Ricki at Diet, Dessert and Dogs has got me thinking about quinoa. She is serving us with a session of quinoa posts to encourage us to share her love. I feel a bit like Dorothea McKellar in My Country: ‘I know but cannot share it, my love is otherwise.’
Quinoa is not my country. Mine is full of everyday grains like rice, barley, couscous and polenta. They offer me comfort, warmth and – dare I say – stodge. I’ve been trying to get out and visit more grains but quinoa is not one I fancy. I am happy to see other people’s holiday snaps but I am not sure I even care to learn to pronounce it (keen-wa). I know it is very good for me and full of proteins but it seems a little bit like the health resort everyone is raving about and I would just rather go to London or Paris. Then I was finally tempted by Ricki’s lovely description:
‘I love its distinctly mild, slightly nutty flavor; its chewy, almost crunchy texture; its visual impudence–that color-contrasted spiral tail slowly unfurling as the grain cooks, like a loose stitch on your favorite sweater.’
I can live without the nutrients, flavour and the texture but I had to see the loose stitches. I went out and found a red quinoa that excited me. I have cooked with quinoa before years ago and it was a forgettable experience. So forgettable that I couldn’t tell you anything about it. But red quinoa is a different matter (despite Lisa’s warning that it might take longer to cook than the white grain). So, feeling on uncertain ground, I took on the challenge of Ricki’s Almond Quinoa Muffins, adapted from Veganomicon.
As I wrote about in my previous post, I baked these during earth hour. I placed them in the oven at 8pm when we switched from electric light to candlelight. By the time they came out of the oven the kitchen was lit with a couple of small candles. Appropriate really as I feel I am still feeling my way in the dark with quinoa. In a practical sense it meant that I couldn’t check if they were golden brown. No matter, they were delicious. But barely sweet. E and I liked that but it is not for everyone. The main sweetness came from the fruit. This might be a result of me using plain milk rather than the vanilla milk which Ricki used.
And the quinoa? It was good. It had a nubbly chewy texture that pleased me in the way of oats in choc chip cookies. If you are tempted by these muffins, I would recommend you try them with red quinoa if you can as I loved the look of the wee reddish-brown polka dots. The muffins were moist and a little on the crumbly side. They make the sort of snacks that stick to your insides. One of these will keep you satisfied for a long time! Ricki called hers Almond-Quinoa Muffins but I found the almond taste was so subtle that I have renamed mine Fruity Quinoa Muffins.
I can’t say the stitches were visible in the muffins but they were certainly hanging loose in the mound of cooked quinoa. I am not sure I want to rush into the street and tell strangers they must eat quinoa. But it finally has me intrigued with these loose stitches and I will explore a little more. Who knows, I might be visiting its shores a little more in the future!
(adapted from Diet, Dessert and Dogs)
makes 12 muffins
1 cup cow or soy milk (Ricki used vanilla soy milk)
1 tbsp. ground flaxseeds
¼ cup canola or other light-tasting oil
¼ cup agave nectar or pure maple syrup (I used agave)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
⅓ cup oats
¼ cup almond meal
½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom
1¼ cups cooked quinoa*
¾ cup dried fruit, chopped (I used apricots, blueberries and cranberries)
* Note: To cook the quinoa, I followed Ricki’s instructions and placed 1 cup of dry quinoa with 2 cups of water in a small saucepan. Bring it to the boil, cover and simmer on very low heat for 20 minutes. This made over twice the 1¼ cups required and I used the leftovers mixed with rice to serve with curries, stews or casseroles.
Preheat the oven to 350F (180 C) and lightly grease 12 muffins cups, or line with paper liners.
In a medium sized jug, whisk together the soymilk and flax. Allow to sit for one minute, then whisk in the oil, agave, and vanilla.
In a largish mixing bowl, place the flour, almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring until just incorporated. At this stage it is very runny but the quinoa will thicken it up a bit. Gently fold in the cooked quinoa, the oats and the dried fruit until just mixed.
Spoon into the prepared muffins tins, filling about ¾ full, and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. May be frozen.
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