The Quinoa Virgin: A Lesson in Whole Grains

From the title of this post, I’m sure it won’t surprise you that up until recently I thought “quinoa” was pronounced just as it looks, “quin-oh-a”.  In fact, I didn’t even know what it was (super embarrassed to admit that).  But, I am happy to report that I now know what “keen-wah” is, and I’m going to give you a little lesson on this nutritional grain!

Excited?  You should be!

  • Contains all eight amino acids
  • Protein content equal to that of milk
  • High in B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium and Vitamin E
  • Gluten-free; easy to digest
  • Ideal food for endurance
  • Strengthens the kidneys, heart and lungs

To cook it, it needs to be rinsed and drained.  Why?  To remove the saponin, aka the toxic bitter coating.  Once you do this, you are good to go.  Another fun fact: “keen-wah” cooks the fastest of all the grains.  And, there’s a lot you can make with it, from breakfast porridge to mixing with veggies for a nice side dish.

And so begins the journey of The Quinoa Virgin.  Tonight’s dinner: Lemon Quinoa with Ricotta and Peas (click here for recipe – from fig & fork).

I had to begin this journey at the grocery store.  And no, not Whole Foods.  The more convenient grocery store that is never properly stocked, and that doesn’t go out of its way in terms of carrying anything organic.  Luckily, this was a pretty simple recipe as far as ingredients go.

Grocery List

  • Quinoa
  • Peas (I cheated and bought frozen)
  • Radishes
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Chives
  • Lemon

I already had fresh basil and olive oil at home.

So, I managed to get everything except the quinoa without a problem.  I get to the aisle with the rice, couscous, etc only to find that there are four varieties of quinoa – all of them pre-flavored.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t looking for a roasted red pepper & basil flavor (ew).  Heaven forbid the store carry plain quinoa.  But after some searching/moving items around on the shelf I found the only other option I had, Inca Red Quinoa.  Beggars can’t be choosers after all.


my first box of quinoa!

FYI – it says pre-washed and no rinsing, but it’s recommended you do it again anyway.  Note to self: the rinsing is easy, it’s the draining that’s tough.  A fine mesh strainer would’ve been a nice asset, but I managed without (don’t recommend it).  So once I did that, I threw it in with the lemon rind:


keen-wah & lemon rind pre-simmer

Another tip I learned through IIN, is to use a timer.  Kind of obvious, but I think making a mental note to make sure I actually use one has made a big difference.  The quinoa had to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, so I set the timer and prepped the rest of the ingredients.  And since basil was one of the items, I’m going to give you an update.  Remember how I bought the cilantro and basil plants?


“the plants”

Please notice the dead cilantro plant on the left; flourishing basil plant on the right.  They sit on same windowsill and were both given enough water.  If anything, I wanted the cilantro plant to thrive since that grocery store (the convenient one) seems to not carry it for whatever strange reason.  But, I’m quite happy with the basil!

Curious as to what quinoa looks like after 15 minutes?  I was too:

voila, quinoa

first batch of quinoa, yay me!

I threw everything together and I must say I really enjoyed this recipe.  Mine didn’t come out as pretty as the picture from the recipe I followed, but I’m going to blame the “Inca Red”.


lemon quinoa with ricotta and peas – success!!!

I highly recommend going out and buying some quinoa for yourself!  My first experience with quinoa was a good one, and I know I’ll be making it quite often going forward (so sick of brown rice).  Quinoa Virgin no more!

And on a completely unrelated note, I wanted to give a shout out to Sandwich Public Schools (Sandwich, MA) for adopting a new policy that forbids food-sharing in classrooms.  Given food allergies (possibly life threatening) and the rise in childhood obesity rates, this a step in the right direction.  You can check out the article here.


11 thoughts on “The Quinoa Virgin: A Lesson in Whole Grains

  1. I am still laughing about your poor cilantro plant! I’ve never been able to grow the stuff! Glad you enjoyed the recipe and thanks for sharing!!

  2. Great article – very well written, humorous, and conversational. You’d make a great Health-Nut TV host 🙂

    I’m having the same problem – can’t find quinoa anywhere around me – at least not in the main stores, like BiLo, Walmart, etc. – it’s time to hit the health stores (checked GNC – the guy never heard of it [shame on him 🙂 ] nor could we find it anywhere in the store).

  3. I’ll have to try those ingredients! I get bored with mine. Quinoa at the grocery store is super overpriced. Costco cells a huge bag for something like 9 bucks and it’s organic. If you like it enough to eat a whole sack that is. 🙂

  4. I also have so much trouble with cilantro! The quinoa salad looks fantastic. I am not that fond of quinoa, despite the nutritional powerhouse it claims to be! This salad may just turn me into a quinoa lover.

    • Definitely try it out, and let me know what you think! What makes quinoa awesome is how versatile it is; you can do like a million different things to it (and hopefully at some point find a concoction you like) – not to mention it’s a great alternative for brown rice.

  5. Thanks for stopping by my blog. “Glad” to read that I was not the only one having problems to even find quinoa – but it was well worth the search!

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