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Ancient Grains: All About Quinoa

Ancient Grains: All About Quinoa

March 18, 2013
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Have you added more whole grains into your diet yet? You most likely have heard the buzz about whole grains and how they have been tied to a number of health benefits. In my last article about whole grains, I covered many of the most popular whole grains and shared some recipe ideas to go along with each. Now, I’d like to focus on the unofficial king of whole grains, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah).

So, What Is it Exactly?

While you may not have even heard of it a few years ago, you are probably seeing quinoa everywhere now. Used on restaurant menus and in many online recipes, it truly has become a mainstream part of the American diet. Not only does it have wonderful health benefits, it is also a complete protein source (great for vegetarians!) and is high in fiber, iron and magnesium. What’s not to love? You probably will see white quinoa in most stores, but it can also be found in red and black varieties.

Preparing and Cooking

Let’s start by talking about how to prepare and cook quinoa. It really isn’t that different from cooking rice. First, give the quinoa a good rinse (unless the package states that it is prerinsed). Rinsing removes the natural coating that contains the bitter chemical saponin.

Next up: cooking the quinoa. The goal is the same as when you’re cooking rice: fluffy, separated grains that aren’t mushy or clumped together. First, pick your liquid. If I’m using it in a salad, I like to cook it in chicken broth to give it a little extra flavor. But you can always cook it in water too. The general rule is 2 cups of liquid per 1 cup of quinoa (1 cup of dry quinoa yields about 3 cups of cooked quinoa).

3 Easy Steps to Perfectly Cooked Quinoa

· Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When butter is sizzling, add 1 cup uncooked quinoa and stir to coat.

· Continue stirring until quinoa is lightly browned (about 3–5 minutes). Add 2 cups water or chicken broth. Bring to a boil.

· Cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Continue cooking for 20 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork, and it’s ready to serve or add to your dish.

What Should I Make With It?

I recently picked up an 8-pound bag of quinoa at my local club store, and, although I may have gone a little overboard, I’m definitely coming up with new and inventive ways to use it! Salads are the most common way you will see quinoa used, so why not try Mexican Quinoa Salad? It is a delicious blend of black beans, corn and quinoa and is dressed with a cilantro-lime vinaigrette. It’s a great way to meet your daily fiber needs, and you can bulk it up even more with chopped rotisserie chicken to make a hearty main dish salad.

Or, if you’re looking for a quick snack, give Cherry Almond Quinoa Granola Bars a try. Great for packed lunches, a quick snack after school, or just something to satisfy the 3 p.m. hunger pangs, they will fill you up and pack in the nutrition, too. Plus, they’re no-bake, which means even less work for you in the kitchen!

Quinoa can be your best friend in the kitchen (and great for your health), so go ahead and give some of these recipes a try and get creative—the options are endless!

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