Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Return of Quinoa with a Twist- It's for Breakfast!

Since I started on my weight loss/healthy eating journey almost ten years ago, I've relied on mostly one ingredient for breakfast: the incredible, edible egg. Previously given a bad rap for its cholesterol content, it is now known that eggs actually contain the good cholesterol that our bodies need. The advantage to having an all or mostly protein breakfast is that it keeps your blood sugar steady so that you are less hungry during the day. Although there are many ways to vary the egg breakfast (omelets with different veggies, meats and cheeses, open faced egg sandwiches on whole grain, etc.), sometimes I just want something else.

Cereals are tough for me because it has been difficult to find one that is low enough in sugar without tasting like cardboard. I do enjoy the weight control oatmeal occasionally, loaded with berries, but recently I've been wanting to try making my own oatmeal to have something that is more natural. So I started digging through recipes online, in recipe books and magazines and after perusing several oatmeal recipes, I came across a breakfast quinoa that looked very interesting. It called for red quinoa, almonds, apricots, orange and cinnamon and was topped with fresh ricotta cheese. YUM!

If you read my previous post about quinoa, you know that it is a protein powerhouse. So now I can eat some fruit and grain for breakfast but still get that boost of protein that I need first thing in the morning! The original recipe can be found in the February issue of Food and Wine magazine. I'm sure you are already guessing that I made substitutions! First, it called for pure maple syrup but I used agave nectar instead because I prefer the flavor and it has a lower glycemic index and will keep blood sugar levels down. I also substituted fresh dates for the apricots because I am not a huge fan of apricots. If you are going to do this, don't buy the sugared dates in the baking aisle that look like rabbit pellets! Buy the organic dates. They are delicious, all natural, and the pits are easy to remove. There is just no comparison! Well, after that substitution (which was a delicious one), I realized that apricots were probably chosen in the original recipe for color. As you can imagine, the dates blended right in with the red quinoa and aside from the almonds, the dish was rather monochromatic. So I threw in some golden raisins and that helped a bit!

The great thing about recipes like this is that you can substitute for the sweetener (either agave like I did or honey), the nuts, and the dried fruit to make it YOUR quinoa breakfast. And by the way, it was absolutely delicious. The recipe can be made up to five days ahead and reheated. It also can be served cold which we will definitely try with the leftovers tomorrow.

So now I have another option for breakfast other than eggs. I'm still going to go back to some oatmeal recipes and if I try anything fabulous, I will be sure to post it here!

Sweet Breakfast Quinoa (from Food and Wine)
1 cup red quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used dates and added golden raisins)
2 T pure maple syrup (or agave nectar or honey)1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup fresh ricotta

In a small saucepan, cover the quinoa with the water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15 min. Lightly fluff with a fork and cover again.
In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until golden brown, about 2 min. Add the apricots, maple syrup, orange zest and cinnamon and stir well until heated through.
Add the quinoa to the skillet and stir gently to incorporate the almonds and apricots. Top each portion with a tablespoon of ricotta (I also added more orange zest) and serve.


  1. Dang, I'm actually eating breakfast and you are making me hungry.
    Can make a big batch of this and put it away for the next morn, cuz?

  2. Yummy, Maria. I love the idea that you put ricotta in this mixture, as well as the pure maple syrup. I've been adding greek yogurt to my steel-cut oatmeal in the morning, and I'm loving the dairy/grain combination. This is somewhat similar. I bet the toasty taste of the quinoa is delicious!

  3. Yes, Jeff you can absolutely make it ahead and reheat it or eat it cold. The recipe says you can do this up to five days in advance.
    Yes, Sylvia- I really liked the ricotta in this. I used agave nectar instead of maple syrup, but if you try it with the maple, let me know how it turns out! I really should try the oatmeal with Greek yogurt. I'm sure I would love that!