You know what’s really, really good for you? Quinoa. You know what I keep buying and then forgetting in the cupboard because I’m totally uninspired to use it? …Quinoa.
I have a few stock recipes for quinoa that I make frequently and that Scott and Toby will even eat (e.g.: quinoa lasagna, quinoa chili, quinoa pilaf), but lately I’ve become rather blasé about them. Since quinoa is still on the list of popular superfoods, being chock full of protein, iron, calcium and fibre, and since I have a huge unopened Costco bag of it that pleads with me every time I open my cupboard, I decided to go on a little recipe adventure. The internet is a neverending resource for recipes, right? There should be a multitude of quinoa recipes out there, right? And if someone takes the time to post a recipe on the internet, it must be a good one, right??
Oh, how very wrong that last sentence is.
Most of my quinoa dishes are savory, but currently I am experiencing what Scott calls my “pregnant sweet tooth”, so I decided to try dessert recipes. I gathered four of them which looked pretty good (and which didn’t have anything weirder than quinoa in the ingredients list. I found one recipe for cookies that had so many odd ingredients that quinoa was the only thing I recognized). One of the four was good, but the others… were not so much.
Behold the fruit of my trials:
The first recipe I tried was one for quinoa raisin muffins. I procured this one from a website that I had complete faith in, being that of a lauded domestic diva who’s name I dare not mention because, frankly, she scares me. Once begun, I decided to nix the raisins as I thought the combo of quinoa and raisins would just be too much for my boys to handle, and I substituted chocolate chips instead. However, I forgot to cool the quinoa after I cooked it, like the directions told me to, and so when I mixed the chocolate chips into the batter, they melted throughout. Ok, I thought, chocolate muffins. That didn’t seem amiss to me so I forged ahead and served them after lunch. Scott and I took an expectant bite and chewed. And we chewed… and chewed… and chewed. Dear god. Scott said they were so dense they could have been mistaken for Kardashians. Toby ate a bite or two, which is negligible for him and something made out of chocolate and so, sadly, these muffins met their destiny in the compost bin.
A few days later, I tried a recipe for peanut butter quinoa cookies that I found on the website for a newspaper. This recipe was very similar to the simple, three-ingredient cookie recipe you’ll often find on a jar of peanut butter, except that half the sugar was replaced with quinoa flour and there was a dash of vanilla added in. I didn’t have quinoa flour, but I do have a coffee grinder, so I just ground up some quinoa which I’ve done before with oats and rice. It worked a treat, and the cookies looked adorable, each one bearing a pert crosshatch design. I popped them in the oven. A delicious aroma permeated my kitchen as I started the clean up and then… they burned. To be fair, I can’t really blame this failure on the quinoa (but I will blame it on my crappy oven). I think I might actually try this recipe again one day after I’ve collected the scraps of my shredded dignity and a new jar of peanut butter, but I will certainly be watching them obsessively in the oven when I do.
The final straw was Sunday morning’s attempt at quinoa pancakes, the recipe for which I found on the website of a trusted “doctor”. I mixed and blended as per the the instructions (despite my dubiousness of actually blending pancake batter) and poured them on the griddle. They began perfectly, bubbles rising nicely to the top, and I prematurely began to write a blog post in my head, detailing how at least half of my quinoa recipes were successful. Humming happily, I tried to turn the first cake… with calamitous results. You know how pancakes are supposed to be… I dunno… cohesive? Well, these guys were not. Even though the bottoms were browned and crispy, just as they should be, the insides were the disgusting consistency of a quinoa mousse. This meant all my endeavors to flip resulted in splattered lumps of squishy paste. I tried in complete futility to at least get a few decent pancakes out of this recipe, but even my silver dollar cakes were a total disaster. I tasted one just to see what I was missing and I can tell you it wasn’t much. There is no way anyone in my house would’ve tolerated even a mouthful of those bland, bitter pancakes. Scott came into the kitchen as I was pouting over the griddle and asked what happened. I opened my mouth to answer and before the words came out of my mouth, he said, “You put quinoa in them, didn’t you??” When I nodded sheepishly, he threw up his hands and cried, “Enough is enough, Joc!”
And he was right. I was cured.
However. I did mention that I had one good recipe, and that is the recipe I found for brownies. This recipe was the first I tried which is why I had any faith to continue on this misadventure in the first place. These brownies are rich and dark chocolate-y without being over-sweet, and although I am normally in the camp of chewy brownie lovers, I can attest that the soft and fudgy centers of these brownies are delectable. I ate three of them before they were even done cooling. On top of all this, they are easy and fast to mix up, which is always balm for my lazy soul.
Chocolate Quinoa Brownies
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Rinse the quinoa in cold water. (As a side note, save that rinse water and you can then use it to wash your hair. I kid you not. Just scrub it in, let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse it out. Shiny, bouncy hair ensues. You are rinsing the quinoa to remove the saponin, the bitter coating which repels birds and insects and which also happens to be a natural surfactant. Interesting, no?) Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil and add quinoa. Cover and cook on low for 20 minutes, then let it sit, covered and off the heat, for 5 minutes. Cool.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and grease an 8×8 baking dish. I used butter to grease mine because butter is just better.
- Place all ingredients into food processor or blender (if you have a blender big enough) and combine until smooth. Pour into prepared pan.
- Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes clean.
- Cool on a cooling rack in the pan. Cut into squares and serve.
Serve with powdered sugar, if you want. Or with chocolate icing. Or with vanilla ice cream (which would be heartbreakingly good). Or just eat three of them right out of the pan.
And so, despite my misadventures, my faith in quinoa was not shaken. And don’t let them put you off! Quinoa is definitely worth the effort since the health benefits are strong with this little seed. But if quinoa pilaf or lasagna just isn’t your thing, then I urge you to try a batch of these brownies and think of them as vitamins. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Have you ever tried any of these recipes successfully? And what is your favorite way to cook with quinoa?