Food & Drink

Yes, quinoa is a breakfast food

Quinoa Bowl with fried egg and avocado.
Quinoa Bowl with fried egg and avocado. Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS

Quinoa might not immediately come to mind when you’re thinking of breakfast.

Known as the “mother of all grains,” the high-octane protein source – a super food that’s been nourishing people in South America for hundreds of years – is most often served as an alternative grain in salads, mixed into burgers or soups and chili, used as a substitute for pasta or added to cookies and muffins.

But quinoa does make sense for breakfast, and not just because breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The seed, a tasty member of the goosefoot family that includes beets, spinach and chard, is very nutritious.

Mixed with a little egg, cooked quinoa makes for a terrific crust for quiches and tarts. Folded with an array of vegetables and crumbled cheese into beaten eggs, it bakes up into one heck of a savory, grab-and-go breakfast muffin. It’s also good on its own, topped with a fried egg and liberal dash of hot sauce.

Another plus is quinoa is gluten-free. So it’s a great choice for people with celiac disease or those who are sensitive to gluten, wheat and other grass-based food products.

Quinoa Bowl With Fried Egg and Avocado

Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2014

4 green onions, thinly sliced

2 cups cooked quinoa

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Kosher salt, to taste, divided

Freshly ground pepper, to taste, divided

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 large eggs

1 avocado, chopped

Hot sauce (for serving)

Mix green onions, quinoa and vinegar in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons oil and mix well to combine.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Crack eggs into skillet; season with salt and pepper and cook until whites are set around the edges, about 1 minute. Flip eggs and cook to desired doneness, about 30 seconds for a runny yolk.

Divide quinoa among 4 bowls; top each bowl with 1 fried egg, avocado and a dash of hot sauce.

Yield: 4 servings.

Mediterranean Quinoa Egg Muffins

Adapted from Don’t use paper liners in the muffin pan – they stick, and you'll lose some (and maybe even a lot) of your breakfast when you peel the paper away.

2 teaspoons vegetable oil, plus optional extra for greasing muffin tins

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes in oil

2 cups baby spinach, finely chopped

1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

8 eggs

1 cup cooked quinoa

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and prepare 12 silicone muffin holders on a baking sheet, or grease a 12-cup muffin tin with oil and set aside.

Heat a skillet to medium. Add vegetable oil and onions, and saute for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and saute for another minute. Then add spinach and saute until wilted, about 1 minute. Turn off heat and stir in olives and oregano, and set aside.

Place eggs in a blender or mixing bowl and blend/mix until well combined. Pour eggs in to a mixing bowl (if using a blender) then add quinoa, feta cheese, veggie mixture and salt. Stir until well combined.

Pour mixture into silicone cups or greased muffin tins, dividing equally, and bake in oven for 30 minutes, or until eggs have set and muffins are a light golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. Muffins also may be chilled and eaten cold, or re-heated in a microwave the next day.

Yield: 12 muffins.