Monday, July 11, 2011

Crazy For Quinoa

quinoa seeds
One of my favorite new foods I've learned about since being introduced to a gluten-free diet is quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah). Though grain-like in appearance quinoa is actually a seed from a relative of the spinach plant. This ancient "grain" was valued historically by the Incas for improving the endurance of their warriors and is cultivated in the Andes Mountains.
I love its creamy/crunchy texture and slightly nutty flavor. Most of all, I love the fact that quinoa is a complete protein since I'm not a big meat eater. It not only has all of the essential amino acids but is high in the amino acid lysine, which we need for tissue growth and repair. This superfood contains many other nutrients including iron, fiber and B vitamins.

The bitter coating, saponin, is usually removed before we buy quinoa in this country. Rinsing it well is still recommended before cooking it to remove any residue. Remember to use a fine strainer.

Cooked quinoa
It's really easy to cook quinoa. Just bring 2 parts liquid and 1 part quinoa to boiling with a little salt, then simmer 15 minutes covered. The seed will enlarge and the germ will spiral out to form a tail. Remove from heat and let steam for 5 minutes. Fluff and serve with seasoning as desired. The seeds can be toasted in a dry pan for 5 minutes before boiling if you desire a roasted flavor.

Make a simple pilaf. Saute 1/2 to 3/4 cup of chopped veggies of your choice (celery, carrots, onion, pepper, garlic) in1 T. olive oil. Add 2 cups broth and 1 cup quinoa and cook as above.

Quinoa can be expensive but expands a lot with cooking. Look around for a good deal at health food stores and large supermarkets. I found quinoa at a Costco store at a very economical price. I do have to buy a 4 pound bag, but it stores well in a dry, cool place and it's easy to use. It can be substituted for most grains but especially for rice and couscous in many recipes. Make a big batch and store in the refrigerator to use as needed. Have fun trying something new and healthy.

What creative uses for quinoa have you found?

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