Wendy of Cooking Quinoa Talks Clean Eating and Ancient Grains

We caught up with Wendy Polisi from Cooking Quinoa to discover where she developed her love of all things quinoa and what inspires her to continuously craft creative recipes for healthy dishes that don’t sacrifice flavor.


Q: When did you first discover quinoa and what made you want to dedicate your blog and cookbooks to making recipes with it? 

grilled-vegetable-quinoa-salad-4 (1)I first discovered quinoa in 2008 through Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Diet Cookbook. At the time, my boys were two and three, and to say I was exhausted is an understatement. I loved to cook but my style of cooking at the time was anything but healthy.

I began my slow journey towards real food, and quinoa was one of the first things I tried. The first recipe I ever made with quinoa was adapted from the Eat Clean Diet Cookbook. My husband and my boys loved quinoa so much that I’ve been cooking it ever since!


Q: What made you switch all of your recipes to gluten free in 2012?

I had been reading a lot about how modern wheat is so different from what my great-grandmother would have eaten along with all of the theories saying it is leading to digestive problems. I really didn’t think I had an issue with gluten, but I decided to do an experiment.

I noticed a small increase in energy immediately, but the biggest thing was a reduction in belly bloat.  About a month into the experiment, my husband, who isn’t one for fake compliments, commented that I looked better than I did after doing P90x. Shortly after, I accidentally got “gluten-ed” and I broke out into a rash. Apparently it was more of an issue than I’d thought.

I wish I could say that these two events were enough to convince me to be 100% gluten free, but I am a slow learner. I never have gluten at home, but have struggled when eating out. Recently, I found out I have hypothyroidism, so now I’m going to have to be 100% gluten free.


Q: What are a few tips you can provide when it comes to cooking with quinoa?

caprese-quinoa-salad-2 (1)I use less water than most packages suggest, closer to a 1:1.25 ratio. I like to toast my quinoa in a dry pot for about five minutes before adding the liquid. Then I’ll bring it to a simmer (not boil) and reduce the heat to low.  I cook it covered for 25 minutes or so, then remove it from the heat and place a clean towel over the quinoa and replace the lid. Let it sit for another five minutes or so.

If you are making quinoa salad it is a great idea to line a baking sheet with parchment paper and let the quinoa cool on it. This prevents it from getting mushy as it cools.


Q: How do you maintain creativity with your recipes?

I have an Evernote folder with over 5,000 recipes that I’ve been clipping from (digital) magazines for years. Of course, very few of them are actually quinoa recipes, but they give me a lot of inspiration. Once a month I’ll take some time to sit down and see if anything strikes me. I also have a notebook with about 300 ideas in it from when I was brainstorming for a book.


Q: Do you like to cook with any other ancient grains? If so, which ones?

I do – I like cooking with millet and amaranth, too!


Q: What are your favorite fruits and veggies? How will you use them in your kitchen this season?

I am obsessed with tomatoes! This morning I made a Caprese Quinoa Salad with these colorful little tomatoes I got in my CSA box.  You can’t top fresh tomatoes and basil, especially when combined with quinoa.  I am also a huge fan of zucchini.  I’ve been spiraling it, which is really fun because my boys will eat it that way without fussing.


Q: What makes Ancient Harvest quinoa a good fit for some of the recipes you create?

I love Ancient Harvest quinoa because the quality is always consistent.  I just saw that there is an Ancient Harvest blended quinoa – I need to try that.

You all know what a huge fan I am of Ancient Harvest pasta. You might say I’m obsessed. I’ve had fantasies of writing a Quinoa Pasta cookbook. I love that it is non-GMO and a much healthier option for my boys. One of my younger son’s favorite things is Ancient Harvest spaghetti. My husband is also a fan because it doesn’t give him the carb overload feeling that white pasta does.

Let’s not forget quinoa flakes, which were my daughter Skye’s first food after fruits and vegetables.  I love to bake with them and use them in smoothies.

About Wendy: 

wendy (1)Wendy Polisi is the creator of CookingQuinoa.net where she shares healthy creative recipes and celebrates all things quinoa.  An avid cook from an early age, Wendy enjoys the challenge of creating dishes that are healthy without sacrificing flavor.  She is the author of the bestselling Quintessential Quinoa Cookbook and The Gluten Free Quintessential Quinoa Cookbook as well as popular ebooks QuinoaFit, Quinoa Strong and The Holiday Quinoa Cookbook.  Though she dedicates a great deal of time to all things food, her greatest accomplishment is being a (homeschooling) mom to three children, ages 9, 8 and 14 months. Wendy is an avid promoter of lifestyle design and her family has been enjoying a location independent lifestyle since 2008.