A few years ago when I became a vegetarian, I was looking for healthy grain free options that could replace or reduce my use of rice and pasta.
My wonderful friend, Martha who is a Holistic Nutritionist, introduced me to Quinoa. Martha made this amazing salad dish with red quinoa and kale dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. I was hooked and wanted to really explore this new and delicious superfood. Since then I have cooked quinoa in so many ways. I have substituted it for rice in my favorite recipes and I’ve even created a few dishes of my own.
What is quinoa:
You maybe wondering what is quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) and why it is considered a superfood. That’s because it is a complex protein that contains all the vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants (polyphenols and quercetin) that the body needs to stay healthy and ward off illnesses. Quinoa is an edible seed harvested from a species of the goosefoot (Chenopodium) plant which is related to beets, chard, and spinach with origins in the Andes, South America.
Quinoa has been part of a staple diet for the Anduvian people of South America for over 6000 years. It has a bitter self protective coating called saponins which is the plant’s natural defense against pests. Learn more about saponins here.
Depending on the company processing and packaging quinoa, you may need to wash it. Some manufactures pre- wash the quinoa so you don’t have to, but it’s always a good idea to read your package instructions carefully and follow the washing instructions if needed.
I often use both washed or unwashed quinoa with no preference given to either one, because they are all great in my opinion. Quinoa comes in three varieties red, black and white and it has come a long way from just being exclusive to natural food stores to now easily located in your neighborhood supermarkets.
How to prepare quinoa:
Quinoa is first prepared by rinsing, if your package states that it needs to be rinsed. If rinsing is necessary, start by placing the quinoa seeds into a fine mesh sieve/strainer and place under running water. Use your hands to wash the seeds. At first the water may seem a bit soapy, you are actually washing off the saponins from the seed. Wash until the water runs clear. Now it is ready for cooking.
Quinoa cooks like rice with the same ratio of 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of quinoa. The red and black varieties may have a slightly longer cooking time. Bring 1 cup of water ( or your desired amount) to the boil. Add olive oil ( you can choose not to add oils) add quinoa, stir and cover. Reduce heat and allow it to cook/ simmer for 15 min or until water is absorbed and the quinoa is soft. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
Once cooked quinoa has a somewhat nutty texture and it also appears soft and translucent and the germ ring appears on the outside of the seed.
Quinoa can be used as a side dish for meats, fish, vegetables, beans or tofu. It can be eaten in salads, stir fried, cooked with beans or even for breakfast as a cereal or in a smoothie. It can also be added to your baking recipes and best of all it is grain- free and gluten- free.
The possibilities for incorporating this amazing seed into your diet is endless. If you have never tried quinoa, give it a try, I’m sure it will soon become a favorite for you as it was for me.
- 1 cup organic Quinoa (I use Nature's Intent Organic Andean Gold Quinoa)
- 2 cups Water
- ½ tsp Organic No Salt Seasoning
- Wash and drain quinoa- set aside
- Bring two cups of water to a boil
- Add organic seasoning
- Add quinoa and cover
- Reduce heat and simmer for 15 mins
Have you tried quinoa? What is your favorite quinoa dish? Let me know in the comments below.