By Emily McGourty
Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is a delicious grain that has been making appearances on restaurant menus and food blogs everywhere. Though quinoa is considered a grain, it is technically a relative of leafy green vegetables. It looks and tastes like a cross between rice and couscous, but with a slight nutty flavor. This whole grain is inexpensive, easy to prepare, and is a great source of many nutrients including fiber, protein, iron and calcium. Quinoa is a complete protein because it contains all of the essential amino acids. Many varieties of quinoa exist. The most common is "white" but red and black varieties are also available. Quinoa is gluten-free, so it is safe for those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Quinoa is very versatile and can be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Before a busy week I like to make a big pot of it so I can quickly incorporate other ingredients for fast and healthful meals. To cook quinoa, simply rinse the grains well with water and then measure a 2:1 ratio of liquid (water or chicken broth) to quinoa in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover the pot; simmer for 10-15 minutes and you're done!
Here are some quick quinoa ideas:
I like this even better than oatmeal! Place one cup of cooked quinoa in a bowl with 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and top with almond slivers, raspberries, a drizzle of agave syrup, and a splash of skim milk. Other toppings may include berries, nuts, ground flaxseed, fruit (chopped figs or banana slices are delicious), brown sugar and maple syrup.
This is probably one of the easiest and quickest uses for quinoa. Simply add it to a garden salad. You can also add flaked tuna or sliced chicken for extra protein. The addition of quinoa gives your salad a different texture and boosts the nutritional content by incorporating whole grains, iron, protein and fiber.
- Add rinsed, uncooked quinoa to soups, stews and casseroles
- Use as an alternative to rice or pasta and top with stir-fry sauce or other favorite sauce
- Make stuffed peppers with a mixture of cooked quinoa, cheese and vegetables
- Make a burrito stuffed with canned black beans or low-fat refried beans and cooked quinoa
- Add toasted chopped walnuts and dried cranberries to cooked quinoa for a colorful side dish