Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) refers to the seed of the Chenopodium or “Goosefoot” plant. It is native to the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru and was a staple food of both the Aztecs and the Incas.
Quinoa is technically not a grain, but is used as a grain and substituted for grains because of its cooking characteristics. Quinoa is now available in many forms such as pasta, cereal, flour and even polenta.
photo courtesy of Ancient Quinoa Harvest - http://www.quinoa.net/
Why is Quinoa considered a super food?
Quinoa is a considered a super food because it contains more protein than any other grain. The protein in quinoa is complete and contains all nine essential amino acids. It is especially high in lysine, methionine and cystine. Quinoa is rich in iron, calcium, riboflavin, potassium, B6, niacin and thiamin. It’s also a good source of manganese, copper, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and folate. Another great reason to eat quinoa is that it’s high in dietary fiber.
Quinoa is a gluten-free whole grain food, so people who are on a celiac diet can safely use it. The American Celiac Sprue Association lists quinoa as a good choice for a gluten free diet. Additionally, quinoa is the perfect food for vegetarians and vegans because of its high protein content!
1/4 cup of cooked Bob's Red Mill Organic Quinoa Grain has 170 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 2 mg of sodium and 7 grams of protein.
Quinoa kernels have a waxy protective coating called saponin which leaves a bitter taste. Quinoa should be rinsed under running water before cooking to remove the saponin. Many manufacturers now rinse quinoa before packaging, but it still should be rinsed just in case there is some saponin remaining. Quinoa expands up to 4 times its volume when cooked and has a mild, nutty and earthy flavor. It tends to takes on the flavors of the food it's cooked or served with.
To cook, use two parts liquid to one part quinoa. Bring the quinoa to a boil using a medium saucepan, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the grains are translucent and the germ has spiraled out from each grain. It has a crunchy texture when cooked for about 10 minutes and a soft and chewy texture when cooked for about 15 minutes. Quinoa tastes great in soups, stews, casseroles, stir fries and even cold in salads.
Some additional links about Quinoa:
Eden Organic - Red Quinoa
Ancient Quinoa Harvest
Bob's Red Mill Organic Quinoa
Emeril's Quinoa with Toasted Pecans
Quinoa with banana and mango for Passover
3 Simple Quinoa Dishes
Quinoa Corporation Recipes