Grains are a rather misunderstood breed. Most everyone is familiar with a handful of grains, but their use is traditional. Luckily, in recent years, grains have experience an increased popularity due to their nutritious orientation and the fact many have wheat allergies and are looking for an alternative. Grains can be purchased in bulk, or prepackaged. One of these grains is quinoa. Cooking with quinoa is easy. It is very versatile, high in fiber, low in fat, and great for the budget-minded.
With a history dating back 5000 years, quinoa originates from the Andes Mountains of South America. There is is one of three staple foods, along with corn and potatoes. Quinoa is known as the “super grain” or “mother grain”.
Nutritiously, quinoa is noted to have the most protein out of all the grains. With some 1800 varieties available, it contains as much as 20% protein, with the average being 16%. This compares to rice having 7.5%, millet 9.9%, and wheat having 14%. Also high in calcium and iron (amongst other nutrients), quinoa provides a rich and balanced source of nutrients including starch, sugar, oil, fiber, minerals and vitamins. Whew!
Other benefits quinoa is known to have include:
Ã?Â· easy to digest – it is very light and nonsticky
Ã?Â· quick and simple to prepare (takes 8-10 minutes to cook)
Ã?Â· versatile (make it into a sweet dish or main/hearty dish)
What is fun about cooking with quinoa is the fact that it looks like little cylinders when it is cooked. Quinoa looks like a transparent circle with a ring around the grain. I like to highlight that in my cooking with quinoa classes.
Here are two recipes using quinoa that illustrate its versatility. Come see how easy cooking with quinoa is!
This one is a one-pot dish:
Queenly Quinoa (serves 2)
One-half cup quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
1 cup water
Ã?Â½ cup mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons onion
1 teaspoon miso
Put all ingredients into a saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer. Stir constantly. Add additional water to prevent sticking, if needed. Cook till quinoa is tender.
(recipe an excerpt from my cookbook ‘Unearthing the World of Grains’)
This is a more time-consuming way of cooking with quinoa. So tasty, though:
Spinach Lasagna (serves 12)
1 pound spinach lasagna (or your favorite noodle)
1 cup quinoa, cooked
1 cup ricotta cheese, lowfat
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
one-quarter cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons fresh parsley sprigs, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups spaghetti sauce (adjust amount)
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
Mix quinoa, cheese, and spices in bowl. Set aside. In 9×13″ baking dish, cover bottom with uncooked lasagna noodles. Cover layer with quinoa mixture. Top with mushrooms and carrots. Top with spaghetti sauce, then some Parmesan cheese. Repeat this layering process until all ingredients are used. On top layer, sprinkle mozzarella cheese. Place in 350 oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Cheese will begin to melt, brown, and sauce will be bubbling from underneath.
(Recipe excerpted from ‘Unearthing the World of Grains’)
This recipe for cooking with quinoa highlights its sweetness and versatility:
Sweet Quinoa and Apples (serves 4)
One-half cup quinoa, uncooked
1 cup water
1 apple, peeled/cored/cubed
1 tablespoon apple juice concentrate, frozen
one-half teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon mint leaves
Place all ingredients into saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and continue cooking until apple is tender. Adjust liquid to prevent sticking. Stir constantly.