Featured Ingredient: Quinoa
Several years ago, I spent the summer bicycling across western Canada and down the coast of Washington, Oregon and California. A truly marvelous pedal indeed. For a couple weeks in Washington and Oregon, I rode with a free spirited guy whose name has now escaped me. Anyhow, two things that really standout about him was that he cycled with a didgeridoo – a long drone pipe instrument developed by Indigenous Australians – strapped over his panniers (drivers weren’t impressed!) and every night for dinner he would eat a mysterious beige grain that he lauded as being a nutritional marvel. He called it quinoa. At the time, like almost every other North American, I had never heard of quinoa let alone could remember how to pronounce it. How times have changed.
The ancient Inca grain quinoa is smokin’ hot these days, as there is even an entire cookbook devoted to this gluten-free wonder. Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood is apparently selling very well for the Canadian authors as a testament to good timing as quinoa is becoming the go-to grain for more households. My public library has an unusually long waiting list for the book. I’ve had a chance to look through the recipes, and so many of them look really great. If, like Tabi and I, you’re into quinoa, it’s a worthy addition to a cookbook library.
One recipe that immediately stood out was the gluten-free chocolate quinoa cake. Cooked quinoa replaces the flour. I decided to give the recipe a whirl using muffin cups and must say that these are ridiculously good. Very moist and desirably chocolaty. If the other recipes are half as good as this one, the book is a real winner! For my version, I cut back on the sugar by 1/2 cup as we don’t normally like baked goods to be too sweet and I added some coffee extract, but that is certainly optional as few people have it around. Although, I am in the process of making my own.
As a quinoa freak, I’d be interested in hearing about other unique ways to use this superfood grain.
Gluten-free Chocolate Quinoa Cakes
Adapted from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood
2/3 cup beige quinoa (It also comes in red and black hues)
1/3 cup low-fat milk
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coffee extract
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted and cooled
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup palm or other raw style sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and 1 1/3 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 12 minutes, or until water has absorbed. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine milk, eggs, vanilla and coffee extract in a blender and process until mixed. Add cooked quinoa, oil and butter and blend until smooth.
Whisk together sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients to bowl and mix until everything is moist. Divide batter among 12 prepared muffin cups and bake for 22 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool before unmolding.