I'm excited...

...because this came in the mail today.

Do you have any idea how exciting this is? Quinoa is now mainstream. I can actually get a cookbook, a modern cookbook with pretty pictures in it, that's all about quinoa. I love it.

I first heard of quinoa about 6 years ago from Chef Brad. I went to a couple of his classes and was blown away. I came away so full of information that it took years to really start applying it.

Back then I had to special order my quinoa in the mail. Then I found it at some healthfood stores. Now...NOW they have it at Costco in bulk. They have red quinoa at Trader Joes. Unbelievable. I can talk about it openly. In front of people besides my own family, without sounding like too much of a tree-hugging, Oregonion.

So back to quinoa. Quinoa rocks. It's a perfect protein. All on it's tiny little self. It's full of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. It's gluten-free. And tastes good too. I really can't describe how incredibly healthy it is in this one post, so you might just have to believe me that it rocks. Did I say that already?

Here's how we use it around these parts.

Quinoa with Berries, Maple Syrup and Cream

red quinoa
fresh berries or mangos (any fruit will work, but those are our favorites)
pure maple syrup or brown sugar
cream (or half-and-half or none at all)

Cook quinoa according to instructions on package (pretty much cooks up like white rice). Put some in a bowl, top with lots of fruit, sweetener and cream.

Here's the deal. The first time I made it for Shad, I loaded his quinoa with brown sugar and cream. He LOVED it. Gradually I weaned him down to where he eats it with a little pure maple syrup and some cream. I don't eat it with cream and we both still love it. I would say it's one of his favorite breakfasts.

I have fed white quinoa to Elle. Plain. As is. She gobbled it up. (Elle is 7 months)

Kate loves quinoa. She got used to eating it out of my salads at a local Health food cafe. She would beg for "those little tiny things". Now she'll have me make plain quinoa, put a slice of cheese on top and melt it.

This week I added it to my BBQ Pork Enchiladas. It calls for white rice, but I switched it out, and it tasted great.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I added it to my taco meat (for a salad or tacos). Here's exactly what I did:

Bought red quinoa at Trader Joes (because the red can be disguised better with ground beef). Cooked it according to the box instructions, but added taco seasoning to it. I cooked the ground beef with taco seasoning and then I combined them 1:1 ratio. If your family is suspicious of stuff like this, just add a little bit at a time. Next time you make tacos or taco salad, add a bit more.

And then I've made this a few times, which I posted a couple of months back, and we LOVE it.

* 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
* 1 onion, chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
* 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
* 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* salt and pepper to taste
* 1 cup frozen corn kernels
* 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.

2. Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes,

3. Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro.

**I added chopped cherry tomatoes and avocado.

Some more ideas... add cooked quinoa baked items like muffins, pancakes, waffles and cookies. Replace your brown or white rice with 1/2 rice and 1/2 quinoa. Add it to your homemade soups instead of pasta or rice.

You'll feel kind of funny using it at first. You'll buy it, and it will sit in your pantry a while, and you'll think to yourself, "what am I supposed to do with it?" Just USE it. Try it out. Experiment. Then it will feel more natural.

Just do it already.