Quinoa (pronounce KEEN-WAH) is a small, quick cooking grain with tons of nutritional benefit. Cooked quinoa is fluffy and creamy with a nice teensy crunch giving it a slightly nutty flavor. Quinoa has the highest protein content of any grain and it is low in calories, which is another marvelous perk, since we are such a calorie-obsessed society. It is a recommended protein source for vegans and vegetarians because it also contains essential amino acids making it a complete protein, which these types of diets sometimes lack.
Quinoa is a gluten free food, meaning that it contains no wheat, so if you are gluten sensitive or have Celiac disease, this grain is perfect for you and can easily be used in place of brown rice or pasta, which usually do contain gluten (you can also find gluten free pasta, but quinoa is a great alternative!)
Quinoa also contains lots of fiber, which the typically American is NOT getting enough of. As we know, fiber is essential for keeping our intestines clean…I call fiber, nature’s intestinal broom, because it sort of acts like that. It “sweeps” out all the bad stuff assisting in adequate stool transit time (which is extremely important…but we can get into BM’s another time…)
You can usually find quinoa in the bulk section of health food stores such as Whole Foods, Mother’s, or Henry’s, but it also can be found in a box. When cooking quinoa, or any grains for that matter, it is important to rinse them. I rinse mine a couple times and then actually let them soak in water for maybe 30 min (this removes the bitter coating and makes them easier for your body to digest and absorb the minerals it offers) Use 1 part grains to 2 parts liquid in a saucepan. After is starts to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover. It cooks in about 15-20 min.
My friend Nicole makes an amazing quinoa salad, so I shall share this recipe with you and recommend some other ways to feast on this ancient Incan grain.
Nicole’s Quinoa Salad (she never really measures anything, which is how I usually roll, but I tried to come up with some simple measurements for you…really, it’s mostly to taste, add more of what you like, for instance garlic or avo, or remove what you don’t like, for instance, salt. I also omitted the feta cheese.)
1-2 cups quinoa
1 zucchini, or any squash, or kale chopped (really, whatever veggie you like…even Brussels sprouts work well)-just make sure they are organic
1-2 cloves garlic pressed ( I heart garlic, so I use more than less!)
1/2 cup RAW pine nuts
1 ripe organic avocado cut into chunks
handful Italian parsley
SEA salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil
Boil as much water as you will need for quinoa (remember 1 part grain to 2 parts liquid).
Add your veggie to quinoa while it simmers.
Once cooked down, place quinoa/veggie mixture in big bowl you will use for salad.
Let cool a bit.
Add avocado, parsley, pine nuts, garlic, salt and pepper. At the very end, add the olive oil. Serve slightly warmed or even better cold the next day.
Thanks, Nicole! 🙂
As stated above, quinoa can be a good substitute for rice or other grains. You can have it with a piece of lean fish and some asparagus. Use it in salads, cold. Add lightly cooked veggies on top of quinoa. There are many different ways to enjoy this delightful grain.
Sometimes, if I make too much for dinner, I will have it for breakfast as a quinoa oatmeal:
Heat up left over quinoa on stove while adding 1 cup almond milk
Add cinnamon, agave syrup, cut up banana, or berries (blueberries work nicely)
Keep on warm for about 10-15 min (covered)
Enjoy a nice, hearty breakfast!
Heidi Swanson (101cookbooks.com) has a beautiful picture of one of her quinoa recipes she calls “Delicious Big Bowl”, which you can check out at: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/001564.html
Get familiar with this amazing grain and start thinking outside of just pasta and rice…especially if you are only eating white pasta and white rice…remember, it’s all about WHOLE FOODS. Do you think nature produced perfectly clean, polished rice? ‘Fraid not, people. Quinoa is not a processed food, so your body recognizes it as something it can utilize for energy. Delicious and nutritious! I hope you enjoy.