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What’s the deal with Quinoa… Keen-Wah?

Quinoa (pronounced keen – wah) is all the rage these days.  People always ask “What’s so great about it and what do I do with it?”  One of the great things about it is that there is SO much you can do with it!  I’ve incorporated quinoa into some of my favorite party dishes (see one of my favorite recipes below).

So… What is it?

While we treat quinoa as a grain, it’s not technically a cereal grain at all, but is instead a “pseudo-cereal” – a food that is eaten like grains and has similar nutrients. It’s one of the only plant foods that’s a complete protein, which means it contains all the essential amino acids (protein compounds that can’t be produced by the body.  Edamame is another great example, which by the way, is also in the recipe below)

Spinach Feta Quinoa Cakes

Spinach Feta Quinoa Cakes








Let’s see how Quinoa stacks up against rice

½ cup Quinoa (cooked):

111 calories

19.7 g. carbohydrate

4.1 g. protein

2.6 g. fiber

159 g. potassium

½ cup White Rice (cooked):

121 calories

26.6 g. carbohydrate

2.2 g. protein

< 1 g. fiber

27 mg. potassium

Quinoa has almost twice the protein as rice, it’s higher in fiber, and lower in calories.  For parents or kids with wheat or gluten intolerance, quinoa is a great gluten free option.

Okay, so what do I do with it?

Quinoa is so versatile.  It’s great as a side dish (cook and mix in chopped grilled or sautéed vegetables), in salads (see recipe below) and can be used in patties such as in the Quinoa cakes I recently made which my 1 year old loved.

So do I HAVE to eat Quinoa if I want to be healthy?

Quinoa is a fabulous food but there are many healthy, nutrient dense grains.   Cracked wheat (often found in tabouleh) and Bulgur are two other choices with protein and fiber content similar to Quinoa.

Have you tried Quinoa? Love it or leave it? What are your favorite recipes?

Summer Quinoa Salad

(a variation on Giada De Laurentis Orzo Salad recipe which I have made for countless parties)


3 cups water

1 ½ cups Quinoa

1 16 oz bag frozen Trader Joes Roasted Corn, defrosted

1 12 oz. bag frozen edamame, defrosted

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

¾ cup chopped red onion

½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

Vinaigrette (recipe below)


Put Quinoa and water in a heavy pot.  Cover and bring to boil over high heat.  When water comes to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes.  Transfer to a large wide bowl and toss to cool.  Once cooled, add corn, edamame, tomatoes, onion, basil, mint, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add vinaigrette and toss to coat. Serve at room temperature.


½ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup lemon juice

1 Tablespoon honey

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

¾ cup olive oil

Mix all ingredients in a container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake to combine completely.


Spinach-Feta Quinoa Cakes

I’ve also made these Quinoa Cakes (pictured above).   They are a great vegetarian entrée or side dish. My son loved them!   I added lentils for even more protein.


Quinoa on the Menu

These Fairfield County eateries feature Quinoa dishes on their menus


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4 Responses to What’s the deal with Quinoa… Keen-Wah?

  1. Avatar
    greer June 25, 2013 at 8:53 AM #

    These all sound delicious! I’m obsessed with quinoa–I’m actually having it for lunch today. My favorite way to eat it is with salsa and a little shredded Mexican blend cheese. Sooooo good.

  2. Avatar
    Jessica June 25, 2013 at 9:32 AM #

    I love sweet potato quinoa cakes, but I can’t wait to try this summer salad! My little guy just tried quinoa oatmeal yesterday for the first time and he too is a fan. 🙂

  3. Avatar
    Elysa June 25, 2013 at 11:22 AM #

    Sounds great Greer and Jessica. I would love your recipes too! Jessica, do you have a recipe for the sweet potato quinoa cakes?

    • Avatar
      Jessica June 25, 2013 at 4:10 PM #

      I do! It was given to me by a friend who made it for a dinner meeting. The quinoa cakes also have wild rice and cranberries. I’ll email it to you!

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