Quinoa might not immediately come to mind when you’re thinking of breakfast.
Known as the “mother of all grains,” the high-octane protein source – revered by the ancient Incas and a super food that’s been nourishing people in South America for hundreds of years – is most often served as an alternative grain source in salads, mixed into burgers or soups and chili, used as a substitute for pasta or added to cookies and muffins.
But yes, quinoa does make sense for breakfast, and not just because breakfast is the most important meal of the day but also since the seed – a tasty member of the goosefoot family that includes beets, spinach and chard – is so very nutritious.
Mixed with a little egg, cooked quinoa makes a terrific crust for quiches and tarts. Folded with an array of vegetables and crumbled cheese into beaten eggs, it bakes up into one heck of a savory, grab-and-go breakfast muffin. It’s also good on its own, perhaps topped with a fried egg and liberal dash of hot sauce.
Another plus is quinoa is gluten-free. So it’s a great choice for people with celiac disease or those who are sensitive to gluten, wheat and other grass-based food products. For the first time in a long time, my son was able to enjoy a piece of quiche without fretting about the possible side effects.
Quinoa also is rich in calcium, iron, fiber and potassium, and is an excellent source of folate, magnesium, vitamin B-6, thiamin, niacin, potassium and riboflavin. And all for around 200 calories a cup.
Quinoa comes in a variety of colors – choose from red, black or white – and ranges in price from sorta expensive to really expensive. (I got a 2-pound bag of organic quinoa for less than $9 at Sam’s Club.) You also can buy ready-to-eat toasted quinoa from Carrington Farms ($6.99 for a 10-ounce bag at Walmart) for sprinkling on top of dishes for a high-fiber crunch or for eating out of hand.
To cook the quinoa, add one part of the grain to two parts liquid in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until quinoa is tender; you’ll know it’s done when the grains are translucent. You also can prepare it in a rice cooker.
Don’t forget to drain it when it’s done (quinoa holds water) and be sure to rinse the seeds in a fine-mesh strainer before cooking, or it might end up tasting bitter.
Quinoa bowl with fried egg and avocado
This savory breakfast bowl is super simple and tastes so fresh. Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2014.
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Kosher salt, to taste, divided
Freshly ground pepper, to taste, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 large eggs
1 avocado, chopped
Hot sauce (for serving)
Mix scallions, quinoa and vinegar in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons oil and mix well to combine.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Crack eggs into skillet; season with salt and pepper and cook until whites are set around the edges, about 1 minute. Flip eggs and cook to desired doneness, about 30 seconds for a runny yolk.
Divide quinoa among 4 bowls; top each bowl with 1 fried egg, avocado and a dash of hot sauce.
Roasted asparagus quiche
I was skeptical that quinoa would bake into a crisp crust, but it did, quite prettily. My mother, who’s never even heard of the seed, gobbled it up lickety split before dinner, I might add! This recipe calls for roasted asparagus but I imagine any vegetable would work well in the eggy custard, which manages to be fluffy and creamy at the same time. Adapted from “New Prairie Kitchen” by Summer Miller (Agate Midway).
10 to 12 stalks asparagus
Olive oil for drizzling
Kosher salt, plus more for filling
Ground white pepper, plus more for filling
2 cups cooked quinoa, chilled
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten
2 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese or any Swiss cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Trim ends off asparagus stalks if they are woody. Place on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using your hands, gently toss them around a bit to make sure the stalks are evenly coated, then spread into a single layer on baking sheet. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool, then chop into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.
Make crust: Combine quinoa, pepper and egg in a bowl, stirring well. Press mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes; cool.
While crust is baking, prepare filling: In medium bowl, whisk together eggs and yolks. Gradually add heavy cream and milk, and whisk to incorporate. Whisk in salt, pepper and nutmeg. Once crust has finished baking, remove from oven. Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Sprinkle cheese in the bottom of baked crust. Top with asparagus and fill crust with egg mixture. Bake for 40 minutes. Let cool at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.
Mediterranean feta and quinoa egg muffins
Sun-dried tomatoes and tangy feta give these breakfast muffins a punch of flavor. Don’t make my lazy, rookie mistake of using paper liners in the muffin pan – they stick, and you’ll lose some (and maybe even a lot) of your breakfast when you peel the paper away. Adapted from eastewart.com.
2 teaspoons vegetable oil, plus optional extra for greasing muffin tins
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil
2 cups baby spinach, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and prepare 12 silicone muffin holders on a baking sheet, or grease a 12-cup muffin tin with oil and set aside.
Heat a skillet to medium. Add vegetable oil and onions, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and sauté for another minute. Then add spinach and sauté until wilted, about 1 minute. Turn off heat and stir in olives and oregano, and set aside.
Place eggs in a blender or mixing bowl and blend/mix until well combined. Pour eggs into a mixing bowl (if using a blender), then add quinoa, feta cheese, veggie mixture and salt. Stir until well combined.
Pour mixture into silicone cups or greased muffin tins, dividing equally, and bake in oven for 30 minutes, or until eggs have set and muffins are a light golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. Muffins also may be chilled and eaten cold, or re-heated in a microwave the next day.
Makes 12 muffins