Wonder Seed: Pronounced “keen-wah,”this trendy grain supplies complete protein, carbohydrates, and unsaturated fat. Since it is a complete plant-based protein (meaning that it has all 9 essential amino acids), it offers the same satiety and energy that you would get from meat, but without the fat and cholesterol. It is starting to appear in many supermarkets, on restaurant menus, and recipe sites. I like to buy mine from Costco, as it is a good value. It’s high in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins A, B, and E. And it’s high in dietary fiber. It is also gluten-free. It uniquely adapts to adverse climate and soil conditions and has a low-cost. So much so – that it is a prized food used by NASA astronauts. Pretty amazing that it is able to germinate and grow in space!
What is it? Quinoa is actually a seed, rather than a grain, that originates from the Andes mountains of Bolivia, Chili, and Peru. The word Quinua translates to “mother grain” in the Inca language. It was considered a staple crop for the Incas and remains an important food crop for their descendents. There are three main varieties that are the most cultivated and available: white, red, and black. Quinoa flour, flakes, and pasta forms are also becoming more popular.
Uses: It is a highly nutritious food. The protein quality and quantity in this seed is considered to be superior to those of more common cereal grains. It is higher in lysine (an amino acid) than wheat.
How does it taste? Quinoa looks a bit like couscous and is as versatile as rice, but has a richer, nuttier flavor than either of them.
How is it prepared and served? It can be served on its own, as a side dish, added in baking, or as a hot cereal. It is a great alternative to rice. It has a light, fluffy texture and a nutty flavor. Make sure to rinse it several times (in a mesh strainer) before cooking under running water to eliminate its natural bitter coating (to deter birds). Packaged quinoa has likely been pre-soaked, but be sure to read the directions before cooking. Cooking Light offers a good “how-to” guide to cooking quinoa. One of the simplest ways to have it is to cook it on the stove (using chicken or vegetable broth instead of water), and then stir in fresh lemon juice and chopped dill or cilantro after it’s cooked.
Cooking light also has a list of 22 recipes on their website. I really like the quinoa tabbouleh, and it’s a great dish for the summer months.
Another recipe that I plan to try out soon is the kale, quinoa, and avocado salad by Allrecipes. Anything with avocados has to be good, in my opinion.