Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What the heck is quinoa? Here's a recipe to start you out!

Photo credit fitfoodiefinds.com quinoa caprese salad.
To get this recipe, check out this great blog.

What's all the fuss about quinoa?  Below is some more information about this high-protein, gluten-free super food.  It's a great substitute for pasta and rice, and it is extremely versatile.

What is quinoa?
While quinoa is usually considered to be a while grain, it is actually a seed, but can be prepared like whole grains such as rice or barely. Quinoa is a wonderful whole grain for three reasons: First, it takes less time to cook than other whole grains – just 10 to 15 minutes. Second, quinoa tastes great on its own, unlike other grains such as millet or teff.  Add a bit of olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice and - yum! Finally, of all the whole grains, quinoa has the highest protein content, so it's perfect for vegetarians and vegans. Quinoa provides all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Quinoa is a gluten-free and cholesterol-free whole grain, is Kosher for Passover, and is almost always organic.
Culinary ethnologists will be interested to know that quinoa was a staple food for thousands of years in the Andes region of South America as one of just a few crops the ancient Incas cultivated at such high altitude.

Cooking quinoa: 
Prepare quinoa as you would prepare rice. Cover it with water or vegetable broth and boil, then reduce flame to low and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Or, place 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water in your rice cooker.  Make sure to cook your quinoa on LOW - very important!!!  If you let it simmer on a hotter flame, the water will absorb too quickly and the quinoa will turn out hard.
Nutritional content of quinoa: 
According to CalorieCount, 1/3 cup of cooked quinoa has 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.

Below is a great recipe that includes quinoa (special thanks to about.com for this great recipes):
Quinoa with pesto 
Quinoa pesto with spinach
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • large handful fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup prepared vegetarian pesto
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lemon or lime juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp fresh grated Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast (optional)
Simmer quinoa in vegetable broth or water, covered, for 10-12 minutes, until quinoa is almost cooked.  Fold in fresh spinach and heat for 3-4 more minutes, until spinach has wilted and quinoa is cooked through.  Remove from heat. Stir in pesto, drizzle with lime juice and season well with salt and pepper to taste. Sea salt or kosher salt is always best!  Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or stir in a bit of nutritional yeast for extra flavor (and a B12 boost for vegans!).

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