Interested in adding some more protein to your little one’s diet? Ever try Quinoa? Quinoa, pronounced “Keen-wah” is 12 to 18% protein. Just a half of cup of Quinoa will meet your child’s protein needs for the day. Quinoa is considered a “perfect protein” because it contains all 8 essential amino acids. In particular, quinoa is high in lysine, an amino acid important for tissue growth and repair. It’s also a good source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and it has a high iron content. This grain like seed is similar in texture to couscous and a great substitue for rice or other grains. The soft texture of Quinoa is perfect for little ones who are just starting to eat foods with a more lumpy texture.
There is a great new cafe in our neighborhood called Jane. They have the most amazing muffins. Sophia always wants to try what we are eating so I gave her a few bites of my blueberry muffin. She loved it! Big surprise, it was probably the closest thing to dessert she has ever tried. Well, I decided an occasional few bites of a cafe muffin is fine, but I wanted to give her a healthy muffin option with less sugar. After searching on-line for inspiration, I found a recipe for Pecan Quinoa Muffins by Martha Rose Shulman in the NY Times and I decided to modify that recipe.
Lets start with a great basic method for cooking quinoa.
Basic Steamed Quinoa by Martha Rose Shulman
- 1 Cup Quinoa
- 3 Cups Water, Vegetable or Chicken Broth
- 1/2 Tsp Salt
- Place Quinoa in a strainer and rinse until the water runs clear. (this is a very important step, otherwise the quinoa will taste bitter)
- Bring the water or stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the Quinoa and salt. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is translucent and tender and each grain displays a little thread. Drain quinoa and return to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dish towel, replace the lid and allow to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. Fluff and serve.
Yield: 4 Cups Cooked Quinoa
Storage: Cooked quinoa will keep for 3-4 days in your fridge. I usually freeze quinoa in baby food freezer tray. I use Kidco Baby Steps Freezer Trays because they are BPA/Phthalate free and have a lid.
Serving Suggestions: For younger babies starting to eat textured food, add a 1 ounce serving of Quinoa to a 1 ounce serving of any puree in your freezer (butternut squash, carrot or peas). The result is a risotto like dish. For older babies, mix with a puree and then add diced chicken, mushrooms, peas and parmesan cheese. (if you are finished making purees, just leave it out and mix with chopped veggies and some parmesan cheese).
Mini Blueberry Banana Quinoa Muffins
- 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (it really does make a difference in the texture of the muffins if you use pastry flour, the result is a much lighter and fluffier muffin)
- 1 cup of cooked quinoa (see directions above)
- 1/2 cup organic quinoa flour (you can purchase organic quinoa flour, Bob’s Red Mill) or grind 1/4 cup of quinoa in a mini food prep or coffee grinder and sift). **I highly recommend purchasing the quinoa flour)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large organic eggs
- 1/4 cup organic maple syrup or agave nectar
- 3/4 cup organic buttermilk
- 1/4 cup organic canola oil
- 1 teaspoon organic vanilla
- 1/2 cup of organic frozen blueberries thawed (I love Trader Joe’s Wild Organic Blueberries)
- 1 ripe banana mashed until it is smooth (this is optional, but I think it adds a nice flavor and little more sweetness to the muffins)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the middle. Oil mini muffin pan. Sift together whole-wheat flour, quinoa flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, maple syrup or agave nectar, buttermilk, canola oil and vanilla. Quickly whisk in the flour mixture, then fold in the cooked quinoa, blueberries and banana. Combine well.
- Spoon into muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then remove from the mold and cool on a rack.
Serving Suggestions: These are slightly sweet and moist muffins (don’t expect your typical cake like coffee shop muffin). The mini muffins are a great finger food for babies. You can give them the entire muffin…watch out it gets very messy with little ones who are just learning to self-feed, OR break the muffin into pieces and allow your child to feed herself. These muffins are great for breakfast or a snack. They freeze well.
Other Quinoa Recipe Suggestion: Baked Quinoa with Spinach and Cheese, another recipe from Martha Rose Shulman. I followed this recipe exactly and Sophia really liked it. It was also a great healthy side for our family meal and a yummy leftover lunch for Mom. When I make this again, I will freeze small portions of it in the baby freezer trays to heat up for Sophia’s lunch or dinner.