Quinoa. It's no longer just for Incan warriors. This South American "grain" has infiltrated Mommy pantries everywhere where it's valued for its fiber content, nutrients, and protein. (Ok, maybe it's over-represented in suburban Mass, where we like to spend playgroups talking about omega-3s, flax-seeds, and why our toddlers will only eat raisins. Wait, that last one is just me. Nevermind.)
Quinoa is one of the few vegetarian options that's considered a complete protein, meaning it has all nine essential amino acids, something that's found in very few vegetable sources of protein. So if you're eating more meatless meals for environmental, health, or picky toddler reasons, quinoa is a great choice.
For all these reasons, I've been keeping quinoa in the pantry and using it in my own recipes. (Using other people's recipes or cookbooks might require "foresight" or "planning". Hah.) I've come up with some not so good ones (don't cook tons of dried fruit directly with the quinoa, it will be a sugary disgusting mess), but the other night Will and I had a one pot quinoa dish that was a winner for both of us.
Here's the recipe:
Fruit and Vegetable Quinoa
1/2 cup dried, pre-rinsed quinoa
3/4 cup water or low sodium chicken stock
2 T butter or olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into toddler safe bites
1 zucchini, chopped into toddler safe bites
1 granny smith apple, peeled and chopped into toddler safe bites
1/2 cup prunes, chopped into toddler safe bites
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrots and soften slightly, about five minutes. Add the chicken stock or water and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa, return to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Set a timer for fifteen minutes. When the timer reaches 8 minutes, add the chopped zucchini, stir, and recover. When it reaches five minutes, add the chopped apple, stir and recover. When the timer is done, check the quinoa for readiness, drain excess liquid if necessary, and add the prunes. Fluff and let sit while you get your favorite toddler set up in their high chair.
Makes enough for a hungry, pregnant mother and one toddler, or a good side dish for several adults.
The ratio of quinoa to fruits and vegetables is such that you'll have a dish that has lots of fruits and veggies slightly coated in quinoa. I let Will eat it as a finger food, and he got plenty of quinoa just by picking up bits of carrots, zucchini, etc. to eat. Add a glass of whole milk, and you've got enough fat, vitamins, and protein to make it a decent toddler dinner. And I only had to wash a vegetable peeler, knife, cutting board, and one pot. Nice.