High in the Andes Mountains, my husband Rod and I rolled into Cusco, Peru with our explorer spirits leading the way. We were on a mission to see Machu Picchu, Wayna Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Maras, Moray and Pisac. Not knowing exactly where we were going and being slightly overwhelmed with the amount of people offering us transportation, we sidestepped to call a number of a car service a friend had given us back in the States. In no time a 4.5 foot tall gentleman with dark hair, chestnut eyes and a giant, toothy smile appeared in front of us. He agreed to our itenerary and we set out to discover the remains of the oldest known complex civilization in all of the Americas.
En route to Ollantaytambo we drove through wide-open spaces and fields upon fields of some sort of agriculture. I was taking in every sound, sight and smell of the scenery that I could to completely connect with the moment. It was tranquil to stare in a rhythmic gaze at the continuous mystery stalks passing my window. I took a deep breath in. The air was brisk and sacred.
Suddenly, our guide pulled to the side of the dirt road and opened his door to get out. We followed him to the edge of the farmland and watched him with lifted hands stand in a salute to all that was before him. What had seemed beautiful before as we drove by was in no comparison to the beauty I saw up close. Majestic clusters of cones gathered together, lifting themselves upwards towards the sky. The cones were made up of tiny, round balls with stalks of magenta supporting them. “Quinoa” (keen-wah), he said holding one up to my face. Suddenly a surge of excitement overtook me. I had been eating quinoa for years! I knew the super powers those little seeds gave to humans and how the indigenous people had been eating them for possibly the past 5,000 years.
As I took the stalk of quinoa from his hand, I paused for a moment to appreciate and absorb the vitality in this ancient grain. It felt like a cherished gift and I felt a connection to the humanity who has been growing and eating this miracle plant for longer then my brain could comprehend. My heart was full of gratitude to Pachamama for this and all of her blessings.
The next morning for breakfast at our lodge (Apu Lodge) I spotted a cereal that looked like quinoa only it had a smaller sized grain. Come to find out, it was puffed Amaranth, another pseudo-grain, that is a popular Peruvian desayuno (Spanish for ‘breakfast’) item. I tasted it with almond milk and was surprised at how well it worked as a cereal. Surely my beloved quinoa could fit the breakfast bill too. When we returned home to Miami I started playing around with using quinoa in place of the traditional oats I always use in making my granolas. Come to find out, quinoa bakes really well! We are big granola eaters in our house so this discovery was huge! Not only did I find a new variety of granola for us but also a new way to eat quinoa. Double score!
Although Quinoa has been called the “Mother of Grains”, it is actually a seed. It is a complete plant protein and one of the few plants containing all nine essential amino acids. This is rare in the plant world. Quinoa is gluten-free, nutrient-rich, and full of fiber. In my opinion, it is a staple in the vegetarian and vegan diet because of these benefits, as well as its protein content. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8.14 grams of protein. It really does a body good!
There are around 3,000 varieties of quinoa. I usually see four different colors here in the states: red, white, black and rainbow (tri-color). White is the most common kind but I have not found significant differences between the colors, other then the way they look! Nutrition and flavor seem to be pretty similar across the board. I am drawn to different colors depending on the recipe I use them in. For this one I chose white quinoa but feel free to use whichever one you like.
If you have not bought quinoa before, check out the grain aisle at your grocery store. I reach for brands like Alter Eco and I heart Keenwah. Both of these brands are fair trade and organic. These things matter to me and I always look for these words on labels. Fairtrade is important because it is a farming certification that establishes relationships with the small farmers who grow the quinoa to make sure they are earning a living wage. Organic labels mean that the quinoa hasn’t been grown with GMO’s or pesticides. This helps protect the earth and keeps crops growing sustainably.
There are several different ways we like to eat this quin-ola granola. Currently, our favorite is mixed in a bowl of yogurt. I like Kite Hill plain almond milk yogurt and my son, EO likes Redwood Hill Farm plain goat milk yogurt. We eat quin-ola with plain yogurt so that the granola is what adds a splash of sweetness to the dish. We also enjoy eating quin-ola with Malk pure almond milk or simply straight out of the bag. You can also heat this up for a porridge style breakfast. I make it with 1 cup of quin-ola and ½ cup of milk on the stove (we avoid microwaves) for 2 minutes on high heat.
*If you are eating a low sugar diet or don’t eat maple syrup, simply omit this ingredient in the recipe. It will still have a touch of sweetness from the raisins.
*If you do not eat nuts, simply omit the pecans. You could replace it with sunflower seeds, hemp seeds or add more sesame, pumpkin seeds and raisins.
You will need these ingredients:
2 cups quinoa, uncooked
4 tablespoons black sesame seeds (white work too)
4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, raw and unsalted
¼ cup maple syrup (optional ½ cup if you like it sweeter.) I used ¼ c honey+2T cocosugar
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup almond butter
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon salt (with doubled recipe I still use this amount of salt.)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups coconut, shredded and unsweetened
2 cups raisins
2 cups pecans, chopped
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Heat maple syrup in a small saucepan. When syrup gets hot, add almond butter, coconut oil, water and vanilla. Keep stirring as you add each ingredient. Let it bubble briefly (30 seconds).
Combine in a large bowl, uncooked quinoa, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Pour hot, wet mixture on top of the quinoa mixture. Stir until all of the pieces are coated. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
Line two baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper. On one sheet, spread a thin, even layer of granola.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Take granola out of the oven and place it in a large bowl. Add the coconut, raisins and pecans. Stir. Place this new granola mixture back on the two baking sheets and bake 11 more minutes
Remove from oven and let it cool on top of the baking sheets.
Step by Step
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Get mise- en-place together. I like to chop the pecans with a food processor. If you don’t have a processor, chop by hand and set aside. I also like to chop up fresh coconut from the brown, small coconuts. See how to do it here. You can skip this step and buy shredded coconut. You will just have finer pieces of coconut.
Heat pot over medium-high heat and add maple syrup. If it doesn’t bubble right away, watch it, and as soon as it bubbles add almond butter, coconut oil, water and vanilla. Make sure you stir as you add each ingredient. You want to see all ingredients combined into a creamy texture without separation. Turn heat down to medium-low and allow it to simmer for 30 seconds.
In a bowl combine quiona, black sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and salt.
Pour hot, wet mixture on top and stir so that the quinoa can begin to hydrate and soak up the liquid. Lean close and listen for that snap, crackle and pop! Let it sit for about 10 minutes.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper. I like to use this because the granola will not stick to the sheet and it cooks more evenly. If you don’t have parchment paper, grease your sheets with a little bit of coconut oil.
Spread half of the granola onto one baking sheet. Repeat with the second half on the second baking sheet. Make sure to lay the granola in a thin even layer, about ¼ inch thick. If you spread the granola too thin, it will crystalize on the baking sheet.
Bake at 300F for 30 minutes. This is the first set of two baking times.
Once baked, transfer granola directly into a large bowl.
Add coconut, raisins and pecans to the bowl and combine. Make sure the raisins are not clumped together.
Spread the granola on cookie sheets again and bake for 11 more minutes. Watch this step carefully so it doesn’t burn. You will know it is done when it is a light golden color and very fragrant. You don’t want it to turn a brown color. This is a sign of over baking it.
When it has baked a second time, remove from oven and let it cool on the baking sheets. If you didn’t use parchment paper, scrape the granola to make sure it isn’t stuck to the pan and let it cool.
You can store leftovers in a sealed container at room temperature for a month or in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.
I will leave you with these inspiring words we saw in Saqsaywaman, the ruins above Cusco. “Continue to Continue”. Do you find it as comical as we did? It is quite an obvious statement but compelled us to keep going. Which is exactly the suggestion I would like to offer up in the challenging times we are living in. Continue to continue, showing up for yourself and others. Continue to continue in vibrations of love that lift up and unite us. Never underestimate the power of a smile, a kind word or your positive thoughts and prayers.