The Secret Has Been Revealed: Quinoa

Quinoa with Mushrooms and PastaThis little superfood has been popping up everywhere and with good cause. Quinoa is the only meat-free complete protein and that means that it contains all 9 amino acids! It is high in fiber, magnesium, iron, and calcium, can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, protect against osteoporosis, and even help control cholesterol. Also, it's gluten-free for those of you with allergies, it's extremely easy to digest, and it's low in fat for those of you looking for healthier grains.

Can you believe it?!

It has actually become a huge phenomenon and if you look closely you can find that it is incorporated in pastas, cookies, chocolate, pie crusts, and even vodka! Quinoa, or "keen-wah" (if you were having trouble like me), is actually a seed and not a grain like most people assume. However, it is known as a grain because the cooking process is pretty much the same.

Quinoa is a small, brilliant looking bead, with a mild, earthy flavor. This "pseudo-cereal" has a fluffy texture similar to couscous. There are over 1,800 varieties but only 3 are found in stores: white, red, and black. Quinoa is extremely versatile and can be made into anything from side dishes to main courses to desserts.

So how do you make quinoa?

  1. Measure and place in a fine mesh strainer. Note: 1 cup of dried quinoa makes about 3 cups cooked.
  2. Rinse well in cool water to remove the natural coating, which has a tendency to make the tiny seeds taste bitter or soapy, then drain. Note: most store-bought boxes are pre-washed, but if you have the time it doesn't hurt to give the little guys and second rinse.
  3. Place in a small saucepan with liquid. "Liquid" can mean water or some kind of stock (chicken, veggie, fish, etc). I tend to go for stock just because it adds extra flavor. The ratio here is 2:1, or 2 cups liquid and 1 cup quinoa. Bring liquid to a boil and cover, turning the heat down to low. Simmer until all liquid has been absorbed, or about 15 minutes. For a visual reference: you should be able to see a tiny tail (the "germ") separating around the seed. Remove from heat and let stand for about 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork as you would couscous.
How do I store quinoa?

Quinoa stores best in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. This amazing superfood will stay fresh uncooked for 6 months, cooked in the fridge for up to 5 days, and frozen for up to 3 months.

How do I use quinoa?
  1. Try plain for a healthy and pure protein boost.
  2. Use as an alternative to other regularly used grains, such as pasta or rice.
  3. Stuff into or mix with veggies--pretty much any and all veggies will pair well.
  4. Toss into a salad to make your meal more filling and get some extra protein without adding meat, which can add extra fat or cholesterol.
  5. Have it for breakfast. Its high protein content and quick cook time make it great for starting off your day. Try it with maple syrup and vanilla soy milk or with a fried egg on top.

The combinations are endless as you can see, so experiment with flavors and ingredients! Quinoa should now easily become your new favorite, made-in-a-jiffy, whole grain, which might bode well now that school is back in session!

FYI: 1 cup of quinoa is 155 calories, 30g of carbohydrates, 3g of fat and fiber, and 5.5 grams of protein.


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