the
whole piece of yamaimo.

Quinoa Burgers (Adapted from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way)
1 cup quinoa
3/4 cup blanched turnip greens
1/4 cup yamaimo, grated
1/4-1/2 cup finely minced red onion (I love me some onions)
1/2 lemon juiced
3 TB All purpose gluten free flour
1 tsp Hain* baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Soak the quinoa for 20 minutes and then rinse. Add a cup and a half of water to sauce pan and cook the quinoa. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Blanch turnip greens in boiling water for less than 60 seconds and put in an ice bath so they stay a vibrant green (this stops the cooking process). After the greens are cool, squeeze the water out. Put the quinoa, greens, yamaimo, gluten free flour, onion, lemon juice, baking powder, salt, and cayenne pepper in a mixing bowl and combine. Form patties on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake for 25-30 minutes in the oven.

I boil the turnips and serve along side the burgers with a kohlrabi apple slaw with a macadamia mustard sauce. We brought the burgers to a potluck today and people seemed to like them.


  1. Thanks! We like quinoa but are always looking for new ways to make it. It's both a complex carb and full of protien. I love that it so easy to dress up.

  2. I have never heard of yamaimo, but I am quite intrigued. Being in the Pacific Northwest I don't think I will have any trouble finding it because we have Asian Markets everywhere. Egg is such a hard consistency to replace but I have many vegan friends who will be quite excited to hear about the existence of this magic tuber!