I was talking to a friend of mine, Monica, the other week about this very blog and in passing, she suggested that I should really add some quinoa recipes to the mix. After seeing the blank stare on my face for a moment, she informed me that Quinoa (pronounced kin-wah) is actually a grain substitute for items like rice and pasta. She specifically recommended it for use in salads to add a little flavor. As is common when I find out about something new and exciting, and want to learn more, I quickly turned to an irrefutable source…Wikepedia. Imagine my surprise to find out that quinoa has been around for more than six thousand years. It’s an interesting little food stuff to be sure.
Let’s begin with the most important aspect of quinoa; its flavor. For those of you whom, like me, had never heard of quinoa before now, it’s the seed of a leafy plant that is distantly related to the spinach. My first recipe was more of a quinoa pilaf and I found it very tasty. The next day I helped myself to some of the leftovers and just ate them cold like a salad. Personally, I found that I liked it cold even better. I experimented with a quinoa stuffing that I rolled into a pork loin and it was a big success for my family. I went on line and found some recipes to help with my delve into this uncharted culinary delight. I found a great salad which is made by taking some olive oil and roasting onions with a variety of peppers. I then cooked the quinoa according to the instructions on the package–though I substituted chicken broth for the water to add a little more flavor– I added the quinoa to the roasted veggies and chilled them. When that was done I added some peas, a little more olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. It tasted delectable and was very easy to make.
Now, you may think, ‘but Carla, I can just make rice pilaf’, or ‘my stuffing works just fine with bread crumbs, what make quinoa so special?’. Well, while quinoa tasting as good as other grains might make it seem pedestrian, its nutritional value could make it a super grain–despite it not technically being a grain in the strictest sense of the word–It has high levels of potassium, riboflavin, iron, niacin, thiamin, magnesium, zinc copper, and manganese to start, but it also contains folic acid. All of this is great for a healthy diet. Most importantly, it contains our good friend Protein, and unlike other grains, it’s not missing the amino acid, lysine. This means it is more complete and the World Health Organization has rated the quality of protein in quinoa to be at least equivalent to that you find in milk. To top it all off, 1 cup of quinoa is only 218 calories which makes it easier to fit into meal plans. It’s definitely worth a try for anyone that wants to punch up their meal plans.