03 Mar Quinoa 101
The other day a friend came up to me at our exercise class and asked: “What can I do with Quinoa to make it more exciting and flavorful? It got me thinking about all of the possibilities for variety, taste, and texture when cooking this ancient grain that has become all the rage these days! Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is now moving from just being sold in specialty food stores to your neighborhood chain supermarkets. The health benefits, versatility, and flavor have caused a high demand for this protein rich seed. People often think of Quinoa as a grain, but it is actually a seed from a species of goosefoot plant, which belongs to the same family as beets and spinach. It was first cultivated throughout the Andes in South America thousands of years ago. Quinoa is also one of the very few vegetarian protein sources that contain all essential amino acids; it’s a complete protein. In addition, it is high in fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, iron, magnesium as well as other vitamins and minerals. That being said, this super food is finding its way onto the tables of busy working families because it’s healthy, delicious, easy to prepare, and cooks quickly! Quinoa comes in white, red, and black varieties, but there are only a few minor differences among them. White, the most common, has the mildest flavor and resembles couscous. Red quinoa is also quite common, but has a stronger flavor (almost nutty). Black quinoa is less popular and has a similar flavor to the red variety. All three provide the same vitamins and minerals and have similar nutritional values. One cup of quinoa has 222 calories and 4 grams of fat, is gluten free, and has been proven to lower cholesterol. What’s not to love about statistics like these? For me, the key to making this super food as flavorful as possible is the addition of sautéed vegetables and cooking it in a vegetable or meat broth, which takes it from “ho hum” to delicious in one easy step. Please check out my Quinoa recipes in the vegetarian section on my website along with some tips on cooking perfect Quinoa every time!