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Quinoa

Quinoa is a fabulous food for people who want to eliminate white food from their diet. Think of quinoa as a replacement for pasta, rice, couscous or wheat bulgar. You can substitute quinoa in pilaf, risotto, tabouleh, pasta, rice pudding and oatmeal.  Quinoa is the new little black dress! It goes great with everything and can easily be dressed up or down.

Nutritional powerhouse and vegetarian protein source

Nutritionally, quinoa packs a punch. It is considered a complete protein, meaning it has all the essential amino acids we humans need, and provides about 5 grams of protein per quarter cup. Quinoa is also rich in fiber, glutton-free and is a low glycemic index food.  It is loaded with calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, B and E vitamins. Research shows it has strong anti-inflamatory properties.

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Types of quinoa

Quinoa, which is technically a seed and not a grain, comes in an array of colors. Creamy white is the most common, but there is also purple, red, black and rainbow quinoa. Red quinoa packs a bit more protein.

Rainbow Quinoa

 

Rinsing quinoa

Most quinoa is pre-rinsed when you buy it, but if you are unsure rinse your quinoa. Quinoa is naturally coated in a substance called saponin which keeps insects and birds away. Un-rinsed quinoa will have a bitter flavor. To rinse your quinoa pour it into a bowl and let it set for about 5 minutes. Swish the quinoa around vigorously, rubbing the grains together with your fingers and then rinse again it in a fine colander.

Rinsing quinoa

 

Toasting quinoa

Like nuts and herbs, toasting quinoa before using in a recipe brings out a richer, nuttier flavor. Pour your rinsed quinoa into a medium hot pan. Cook stirring to prevent burning. You will hear little pops and crackles like mini-popcorn popping. Keep stirring until quinoa is golden, about 5 minutes. Take care not to burn the quinoa or it will taste a lot like burnt popcorn.

Toasting quinoa

 

Storing quinoa

Recommendations for storing quinoa vary, with some recommending you store it in the fridge and others saying it is not necessary. I prefer to store mine in the fridge. What is important is that you store it in a dry container away from heat and light. If you cook with quinoa frequently, I recommend rinsing 3-4 cups really well, toasting it, and storing it in an airtight container in the fridge. It is just as easy to rinse and toast one cup of quinoa as it is for several cups of quinoa. By rinsing and toasting in bulk you will have a supply of ready-to-cook quinoa.

Cooking quinoa

You can cook quinoa in just about any liquid:  water, chicken broth, coconut milk, even juice. Put two parts liquid to one part quinoa in a pan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to low, cover and cook on low for 12-15 minutes. When quinoa is cooked it will appear slightly transparent and will have sprouted a tiny little tail. Take quinoa off the stove and let sit covered for about 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.  

 
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