Quinoa is an ancient seed that was thought to be sacred by the Incas in South America. Pronounced KEEN-wah, it has been grown in South America for thousands of years. Most of the world's supply is grown in the Andean region of South America in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile.
While it is thought of as a grain, it is actually a seed from a plant that is related to Swiss chard, beets, and spinach. In fact, the leaves of the plant can be eaten but are hard to find in grocery stores in the United States. It has a delicate, nutty flavor and can be used in place of rice or couscous in most dishes.
Quinoa is higher in protein than most grains (about 12-15%) and contains all nine of the essential amino acids. This makes it a complete protein and desirable for vegans and vegetarians who are concerned with getting the right amount of protein in their diets.
It also contains lysine which is needed for tissue growth and repair. Along with high protein content, this superfood is a very good source of magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorus and is a good source of riboflavin. Its high content of manganese and copper makes it a powerful antioxidant.
It is also high in fiber which is so important for good digestion, blood sugar regulation, weight management, and heart health.
It is also gluten free which makes it a great alternative to wheat, barley, and rye for people with Celiac disease, wheat allergy, and intolerance. Not only does it come in its original seed form, but it is also ground into flour and is used with corn to make gluten free pasta.
Step 1: Rinse it
The first step to preparing it is rinsing off the soap-like residue that is naturally present on the seeds. To do this, pour the seeds in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse until you can no longer see the foam (which looks like soap suds).
Step 2: Cook
Once rinsed, it can be prepared just like rice. Combine two parts water to one part quinoa in a medium-sized pot. Bring the mixture to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cover for about 15 minutes.
When the seeds become translucent and the germ forms a ring around the grain, it is ready to eat.
Step 3: Eat
Quinoa can be eaten on its own or with a number of dishes.
- Mix into soups and stews like this chili.
- Add it to your salad greens.
- Mix with freshly chopped vegetables and toss in a vinaigrette dressing for a satisfying salad.
- Make a pilaf with cooked vegetables and serve alongside your favorite protein.
- Mix with beans for a spin on beans and rice.
George Mateljan Foundation. The World's Healthiest Foods. www.hwfoods.com. Accessed 10/1/09.
Wikepedia - The Free Encyclopedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa. Accessed 10/1/09
Savvy Vegetarian. www.savvyvegetarian.com. Accessed 10/1/09
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