One great benefit of hosting a cooking blog is the opportunity it affords me to try new products when they are introduced to the market. This month, I am taste testing Urbane Grain’s new whole grain quinoa blends.
In particular, I am testing the Three Cheese & Mushroom flavor. I am a huge fan of mushrooms and cheese, and I loved this flavor the other night when I had it for dinner. I guess it should come as no surprise that I am eating for lunch again three days later.
Urbane Grain Three Cheese & Mushroom
I took pictures to show you how the mix looks before you prepare it. As you can see, parboiled brown rice is the main ingredient, then quinoa and millet. Unfortunately, beige mushrooms and pale cheeses do not stand out well against the earth tones of whole grains, so the mix looks a bit dull.
No matter what it may lack in appearance, this blend rocks in the flavor department.
This mix includes cheddar, Parmesan, and Romano cheeses., and you can smell the cheeses as soon as you open the package. In fact, you can smell the cheeses the whole time this quinoa blend is cooking. The aroma builds anticipation and draws everyone to the kitchen to find out what is on the stove that smells so delicious.
The flavor is bold, salty, and all grown up. Urbane Grain boasts that their quinoa blends are restaurant quality, and I would have to say that this Three Cheese & Mushroom tasted better than any restaurant pilaf I have had recently. You can taste the all the cheeses and the mushrooms and herbs.
I served it with chicken breasts, but I think this flavor would pair better with a beef or salmon steak. This would be a great way to introduce a carnivore to quinoa.
Of course, if strong-smelling cheeses put you off, this flavor would not appeal to you.
Cooking Time Seems Wrong
I had a second reason for preparing the same flavor again so soon after the first time. When I cooked this quinoa blend the other night, it seemed I may have turned the heat too low. I was cooking chicken and other vegetables, it could have been that I did not keep a close eye on my simmer.
The instructions advise you to simmer for 20-25 minutes and then remove from heat and let stand for five minutes. However, after 25 minutes, the rice was still swimming in liquid. I had to cook the rice another ten minutes before it looked ready to remove from heat.
I wanted to double check the cooking instructions using the exact same mix. Today, I kept the heat a little higher, simmered the quinoa blend for 25 minutes, and then let it stand for five minutes. Although most of the liquid was absorbed this time, the rice was still a bit crunchy. The flavor was fantastico, but I did not care for the crunch.
I recommend cooking this rice-quinoa blend for 30-35 minutes on your lowest simmer to ensure the rice is tender.
I Cut the Fat
According the nutrition facts on the package, the dry ingredients for this quinoa blend have only 20 fat calories per serving (180 total calories). However, they recommend adding one tablespoon of oil when preparing the mix. I cut that by two-thirds the second time I prepared this, using only a teaspoon of oil, and I did not miss those calories one bit.
Remember, there are 120 fat calories in a tablespoon of olive oil. Even though extra virgin olive oil can be good for your health, you need to keep those extra calories in mind when planning your meals. By reducing the oil to a teaspoon, I removed 32 fat calories per serving with no discernible loss of flavor.
Watch the Sodium
Each serving contains 550 milligrams of sodium, nearly a quarter of the maximum amount most adults should consume each day. This amount is not unusual for prepared mixes or restaurant side dishes.
Still, you may want to consider serving this quinoa blend with vegetables or meats that are not heavily salted, so that your meal does not take a toll on your heart or blood pressure.
Urbane Grain is Gluten Free
Did I mention these mixes are gluten free? I suppose that with rice-quinoa-millet blends we should be more surprised to hear there is gluten than not, but still, it is reassuring to read it on the label.
Urbane Grain Contest
Of course, you do not want to take my word on the taste, do you? You want to try these Urbane Grain whole grain quinoa blends yourself. They come in nine flavors (affiliate links):
- Three Cheese & Mushroom
- Sundried Tomato & Basil
- Miso with Edamame & Scallons
- Southwest Black Bean
- Thai Red Curry
- Indian Coconut Curry
- Smokey Bacon
- Cracked Black Pepper & Sea Salt
- Roasted Garlic and Fines Herbes
I have samples of the first four flavors listed above, and I will send one of each of those flavors to one lucky winner in the US. All you have to do to enter is comment below by midnight PST on March 14, 2012. You could let us know what state you are in and which grocery store chain you wish would stock Urbane Grain mixes. That would be super.
I will choose a winner randomly on March 15, 2012, and contact you through your email to get your postal address if you win.
If you like Urbane Grain’s page on Facebook, you can get a $1.00 coupon. Right now, Urbane Grain is only available in California, although they hope to increase their presence as the year progresses. You can check up on the stores that carry their quinoa blends here.
You can also purchase these blends on Amazon. I put the links to the flavors available on Amazon in the list above. Those are affiliate links. If you end up buying something on Amazon, I will earn a small percentage.
I have not had a chance to try any of the other flavors yet. My son made Miso with Edamame & Scallions the other night, and he really enjoyed it. He said he also had to cook the mix an extra ten minutes or so to absorb all the liquid.
Thanks for reading through this opus of a review. Please note, Urbane Grain gave me free samples of their quinoa-rice blends with the understanding I would review their products for you. I have tried to give my honest opinion. I would never want to steer you wrong when it comes to quinoa.
Don’t Forget to Comment
Remember, you must comment below to be entered in the contest to win four flavors of Urbane Grain whole grain quinoa blends.