Though it’s technically a seed and not a grain, this ancient South American power food is packed with more protein than any other grain, and each uncooked cup (about three servings) has 522 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids.
Your family will likely enjoy its light, nutty flavor for a change of pace at the dinner table.
It's a bonafide "superfood" in a tiny package, even though it's often underrated, misunderstood, and mispronounced.
Pronounced "KEEN-wah", this wee grain favored by vegetarians and vegans is not like the more familiar cereal grains that come from the grass family (e.g., oat, rice, rye, wheat).
It's the seed of a goosefoot plant, a flowering green related to more familiar leafy greens like spinach and chard, that's considered a pseudo-cereal since it doesn't come from the grass family.
It is also one of the only plant foods that is a complete protein, meaning that it provides the body with all 9 essential amino acids.
This super grain has been cultivated for millennia in the Andes of South America and was once considered "the gold of the Incas" and "chisaya mama" (mother of all grains).
On a grocery store quest for this member of our super food family, head to the bulk bin and search for small, yellowish or sandy white kernels that resemble slightly puffed-up sesame seeds.
Red, pink, purple, and black-hued varieties also exist.
What's It Good For?
The B-complex vitamins in this nutty grain helps your skin to glow and your hair fell less dry.
Unlike many starches, this super grain does not contain gluten, a common but often overlooked source of food allergies that can irritate the skin.
A 1/2-c. serving has 111 calories, 2 g. fat, 0 mg. cholesterol, 4 g. protein and 3 g. fiber and is a beloved standby for vegetarians and vegans striving to get the protein they need.
A quarter-cup of this uncooked super grain contains 11% of a person's daily recommended protein.
But this is not just any protein:
This is a super food and packs complete protein, meaning it includes all 9 essential amino acids, a distinction usually reserved for animal protein found in meat and dairy foods.
Tiny quinoa also offers up a healthy dose of magnesium, a mineral that helps to relax blood vessels and is thought to lessen incidences of migraine headaches.
And just to add to it's nutritious pedigree:
It's considered one of the least allergenic grain-like foods due to its low gluten content.
This makes it a favorite among those with celiac disease and gluten allergies.
What Does It Taste Like?
This super grain resembles rice in both appearance and taste.
Its' delicate, nutty, earthy flavor is complemented by a texture that can be crunchy and chewy at the same time.
Even better, this nutritional heavyweight is practically foolproof to prepare and cooks in about 15 minutes.
Preparation is quite similar to rice as.
Here's our tips for how to cook this super grain perfectly:
Rinse Your Quinoa:
Most of what is sold today in supermarkets is pre-washed, although a another quick rinse under the faucet never hurts.
Thoroughly wash the seeds by placing in a fine-meshed strainer and running cold water through it for several seconds.
Shake off any excess water and you are ready to proceed with cooking.
Bring one part quinoa and two parts liquid (water or flavored broth, depending on your recipe) to a boil in a saucepan.
Boil-and-simmer time is generally about 15 minutes.
Cook the small grains to a fluffy, creamy texture for hot breakfast porridge, eat it like rice or couscous with steamed vegetables, or chill cooked seeds and toss into a salad.
Toast It for More Flavor:
Toasting in a skillet with a little bit of oil over low heat for a few minutes before adding it to boiling water gives it an even more intense nutty flavor.
To toast, heat some oil (you'll need 1 Tbs. of neutral oil, like canola, for every 1-1/2 c. quinoa) over medium-low heat and add your grains.
Stir constantly (so that it doesn't burn) until it begins to turn golden, 6 to 8 minutes.
Cooking in Something Besides Water:
To cook, simply stir it into your liquid of choice, cover and simmer over low heat until done.
Water is the easiest, cheapest and healthiest choice; it's lowest in sodium and, generally, free.
Other supermarket staples, like low-sodium chicken, mushroom or vegetable broth, are as easy to use as water and they can add a lot of flavor.
You could even cut some of the stock with a splash of dry white wine, using 1/2 c. of wine plus 1-1/2 c. of broth for every 1 c. of quinoa.
Watch The Time:
This super grain cooks quickly, in about 15 minutes or less.
Some package directions tell you to turn off the heat once the liquid boils and you've stirred in the quinoa.
We prefer to bring the cooking liquid to a boil, stir in the grains, "then" turn down the heat to low, cover and simmer gently, until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
You'll know when it's done, because it'll look like it has popped open, revealing the germ of the kernel.
Fluff It Up:
Quinoa loves a little pampering.
After it has cooked, use a fork to fluff and separate the grains.
This super grain can also add bulk to soups and stews or be ground to use as an alternative flour in baking.
It keeps for a long time, especially when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
You may be wondering how to use this super grain in a recipe and we'd like to suggest;
Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
This super grain, once the main staple of the Incas, is one of the best vegetable sources of protein.
In this particular dish, it sets the stage for sweet and nutty flavors to mingle perfectly, and it's a much healthier alternative to meat and rice stuffed peppers.
Makes 4 Servings
Prep: 25 min.
Cook: 1 hr. 45 min.
Total: 2 hr. 10 min.
1/3 c. slivered almonds
1 1/2 c. water
1/4 tsp. sea salt
3/4 c. quinoa
4 large red, or yellow bell peppers (We prefer the sweetness of these)
1 tsp. olive oil 2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
1 package (10 oz.) fresh spinach, tough stems removed, torn into large pieces
1/4 c. dried currants or raisins
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Cook the slivered almonds in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly toasted.
Tip onto a plate and let cool.
3. In a saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil.
Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water for 2 minutes.
Stir into the boiling water.
Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender.
Uncover and set aside.
4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Cut off and reserve the tops of the peppers.
Remove the seeds and ribs.
Add the peppers and tops to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes.
5. In the same pot, heat the oil over medium heat.
Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes, or until golden brown.
Stir in the garlic.
Remove 2 tablespoons of the onion mixture and set aside.
6. Add the spinach to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until wilted and any water evaporates.
Remove the pot from the heat.
Add the feta, currants or raisins, almonds, and quinoa to the spinach mixture.
Stir to combine.
Arrange the peppers in a shallow baking dish.
Spoon in the stuffing, mounding to fill, and replace the tops.
Add 1/2" water to the baking dish.
Cover loosely with foil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the peppers are tender.
7. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the tomatoes (with juice), tomato paste, Italian seasoning, and the reserved 2 tablespoons onion mixture.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until thickened.
Spoon the sauce onto plates and top with the peppers.
Calories 326 cal.
Fat 10.6 g.
Saturated fat 2.3 g.
Cholesterol 7.5 mg.
Sodium 700 mg.
Carbohydrates 49 g.
Total sugars 16 g.
Dietary fiber 9 g.
Protein 14 g.Tweet
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