Monday, June 24, 2013

Quinoa (pronounced keen wah)

"Keen what?" seems to be the typical response when I ask people if they know about the highly nutritious food known as quinoa. Apparently, not many people know about this super food that originated in South America and is termed by the Incas as the "mother seed." Quinoa is associated as being a grain, but is technically the seed of a plant that belongs to the beet and spinach family. It looks like a very tiny pale yellow sphere similar to that of millet, except millet is darker in color. There are also other colorful varieties of quinoa including a lovely autumn red color. When cooked, quinoa expands and fluffs up to almost triple the dried amount. It is somewhat creamy in consistency yet is still slightly crunchy and has a nice light nutty flavor. The quinoa seed does have a bitter coating that can be removed by rinsing it thoroughly. I rarely rinse it though as the bitterness is not noticeable to me, but you may want to rinse the first time you try it. Also, when cooked you may notice that there is a little white tail that is attached to the seed and that is just the germ of the seed detaching from it. It looks a bit funny to me and adds a bit of character, but it is completely normal.

So, you may ask, why should I eat this strange sounding seed that I keep wanting to call kee noah? Well, quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse that even the natives knew gave much strength and stamina. It is an excellent source of good quality protein and is the only vegan food that has all the essential amino acids. When combined with another grain its protein and amino acid profile is superior to meat. And, this petite little seed even has more calcium than milk in comparable ratios. Amazing, huh! Quinoa is also a great source of magnesium, manganese, B vitamins, vitamin E, fiber, iron, phosphorous, and essential fatty acids. In Chinese medicine quinoa is considered a warming, bitter food and is excellent for keeping the arteries clean. It is pretty close to a perfect food as it is filled with needed nutrients, tastes good, and is super easy to prepare.

Quinoa can be found in bulk bins at a natural foods grocery store or in prepackaged bags usually in the rice or pasta departments of a standard grocery store. I like to store mine in the refrigerator, but a cool dry place would be sufficient. It is cooked like rice and is 1 part seed to 2 parts liquid. Place the well rinsed seed and liquid in a pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover for about 15-20 minutes. You will know when it is done when the seed has grown and fluffed up, and when the water is absorbed. Here are a few examples of ways to serve quinoa:

*serve warm with cinnamon, dried cranberries and walnuts for breakfast
*mix with fresh herbs, spices and chopped veggies for a warm or cold salad
*use the above mix to stuff tomatoes, peppers or cabbage and bake
*serve with curry, lentils, chili, stir-fry or any other dish normally served with rice
*make into croquettes or a vegetarian meat loaf.

It is a new year and maybe you made a resolution to eat healthier or try something new, so why not give quinoa a chance. Quinoa is relatively inexpensive, easy to cook, versatile, nutritious, delicious and just plain fun to say. Enjoy!

1 comment:

jwoodbri said...

We've been eating both regular and red quinoa. (I actually like the colors mixed together.) We tried a quinoa pilaf that was very yummy too. I'll have to try it as a breakfast soon.