How to Cook Quinoa

Cooking quinoa should be pretty simple, right? Well, it is.

Quinoa is simple to prepare if you know how. It’s cooked like most other whole grains, in a pot of lightly salted water, with a 1:2 ratio of grain to water.

But it took me a surprisingly long time to figure out how to make quinoa at home. The first few times, I skipped the rinsing step, thinking I was saving time. Turns out, quinoa is really bitter if it isn’t rinsed. You can also end up with bits of gravel or rock in your pot if you don’t rinse thoroughly. It’s also important to use just the right amount of water, and avoid under- or over-cooking.

After I figured those things out, I could make a pot of quinoa pretty easily, without even thinking about it.

This post is a how-to for those of you who maybe haven’t made quinoa at home yet, and would like to avoid the mistakes I made. Here’s a primer on how to cook quinoa the right way.

There will also be a recipe later this week featuring quinoa, so now is a good time to learn to cook it!

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One-Pot Spring Pasta with Asparagus, Fava Beans & Peas

One-Pot Spring Pasta with Asparagus, Fava Beans, and Peas

I’m currently contemplating a big blog change, because fonts and colors and layouts are important. I’m also doing a project on instagram that involves launching an online handmade store in 100 days. I’m trying to make things and read things and figure out what all of my little projects and hobbies add up to. And all the while, I’m reading 800-page novels and writing papers and taking exams for classes that will be over in a month.

Sure, I constantly have stuff to do, but I’m loving every minute of it. I’m learning so much. I’m learning about the brain and the body, about our strange culture, about the ways that we speak to each other now. I’m learning how to write well and clearly. Most of all, I’m learning that it takes guts and time to make things, and put them out there in the world.

Nothing you ever write or paint or photograph is 100% perfect. Sometimes you have to let it go, say “this is it,” and release your work. Sometimes people will criticize you, or they won’t like what you’re doing. And sometimes you won’t hear a response at all, because nobody will see the thing that you spent hours making. But sometimes, your work will resonate with someone. They will love what you’ve created.

And that feels like winning the lottery. I honestly think that moment of connection is why anyone doing any kind of creative work keeps going. I know it’s why I do.

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Garlic Sage Focaccia

Garlic Sage Focaccia | Kitchen in the Hills

If you haven’t heard from me in a while, it’s because school has taken over my whole life. It’s midterms season. It’s total craziness over here.

Okay, okay.

That might be a little bit of an exaggeration. But things are still busy, which means less time to make + photograph + write up recipes.

Garlic Sage Focaccia | Kitchen in the Hills

My favorite pre-exam ritual, though, is something I call “stress baking.” Stressed? Bake some cookies.

There’s just something intensely calming about butter, sugar, eggs and flour. Or, in this case, flour, water, olive oil and salt. Perfectly portioned out. Stirred together, kneaded, rolled out, and baked in a very hot oven.

The ritual of baking instantly puts all of the busy thoughts out of my mind. After all, how can I be stressed when there’s sugar to be caramelized, butter to be browned, or dough to be kneaded?

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My favorite crispy baked tofu

Crispy Baked Tofu | Kitchen in the Hills

I’m back with a tofu recipe! But not just any tofu recipe. This one certainly isn’t boring, and it’s something that I like to make every week or two.

This week has felt pretty busy for me, and I wasn’t planning on sharing any recipes. Most of my time has been spent on school work and catching up with errands and apartment tasks. There hasn’t been much cooking going on– at least, not the exciting sort of stuff that I want to take picture of or blog about. But after a couple of weeks of consistent posting, it feels strange to go more than a few days without sharing some new content!

Crispy Baked Tofu | Kitchen in the Hills

Today, I’m a sharing a simple technique that transforms tofu from dull, spongy, and flavorless to something chewy, salty and crisp around the edges. I love making a big batch of this stuff, having some for dinner, and leaving the leftovers in my fridge to eat throughout the week. It loses some of its crispness in the fridge, but becomes extra chewy, making it perfect for salads and saucy dishes.

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Baby Swiss Grilled Cheese with Spinach Almond Pesto

Baby Swiss Grilled Cheese with Spinach Almond Pesto

Sorry not sorry.

That’s really all I can say about this sandwich.

Crispy, buttery goodness. Gooey filling. Delicious vegetal bitterness, first from the baby swiss cheese, then from the hand ground spinach-almond-olive oil pesto. And just the right amount of salt.

This sandwich is not a health food.

I recently caught myself saying to a friend, “Most of the things I cook are pretty healthy. Well, except for the stuff I make for the blog, of course.” And while I regretted for a moment that this blog wasn’t a space exclusively for healthy food— an instagram-perfect fruit salad or the kind of kale and quinoa dishes that are good for your heart— I quickly got over it.

It’s ridiculous to believe that we can live off grilled cheese alone (impossible, I’ve tried it), and of course the healthier the food the better for our bodies. Ninety percent of my diet is not this. It’s mostly whole grains and veggies and proteins. But I also believe that food should also be celebrated— celebratory, lavish, extravagant, unapologetic, and just crazy at times.

Not all the time. But sometimes.

Look at this:

Baby Swiss Grilled Cheese with Spinach Almond Pesto

It is so over-the-top.

This sandwich begins with pesto, hand ground for one in a mortar and pestle. You could certainly double or triple the recipe and make it in a small food processor.

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Brown Butter Braised Cabbage

Brown Butter Braised Cabbage

You’d think that having a blog means writing about whatever, whenever.

Truth is, I’m sitting here trying to write a blog post about cold weather St. Patrick’s day food when all I want to talk about is warm weather recipes. Pressed juices! Grain salads! Popsicles! A million glasses of lemonade!

But we’re keeping it together. At least for a couple more weeks.

Okay? Okay.

Brown Butter Braised Cabbage

As far as winter veggies go, cabbage is pretty darn good. Lovely spring green, crinkled leaves, a lot of crunch, and buttery tenderness when cooked. I recently had crunchy raw cabbage with the best ever aioli at a Japanese restaurant. Heaven.

Why we’re relegated cabbage to the “unlovable” category is beyond me. Everyone loves brussels sprouts, kale, even lowly chard. But I’m yet to hear from someone that they just love cabbage. 

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Jalapeño Cheddar Mac and Cheese

Jalapeño Mac and Cheese | Kitchen in the Hills

Do you remember the blue-and-yellow box? The Kraft one, the one that your parents opened up to make your favorite dinner— mac and cheese, of course. A pile of skinny macaroni and a packet of yellow cheesy powder.

That was one of my favorite dinners. A rare meal in our home, where every meal was prepared lovingly from scratch by my mom.

It was Kraft that taught me to love mac and cheese, but it was only after I tried a from-scratch recipe that I realized how good the stuff could be.

Jalapeño Mac and Cheese | Kitchen in the Hills

This, my friends, is real mac and cheese. It starts with a béchamel sauce and some large elbow macaroni. A good helping of cheese goes in the pot. A couple of roasted and diced jalapeños get thrown in. Everything is stirred together and placed under the broiler until browned. Crispy panko breadcrumb are toasted in a sauté pan until perfectly golden, and sprinkled on top just before serving.

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Avocado Pomegranate Salad with Cilantro-Lime Crema

Is it the weekend already? These last few days have gone by fast. When you’re crazy busy with school or work or whatever else, it’s easy to let the time fly by. I’ve been taking midterm exams and trying to catch up on readings. It feels like there is rarely any down time.

I think it might be time to hit pause. Do something fun for a change.

Avocado-Pomegranate Salad with Cilantro-Lime Crema

This weekend, I’ll be taking a break and treating myself to some healthy and delicious home-cooked food. You can bet that this will be on the list of dishes I make.

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Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta | Kitchen in the Hills

Call this the last of the transition meals. We’re officially several days into fall now, but I still have some late-summer vegetables hanging around my fridge. I suppose you do, too? I turned the last of my eggplant and tomatoes into this plate of pasta, a dish warm and hearty enough to fill your belly on a chilly night. I suggest you do the same. If you’re living in a warmer clime (say, in California) these vegetables will be available to you a bit longer.

This is your basic garlic and oil pasta— aglia et olio— topped with seasoned roasted vegetables. It’s incredibly simple to make, but absolutely delicious. Roasting the tomatoes sweetens them and concentrates their flavor. The eggplant turns silky smooth in the oven. Toss the veggies with the garlic pasta, add some parsley and salt, and you have a great meal.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta | Kitchen in the Hills

Don’t be afraid of roasting tomatoes! I know I was the first time I tried it— I was afraid they would release their juices, and cook into a watery mess. That didn’t happen, at all. Instead, roasting tomatoes evaporates off some of their liquid and intensifies their flavor. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get a little caramelization by the time your pan comes out of the oven.

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Kale Carrot Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

Kale Carrot Salad with Orange Vinaigrette | Kitchen in the Hills

I am a latecomer to most big trends. I discovered the magic of jeggings and yoga pants just last year, well after they had become cause for ridicule. I’m currently reading Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, a memoir that hit the best seller list in 2011. And food-wise? Don’t even get me started. It’s embarrassing, but I only realized that sriracha was a thing (a delicious, delicious thing) after news of the possible factory shut-down swept my twitter feed. And were we always so crazy about brunch? (Yes. The answer is, a million times, yes.)

Kale Carrot Salad with Orange Vinaigrette | Kitchen in the Hills

So it is with kale. I’ve been eating the stuff roasted, baked, and sautéed for ages. I’ve loved it in chip-form and stew-form, I’ve eaten it in pasta and alongside mashed potatoes. But raw? Not really my thing. For the longest time, I couldn’t stand the taste of uncooked kale. It was passable in juices, but I’d never put it in a smoothie myself. Definitely not in a kale salad, even if it had been massaged forever and ever. There was just something off-putting about the texture and flavor.

Until now.

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