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Wait, what's so great about quinoa anyway?

By Penelope Wall, March 16, 2011 - 9:58am

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Wait, what's so great about quinoa anyway?

My parents were back-to-the-land kind of folks, so I grew up eating all sorts of interesting whole grains. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually heard of quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wah”). And it wasn’t until the last several months that I’ve noticed a growing buzz around this quite petite, mild-flavored grain. Quinoa is everywhere. Some would say it is, in effect, one of the “hot” foods you should be eating this year. (See more trendy foods to watch for here.) But quinoa isn’t exactly new. It was, in fact, a staple in the ancient Incas’ diet. So why has this very old grain been given a new second life in 2011? Why quinoa and why now? 

 

More Trendy Whole Grains to Try: 

Oatmeal: Why It’s the #1 Breakfast You Should Be Eating This Year
Popcorn: Yes, It’s a Whole Grain and Here Are 3 Reasons to Eat It

From a purely visual standpoint, cooked quinoa is more interesting than other whole grains, especially the black and red varieties. It’s beautiful to look at and delicious to eat, with its mild and nutty flavor. Plus, most of us don’t get the recommended amount of whole grains each day (about three 1-ounce servings for women and three and a half to four 1-ounce servings for men). So if you’re trying to eat more whole grains, start with quinoa—it’s one of the quickest and easiest grains to cook up. It’s also gluten-free, so is a “safe” and totally delicious whole-grain option for people trying to avoid gluten in their diet.

Related Link: 23 Gluten-Free Grains & Starches You Should Try

I asked EatingWell deputy food editor Jessie Price for her take on the trend. She said, “As companies from Frito-Lay to McDonald’s scramble to get whole grains into their products and onto their menus, it’s clear that the whole-grain revolution is here. And as part of this revolution, quinoa has taken America by storm. This grain is packed with fiber and protein and, to top it off, it only takes 15 to 20 minutes to cook.”

So there you have it, folks. Quinoa really does have it all. So why not get totally with it and cook some up tonight?

Related Link: 7 Recipes for Protein-Rich Quinoa

Here’s how: Bring 2 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup quinoa. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Makes 3 cups. Per 1/2-cup serving: 111 calories; 2 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrate; 4 g protein; 3 g fiber; 6 mg sodium; 159 mg potassium.

10 Flavor Stir-Ins to Try:
Add any of these flavor combinations to the quinoa after it’s cooked.

  1. Apricot Nut: 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots, 1/4 cup chopped toasted nuts (walnuts, pecans or pistachios), 3 tablespoons orange juice, 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, and salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.
  2. Lime-Cilantro: 2/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, 1/3 cup chopped scallions, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.
  3. Mediterranean: 1 chopped medium tomato, 1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives, 1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence, and salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.
  4. Mint & Feta: 3/4 cup sliced scallions, 1/4 cup each finely crumbled feta cheese and sliced fresh mint, and salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.
  5. Parmesan & Balsamic: 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon butter, 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, and salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.
  6. Parmesan-Dill: 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest, and salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.
  7. Peas & Lemon: 1 cup frozen peas; cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest, and salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.
  8. Spicy & Sweet Sesame-Soy: 3 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce, 2 teaspoons each sesame oil and finely chopped fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon each chile-garlic sauce and honey, and 1/4 cup chopped toasted cashews.
  9. Spinach: 3 cups sliced baby spinach (or arugula); cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Season with salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.
  10. Tomato-Tarragon: 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes, 3 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon (or parsley or thyme), and salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.

Are you crazy for quinoa? What's your favorite quinoa recipe? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Penelope Wall, Healthy Cooking Blog

Penelope Wall
Penelope is a web producer and writer for EatingWell.com. When she's not busy geeking out at the computer, she loves cooking and trying new recipes on her friends. Some of her favorite foods are dark chocolate, coffee, apples, sweet potatoes and cheese.

Penelope asks: Are you crazy for quinoa? What's your favorite quinoa recipe?

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