from Cindy Fleming, healthy food consultant at Carp Ridge Natural Health Clinic

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), although thought by many people to be a grain is actually a grain-like vegetable similar to buckwheat and amaranth.

It is a wonderful food for vegetarians and for those looking for healthy sources of protein — its protein contains healthy amounts of all the essential amino acids. People with food sensitivities or allergies should know that it’s gluten-free. It is also an excellent source of iron and magnesium and is a good source of many of the B vitamins, calcium and phosphorous.

Quinoa is cooked the same way as rice and can be used in a wide range of dishes.  It has a light, fluffy texture when cooked, and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it an alternative to rice or couscous.

Historybit: Cultivated in South America for more than 7000 years, quinoa was considered sacred and called “chesiya mama,” (mother grain) in the Quechua language.
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TIPS:

  • Rinse quinoa before cooking it to remove the soapy, bitter coating. Quinoa takes about 15 minutes to cook and is done when you can see the curlicue in each grain, and it is tender with a bit of pop to each bite.
  • Use it as a bed of grain for bean or vegetable dishes in place of rice
  • Use it to make pilafs with nuts and dried fruits
  • It’s great for stuffing vegetables
  • Make tabbouleh-style salads with it. Add diced crisp vegetables, fresh tomatoes, and minced herbs. Toasted pine nuts add a delicious touch
  • Just use it simply, as a nutrition-boosting side dish

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Here is a recipe to try:

Simple Quinoa Pilaf with Peas and Almonds

Serves: 4 to 6

  • 3 cups vegetable stock, or water with 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 1 1/2 cups raw quinoa
  • 3 to 4 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons salt-free seasoning (like Spike or Mrs. Dash)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds, lightly toasted in a dry skillet

Bring the water or stock to a simmer in a large, heavy saucepan. Rinse the quinoa well in a fine sieve. Stir the quinoa into the boiling water along with the onions and seasoning blend. Cover and cook at a gentle but steady simmer until all the water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the peas and olive oil, then season to taste with salt. Transfer the pilaf to a serving dish and scatter the almonds over the top. Garnish with parsley if desired.