Quinoa…is it a name or a grain?

Quinoa and  Brown Rice Pilaf

Quinoa and Brown Rice Pilaf

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t totally understand Pinterest.  But, my cousin seems to really be into it. She recently shared on her Facebook wall several things she learned on Pinterest.  I chuckled at one of them…

People actually are naming their daughters Quinoa.

But, laughed even harder at her comment….

 Um, that’s sort of like calling them Oatmeal isn’t it?

I guess quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is one of those things most people don’t  know a lot about.  For some it might just be a good “Q” word to play on Words with Friends or Scrabble.  I guess to others…it’s an interesting new child’s name.

I’ve heard about quinoa for years, but my cousin’s post inspired me to try it out.  I didn’t have to go to a specialty food store to find it. Our local discount store had several versions.

My cousin wasn’t far off when she likened it to oatmeal.  It’s close.  Quinoa resembles a grain in use and appearance and it has frequently been called an ancient “grain”.  But it’s really a seed.  This grain-like crop has been eaten for thousands of years in South America. If you’ve never seen it, quinoa is a small seed that resembles millet or couscous.  It can be used as a you would rice, pasta or oatmeal.

White quinoa--uncooked and cooked

White quinoa–uncooked and cooked

uncooked quinoa

uncooked quinoa

cooked white quinoa

cooked white quinoa

Compared with grains, quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse containing a high amount of complete protein, soluble and insoluble fiber and unsaturated fats.  It also contains iron, magnesium and zinc and is gluten-free.


The United Nations General Assembly Food and Agricultural Organization feels so strongly about the role of quinoa as a high quality food for health and food security, they have declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. They noted the exceptional nutritional qualities of quinoa and its potential contribution in the fight against worldwide hunger and malnutrition.

In the US, generally you can find red, white or black quinoa. White is the most common. The flavor has been described as nutty or “earthy”.   I thought it was fairly bland and seemed to pick up the flavors of what it’s cooked with. I’ve been told that red quinoa has more flavor, but it’s more difficult to find.  Most of the prepared mixtures I found combined it with brown rice, vegetables and seasonings.

Like rice, pasta, wheat or couscous, quinoa is very versatile.  It can be used as you would any of these grains—as a pilaf, risotto, in soups or drinks.  Most people I talked with that eat quinoa like it best mixed with other grains. Another  breakfast idea:  cold cooked quinoa with yogurt and fruit or hot like oatmeal.

Some quick quinoa tips:

  •   1 cup dry = 3 cups cooked.
  •   The cooking ratio is 1 1/2 to 2 cups liquid to each cup of dry seeds.
  •   It cooks quickly:  bring the liquid and quinoa to a boil, cover and simmer until the water is absorbed (10—15 minutes)
  • When cooked,  quinoa will become translucent and a white ring will appear along the outside edge of the seeds. This is the “germ”.
  • According to the USDA one cup cooked quinoa contains 222 calories, 8 grams of protein,  5 grams of fiber and 3.5 grams of fat.

Hey Oatmeal…..or Quinoa…..it’s time to eat.

Here is a delicious Quinoa Berry Salad

close-up cooked quinoa

close-up cooked quinoa

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Whole grain breakfast cereal with quinoa

Whole grain breakfast cereal with quinoa


Bacon, bacon…who’s got the bacon?


We recently had house guests and served bacon for breakfast.  The husband got all excited, saying “Wow, real bacon, my wife only allows me to have turkey bacon.”  I, personally, had never considered switching to turkey bacon; I’ve always thought that some folks switch to turkey products falsely thinking they are eating more healthful.  But this got me thinking and wondering.

So, I bought two packages of bacon. One turkey and one pork.  At first glance they look similar. But under closer scrutiny the first obvious difference is the turkey bacon was a 12 ounce package. The number of slices differed, too.  You got 15 slices in the 16-ounces of pork and 22 slices in the 12-ounces of turkey.  So, obviously, the weights of the slices were smaller in the turkey bacon. All of this makes in-store comparison difficult.

Compare the Nutrition Facts labels for serving sizes:

  • The pork bacon lists serving sizes as 2 slices (I guess they are being practical that no one could eat just one.)
  • The turkey bacon identifies serving size as 1 slice. 

So, let’s compare them slice-to-slice.

                                                                Pork                                       Turkey

Calories:                                               40                                           35

Total fat:                                              3.5  grams                            3 grams

Saturated fat:                                    1.25  grams                         1 gram

Cholesterol:                                         10 mg                                    15 mg

Protein                                                 2.5 grams                             2 grams

Sodium                                                 150 mg                                  180 mg 

The turkey bacon label promotes that their bacon “gives you all the great bacon taste you want with 50% less fat.”   The package says they used the USDA nutrition data for pork  bacon to come up with that statement.  But the math from the two packages I compared just didn’t show that.


They also list 6% Daily Value of Vitamin C in the turkey bacon.  I don’t usually think about bacon as a source of vitamin C so I called the company. They responded that the Vitamin C comes from the soy. The last item on the ingredient list is soy lecithin.               

I then cooked them and compared the products.

Turkey bacon cooking

The cooked weight of the pork bacon was 4.2 ounces and the turkey bacon was 6.25 ounces. So there was obviously less loss of fat and moisture in the turkey product. It’s important to note that the turkey bacon was completely pre-cooked.  After cooking there was ½ cup of fat that could be drained from the pork bacon. There was very little fat in the pan where the turkey bacon was cooked.

Comparing the final cooked product: you got lots more turkey bacon on the plate (see photo). The turkey slices didn’t shrink as much. The turkey bacon is “smoked cured turkey chopped and formed”.  That was very obvious in the texture.  It’s hard to describe, but I guess the best way is that it was “chewier”.   This isn’t noticeable when the bacon is added to a sandwich or eaten combined with other foods, but just on a plate for breakfast, this chewy texture was obvious.

Cook comparison pork vs. turkey bacon

12 ounces of turkey bacon, cooked


So, what’s my overall thought as a result of this comparison? 

  • The overall fat, calories and sodium are very comparable.  Although the turkey product is slightly lower in fat and calories than the pork it is slightly higher in sodium. 
  • Flavor and texture-wise I guess I’d vote for the pork bacon. 
  • If you’re comparing price, you get more cooked edible product for the money in the turkey bacon.   

Bacon (pork or turkey) is really one of those products generally thought of as an “occasional” food.  There is very little “good nutrition” in any kind of bacon.   But, most people like it now and again for the flavor and you can’t beat a BLT sandwich. 

But, you can get a lot of flavor from perhaps a little less bacon.  Maybe go for 2 slices instead of 3 and then only every so often (like when you have special guests for breakfast.)  A small amount of bacon chopped could go a long way to add flavor to a recipe.

They may also be other companies that make different bacon products that might actually give you a little less sodium or little less saturated fat than those I purchased.  You’ll need to do your own nutrition comparisons.  Both products also are considered “processed meats” and do contain nitrates and other preservatives that might be contraindicated in some diets.

But overall I don’t think “whole hog” switching to turkey bacon is doing you any favors nutritionally.

My problem now: What do I do with all this cooked bacon?

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus,
The Ohio State University


Eggs in the Microwave

IMGP0066Years ago when microwave ovens were still new in most kitchens I taught many how-to classes.  I remember telling folks that eggs were difficult to do in the microwave.  There are always exceptions to every rule.

Recently while visiting my mom she showed me how to poach an egg in less than 45 seconds. She has a specially designed “egg cup” to use in the microwave.

I’m not sure what the original instructions are…but let me tell you how she does it.  Place one teaspoon of water in the bottom of the cup. Drop in the egg –you don’t need to pierce the yolk.  Put the lid on and microwave for 30 seconds.  Open the door, take the lid off and look at it.  Put the lid back on and microwave for 13 seconds more.  It worked. IMGP0078

Now, as the “microwave teacher” in the family, I said OK…I can do this too. I thought that part about stopping the oven and looking at the egg was pointless.  So, I put the water in the cup, added the egg and put the lid on and microwaved for 43 seconds.  Wrong. The egg exploded all over the oven.

Obviously you need that “rest” in the middle for the egg to continue to cook and the steam not to build up too quickly in the yolk.  I admit, mother knows best.

The time on the second step can be adjusted a little depending upon how hard you like your eggs poached. Also, they do continue to cook for a short while after taking them out of the microwave, so don’t overcook. It  takes some experimenting based on your specific oven.  But it can be done.

Mom’s not really sure where she got her microwave egg cups, but it’s one of those cooking gadgets that she really uses.  I checked on E-bay and there are several different styles available, seems other people have known about these for years.

Judy Doherty, President of Food and Health Communications shared that she has great success with eggs in the microwave, too.  She makes a breakfast sandwich using egg whites that she says is a winner!

The National Egg Board emphasizes that egg wisdom dictates you shouldn’t try to cook an egg in the shell in the microwave because steam builds up too quickly inside and the eggs are likely to explode. IMGP0081

What’s great about both of these recipes, no added fat, no dirty fry pan and a fast easy protein-rich breakfast. Another plus, no need to turn on the stove, so something that kids or people with limited skills or mobility could do.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Pie for Breakfast

I’m ready to admit it. You know you’ve done it, too. Even the healthiest eater has fallen under the spell of pie for breakfast at one time or another.

Then comes the rationalization. You wonder….could  this possibly count as one of my fruit and vegetable servings for the day?  You know and I know that that is probably really stretching the idea.

MyPlate recommends that we should fill half our plates with fruits and vegetables.  That’s easy when you have plain fruits and vegetables, but what happens when they are combined with other foods—like pie crust and sugar? So what do you think? Does it count?

If it’s homemade pie, can you possibly could count the amount of real fresh fruit used in the filling.  If the recipes calls for six cups of apples and you get six servings from the pie– that is one cup of raw fruit per slice. Commercially-made pie may need some additional research into ingredients.  Usually ½ cup of those thick sugary fruit pie fillings will provide you with only ¼ cup of real fruit.

In general, most dietitians say that the fruit and vegetables in pie don’t count because of the high fat and sugar content that’s also in the recipe.  That apple pie with six cups of apples also has one cup of sugar and almost a cup of solid fat in the two crusts.

One way that you can get the flavors (and satisfaction) of pie without all the added sugars or fat is to modify your recipe.  Fruit crisps and cobblers are  good options because they usually only have one crust (so less fat).  Quite often you can also reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe without changing the flavor and thus letting the natural sweetness of the fruit come out.

Blueberry Cobbler

Need some other ideas to satisfy your pie or dessert craving?  Check out our free e-book  Fruit Tooth written by Food and Health Communications President, Judy Doherty.   This book helps readers learn how to satisfy a sweet tooth with fruit instead of with desserts loaded with fats and sugars.  But watch out.  Sometimes that pie just jumps out of the refrigerator at you.

Fruit Tooth Dessert Book

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University