This is one of my favorite gluten free grains. As I may have shared before, it's not actually a grain, although its qualities mimic those of grains in way of use and texture.
Quinoa is actually a seed more closely related to beets and spinach. For purposes of this site though, I will sometimes refer to the quinoa as a grain.
This grain grows under extreme conditions and is native to the high valleys of the Andes in South America.
Traditionally it was known to increase stamina and is easy to digest, therefore making it a high endurance food.
One major advantage quinoa has over rice is that it has a higher percentage of protein; 8 grams per serving (where 1 cup = 1 serving). Rice has about half of that.
As a vegetarian, it's important to pay attention to your protein intake because you've given up the one food that has a lot of protein by default.
So, although from a purely taste perspective I'd rather be eating white rice, I also know that it's mostly empty carbohydrates.
Quinoa is also a great source of Vitamin E and is high in antioxidants, which are great for your health, plus it renders its oils long lasting compared to the other vegetable oils.
The vitamin E makes it attractive as a skin applicant, and it has been known to be used to treat eczema.
By the way, this nutty little seed has more calcium than milk per serving.
Look for the grain as well as the flour at natural food markets, but it's beginning to become mainstream enough that it can sometimes be found at regular supermarkets.
My local health food market sells a few types of quinoa grain:
i. Rainbow Quinoa
ii. Red Quinoa
iii. White/yellowish quinoa - this is the type most stores carry and which you are likely familiar with.
I prefer the rainbow color seeds. I find that it tastier and more visually attractive than the other types.
Basically quinoa has a nutty taste with a delicate flavor.
Most of the time I pair it with anything you might serve rice with. Vegetarian curries and stews are my favorite foods to serve with this grain that is packed with all 8 essential amino acids.
When cooked, it is also excellent in salads. Use it in breakfast bars for an awesome protein-packed morning delight.
Here's is how to cook quinoa for 4 people:
1. Measure 2 cups quinoa and 4 cups water.
2. Wash the quinoa thoroughly under cold water using a strainer. It's important not to skip this step because the seeds' natural coating gives them a bitter taste.
3. Pour the quinoa and water into a medium pot and stir briefly. Have the heat on high.
4. Add a pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon Extra virgin olive oil.
5. Stir and let it come to a rolling boil
6. Reduce the heat to just between low and medium, so if you had a compass it would point south east.
7. Cover and let it simmer until the water is completely dry, about 20 minutes.
8. Fluff the quinoa with a fork. It should be a bit sticky, but not lumpy.
Enjoy with a vegetarian curry or grilled vegetables.
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