Curious About Quinoa

Riding the wave of increased interest in quality ingredients and foods in general, it’s such a pleasure to sneak less common grains and vegetables into everyday meals without them being considered so “crunchy granola” that not even a hippy would touch it. One of my newest and most curious friends in the exploration of wholesome edibles is the humble grain by the name of quinoa. Fluffy and slightly nutty-tasting when cooked, the tiny little spherical grains certainly give standard rice a run for its money. Just as easy to cook and even more nutritious, touting a serious serving of protein, iron, and calcium in every spoonful, I think that quinoa could easily become a staple on the average American’s table if only it were given half a chance. Sadly, this pseudocereal is still dreadfully underutilized even in the growing whole-foods revolution. I suppose you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, right?

Still, I’m not one to give up on such a great grain, and the best way to slowly ease it into the more conservative consumer’s diet is to introduce it in a recognizable form. This is why I immediately set my sights on Mary’s Gone Crackers, simple flat crackers that seemed agreeable to any palate, but utilized quinoa instead of wheat. An additional benefit of excluding glutinous materials is that these snacks are even suitable for those with celiac disease.

Touting 5 flavors in all, there is sure to be something for everyone. They all look pretty much alike. Dark brown disks in a large array of sizes, from the size of a quarter to the palm of your hand, allow you to pick just the right sized bite every time. Peppered with small seeds, but still flat enough to rival a sheet of paper, I was quite impressed by how sturdy they actually were. My first thought was that they would break instantly upon entering even the thinnest dip, but not a single one cracked under the pressure. Even arriving through the mail, hardly any broke in transport!

Starting with the most neutral of the bunch to get a good baseline on these circular snacks, I opened up the package of Original to be greeted by a most appetizing aroma. Not a specific, identifiable smell, but just the scent of hearty grains that I so crave. Crunching through the first few crackers, my mom actually came over from the other room to ask what that loud sound was! Seriously crisp and audibly crunchy, it was so satisfying to dig my teeth into something I might have previously imagined unsubstantial. As for the flavor, it was just your everyday, simple chip with a slightly toasted, nutty flavor, sure to please any party guest and get along just beautifully with any spread. If you’re looking for an easy way to get wholesome foods into a picky eater, a sure-fire strategy would be to serve these agreeable munchies.

Upping the ante a bit with the Herb crackers, my first bite was a bit shocking, like an herb garden had just exploded in my mouth. Once I got over the initial intensity and adjusted to the taste, I did find them quite enjoyable. For some reason, the package doesn’t actually state exactly what herbs are included in their blend, but it tastes similar to Italian seasoning; oregano, sage, and perhaps some parsley? I’m not entirely sure, but the earthy flavors that they impart immediately strike me as a match made in heaven with a pesto. Otherwise, the pizza-esque seasonings make me think that a contrasting tomato-based spread would really be fantastic, too. My only reservation about this flavor is that with such mature, sophisticated nuances, I don’t know that it would be such a hit with the kids.

Proceeding right along to the Black Pepper variant, I was a little bit disappointed at first to discover only a mild peppery taste, especially after such a powerful experience with the herb crackers. Munching onward, it slowly began to creep up on me though; starting as a tingle on the tip of my tongue, and moving to the back of my throat as a quiet after-burn between bites. Still, it wasn’t so spicy that it would be difficult to eat more than a few in a sitting, making it just the perfect amount of pepper. Each bite is a little bit different to give you some heat and then a break, too, due to uneven distribution. Overall a fairly benign chip, excellent with a creamy sort of dip to contrast the spice, these are still a fine option even if they weren’t my favorite cracker.

Feeling quite full at this point but continuing with just as much gusto, I was terribly curious to find out what the Caraway crackers would taste like. I never use caraway in cooking, so I had no idea what to expect. At first it was difficult to discern any individual flavors as there was so much going on at once. It was like a traffic jam on my tongue and I couldn’t taste any of them! Pursuing this elusive flavor, it began tasting more like an everything bagel, but only after really focusing my taste buds to get to the bottom of this mystery did I taste the cracker’s namesake. A very faint aftertaste of anise or licorice lingered in my mouth… and quite honestly, it wasn’t all that appealing. I’m just not a fan of either of those flavors, and I really don’t know what you might serve these with. You might favor this taste all the same, but it was one of the less successful varieties in my book.

Hoping I had saved the best for last, I couldn’t contain my excitement as I dug into the Onion crackers. Taking in a deep whiff, barely a hint of onion could be detected, but I still remained optimistic about the flavors locked inside. Although they weren’t strongly flavored as the smell suggested, there was still a vague but pleasant taste about them; not so much onion that you might ruin your date, but enough to add a bit of interest to an otherwise ordinary chip. Definitely munchable with or without a dip, these crunchy snacks would probably be the ones most likely to make numerous appearances at my parties again.

Overall I found these crackers quite impressive, and they definitely live up to the good name of quinoa. They make a good case for welcoming these unique grains into you home, whether you serve them whole or disguised as innocuous, delicious snacks. Don’t tell your guests that these enticing crackers are gluten-free – They’ll never guess!

[Written for Go Dairy Free]

3 thoughts on “Curious About Quinoa

  1. A pity I won’t find these here. Because of how you talk about them, I would have taste with pleasure the onion and the herb crackers.

  2. I have to hide these crackers from my daughters. We’ve only had the original version but man are they good! I think I ate most of them plain, went back for more, and found the box empty. Damn kids! If anyone can convince me to go back to being meat free, you just might be able to.

  3. Oh yeah, I LOVE these Mary’s Crackers. I don’t think I’ve had the black pepper ones, but I’ll look for them. In general, I’m a big fan of black pepper. I actually quite like the caraway ones, but like you said – I’m into that flavor to start with.

    I always enjoy your product reviews!!

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