Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Quinoa: Budget-Friendly and Versatile

Quinoa is a wonderful grain.  It's unusual in that it is a complete protein (contains all essential amino acids), and it technically is not a grain. Quinoa can also be quite budget friendly.  I'd encourage you to look for a source other than the regular grocery store aisle.  Oh golly, I see it there for $6, $7 even $8 a pound!  If your natural foods store has quinoa in the bulk aisle, it's likely to be a good price.  Co-ops and warehouse stores (like Sams or CostCo) also often sell quinoa in bulk for a reasonable price. 

I buy organic quinoa for $4.39/lb through my co-op, (and if you're not searching for organic, you should be able to find it even cheaper).  Though that sounds a bit pricey, consider that one pound is about 3 cups worth.  Three dry cups of quinoa yield about 9 cups of cooked quinoa.  Considering I only need 1 cup of dry quinoa for my Autumn Quinoa, or 1.5 cups for my Sweet Quinoa Salad (both of which serve 6), that's pretty cheap! 

Quinoa is also versatile.  Use it as the main ingredient and add veggies, or mix it with nuts and fruit similar to a wild rice salad.  Quinoa also pairs nicely with both squash and ground beef.  Since quinoa cooks up so quickly, it's great to keep around for when you need a last minute meal fast. 

For a quick meal, I like to cook up quinoa, add vegetables and a light dressing and top with cheese.  I often use up the odds and ends in the fridge and freezer when I do this.  The other day, while the quinoa cooked, I lightly sauteed the last three tomatoes from our garden, which I had chopped into bite-sized pieces.  I then added the last of a bag of frozen peas, some basil from the garden, and a sprinkle of pine nuts.  When the quinoa was done, I tossed it all together, along with some olive oil, garlic powder and salt and served each bowl warm, topped with parmesan shavings.  A delicious, quick, inexpensive meal!

Organic Quinoa: $1.46
Organic Peas: $.60
Organic tomatoes: free from the garden ($3.00)
Organic basil: free from the garden ($.50)
Pine nuts: $.50
Organic Olive Oil: $.28
Salt: $.02
Garlic powder: $.02
Hormone-free parmesan: $1.00

Total: $3.88 (or if you had to purchase the tomatoes and basil, $7.38)
Yield: 4 adult main course servings at $.97 (or $1.85) per serving.

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