Wednesday, June 22, 2011

An Open Love Letter to Quinoa

Oh Quinoa. How can I begin to tell you how you've changed my life? When I first tasted those light, airy grains, I must admit I wasn't that easily swayed. But little did I know that like a charming first date, I wouldn't be able to get you off my mind. For months now we've been nearly inseparable, though at first I was spending most of my evenings trying to will myself back to couscous or basmati rice, even whole wheat pasta. But alas, I always turn to you.
Perhaps not quite that dramatic, but quinoa is the new black for me as far as carbs and grains go (although it is actually a seed, from the spinach family). And yes, that includes rice. And I can't even begin to stress how good it is for you. As close to one of the most complete foods in nature containing all 9 essential amino acids, quinoa also contains 24 grams of protein per cup (daily recommended intake is 60g), is naturally gluten free, and high in iron and calcium (perfect for milk snobs like me). It also contains magnesium, fiber, manganese, and copper, and the latter 2 work together as an antioxidant to help the body fight off disease. It is a great food to consume while on a diet or while pregnant as it contains much needed nutrients, vitamins and minerals and also helps you stay full.

Originally cultivated by the Inca's (with my Peruvian father and Chilean Grandmother, I'd like to think of them as my ancestors somewhat), who believed it gave power and stamina to their warriors, quinoa was nearly destroyed by the Spanish conquistadors in an effort to eradicate Incan culture. Able to grow in the wild, quinoa survived to be rediscovered on a world-wide scale in the 1980's. Quinoa grows best in mountainous regions and thrives in poor soil, this air and extreme weather. So for all you post apocalyptic World War Z acolytes out there, or even just those of us wishing to be self sufficient, albeit in an extreme climate, think quinoa.

Cooking Quinoa
2 c water
1 c quinoa
1 tsp. oil- I use olive
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place quinoa in a mesh container and run water over for 2-3 minutes, just to get rid of any bitter particles. In a saucepan, bring water, quinoa and oil to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes until water is absorbed.

Outside of just being used as a bed for a traditional meat dish, it can be added to eggs, either scrambled or as a quiche/frittata, added in soups and stews, used to replace flour in a recipe, used in place of oats in granola or as a hot breakfast sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with some honey, etc. The sky is really the limit with quinoa and it's so good for you, there's really no wrong way to use it.

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