Kitchen Wit and Wisdom: Cheat with quinoa

Apparently this is the week when most of our New Year’s resolutions fail. Some of us will miss our exercise routine, just this once we say, some will enjoy a little sweet treat, just this once.  Others will stop at a fast food place, just this once, because we’re in a hurry; and so it goes.

We fall back into the old routines just a mere 10 days before our new habit takes hold. When this happens the majority will make matters worse by beating themselves up for it, finding every excuse for failure, and eventually quitting altogether. Sounds familiar to me.

Maybe we need new rules, especially with dietary restrictions. Perhaps picking a day when there are no rules will work? Eat a dessert, a muffin, a couple of cookies, or a slice of bread.

Make your treats and choose recipes containing some good food value, like say, quinoa.

Quinoa is a complete source of protein and contains all eight essential amino acids, is a complex  ( also known as a good) carbohydrate, and is high in fibre. It also provides riboflavin, calcium, vitamin E, iron and potassium, and is abundant in linolenic acid, the essential fatty acid said to benefit immune response.

Gluten-free quinoa is technically not a grain, but tiny seeds harvested from the plant.  Today I’m offering two “treat” recipes that contain quinoa. The first is a chocolate cake that is rich and delicious but contains much more food value than a regular cake recipe or mix. The second is a muffin recipe, perfect for breakfast or coffee break. Try them as an encouragement to stay on the straight and narrow of that resolution.

Quinoa Chocolate Cake

2/3 cup uncooked quinoa

1-1/3 cups water

½ cup milk

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

¾ cup butter, melted and cooled

1-½ cups sugar

1-½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

Cook the quinoa in the water. To do this, add both ingredients to a pan, then bring the mixture to a boil. At this point, put the lid on, lower the heat and simmer for approx. 10 minutes. Shut off the heat and leave the pan on the burner to continue cooking slightly for an additional 10 minutes. Mix it somewhat with a fork and allow to cool completely. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an eight-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment.

Using a stand mixer put the eggs, vanilla and milk in a bowl. Add two cups of the cooked quinoa. Combine these ingredients, then add the butter. Blend until everything is smooth.  In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and mix.  Place the mixture into the cake pan. Cook for approximately 50 minutes. It is done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (I found the cake took longer to bake for me, as times vary with altitude.) Let the cake cool completely and once removed from the pan I covered the cake in a dark chocolate ganache (certainly not low cal or low fat, but company shouldn’t have to suffer, right?)  I’m sure we can find a suitable low-fat/low-cal substitute.


½ cup whipping cream

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Put the cream into a saucepan and heat until scalding hot. Put the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and pour the hot cream over. Whisk until smooth. Let cool for two minutes and then pour over the cake.


Blueberry Quinoa Muffins

½ cup whole wheat flour (or your flour of choice)

½ cup quinoa flour (or use another gluten-free flour)

1 cup cooked quinoa

½ cup lightly-packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg

⅔ cup milk (I used buttermilk)

¼ cup vegetable oil

One heaping cup frozen blueberries (you can use fresh)

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 12-muffin tin (or use cupcake liners) and set aside.

Whisk together the whole wheat flour, quinoa flour, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl then stir in the cooked quinoa. In a separate bowl combine the oil, milk and egg then stir into the dry ingredients. Fold in the blueberries and spoon the batter into the muffin tin. Bake for about 21 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

— Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star's cooking columnist. Her regular column, Kitchen Wit and Wisdom, appears every Wednesday in the Life section.

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