WHAT IS QUINOA?
Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a cereal that is relatively new to grocery store shelves. It is a small, slightly nutty pseudo-grain, with a history that outdates many of its cousins in the kitchen. Once, only the domain of health food stores, it has recently gained acclaim on tables around the nation. A great substitute for rice or noodles, what is it about this small grain that is bringing it the acclaim it is gaining?
Far from a new food source, this ancient grain was domesticated in the South American Andes over 3000 to 4000 years ago. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that it could have been around longer than that, with a history perhaps dating back almost 7000 years. Cultivated by the ancient Incas, it was held in high regard as a food source, but also as an offering to the Gods. Referred to as the “mother grain”, it was traditional for Inca leaders to plant the first grains of the season. That was until Spanish settlers arrived. The conquistadors discouraged the ceremonies around quinoa, and even went as far as forbidding the cultivation of it.
Despite the decline in quinoa production over the following 400 years, this super food did not disappear. Locals continued to eat it, and slowly the rest of the world has become aware of the powerful nature of this almost forgotten pseudo-grain. While the ceremonies may have faded away, quinoa’s real value is in its high nutritional impact. Quinoa is a complete protein and is easily digestible and also gluten-free!
In fact, quinoa has one of the highest protein contents of any grain, beating out rice, corn and barley, and comparing to nutritionally similar amaranth, spelt, and millet. It is a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and many of the B vitamins. It has a high lysine content, which is an essential amino acid that is responsible for lowering cholesterol, helping the body process calcium, and converting fatty acids into energy. Not many food sources can claim all of that.
The list goes on from there. Quinoa is also gluten free, so an attractive alternate to anyone that suffers from gluten intolerance, celiac disease, or is just looking to reduce their gluten intake. It is an invaluable addition to vegetarian and vegan diets, due to its high protein content. Its naturally low sodium, and the presence of vitamin E are other benefits that can be added to this amazing little seed.
HOW TO COOK ANY QUINOA:
Always rinse your quinoa in fine mesh sieve for at least 3 minutes to take off the chaff (coating called saponin) and the wee bit of bitterness. It is so worth the effort. Do not skip this step. Also, no matter what you read, do not SOAK your quinoa – it turns it into a mushy disaster. Drain thoroughly.
Roast and Toast:
Now, put a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Put in quinoa and toast to dry it out for 1-3 minutes.
I cook my quinoa in vegetable, chicken, or beef broth. I like the more robust flavor it gives it. You can even do ½ water and ½ broth. Add your chosen liquid (2:1 ratio = two times the liquid to uncooked quinoa) and bring to soft rolling boil. Now turn down heat to low, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes timer goes off, do not lift lid! Take pot off the burner and let stand for 5 more minutes with lid on.
MY FAVORITE MELISSA QUINOA RECIPE
This is the one that converts non-quinoa eaters into quinoa lovers! Nothing is a must have. You can adapt ingredients to your personal tastes.
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups of vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water
1 red pepper diced
1 orange pepper diced
1 yellow pepper diced
2 medium roma tomatoes diced
1 english cucumber diced
3 garlic cloves diced
1 can of black beans
1 cup canned corn (or frozen corn thawed and lightly steamed)
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ cup chopped green onions
¼ – ½ cup of feta cheese (based upon preference) – I like lots!
4 tablespoons of lime juice or juice of two fresh limes (roll limes before squeezing)
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Above can be adjusted to taste
Whisk all together in a bowl before adding to cooked quinoa and veggies
1) Rinse 1 cup uncooked quinoa thoroughly with fine mesh strainer for at least 3 solid minutes under cold water
2) Drain thoroughly
3) Drizzle olive oil in saucepan
4) Add and sautee 3 diced garlic cloves for 60 seconds
5) Add 1 cup uncooked quinoa and roast for 1-3 minutes to get all the moisture out
6) Add 2 cups of your chosen liquid (veggie/chick/beef broth or water)
7) Bring to soft rolling boil.
8) Now turn down heat to low, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes.
9) After 15 minutes timer goes off, do not lift lid! Take pot off the burner and let stand for 5 more minutes with lid on.
10) Add all of the other ingredients above: the veggies, the feta cheese, the whisked dressing, and of course the lovely cilantro
QUINOA IS AMAZING!
Enjoy this quinoa salad warm when done or put in the fridge and enjoy cold. I usually make enough for my lunches for the week or a great mid-day snack. This is an action packed, super high nutrition, amazingly high protein, non-gluten salad that even people in your life that have never even heard of quinoa will love!
GUEST BLOGGER: You can find Melissa Lierman all across the interweb tweeting, blogging, facebooking, photographing, and instagramming. She has lost 50 pounds and knows what it takes to get it done with a good attitude, good nutrition, and lots of healthy fitness. She is Woman 42. Kids 15.12.6. DigitalGeekGirl. College Professor. Runner. Marathoner. #MomsRunning Founder. Locavore. Dilletante. Primative Photographer. GlobeTrotter. You can connect with her on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/melissadawnlierman, FaceBook http://www.facebook.com/digitalgeekgirl, Twitter @DigitalGeekGirl, or Instagram http://www.instagram.com/digitalgeekgirl.