Great Grains – Quinoa

Uncooked, tan quinoa seeds in a glass bowl.We all know that a healthy diet is key to developing and maintaining good health, but do you ever find eating healthy to be…well…boring? I admit that cooking is not my favorite activity and until my health forced me to broaden my perspective, I was in something of a food rut. My options for healthy eating were limited to a short list of vegetables and a couple of whole grains. Then, in what turned out to be a rather harsh blessing, circumstances forced me to look beyond my narrow food world and explore what else was out there. What I found was an amazing spectrum of fabulous, delicious foods that are actually quite simple to incorporate into our everyday diet. Some of you may be way ahead of me in this food adventure, but for those of you who, like me, find yourself stuck in a rut, I’d like to share some of my discoveries with you. The first great food I’d like to share is an amazing seed-grain called quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah).

What is quinoa?

Though quinoa is used in much the same was as grains, technically, it is not a grain at all. It belongs to the same food family as spinach, chard and beets and its leaves can be used in the same way as these other vegetables. Typically, though, it is the seeds that are consumed. These can be ground into flour, steamed or boiled like rice, or sprouted.

Quinoa is highly nutritious. It’s a good source of manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, fiber, folate and zinc. It’s gluten free, easily digested and contains the proper amino acids to be a great source of protein. In addition, quinoa has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and heart healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acid and alpha-linolenic acid.

Closeup of tan quinoa seeds.

Using quinoa

There are many ways to use quinoa in your diet. Note: rinse the seeds thoroughly with water before use to prevent your quinoa from having a bitter taste.

  • To cook quinoa, combine 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until all the moisture is absorbed (like rice). Cooked quinoa can be used as a substitute for rice in just about any dish, or you can add a bit of honey and spice and use it as a breakfast cereal.
  • Quinoa flour is great in cookies and muffins and can be used to make pasta noodles. It works best when combined with another flour in your recipe.
  • Quinoa sprouts can be used just as you would alfalfa sprouts in salads, sandwiches, soup and casseroles, etc.

Here is one of my favorite quinoa recipes:

Cheesy Vegetable Quinoa

1 can chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa
Chopped vegetables of your choice (I like to use broccoli and kale)
½ cup chopped portabella mushrooms
¾ cup shredded cheese (I use a pizza blend of cheese)

Combine broth, quinoa, vegetables and mushrooms in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat, simmer on low for 15 to 20 minutes, until liquid is fully absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Serve as a side dish or I even use it as my main dish.

Quinoa is becoming quite popular and so it can be purchased in most grocery stores. It comes in a variety of colors including orange, purple, white and black. I have not tried any color other than white so I don’t know how the flavor differs between the colors. You may find a different color works best for you. If you would like to purchase it in bulk, you can find it on Amazon.

This incredibly versatile food can be added to dishes you already make with delicious results. Be adventurous and experiment.

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