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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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