I remember the first time I had quinoa because it appeared, in all places, in my college dining hall. When I asked a woman who worked there if the quin-o-a was vegetarian (which I was at the time) she laughed in my face.
"The quion-o-a. Ha ha. Quin-o-ha. It's KEEN-wah, darling, and it is."
I smiled. Someone was going to have a good break room story. You're welcome.
I scooped up the keen-wah, accessorized my plate with tater tots, and headed off to eat. To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan. The little grains were hard and lacking much flavor. The also flavorless vinaigrette slid right off the quinoa into a greasy pool. It felt like a bad attempt at dining hall health food, and I would clearly spend my time at the fro-yo station instead.
After that first encounter, I didn't actively avoid quinoa, but I didn't see it around much either. My food landscape was made up of Bar's mashed potato pizza and mugs of chicken noodle Cup-a-Soup.
Fast forward to life post-college, when I once again ate like semi-normal human being. This South American grain was everywhere and I decided to give it another try. I realized that quinoa, when cooked properly, is a nutty, fluffy vehicle for sauces and salads. It's also a nice alternative to couscous or bulgur. I've even become a fan of adding it to baked goods, treating it almost as I do old fashioned oats.
If you're not a big quinoa fan, or even better, if you are, start with these cookies. The inspiration came from a recipe in Bon Appetit which I played around quite a bit, including swapping in cherries instead of cranberries and leaving out the oats altogether so that the quinoa could really shine.
The cookies have a warm sweetness, thanks to a combination of honey and brown sugar. Texturally, they're like oatmeal raisin cookies: soft with the occasional chew of dried fruit. Almond extract and slivered almonds impart a nutty flavor that's balanced by the tang of the cherries. They're made with whole wheat flour and overall get fairly high points for healthiness (on the cookie scale). Though I promise, no one will know.
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About the author: Carrie Vasios is the Community Manager of Serious Eats and writes the Wake and Bake, Cookie Monster, and Serious Entertaining columns. She likes perusing her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios