Quinoa: The Ancient Superfood

21 Oct

Have you ever heard of quinoa? These nutrient-dense seeds are starting to gain popularity in grocery stores, and while some of you may have heard of it, there is still some confusion on how it can be incorporated into the diet.

Let’s start from the beginning! What exactly is quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah)? Quinoa is native to the Andes and has been around for over 5000 years!  It is often confused as a grain, but it is actually the seed of a leafy plant that is related to spinach.

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Quinoa is a complete protein which means, unlike most other plant-based protein sources, it contains all of the essential amino acids required in the diet. It is also a great source of vitamins and minerals, including: iron, potassium, B vitamins and zinc. In addition to these nutritional benefits, it is also gluten-free and safe for people with celiac disease to consume.

The seeds are small and circular and come in different colours, including white, red and black. Quinoa has a bitter-tasting coating, called saponin, which is mostly removed before sold. However, it is still important to rinse the seeds prior to cooking in order to remove any potential trace of the saponin.

How do you cook quinoa? After rinsing the seeds, you can toast them in a dry skillet to give them a roasted flavour (this step is not necessary!). Quinoa is then combined with liquid in a pan (two parts liquid to one part quinoa), brought to a boil, and then reduced to simmer and covered until the grains become translucent.  After cooking, the seeds will increase a great deal in volume, so it isn’t necessary to cook a whole bunch!

One of the great things about quinoa is its versatility! It can be purchased in different forms, such as seeds, flour, flakes, and even pasta. It can also be used in a variety of different recipes, anything from pancakes to side salads to milk. To get an idea of its many uses, check out the cookbook Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood

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A great starter recipe for those who want to try quinoa is stuffed peppers. Switching out the rice for quinoa and the meat for beans and vegetables, this recipe is both nutritious and vegetarian.

Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

Source: Vegetarian Times

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
  • 1 10-oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 3 large carrots, grated (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated reduced-fat pepper Jack cheese, divided
  • 4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in spinach and drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.
  2. Stir in black beans, quinoa, carrots, and 2 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Stir in 1 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish.
  4. Fill each bell pepper half with heaping 3/4-cup quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour. Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with 1 Tbs. remaining cheese. Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and drizzle each with pan juices before serving.

For other recipe ideas:

– Gluten-Free Quinoa Buttermilk Pancakes
Quinoa Porridge
Homemade Quinoa Milk
Southwest Quinoa Salad
Red Quinoa Mediterranean Salad

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2 Responses to “Quinoa: The Ancient Superfood”

  1. LeeAnn November 15, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    I love bell peppers and when I saw this recipe I just had to try it! Also this quinoa ingredient grabbed my attention which made me even more interested to try it! I must say it was delicious! I love being able to make foods that taste great and are healthy too! Thanks a lot!

  2. teatreehousecafe November 16, 2011 at 2:45 am #

    This looks like a FANTASTIC recipe, I love bell pepper anything. Having quinoa is great, too – a good way for me to get in some much needed protein! Can’t wait to try it, though I might leave the black beans out 😉

    Andrea

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