Trend Spotlight: Quinoa

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In my last post, I mentioned that one of the trends of 2013 was eating healthier, and by extension gluten-free. An ingredient that is also supposed to be big this year and embodies this trend is Quinoa – a seed native to the Andes regions of South America (it is pronounced KEEN-WAH). It’s very nutritious which is one of the things that has led to its popularity – it is low in sodium and cholesterol, a full protein so it’s good for vegetarian and vegan diets, and full of calcium, iron, and fiber.

There are various ways to use quinoa. You have the option of boiling it as you would rice – it cooks fast, about 10 to 15 minutes. You can use it as a side in a salad (try it with a roasted garlic, tomato, and spinach salad) or it could be one of the main features of the dish (try a Quinoa Tabbouleh or stir fry some vegetables to eat with it). quinoa-image

What surprised me the most about it though is that it can be used in desserts too, especially since it doesn’t immediately strike me as a typical dessert ingredient. But then again, barely anything is typical of desserts these days as people find more and more creative ways to use ingredients. I’ve seen it used in chocolate cakes, brownies, and even cookies. In some cases, it was just an addition much like oats would be to oatmeal cookies. Some other recipes used quinoa flour – one blogger suggests making your own by putting dried quinoa in a food processor to save money. If you just want to munch on the go, some companies use them in energy bars and snacks. KIND has it in its Maple Walnut Clusters, and Fiona’s Natural Foods uses it in bars.

I have to admit, as much as I want to, I haven’t gotten a chance to try using it in a dessert, but these Strawberry Banana Quinoa Muffins caught my eye and I’m planning to make them the next chance I get. I still thought I would post the recipe in case anyone wants to try it out. (Note: This recipe is courtesy of poorgirleatswell.com, and she recommends not trying to make super-sized muffins. They are dense and full of protein which makes them pretty filling). Enjoy:

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Strawberry Banana Quinoa Muffins

Ingredients
1 1/3 c quinoa flour (whole wheat or all purpose is fine if you don’t have access to quinoa flour)
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 T melted butter
1 t vanilla extract
2 medium overripe bananas, mashed
1 c cooked quinoa
1 c finely chopped fresh strawberries
1-2 strawberries, thinly sliced (optional for garnish)

Directions
1.  Preheat the oven to 375°.  Prepare a muffin or cupcake tin with cooking spray or muffin liners.  In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.  In a separate, larger bowl, combine the brown sugar, butter, eggs & vanilla and whisk until smooth.  Mix in the dry flour mixture a couple tablespoons at a time, stirring together until completely incorporated.

2.  When all the flour has been mixed in, add the mashed bananas and the quinoa, and mix well.  Add the chopped strawberries (juice too) and fold into the muffin batter.  Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups.  Place one strawberry slice on top of each muffin, and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean.

3.  Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes before removing muffins from pan.  Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes, or until ready to serve.  Serve for brunch or take some with you to for a quick weekday breakfast, and enjoy!

(Photos via: highonhealth.org, impossiblewriter.com, pinterest.com)

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