I tend to field a lot of questions about food and nutrition, mainly because I am always cooking up strange concoctions in the kitchen at work that may or may not smell awesome. The woman next to me asks me leerily, “So…what are you eating NOW?” as if my answer might be “tree bark marinated in butterfly tears”. Apparently I eat a lot, because she asks a lot.
One of the most common questions I get, after “If you don’t eat meat, how do you get enough protein?,” is “What is quinoa, anyway?”
First of all, you must pronounce it right or you are totally uncool. I mean it. Try standing in the middle of Trader Joe’s and loudly say “WHERE IS THE CUE-NO-AH?” and see how many eye rolls you get from people wearing yoga pants and square glasses. Sidebar: Guys, you cannot pull off yoga pants. I know you want to be all free-hangin’, one-with-nature, whatever, but it’s not a good look. I worry for your man pebbles.
So let’s say it together. KEEN-WAH. One more time. KEEN-WAH.
Quinoa could be my favorite food right now. It is what He-Man and She-ra would feed their child if they had one, which would. be. amazing. In other words, Quinoa is a power food.Most people think quinoa is a whole grain but it’s actually from the plant family, in the same line as spinach and kale. It’s a psuedocereal, which is a broadleaf plant that yields edible seeds typically used like a cereal. I love it because it is high in protein, which I need as a veggie (see question in opening paragraph). Quinoa is also a complete protein, which means it contains all 9 essential amino acids necessary for our dietary needs. Some incomplete protein sources may also contain all essential amino acids, but a complete protein contains them in correct proportions for supporting our biological functions.
Quinoa contains dietary fiber, calcium, and a ton of vitamins that I’m not going to bore you with. Quinoa is also very good source of magnesium, the mineral that relaxes blood vessels. Since low levels of magnesium are associated with increased rates of hypertension, obstructed blood vessels and heart arrhythmias, quinoa can give a boost to the ol’ ticker.
When cooked, quinoa is light and fluffy with a nutty flavor. I substitute it for any grain, really. I use it in place of rice or even noodles. I have been known to sub it for oatmeal at breakfast, put it in yogurt and salads or mix it with beans, lentils, curry or any Trader Joe’s Indian Fare. And sometimes – WAIT FOR IT – I’ll throw it in my Magic Bullet for smoothies!
Quinoa is amazingly simple to make. Boil 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water until the water is all soaked up. Then fluff with a fork and let sit, covered, for about 15 minutes. It will expand into about 2 cups and lasts the whole week!
One of my favorite ways to eat quinoa is this recipe for Quinoa and Black Beans, which I adapted from Wendy at Cooking Quinoa. There are so many possible variations to this recipe – have fun with it and share what you’ve come up with. ‘Cause sharing is caring.
(Click recipe card to view larger)
What are your favorite ways to eat quinoa? Did your mom not let you watch He-Man and She-ra, but you did anyway at a friends house and got caught because you made She-ra bracelets out of styrofoam cups and ran around the house wearing them, thus getting in trouble? No? Just me, then.