Keen on Quinoa

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Welcome to the New Year!

Whole grains have been trendy for a number of years now. Along with barley, brown rice, oats, etc., there are recipes all around with different "new" whole grains too - like teff, amaranth, farro, etc. Quinoa (keen-wah) is a fairly new whole grain, but commonly available in stores, simple to cook with, and useable in a variety of recipes.

Nutritionally, 1/4 cup dry quinoa contains around 150 calories, 3g fat, 27g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 6g protein, and is a source of vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, and several B vitamins, including folate and niacin. Quinoa contains almost no sodium, and is a gluten-free whole grain, if you are needing a gluten-free diet.

  • Buy: Look for tan or white dry quinoa in boxes or bags. Red, black, and other colors of quinoa may be available. Check the date on the package and purchase before the best-buy date. Remember, best-buy is a measure of quality, not safety. The quality should still be good if the date is not too far gone.
  • Price: While brands will vary in price, quinoa is slightly expensive. For those who have never tried quinoa before and are not sure if they will like it, look for a small box or buy a small amount from a bulk bin.
  • Store: Store dry quinoa at room temperature in a cool, dark, and dry area.
  • Prepare: Follow the directions on the package for cooking quinoa. Directions often say to rinse quinoa before cooking as it has a natural coating of the compound saponins that tastes bitter.

I tend to cook it like pasta with extra water and drain, but you can also cook it like rice and all the water will be absorbed in about 15 minutes. Refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours of cooking.

  • Eat: Quinoa is useful is cold salads, soups and chilis, and even baked goods – cooked, raw, and ground into a flour. See the reference list for some recipe ideas.


Balsamic Quinoa with Red Peppers (Serves 4)

For extra flavor, try cooking quinoa in broth. Add garbanzo beans for a more filling vegan meal or serve with chicken.

1 cup dry quinoa
1 large red bell pepper, washed and sliced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp each black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder

1. In a large pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
2. Add quinoa and bell peppers. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 12-15 minutes or until quinoa is tender.
3. Remove lid and add vinegar, oil, and spices. Stir to combine. If additional water remains, simmer a minute or two – stirring frequently – until liquid evaporates.

Nutrition analysis per serving: 240 calories, 10g fat, 5mg sodium, 32g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 6g protein