Natural Foods Guides

How to Cook Quinoa Just Right

White quinoa seeds on a wooden background

Wondering how to cook quinoa to perfection? Quinoa is a delightfully versatile addition to a vegan diet. Quinoa is high in protein and fiber, and you can add it to salads, chilis or you can make a basic, easy side dish with quinoa. Or you can eat it for any meal as a healthy quinoa bowl. The best part is that quinoa is easy to cook, even easier than rice. Below are several methods on how to cook quinoa just right.

Basic quinoa

If you want to know how to cook quinoa as a basic side dish, it’s as easy as boiling pasta. You get a pot of water or veggie broth boiling, and then stir in your quinoa. You want one part of uncooked quinoa to two parts liquid. Then you simply simmer the quinoa on low heat until it’s done. This usually takes roughly fifteen minutes, but check the consistency of the quinoa. Just don’t open the pot too much as that can affect cooking times.

You’ll know it’s done when all the water is absorbed or it’s the level of softness you like. You can play with the texture by adding some water to make a more porridge consistency or you can use a little less water for a drier grain that separates. When you’re finished, you can also fluff and separate the grains a bit for some added presentation.

Toasting quinoa

A cool little trick to get a more rich, toasted flavor is to brown your raw quinoa in a pan before you boil it. It gives quinoa even more of a nutty flavor. You’ll simply add oil to a pan over medium-low heat and then add your quinoa. Make sure there’s enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and enough quinoa to evenly toast it in one layer. Toss it until it’s evenly browned.

Cooking quinoa in a rice cooker

Because quinoa is a grain that’s similar in texture to rice, you can also use a basic rice cooker to cook your quinoa. This is also easy, as it requires one part raw quinoa to two parts liquid (water or broth). Add both the liquid and the quinoa to the cooker. Then you simply turn on your rice cooker and let it cook. Usually it takes about thirty minutes with this method. Fluff it with your fork at the end.

The soaking method

There’s considerable debate out there as to whether you should soak your quinoa before using it. The theory, outlined at thenourishinggormet.com, states that soaking the quinoa before cooking is supposed to make it more easily digestible and get rid of anti-nutrients.

What the heck are anti-nutrients? These are synthetic or natural compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients from food. An example is phytic acid, which is common in grains and can bond with vital nutrients, making them harder for the body to absorb.

Soaking quinoa also makes the grains lighter in texture and easier on the stomach.

You do this by soaking quinoa in warm water in a warm place with an acid enzyme like raw apple cider vinegar. You use one part warm water to one part quinoa for soaking, and add a couple splashes of your raw apple cider vinegar. Let soak for 12-24 hours. Then strain and rinse the quinoa well before cooking.

How to Eat Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit

Dragon fruit is probably one of the weirdest fruits you’ll come across at the store. From the outside it looks bright pink and green and irregular. When you cut into it, it looks like peppered ice cream. You may even be wondering how to eat dragon fruit.

But dragon fruit is a delicious addition to any vegan diet, as it’s high in vitamin C, good fatty acids, B vitamins, carotene and even packs in some protein. Meet your new favorite superfood. Here’s some background on the fruit and, of course, how to eat dragon fruit.

Some background

Dragon fruit comes from Central America and is also called the pitya. It’s also grown in Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam. It grows off a cactus-like plant. It’s crunchy and has a mild sweet taste like a more muted kiwi. The little black seeds in the fruit are totally edible, again, like the kiwi.

For the basics of how to eat dragon fruit, you just cut into it, right down the middle. Then you scoop out the white fruit, which comes out very easily. It’s commonly served up in its own skin as a bowl, since the bright pink makes a great presentation. You can also quarter it and peel off the pink skin, since the skin will taste bitter. From there you can cube it, slice it or ball it. Then add it to your favorite fruit salads or just eat it by itself plain. Many people eat dragon fruit chilled, as that’s said to bring out the flavor better.

If you’re in the store looking for a dragon fruit, the fruit should feel slightly soft as you press your fingers into it. (Like a mango.) Just make sure it doesn’t feel mushy. The fruit itself should look bright pink, and make sure there are no dark spots or bruises.

Creative ways to eat dragon fruit

Once you’re familiar with the basic fruit itself, you may be wondering what else you can do with it. There are several great uses for dragon fruit. For instance, a popular use for dragon fruit is to add it to a tropical fruit salad. You merely cube the dragon fruit, along with pineapple, mango and banana.

A neat idea for parties is to make a tropical fruit kabob with cubed dragon fruit and kiwi on a skewer. Then you simply stick the skewers on the grill until there is a nice little browning of the fruit where the grill grates were. You can end by sprinkling them with sugar.

It also makes a sweet addition to any fruit smoothie or smoothie bowl. You can blend it up with soy or almond milk. You can also optionally add anything else you’d like, such as berries, sugar, juice or even nut butters. Melon-balled bits of dragon fruit make a wonderful garnish on top, too.

Dragon fruit even makes a wonderful frozen treat. You can juice or blend the fruit alone or with other fruits, and then add it to a popsicle mold. A neat idea is also serving a basic vegan sorbet scooped into a halved, frozen dragon fruit that has a little bit a dip cut into the middle. Than you can eat the sorbet with the frozen fruit for a refreshing treat.

Kañiwa: A “New” Ancient Superfood

Cooked kañiiwa

Contributed by Aimable Johnson. Quinoa is a food that has been embraced by the health food crowd. A ‘superfood’ grain from South America, it has become extremely popular due to its numerous uses. With quinoa established, now it’s time to meet its cousin, kañiwa. more→

Sesame Seeds: Health Benefits and Uses

Sesame seeds are worth more than their weight in gold! Sesame seeds’ health benefits and uses in the kitchen are plentiful. Their flavor is mild and nutty, though it greatly intensifies when expressed into oil or are ground into a paste (known as tahini) or into a butter.

When buying sesame seeds, look for the whole, unhulled variety, which have not been stripped of their nutritious, deep-tan hulls. If they look shiny and white, this tips you off that they’ve ben refined. Look for black sesame seeds as well. They add visual interest to simple dishes. Whole sesame seeds will keep well for many months in a tightly lidded jar in a cool, dry place. Refrigerate them during the summer.  more→

Chile Peppers 101— a Beginner’s Guide

Red chili peppers

Excerpted from Hot Vegan: 200 sultry & full-flavored recipes from around the world by Robin Robertson/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC © 2014. Reprinted by permission. To put the “hot” in “hot and spicy,” we generally look to chiles as the world’s most universally popular heat source. Erroneously called chile “peppers,” attributed to an error by Christopher Columbus, chiles are not peppers at all, but actually fruits. They are used in a wide variety of cuisines throughout the world in a variety of forms. You can buy them whole, fresh, dried, canned, and jarred in the form of chili oil, paste, and powder, as well as hot red pepper flakes and ground red pepper, or cayenne. Many hot condiments are made with chiles, and these include chili sauce, hot bean sauce, salsas, and various chutneys. Tabasco, a particularly popular brand of hot chili sauce, is in such wide use that it goes by its brand name. more→

8 Amazing Vegan Cheese Recipes

Smoky vegan cheddar cheez recipe

There’s no dairy in these vegan cheese recipes, but even your dairy-eating friends will be amazed by them! A good vegan cheese seems impossible, but certain ingredients lend a cheesy flavor. One of my favorites is nutritional yeast. It tastes good, and it’s good for you. Cashews, which are delicious just plain by the handful, create a magical texture that is reminiscent of goat cheese. Make sure to scroll to the end to see each one of these 8 vegan cheeses, all of which will knock your socks off!

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Pumpkin Seeds: Health Benefits and Tips on Using Them

Sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are high in protein and have a unique flavor that makes them especially enticing to eat as a snack, unadorned. When buying pumpkin seeds, you can choose between raw or roasted, shelled or unshelled, salted or unsalted. Roasting brings out their flavor and crunch, and you can easily roast them at home. Roasted pumpkin seeds are often marketed as pepitas. more→

Millet — How to Cook it and Use it

Millet uncooked

Bland in flavor and rather mushy in texture, is no cause for culinary excitement, but it is nonetheless versatile and nourishing. It is available in natural-food stores as well as Indian food shops.  more→

Wild Rice — How to Cook and Use it

wild rice in a spoon

Wild rice is actually the seed of a tall aquatic grass that is not a form of rice, nor even a grain at all. Native to North America, most of our domestic crop is harvested by Native Americans in and around Minnesota and other Great Lakes states, where it thrives in freshwater lakes or rivers. The fact that wild rice is literally a wild grass has made attempts at large-scale commercial cultivation difficult. Its relative scarcity makes it very expensive. Because its flavor is quite pronounced, however, it can be successfully mixed with regular rice. Even in small quantities it lends elegance to any meal. The most economical way to buy wild rice is in bulk.  more→

Brown Rice Recipes: Vegan, Healthy, & Easy

cauliflower rice pilaf with cashews

If you’re looking for healthy brown rice recipes (that happen to be vegan and most are also gluten-free), here are lots of easy, tasty choices. For information on brown rice nutrition and how to cook brown rice, visit our Brown Rice: Cooking Tips and Varieties page; and for even more on the nutritional benefits of brown rice, see Top 10 Health Benefits of Brown Rice. And if we have to choose our favorites, they’d be  6 Filling and Flavorful Brown Rice Recipes.

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Barley: A Nourishing Grain for Everyone

Pearl barley

Two kinds of barley are available in natural food stores: pearl barley  and pot barley, sometimes called Scotch barley. Unhulled barley is occasionally available, but it is not recommended except for the purposes of sprouting , since it takes a very long time to cook–and to chew. The most familiar form of barley is the pearled variety. Pearling is accomplished by grinding off the tenacious hulls of the grain with the use of abrasive disks called carborundum wheels. Pearl barley goes through five or six pearlings, removing all of the hull, plus most of the bran and germ. To make pot or Scotch barley, the grain goes through three pearlings to remove the most of the hull and some of the bran. It is therefore more nutritious than pearl barley. more→

How to Cook Quinoa, and Tasty Recipes

Quinoa varieties - red, tan, and black

Here’s a basic guide on how to cook quinoa, along with an array of easy recipes for this tasty, quick-cooking grain. Nutritious and versatile, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa) is an ancient food indigenous to the South American Andes. Considered a “superfood” for its superior nutritional profile, it was revived for the American natural foods market in the 1980s. Your basic quinoa grain is a kind of yellowish-tan, but red and black varieties are now available as well. They cook up the same way and taste pretty much the same as well; their appeal is mainly visual.

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