Unless you've been living under a rock,  you have probably heard of quinoa. It's been all over health food stores and magazines lately thanks to its protein-packed goodness.

Although most consider it a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach. We all know that spinach is good for you, right? Well, so is this nugget that originates from South American.

I fell in love with quinoa a couple of years ago and have been eating it ever since. Not only is it delicious (it's fluffy, nutty and crunchy after being cooked) but it's also a complete protein and contains many nutrients. There are so many great ways to enjoy it but some of my favorites include a quinoa and avocado salad, quinoa quiche and quinoa patties. All of these recipes are infused with delicious Latin flavor and will quickly become family favorites. Just don't tell the kids how healthy it is!

Read more ¿Qué más? Let them eat cactus! 3 delicious nopales recipes.

Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Dried Fruit, Toasted Almonds and Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette (recipe courtesy of Fine Cooking)

Ingredients:
3 Tbs. raisins (preferably a mix of dark and golden)
2 Tbs. dried apricots, thinly sliced
1 cup red or white quinoa, rinsed well
Kosher salt
1 large lemon
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. sweet paprika
2 medium firm-ripe avocados (6 to 7 oz. each), pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 medium scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2 to 3 Tbs. coarsely chopped toasted almonds
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, soak the raisins and apricots in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring 2 cups water, the quinoa, and 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is translucent and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. (The outer germ rings of the grain will remain chewy and white. Some germ rings may separate from the grain and will look like white squiggles.) Immediately fluff the quinoa with a fork and turn it out onto a baking sheet to cool to room temperature.

3. Finely grate the zest from the lemon and then squeeze 1 Tbs. juice. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon zest and juice with the olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika, and 1/4 tsp. salt. In a large bowl, toss the vinaigrette with the quinoa, raisins, apricots, avocado, scallions, and almonds. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Quinoa Quiche with Latin Flavor (recipe courtesy of Fox News Latino)

Ingredients:
1-12 ounce box quinoa
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ cup Spanish onion, diced
½ cup green, yellow or red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-4 ounce can diced tomato and green chilies
2 ½ cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth or water
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼  teaspoon salt
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
 ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup chopped scallions
Juice of half a lime
1 cup Italian blend cheeses, shredded

Directions:
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add bell peppers and garlic; stir for another 30 seconds.  Add diced tomatoes and stir until warm about 1 minute.

2. Add the quinoa, vegetable broth, cumin and salt. Mix well and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook until the quinoa is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 20 to 25 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

5. Add parsley, cilantro, scallions, lime juice and shredded cheese to the quinoa; mix gently.

6. Transfer quinoa mixture to a pie plate and press down gently.  Place in oven for 10 minutes until cheese is melted and top is lightly browned.

7. Let cool for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.
 
Quinoa-Black Bean Patties (recipe courtesy of Cocina Encantada)
 
Ingredients:

1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup cooked black beans
1/4 cup cheese, such as pepper jack, cheddar, or chevre
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder or other chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/3 to 1/2 cup bread crumbs (can use gluten free or regular)
1 tablespoon oil (or more, depending on how sticky your pan is)

Directions:

1. Combine quinoa, black beans, salt, spices, lime juice, and cheese. Stir in the beaten eggs, then the bread crumbs. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.

2. Shape the mixture into 6 patties. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, and add the patties , all at once if they fit, or in batches.

3. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crispy. Top with salsa or your favorite sauce (I'm thinking cilantro pesto would be amazing here) and enjoy!

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Have you ever cooked with quinoa? What was your favorite recipe?

Images via Muy Yum/flickr, thepinkpeppercorn/flickr, Fox News Latino

About the author

Irina Gonzalez is a Staff Writer for MamásLatinas. She loves pop culture, social media, photography and, above all, discovering new places. She's also a foodie eating healthy and learning to enjoy exercise.

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