Quinoa (“KEEN-wah”) is a highly nutritious grain-like seed. Very similar to cereal grains, quinoa is thought to have originated in South America, and was a big part of the Incan diet. Today we know that quinoa is highly nutritious: it is a complete protein, a significant source of calcium, is gluten free, and is a good source of fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It can often be used as a rice or couscous replacement, or mixed into a wide variety of salads. But many folks have never heard of quinoa, and don’t understand how to prepare it. Is quinoa preparation easy? Is it any good?
- Better for You – Quinoa is a complete protein, and high in calcium, fiber and important minerals
- Special diet friendly – packs a nutritional punch for vegans, vegetarians, and glucose intolerant individuals
- Easy to prepare – cooks just the same as rice
- Versatile – can be used with a wide variety of other ingredients to suit any meal
- Tasty – has a mild, slightly nutty flavor – much like other grains
- Low priced – not a cheap as rice, but relatively low priced, especially if purchased in bulk
- The texture can be a little off-putting to some
When I moved to California, I ran into all kinds of food I’d never seen before. Quinoa was one of them. I was dining at a friend’s house when she whipped up a quinoa salad that was amazing! When I asked her for the recipe, she told me that you don’t need a recipe for quinoa – you just toss in whatever sounds good at the time! I couldn’t wait to start experimenting at home.
My local Sprouts Farmer’s Market sells quinoa for the best price I’ve seen. You can get quinoa in bulk for $3.49 a pound. A pound of uncooked quinoa is so much food, I feel like they’re practically giving to me for free! Quinoa is prepared exactly the same as rice: combine 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water. Heat until boiling, then cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed (about 15 min). When it’s cooked the quinoa increases in size and becomes translucent in color.
While quinoa is tasty and fine to eat all by itself, the most common way to serve is with mix-ins, like diced veggies, fruits, nuts or cheese. It can be served hot or cold, depending on its place in the meal. Quinoa can be a main dish or a side, or can be mixed into other dishes like casserole, soup, or green salads. If you’re not sure – use it anyplace you would use a starch.
Two of my favorite ways to prepare quinoa are as a cold lunch salad, or a warm breakfast. Here are my recipes – I don’t tend to measure, just add the goodies until the balance seems right to me.
Mediterranean Style Quinoa (Cold Salad)
- Cooked Quinoa, chilled
- Diced Cucumbers
- Diced Tomatoes
- Diced Red Onions
- Crumbled Feta Cheese
- Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
Warm Breakfast Quinoa (modified from Whole Lifestyle Nutrition)
- Cooked Quinoa
- Maple Syrup
- Chopped Pecans
Have you ever tried Quinoa? What’s your favorite way to prepare it?