Quinoa, first of all… how do we pronounce it? Is it Qw-ih-no-wa? Is it Qwin-wa? No and no… Keen-wa is it’s pronunciation and it’s worth getting it right because these tiny little grains are powerhouses of nutrition!
This little grain is a trooper! It’ grows in the highest of peaks and is native to the high valleys of the Andes. Not only does it handle high altitudes, but also flourishes under extreme conditions such as thin cold air, hot sun, radiation, drought, frost and poor soil. Even though most quinoa grows best at 10 000 feet, some can also grow as low as sea level. No wonder these tough little fellas are so good for us, if they can survive anything they must be able to help us do the same.
The United Nations World Health Organization reports that quinoa is at least equal to milk in protein quality. It also has the highest protein of any grain (16%) and unlike other grains- it’s a complete protein with all the right amino acids for your body to use it effectively. Not only is it equal to milk in protein, it actually has MORE calcium than milk. Those teeny tiny little balls of goodness are also jam packed with nutrients including iron, phosphorus, B vitamins and vitamin E. What’s not to love?
It’s super easy to prepare. If you can cook rice- you can cook quinoa. It’s important to rinse Quinoa prior to cooking as it has a protective coating that is meant to keep birds from eating it in the field (who needs pesticides!?). Quinoa is usually pre-washed but it’s a good idea to give it a rinse anyways until the water becomes clear. Unlike rice and other grains, we do not need to soak it in advance. It’s so versitile it can be used to substitute any grain in a recipe and is lovely as a side dish when cooked in vegetable broth. I love to toss it in my salads or with roasted veggies and lemon. For a delicious alternative to rice pudding – try your recipe with Quinoa instead.
I’d like to share two of my favourite quinoa recipes. This was inspired from www.lifewithnature.com. It’s quick, easy and never fails.
Italian Style Quinoa Cakes
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 1 flax egg (1 tbsp of ground flaxseed with 3 tbsp of hot water, or 1 egg if not vegan)
- 1/2 cup cornmeal flour
- 2 green onions sliced thinly
- 2 Tbsp organic sun-dried tomatoes soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes then chopped
- 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1/2 cup vegan parmesan cheese (I use angel foods brand)
- 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper and 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp olive oil, for cooking
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well to combine. Form compact cakes with about 1/2 cup of the mix per cake. Heat a frying pan over medium heat with 1 tsp olive oil. Place quinoa cakes in the pan and cook about 4-5 minutes per side, until golden brown. Serve over a bed of salad.
This second one comes from one of the best websites on the web! http://www.ohsheglows.com please go see her for quick, easy delicious plant-based meals!
Cumin Lime Black Bean Quinoa Salad
Makes 6.5 cups (or serves 4)
For the salad:
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa (or 3 cups cooked)
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans (or 1.5 cups cooked), drained and rinsed
- 1.5 cups cilantro, finely chopped
- 3 small/medium carrots, julienned (about 1.5 cups)
- 4 green onions, chopped
- fine grain sea salt & black pepper, to taste
For the dressing:
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1. To prepare the quinoa: Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh sieve. Add into pot along with 1.5 cups water or veggie broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low-medium, and then cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for 15-17 minutes until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy. Remove from heat and steam with the lid on for 5 additional minutes. Fluff with fork and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, toss the quinoa, drained and rinsed black beans, cilantro, carrots, and green onions.
3. Whisk together the dressing in a small bowl or jar. Pour onto salad and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I prefer to enjoy this salad chilled, so I usually throw it into the fridge for at least an hour. This is a great make-ahead salad too – prep it the night before and let it sit in the fridge for up to 24 hours.