Reader’s Request: Fave Quinoa Uses

Morning! It’s almost the weekend! Kind of stoked 🙂

The chipotle black bean soup was actually a success, even though I went a little cray cray with the chiles.


[Recipe is in the Canyon Ranch Nourish cookbook. I added 2 chipotle chiles instead of 1/2 t, and also a whole head of garlic.. because if it doesn’t have garlic, I didn’t make it]

We enjoyed our soup with baked sweet potatoes atop salads, + a turkey and cheese omelet for the Pilot (he needs more food and protein than just soup and sweet potato). When I put his plate down, I said “Here is your most random dinner ever.” – he loved it, though. We sat on the patio outside, ate dinner and caught up on the day while it stormed. Romantic 🙂

This morning, I started off the day with a smoothie + waffle:


It made me sad for about 4 seconds that smoothies are on the way out, oats are on the way in. The thing that stopped me from being sad was the thought of pumpkin oats… I can’t wait to turn my skin orange from a pumpkin frenzy 😉

So I thought today would be a fun morning for a reader’s request post.

Here’s a snippet of an email I recently received:

Hi Gina,

I’ve been reading your blog for 3 years (!) and love it. I wanted to ask you for your favorite ways to make quinoa. I know it has a lot of protein and that it’s a great healthy option, but I just get so bored with plain quinoa.

I’m a quinoa fan. It took me a while to learn how to say it properly –I used to say “kwin oh wa” but it’s actually “keen wa”- but I love quinoa because it’s a complete protein, and an easy way to switch up from brown rice. Quinoa is actually a seed (not a grain) and related to leafy greens, like spinach and swiss chard.

A little bit about quinoa, from trusty Wiki:

a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium), is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds.

Quinoa is:

-High in magnesium (which is great for relaxing blood vessels for heart health and migraine remedies)

-High in fiber, which has been shown to protect against breast cancer

-It contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein

Just like rice, quinoa can pretty boring. It has a unique texture (it can be slightly crunchy with a nutty taste) and just like rice, it’s all about how you cook it.

Quinoa can be prepared on the stovetop (just follow the directions on the box) or in the rice cooker.

rice cooker

I used our rice cooker for quinoa the other night and it was perfectly fluffy:


My #1 cooking tip for quinoa is to make sure you rinse it before cooking. Just pop it into a mesh sieve or strainer and run water over it, rinsing thoroughly. This is because it has a natural coating called saponin that repels insects– it can make it taste bitter if it isn’t rinsed off.

Here are my top 5 favorite uses for quinoa:

1. Greek-style quinoa salad

greek salad2

This is a great recipe for quinoa newbies. If you like Greek salad, you’ll like the recipe 🙂

2. Breakfast Quinoa

quinoa (2)

Cook quinoa and treat it like oats. I find it a little bit more filling, and love it with blueberries, cinnamon almond milk and a drizzle of honey.

3. Sweet and savory quinoa


After you prepare plain quinoa –try cooking it in broth instead of water for a flavor boost- try adding your favorite cheese, a type of chopped nut, a fruit or dried fruit, drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. I made the above quinoa with dried cranberries, herbed goat cheese, walnuts, walnut oil, garlic powder, sea salt and pepper.

4. Experiment with quinoa flour or flakes.


Quinoa flour (ground up quinoa- you can make your own in the Vitamix) or quinoa flakes are unique substitutions for flour or oats.

I love using quinoa flour in baked goods, or homemade pitas:


[It has a soft texture and mild flavor. It isn’t as grainy as brown rice flour]

and quinoa flakes for muffin tops 🙂

cookies (2)

5. As a replacement for rice, to switch things up and boost the nutritional stats. For dinner the other night, I made my favorite fried rice using quinoa – it was pretty much amazing.

quinoa (3)

So tell me friends: What’s your favorite way to enjoy quinoa?

Off to do the work thang.


Bella is not 😉

bell (2)

She watches Kardashians all day.

See ya tonight!


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  1. Alyssa @ Don't Look Down on September 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    I made this salad from Eat Live Run and it was my absolute favorite way ever to eat quinoa. And it’s so filling that I the leftovers for lunch the rest of the week!

  2. Rebecca @ How the Cookies Crumble on September 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks for the quinoa pita recipe!!! I’m super psyched t know its so easy to make pita bread in my own kitchen! I love using quinoa in just about everything. and I love substituting it for rice. 🙂

  3. Ash @ Good Taste Healthy Me on September 15, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I love mixing quinoa in with brown rice on certain dishes. Slightly different texture but they complement one another so well!

  4. Shelly on September 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    I love me some quinoa. I use it or amaranth in place of grits to make shrimp n’grits! (sautee the shrimp in white wine, worchestershire, rosemary, garlic, and olive oil, then put it on top of the quinoa). It is one of the many grains I like to use in grain bowls, which have the basic formula of grain (aka quinoa) on bottom, veggies in the middle, and an egg or cheese, or beans (or any combination thereof) on top, and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice! When I use quinoa, one of my favorite veggies to put on top is asparagus or green beans dressed with a mixture of tobasco, a little butter, and mustard. So good!
    I also had an amazing pilaf with quinoa, wild rice, and millet at a really nice restaurant in NYC for my birthday. It was served along side duck with black figs and perfectly complimented the duck.

  5. Ashley on September 15, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I just bought a box of sprouted quinoa last night… you can either cook it as usual, or soak it for 40 minutes so it fluffs back up to raw sprouts. You can also get a regular box of quinoa and sprout it yourself. 🙂

  6. Helena on September 15, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Totally random comment , I know, I do not eat Quinoa,
    But i love bella she such a cutiepie!

  7. kelly on September 15, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    I love quinoa with black beans, corn, halved grape tomatoes and diced avocado. For a dressing, I just splash a little jalapeno vinegar on it. Delicious!

  8. Krista on September 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    I love subbing out some of the oats in granola recipes for quinoa flakes. I also add uncooked quinoa to granola for an extra crunch. I’ve never tried it in the rice maker before, though….

  9. Krystina (Organically Me) on September 15, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    I love adding tumeric to my quinoa – it adds a very subtle flavor and a LOT of color. Also, cooking it in half coconut milk + half water, and adding some toasted coconut flakes at the end makes a great coconut quinoa. 🙂

  10. Allison @ Food For Healing on September 15, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    i can’t wait to turn as orange as a pumpkin this year too! let the starbucks pumpkin spice lattes and other pumpkin goodie consuming begin.
    I need try more quinoa recipes, i just eat it plain whenever i do, its a little boooring *yawn*

    Have a beautiful day! <3

  11. Jessica on September 15, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    I’m actually not a fan of the flavor of quinoa even though I’ve tried to like it. Maybe I should give it one more shot…
    However, I am a HUGE fan of Miss Bella! She’s such a cutie- I never get tired of seeing her on the blog!

    • Fitnessista on September 15, 2011 at 11:02 pm

      she never gets tired of seeing herself on the blog, either. haha

    • EatYourVeggies on October 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm

      I do a mix of half quinoa, half couscous for my kids. Cook them separately, of course, because their cooking methods/times differ, then toss them together in a big bowl with a couple of spoons/forks, like you’re tossing a salad. If you put your other ingredients in there at this stage, it makes quick work of throwing a recipe together.

      I also agree that cooking quinoa in broth makes it far more palatable. I toss a bouillon cube into a huge pot of cooking quinoa, breaking it up to ensure that it distributes evenly, and poof… tasty quinoa.

  12. Kristin @ Iowa Girl Eats on September 15, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    I love quinoa mixed with salsa, corn, black beans, lime juice & Feta cheese, and also cooked then toasted –> CRAZY GOOD. Here’s a recipe I recently made with it!

  13. Dynamics on September 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    There is this amazing cookbook “365 Ways to Cook Quinoa” (ISBN: 1552859940) Every recipe I have tried has been delicious. I never thought to put Quinoa in my eggs to bump up the protein. A recipe with quinoa and hash browns I just tried on company. They said it was the best potatoes they had every eaten and had no clue I put quinoa in them.

  14. Anne on September 15, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    I like it as a vegetarian dinner, similar to what Iowa Girl Eats mentioned above – with corn, black beans, roasted tomatoes, sauteed red onions and a little S+P it’s really tasty and super filling! I’ve also seen it prepared with caramelized onions, dried cranberries and almond slivers as a side dish.

  15. Shaya (Eye Girl Eats) on September 15, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Haha Bella giving you ‘the eye’ while gnawing on her toy 😉 What a little sass.

    Also, I wonder if tumbleweeds are edible? if you could catch one rolling by to try it! (har har)

  16. Ashley H. on September 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Love love love quinoa!! Right now my favorite is quinoa with black beans, baby tomatoes, feta cheese with red wine vinaigrette.

  17. Alexa @ Simple Eats on September 15, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    I love quinoa, but definitely need to get outta the box with how I use it. I always forget to cook it like oats, sounds fantastic!

  18. Shayla @ The Good Life on September 15, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    I’ve never made quinoa so I love all these tips and ways to make it! Now I’m inspired to try it, thank you! 🙂

  19. Chelsa on September 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Bella is such a cute little diva.

  20. Laura on September 15, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    These are the BEST cookies ever and they are gluten free! They freeze really well. You kinda have to force the chips to stick to the batter while you roll them, but it is so worth it. (I use the same kind of quinoa flakes that you have in your picture….)

    • Fitnessista on September 15, 2011 at 11:01 pm

      awesome thank you!

  21. Ali @ urbanfruitbat on September 15, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I think it is so funny that people think that quinoa is high in protein. It isnt! It just has all the amino acids to make it complete! There is a difference. I love to cook my quinoa in soup stock with miso and soy sauce, then add chick peas, green peas and smoked tofu! I roast the smoked tofu in cubes until they are crunchy on the outside, and they are like little bits of bacon!

  22. Moni'sMeals on September 15, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    I like your quinoa recipes, I too have a gazillion! They sound amazing.

    I too go “cray-cray” on the chilies and peppers when I cook meals, “If you can’t handle the heat, get out the kitchen!!”

  23. Lisa on September 15, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    For any quinoa lover (like me!) then this book is a must:

  24. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on September 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Bella is such a cutey-patootey! If my puppy Andy ever saw her I know he’d fall in puppy love. ;p

    And perfect timing with your post! I was just thinking about making quinoa tonight! Thanks so much!

  25. Natalie @ Southern Fit Foodie on September 15, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Great post! I LOVE quinoa – we eat it quite often!

    I am SO SO SO looking forward to pumpkin oats (actually pumpkin everything!) as well!

  26. Magda on September 15, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Hi Gina 🙂 The sweet and savory quinoa sounds awesome 🙂 I wonder if you eat it as a side dish or on its own? Also, I have to thank you for “teaching” me to eat eggs with salsa 🙂 I always thought that eating eggs with any kind of condiment is disgusting 😉 I only used to eat my eggs scrambled with salt or hard-boiled. But after seeing it multiple times on your blog I found the courage to try an omelet with salsa and its just FANTASTIC 🙂

    • Fitnessista on September 15, 2011 at 11:00 pm

      so glad you’re a fan!!
      i’ll have quinoa as a meal or side dish- it’s up to you!

  27. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga on September 15, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    I’d like to get Bella’s gig…hanging out on the bed and watching the Kardashians all day 🙂

    Rice cooker for the quinoa…I’ve seen other people do that it what a great little trick. It DOES look so perfect and fluffy!

    Great quinoa recipe roundup, too!

  28. Alexis @ hummusapien on September 15, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    mmm quinoa is the best! I’ve been meaning to try those muffin tops. I love putting quinoa in soup for added volume!

  29. char @ char on a mission on September 15, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Annnnd, I think I need to make quinoa again! It’s been too long. I haven’t tried making it in broth ever, so I might try that and then get creative!!

  30. Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin on September 15, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Your sweet and savory quinoa sounds amazing. But pretty much any time you post a recipe with goat cheese, I always want to make it. 😀

    My favourite way to eat quinoa is in cold salads with some veggies, herbs, beans, lemon juice, and EVO.

  31. blossjoss on September 15, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    quinoa pitas????!!! life changed.


  32. jen fuller on September 15, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    I’ve never had it before so I better get to it and buy some to make a yummy greek salad with! since i’m a nursing mama, it seems even better because of all the health benefits!
    Smoking Crayolas Blogspot

  33. kaila @ healthy helper! on September 15, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    I am the same way when I’m cooking……no garlic equals not finished!

  34. Sable@SquatLikeALady on September 15, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    AHA. I never knew if you could use a rice cooker for quinoa. This is going to take a lotttt of the work out of quinoa prep! Wheee 😀

  35. Pam on September 15, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I love quinoa! I make quinoa tabouli, it’s so fresh tasting.
    I’ll be making your muffin tops soon, they look so good! I love that you use flax eggs in your baking :).

  36. Dana Marie on September 15, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    I really like the Red quinoa the best – but’s so gosh darn expensive

  37. Becky @ Fit Chick on the Fly on September 16, 2011 at 8:51 am

    perfect timing for this post! I’ve been wanting to experiment some new recipes with quinoa! Thanks 🙂

  38. Allison on September 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I love quinoa and have used it in may different recipes [savory and sweet] but I’ve never tried quinoa flakes… The muffin tops look great 🙂 I’d addicted to VitaTops which is a costly addiction so if I could make my own that would be awesome!

  39. Nicole on September 17, 2011 at 12:34 am

    Bella has the life!

    I have just recently started making quinoa andi love it! Luckily the family does too!

  40. Kate on September 17, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Love quinoa! Question: What type of rice cooker do you have? I see it’s a Roma?? Are they expensive and do they have an option to set a timer? I am in the market to find a decent rice cooker. Do you use yours a lot?? Thanks!

    • Fitnessista on September 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      it doesn’t have a timer option, but the rice and quinoa comes out perfectly every time. i got it from costco for around $40 and have already used it maybe 3 or 4 times. love it 🙂

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