WHAT IS QUINOA?
Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a cereal that is relatively new to grocery store shelves. It is a small, slightly nutty pseudo-grain, with a history that outdates many of its cousins in the kitchen. Once, only the domain of health food stores, it has recently gained acclaim on tables around the nation. A great substitute for rice or noodles, what is it about this small grain that is bringing it the acclaim it is gaining?
Far from a new food source, this ancient grain was domesticated in the South American Andes over 3000 to 4000 years ago. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that it could have been around longer than that, with a history perhaps dating back almost 7000 years. Cultivated by the ancient Incas, it was held in high regard as a food source, but also as an offering to the Gods. Referred to as the “mother grain”, it was traditional for Inca leaders to plant the first grains of the season. That was until Spanish settlers arrived. The conquistadors discouraged the ceremonies around quinoa, and even went as far as forbidding the cultivation of it.
Despite the decline in quinoa production over the following 400 years, this super food did not disappear. Locals continued to eat it, and slowly the rest of the world has become aware of the powerful nature of this almost forgotten pseudo-grain. And for good reason. While the ceremonies may have faded away, quinoa’s real value is in its high nutritional impact. Quinoa is a complete protein and is easily digestible.
In fact, quinoa has one of the highest protein contents of any grain, beating out rice, corn and barley, and comparing to nutritionally similar amaranth, spelt, and millet. It is a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and many of the B vitamins. It has a high lysine content, which is an essential amino acid that is responsible for lowering cholesterol, helping the body process calcium, and converting fatty acids into energy. Not many food sources can claim all of that.
The list goes on from there. Quinoa is also gluten free, so an attractive alternate to anyone that suffers from gluten intolerance, celiac disease, or is just looking to reduce their gluten intake. It is an invaluable addition to vegetarian and vegan diets, due to its high protein content. Its naturally low sodium, and the presence of vitamin E are other benefits that can be added to this amazing little seed.
HOW TO COOK QUINOA
The only drawback to be found in this miraculous cereal is the bitter resin-like coating on it called “saponin”. Do not fear though, as quinoa is generally rinsed before being shipped to consumers. While it is worthwhile to soak or rinse quinoa in a colander before cooking it at home, this is a small price to pay for this phenomenal ancient grain.
Once you have rinsed your quinoa, you are in for a nutritious treat. Full of versatility, quinoa takes readily to a wide variety of seasonings. Cooked 2:1, water to quinoa, for about 15 minutes, it is delightful with butter, but exotic with a dash of ginger or cinnamon, and don’t be afraid to try out your favorite herbs and seasonings as well. You can also cook with chicken or vegetable stock for more flavor too.
Excellent as a side dish, it can also double as a main meal, and shines as the main ingredient in salads. It pairs well with other grains, such as millet and barley, and cannot be forgotten as an addition to soups and stews. There is no limit to what you can do with it, so let your imagination soar and try it instead of rice in your next recipe. Here are a couple of starter recipes that will tempt your taste buds into sampling this SuperFood today.
Cooking, Food, and Nutrition are important components in learning how to be healthier and eat healthier. Here at Premier Fitness Camp we have 5-star resort accommodations with outstanding and healthy food. We don’t just feed you the freshest and healthiest food while you are here, we teach you how to prepare it yourself and introduce you to Super Foods like Quinoa, and give you great recipes.
QUINOA SALAD RECIPE:
- 5 cups quinoa, cooked (basic recipe)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1-cup carrots, chopped
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¾ cup parsley, minced
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 1-cup sunflower seeds
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- tomatoes, as desired
- black olives, as desired
- Cook quinoa, let cool. Add carrots, parsley, sunflower seeds and garlic to quinoa.
- Mix thoroughly. Combine liquids, pour over quinoa and toss well. Garnish with tomato wedges and olives. Serves 6-8
PEPPER SHRIMP QUINOA
This protein-packed dish is fabulously light but has flavor that certainly holds its own as a meal. It also makes a great side dish paired with almost anything.
- ½ cup (125 mL) quinoa
- 1 cup (250 mL) water
- 1 cup (250 mL) half & half cream
- ½ tsp (2 mL) Worcestershire sauce (or use Braggs Liquid seasoning if you want gluten-free)
- ½ cup (125 mL) white cooking wine
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) fresh chopped sweet basil
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) fresh chopped thyme
- 2/3 cup (160 mL) Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
- 1 cup (250 mL) white onion, finely chopped (about 1 medium onion)
- 1 tsp (5 mL) fresh chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)
- 1 large red pepper, diced
- 1 lb (500g) cooked shrimp, shelled and thawed
- ½ cup (125 mL) raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds
- salt, to taste
Place the quinoa and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the saucepan on the burner for another 4 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the cooked quinoa with fork. Set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk together the cream, Worcestershire sauce and wine. Slowly heat for 4 minutes. Add the Parmesan cheese, basil and thyme. Continue to simmer on low for an additional 3 minutes. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the red pepper and garlic and continue to cook for another 3 to 4 minutes until the onion is opaque and tender. Add the shrimp, cooked quinoa and pumpkin seeds. Sauté until heated throughout. Evenly divide the hot mixture between two large pasta bowls or dinner plates. Top with the simmering Parmesan sauce. Serve and devour immediately. Looking for additional flavor? Add an extra clove of garlic and an extra shot or two of Worcestershire. And don’t be shy with the fresh herbs! Veggie lover? If you want even more vegetables, add as many as you like to this dish. Gluten-free. Serves: 2 meal; 4 side.