Dolce Diet tips & tricks, Part I: (Not so) Mysterious Quinoa

I sometimes jump right into talking points without knowing if my readers actually have any idea what I’m talking about.  So before I go on, my disclaimer:  To my MMA & sports-fitness-dieting gurus, I know you’re familiar with Mike Dolce, you can skip southward to the recipe.  To the rest of you, whom I am THRILLED to tell this to: please check out my buddy Mike’s fantabulous Living Lean book here, so that you may have a better idea of where I’m coming from.  You’ll thank me,  after you buy the book (online w/ shipping OR ON iTunes).

Anyway.. Now that we’re on the same page (heh), we’re going to talk grain.  Wonderful, healthy, filling, nutty, flavorful, EASY, quinoa.  Say it!  SAY IT!  YES, YOU CAN!  Okay, fine, I’ll help you.  It IS a funny looking word.  Try this:  “keen-wah”.  It’s sincerely is that easy.  Really.  But what the hell is it, exactly?  I suppose if we’re being technical, it isn’t a grain – it’s a seed, and it comes from a leafy, spinach-like planet.  The great news:  Quinoa has an extremely high protein content for plant matter, is wheat-/gluten-free, can be prepared and served hot or cold/savory or sweet, is loaded with vitamins/minerals and amino acids, and is actually super easy to prepare.  The bad news: People, by and large, aren’t familiar with this wonderful food – which inevitably leads to omitting it from the proverbial menu.  DON’T DO THAT!  In my travels thus far, one of the most-asked “Dolce Diet” questions I’ve personally witnessed has been “Quinoa??  What is that?  Where do I find it?  How do I cook it??”…

SIMPLE SOLUTION!!  Here I am, to share my easiest (tastiest, too) quinoa recipe.

First thing’s first, this is what you will be looking for at your local supermarket: 

I never have trouble finding it in organic or “green” sections, nor at “health food” stores.  Just ask where it is, most employees will direct you right to the grains.

Once you get it home, figure out how much you’ll need for whatever recipe you’re preparing, and RINSE IT OFF! This sounds strange, yes, but you’ll be more than glad you didn’t miss this simple step.  Quinoa has a naturally occurring outer covering of bitterness, thought to deter birds and insects from eating the seed in it’s natural setting.  Straight out of the package, it will look like this: 

Even if the package says it’s been pre-rinsed, do it again.  Use a fine mesh strainer, run clean water over it until it no longer bubbles or looks sudsy and water runs clear, and then leave to dry out a little.  After you’ve done this, you’re ready for the tastiest and easiest quinoa side dish EVAH!

RECIPE:  Easy Garlic Quinoa and Pine Nuts

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup raw pine nuts (I love pine nuts, so I use 1/3 c.)
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil (YES, I know Mr. Dolce doesn’t approve of cooking with olive oil.  We differ here.  While “evoo” isn’t suitable for HIGH heat cooking, it can be safely and tastily used in lower-heat cooking)
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, thinly sliced (I use 4 – sometimes more, if they’re small – garlic is so good and good for you!)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • juice of one small lemon (fresh)
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon (use the same one you’re going to juice!)
  • sea salt & fresh ground pepper
  • optional: 1/4 cup raisins

Place an empty, dry, medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.  Once heated, add previously rinsed quinoa (damp or fully dried back out).  Stir continuously for two minutes, to toast.  Add 1 3/4 cups of water, stir to make sure nothing is stuck to the pan, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, let simmer for 14 minutes – set your timer, don’t open it back up until it’s finished!!!  After 14 minutes, remove the quinoa from the heat, leave covered, and let stand for 2 minutes.

While the quinoa is simmering, place a small (preferably non-stick) skillet over medium heat.  Add dry, raw pine nuts to dry skillet and toast until golden (about 3 minutes),  mixing/moving nuts constantly.  Transfer pine nuts to a separate container.  Again, over medium heat, add olive oil to the skillet.  After giving the oil a few minutes to come up to heat, add your thinly sliced garlic.  If your garlic is sliced SUPER thin, it will probably look as if the oil is bubbling in an almost soapy-looking way.  NO WORRIES, just keep the garlic moving so it doesn’t burn – no matter the thickness.  Cook the garlic until it is golden, 2-3 minutes.  Remove garlic AND oil from heat, together, as you’ll be adding them both to the finished dish later.

Fluff the quinoa with a fork, transfer it to a bowl.  Add the pine nuts, oil, garlic, fresh parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.  At this point, if you’d like optional raisins, stir them in as well.  Your concoction, before tossing, will look a little like this: 

VIOLA!  You’ve done it!! You’re done!  Mix it up!  That’s. It.  Couldn’t be easier.  Yes, there are a few steps – but they’re all simple, and once you prepare this once or twice, you’ll do it all from memory!  Your finished product, boys and nutty girls: 

This is just one of many, MANY quinoa options.  Make it, tweak it, play with it, get comfortable with it, try new ingredients – it really is one of those foods that you can completely tailor to your taste.  And NOW, when you see “1/2 c. quinoa” as part of your Living Lean menu, you have an easy option!  Last positive for now, since I know you’re dying to take your butts to the store and try this immediately:  cooked quinoa keeps well in the refrigerator, up to a week – make it Sunday, divide up your portions, and 1/3 of your lunches/dinners for the week are taken care of!  While you’re at it, go shoot Mike a hello and a follow on twitter at @TheDolceDiet and @LivingLeanBook – tell him his favorite Kickass Wonderchick sent you! 😉

2 Responses to “Dolce Diet tips & tricks, Part I: (Not so) Mysterious Quinoa”
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  2. Vinny Grette says:

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