Looking for Alternatives: Quinoa

Day 87

During my 120 Day Challenge to improve my diet and health, I've been integrating all sorts of new foods. Most of these foods aren't foreign to me. I've eaten them at restaurants and dinner parties, but they are what I'd call my second string. Those foods that I'm almost ready to grab from the shelf, and then I look longingly at my favs and fall back into predictability. Ahhhhhhh snuggling up with my favorite foods...yum...like coming home :)

Creating a new diet has literally forced me to step out of my comfort zone and examine the foods that I have been favoring over others, so as to plan some strategic breakups. If I've always reached for pasta and potatoes in the past, now I'm looking for alternatives to my star players.

quinoa, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, red onion

Enter my long awaited friendship with quinoa. Oh I'm not picky. I'll spend some time with ivory, red, or black quinoa. They're all delicious, packed with protein, and deliver essential amino acids.

My first real taste of this grain-like seed came from our local Peruvian restaurant, where I learned that quinoa was sacred to the Incas. No wonder, because it is an excellent source of fiber, minerals, and the big bonus -- gluten free!! Apparently, it's so amazing that NASA considers it the perfect food for those pie-in-the-sky space stations we can't wait to have as our next vacation destination.

If you love rice or couscous, then you'll be an instant fan of quinoa. It whips up in 15 to 20 minutes and can be paired with lots of different veggies. My latest quinoa bowl includes the following:

Grated zucchini (browns better just like hash browns)
Cherry tomatoes halved
Red onion diced

Add vegetable broth to the sauteed mixture for a flavor boost and then stir in the quinoa. Consume with pleasure!

This experience of giving up my hold on certain foods in order to discover something new and potentially healthier is a gigantic theme skipping its way through my whole life right now. It's hard to describe, but by being able to identify what I "think" has been giving me comfort and choosing to move in a different direction has opened me up to an alternative vision of myself.

If you always shop at the same grocery store, travel the same path to work, rely on the same people to get the job done, cook the same dinners every week, put your yoga mat in the same spot every class, and expect the same results every day, consider changing one of these things and see what happens :)

And be sure to hug yourself for taking a risk and trying something new!


  1. This sounds to quick and easy! I have been a vegetarian for many years now and have yet to cook with quinoa so this is inspiring!

  2. I love quinoa! It is a perfect protein also. Try throwing 8 or so dried cranberries into it and see what a great flavor it gives. That's one of the wonderful things about it - you can put anything into it.

  3. Oooh! I LOVE quinoa! Esp. the red. Easy to prepare, nice texture, inoffensive flavor but not bland. Lovely mixed with vegetables and feta cheese. I much prefer it to rice, even brown rice, as that tends to cause me digestive problems, esp. heartburn. I prefer less starch in my diet and quinoa is a great solution.

  4. I've never tried quinoa, though I've been tempted a time or two. I love the look of it--like little pearls. I doubt our little corner grocery has it.

    I'm a creature of habit. I park in the same spots while shopping so I don't forget where my car is. I take the same route to work. I pretty much have the same routine each day. And I fall back on several quick recipes regularly.

    You're right. We do need to try new things. Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. Maybe just the nudge I've needed, Beth; quinoa? got some in the cupboard, better drag it out :-)

  6. I LOVE quinoa - it's so dang easy to prepare and I always amazed at how much nutrition is packed in those little beads. Your dish looks so refreshing.
    Have you ever tried Kashi's pilaf mix? - yummy. Cooking preparation and time is like rice. Whole Foods carries it and it's not expensive. Like quinoa there's so many possibilities in using it.

    Beautiful necklace!

  7. Quinoa is awesome as a whole, complete and very healthy food. I think it makes the perfect breakfast food, and is excellent fuel for a hard workout. Try this (a bit related to quiltingjewel39's idea): Take your cooked quinoa and add a bit of flax seed oil (for healthy Omega 3's), some gently steamed dried cranberries (adding them separately rather than cooking with the quinoa preserves the nutrients), and top with chopped walnuts and a bit of real maple syrup or honey. Accompany with some sliced apple on the side. A fantastic way to start the day, or fuel for a workout.
    - Steve


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