Well, originally I had planned to write about healthy whole grain that I have enjoyed cooking lately, but as I began to prepare this post I found out that Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) is not really a grain at all. It is actually a seed from a leafy distant relative to spinach that was eaten by the ancient Incas. Grain or not it is a great replacement when venturing away from the usual side dish of pasta or rice. There a a few reason why I like Quinoa. One is it has a light, fluffy, rice-like consistency and nutty taste. Second it cooks extremely fast. Since I figure my meals out mere minutes before cooking them when I am usually already hungry, the 15 minute prep time is just for me. The third reason I like Quinoa is for its nutritional value.
One of the reasons I like it is because it is ready fast. I have not yet started planning weekly menu which I someday hope to do. I typical decide what I want for dinner mere moments before I start to cook. I am also hungry by that time and don’t want to wait too long for it to cook. Quinoa is ready in just 15 minutes. The same amount time as white rice.
The next reason I like it is for it’s nutritional value. Quinoa although grain like in its texture and taste is higher in protein than grains. One cup of cooked Quinoa contains 8 grams of protein and 15% of your RDA for Iron. It is also a good source of potassium, riboflavin, B6, niacin, thiamin, magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese, and has some folate (folic acid). Another interesting and beneficial quality of Quinoa is that it contains the amino acid lysine which is not typically found in grains. This makes it more complete protein which makes it even more beneficial to vegetarians who need to put thought into creating complete proteins in their diets.
Well, now that you know about Quinoa here is where to buy and how to prepare it. If you have a great recipe of your own that uses Quinoa, please post it in the comments! If you are shopping at a general grocery store, you will probably find Quinoa in the health food section. I purchase ours at Costco for considerably less than a normal grocery. You can also check for Quinoa at a health food store or even online.
This is how to prepare Quinoa:
- 1 cup Quinoa
- 2 cups water or broth
- Combine liquid and Quinoa in a saucepan
- Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes until the Quinoa is tender but still chewy.
- A white spiral-like thread will appear around each grain when cooked.
- Toast Quinoa in a dry skillet before cooking.
- Stir continuously
- Use Quinoa in soups, salads and stews.
- Add dried fruit, nuts, spices, olive oil, sea salt, pepper, vegetables etc.
- Cook with fruit juice to make a hot breakfast cereal.
My favorite combination is to add sliced almonds, green onions, olive oil, sea salt, pepper, dried cranberries and feta for a delicious side dish!
Resources for more information:
UPDATE: It was brought to our attention (by Carolyn H on facebook) and confirmed on celiac.com that Quinoa is indeed a GLUTEN-FREE food! So for everyone who has a gluten sensitivity or is trying to steer clear of glutens in your diet this one is perfect for you. (read more about it here: http://www.celiac.com/articles/21825/1/Quinoa-the-Amazing-Gluten-Free-Grain/Page1.html )