How to Cook Quinoa (plus a favorite breakfast recipe)

A few friends have asked me recently, “What do I do with quinoa?!” Even quinoa’s name is intimidating, right? (It’s pronounced “keen-wah,” if you’re wondering) But, in reality, it’s not that difficult to make and is well worth the effort.

Quinoa is a good source of protein; one cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein. This makes it a great substitute for pasta, as well as a good supplement to help other more expensive proteins (like meat) stretch further.

how to cook quinoa, plus an easy breakfast recipe

The most important thing to know about cooking quinoa is that you need to rinse it before cooking it in order to remove the natural and bitter-flavored coating, saponin. It tastes much better if you rinse first!

So, rinse it and then cook it similarly to how you’d make rice:

  • Add 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water into a saucepan.
  • Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook about 10-15 minutes until all water is absorbed.
  • When quinoa is done cooking, it looks soft and translucent with the outer ring of the grain separated.

The options are nearly endless for quinoa — you can use this as a side to your favorite meat, a topping for salads, or just add some olive oil and parmesan as a healthier (and more filling) pasta substitute.

One of our favorite quinoa recipes is quinoa-oatmeal, inspired by a Trader Joe’s frozen breakfast option. Their version is frozen in single servings with maple syrup mixed in. You could freeze your version in muffin tins and then transfer them to a ziploc bag. But, we go through a lot in one week, so I just mix up a big batch at the beginning of the week and eat it a few mornings throughout.  To make this:

  • Cook up one batch of quinoa as above.
  • Cook a double batch of Irish steel cut oats according to package directions (For our package, that means 8 cups water and 2 cups of steel cut oats. About 5 minutes after the water and oats start boiling, the oats will thicken. Turn down the heat and simmer uncovered for about 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s your desired consistency.)
  • Mix the cooked quinoa and oats together. Top with maple syrup, brown sugar, or whatever other favorite oatmeal toppings. Enjoy!

What are your favorite easy and healthy breakfast options?

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Pumpkiny Goodness

pumpkin muffin recipeIt doesn’t feel much like fall here in Charleston.  Our daily highs are still in the 80s and I’m loving it! I’m sure I’ll miss a true fall someday, but for now, I’m just thinking of it as an endless summer and hoping we still have a few good beach weekends left. Even though it doesn’t feel much like fall outside, I’ve been enjoying yummy tastes of fall like mulled apple cider and pumpkin-everything. Yesterday, we made this delicious pumpkin muffin recipe:

Pumpkin Muffins: 

  • 1 cup raisins (optional)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour, divided
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, well-beaten
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup mashed, cooked pumpkin

Combine raisins and 2 Tablespoons of flour; stir well and set aside.

Mix together remaining flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Beat egg in a separate bowl.

Make a well in center of dry mixture and add egg, pumpkin, and milk.

Stir dry and wet ingredients together just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Spoon into muffin tins and cook at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

I have such fond memories of making and eating these pumpkin muffins with my mom and am glad to pass on the legacy to my own daughters. They would have eaten the whole batch tonight if we’d let them!

If that’s not enough pumpkiny goodness for you, Beach Dad and I’ve also been enjoying this pumpkin beer – Blue Moon’s Harvest Pumpkin Ale. Yum!

pumpkin beer

What’s your favorite pumpkin flavored food or drink?

I linked up to homemade ginger and Nap Time Crafters.

How to Make a Smoothie Deliciously Healthy

how to make a smoothie that is kid-friendly and delicious

So, I’m going to level with you.  One of my least favorite things about feeding finger foods to my baby is that I sometimes feel like I spend hours of my day with a cutting board and knife, chopping all kinds of food into little baby pieces.  Enter one of my favorite healthy treats: a smoothie.  Just add the ingredients to the blender, calm your children’s fears that nothing bad will happen from the loud, loud noise (and tell your toddler that, no, we can’t go buy a “quiet” blender), blend it for a couple minutes, and voila! You now have a delicious healthy meal that works for moms, toddlers, and babies alike.

Then, I discovered something else.  You can actually sneak in those taboo vegetables that a toddler isn’t interested in touching with a 10 foot pole, and they’ll never be the wiser. I can honestly say both my kids regularly eat spinach without complaint.  Do they know they’re eating it? Well, no.  But, they’re eating it nonetheless.  And, when they go through picky stages, I can just smile and say, “Okay. That’s fine. I’m not going to battle with you over it. Want another popsicle?”

Popsicle?! Yes, y’all, it gets even better.  Sometimes, I freeze my smoothies in popsicle molds so that – as an extra special treat – my children can eat 3 servings of spinach, kale, blueberries, banana, and peaches.  And, they think I’m a super fun mom to boot!

As I make my smoothies (and popsicles), I tend to just mix whatever I think sounds good together, but I’ll include a couple sample recipes below to get you started.

how to make a smoothie that is kid-friendly and healthy

First, though, comes the art of making a sneakily healthy smoothie.  There are 4 main ingredient categories:

  • Vegetables. I use anything from spinach or kale to carrots or broccoli.  How much you add will depend on how sensitive your children are to the vegetables’ taste and color; I’d recommend starting small and increasing it as their taste buds accustom to the flavor.
    If your children are especially wary of anything green, you’ll want to start by adding only the veggies to the blender. Blend that until it is in teeny tiny pieces before you add anything else.  By the time you blend in other ingredients, they’ll hardly see a trace of green.  If they’re really opposed to greens, make sure to add blueberries, strawberries, or another darkly colored fruit to hide the green flecks.
  • Yogurt.  I use whole milk plain yogurt because I want my kids to have the good fats and probiotics without the added sugar that comes with most flavored yogurt.  The added fruit makes the smoothies sweet enough, so I start with the healthiest yogurt base possible.
  • Fruits.  This is the fun part and what most kids will actually want to see going into their smoothies.  You can even let your kids choose what they want (and add it in themselves).  Sometimes, I get out all our frozen and fresh fruits and let Beach Girl add in what she’d like.  Really, nearly any combinations and proportions work well and it’s fun to experiment with all different flavor combinations. To make it easiest (and cheapest), I use almost entirely frozen fruit.
  • Water.  This is just to help make the smoothie easier to blend and to drink through a straw.  I usually add a little bit in the blender and then extra into their sippy cups so that their smoothies are more runny and easier to drink than mine.  You also could add fruit juice, but with the high concentration of sugar in juice (even if it’s pure fruit juice), I’d rather just add water.

To help you get started, here are two of our recent favorite combinations (Disclaimer: I don’t really measure these anymore; I just eyeball it and go with personal preference.  But, I think these proportions should be yummy!):

Avocado-Pineapple-Mango-Orange: 

1 avocado, peeled and pitted
1/2 cup pineapple
3/4 cup mango
1 whole orange, peeled and checked for any seeds
1 – 1 1/2 cups yogurt
Water, added as needed to make it blend well

Spinach-Strawberry-Blueberry-Banana:

1 handful of spinach
1 cup of strawberries
3/4 cup blueberries
2 bananas
1 – 1 1/2 cups yogurt
Water, as needed to make it blend well

Do you have any favorite green smoothie recipes or other ways to help your kids eat their vegetables? I’d love to hear them!

Easy Breakfast for A Group


Some of my extended family came to visit recently. Altogether, we had 6 adults and 5 children. One morning, after a carriage ride around downtown Charleston, everyone came back to our house for brunch. I didn’t want to make an intense make-ahead meal (I’d rather hang out with my guests than cook!), but I also wanted to eat as soon as possible once we got home. I gave myself 30 minutes to prepare the brunch before we all sat down to eat. I needed simple recipes for a brunch that appealed to both children and adults. The menu I came up with included oatmeal, quiche, bacon, and fruit. I think everyone enjoyed it! From babies to grandparents, there was something that appealed to everyone, and it was completely stress-free for me.

The quiche I made is as easy as could be. It’s crustless, which cuts out a few steps for the cook and I don’t feel like it’s missing much by not having a crust. It can be made with spinach or broccoli and uses whatever cheese(s) you want. You can serve the quiche hot or cold, whichever works for your schedule. I cooked the quiche before we went on our carriage ride and then refrigerated it until we got home.

It’s totally flexible – my favorite kind of main dish.

Crustless Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

The original recipe calls for spinach and Monterey Jack cheese. Each time I’ve made it, I’ve varied the vegetable and cheeses, depending on what I had on hand. This version was my favorite:

1 medium onion
Olive oil
10 oz. frozen broccoli (or spinach)
3 cups shredded cheese (I used 2 cups of Cabot extra sharp cheddar and 1 cup of mozzarella to help take the cheddar’s edge off)
5 eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Heat up about a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft.
  • Add in chopped, thawed broccoli and cook until soft.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, beat eggs and mix in cheese, salt, and pepper.  Add onion broccoli mixture.
  • Pour into pie dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • If serving warm, allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Or, if you’ve made it ahead of time, just stick it in the refrigerator and pull it out when you’re ready to eat.

I meant to make crockpot Irish oats but completely forgot, so just threw some quick oats and water on the stove and 5 minutes later, the oatmeal was done.

I precut cantaloupe and oranges the night before.

The bacon was probably my favorite part of the meal. Trader Joe’s sells a package of nitrite/nitrate free bacon for $5 and it is delicious! I just recently started cooking it in the oven (following this recipe) and love how easy it is to clean up. The bacon grease doesn’t splatter all over my kitchen like it used to when I cooked bacon on the stove.

Bacon

  • I cut the bacon in half while it’s still in the packaging and remove the packaging. If you only want some of the bacon, this works perfectly for storing the second half.
  • Line a baking dish with parchment paper and put the bacon on top.
  • Place the dish in the oven and turn it on to 400 degrees. The bacon cooks while the oven preheats and after about 20 minutes is the perfect combination of crisp and juicy. I use tongs to take the bacon out of the pan and put it on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb some grease before serving.
  • To clean up, all I have to do is put the parchment paper in the trash can. Love it!

Do you have any favorite brunch items or tips for cooking for a crowd?