What is Quinoa?

Technically, quinoa is not a grain but a gluten-free seed, although it is used in all the same ways as whole grains; a more accurate term for it is pseudograin or pseudocereal. It’s actually a member of the goosefoot family and is closely related to leafy green plants like beets, chard, and spinach. The leaves of quinoa can actually be eaten just like spinach. Cooked quinoa seeds are fluffy and creamy yet slightly crunchy. The flavor is delicate and somewhat nutty.

History of Quinoa

The history of quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is very colorful and rooted in South America, particularly in the Andes region of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. According to researchers, the popularity of quinoa dates back to about 3000BC. Along with maize, quinoa was one of the two mainstay foods of the Inca Empire and was referred to as “the gold of the Incas” and “the mother grain”. Each year before planting, leaders would sow the first seeds with a golden trowel and prayers were said for a good season. Its nutrient richness allowed Andean warriors to travel for days with nothing more than quinoa to sustain them.

Quinoa Nutrition & Other Benefits

1. An excellent vegetarian source of complete protein, providing all 9 essential amino acids
2. Good source of manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, folate, fiber and zinc
3. Contains nearly twice as much dietary fiber as other grains
4. A good source of Riboflavin (B2)
5. Considered a whole grain by the Whole Grain Council
6. Gluten-free
7. Non-GMO Verified
8. Star-K kosher certified
9. Quick & easy to prepare
10. Similar to couscous in texture
11. An ideal substitute for any grain

Quinoa Cooking Instructions

1 cup quinoa (white, red or tri-color)
2 cups water
½ teaspoon salt (optional)
1 teaspoon butter (optional)
Bring water to boil in medium saucepan; add quinoa (salt and butter if desired). Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to stand covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve.
Yields 3 ¼ cups cooked quinoa.

Cooking/Serving Suggestions

1. Enhance the flavor of quinoa by cooking in broth, juice, or even tea-infused water (try Earl Grey or Chai for a full-bodied flavor or Lapsang Souchong for a robust smoky flavor).
2. During the last two minutes of cooking add any fresh herbs or spices you like along with a handful of chopped fresh spinach.
3. For more flavor dry toast quinoa in saucepan. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the saucepan over medium-high heat; add quinoa. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute until slightly toasted. Add liquid and proceed with cooking instructions.
4. Combine cooked chilled quinoa with pinto or black beans, corn, scallions and a pinch of cumin. Season to taste and enjoy a south-of-the-border inspired salad.
5. Add nuts and fruits to cooked quinoa with a drizzle of honey and serve as breakfast cereal.
6. Add quinoa to your favorite vegetable soups for a boost of protein.
7. Quinoa is great to use for tabbouleh, serving as a delicious (and gluten-free) substitute for the bulgur wheat.
8. Cooked quinoa can also be used as the basis for pilafs, salads, warm breakfast cereal, and much more.

*Information provided by: The World’s Healthiest Foods