Just one cup of cooked quinoa is:
Black Bean-Quinoa Salad
Colorful Quick Quinoa-Grecian Salad
Quinoa Cakes with Lemon Yogurt Sauce
Quinoa Salad with Chicken and Black Beans
Quinoa with Latin Flavours
Quinoa and Smoked Tofu Salad
Honey Quinoa Bread
There are many reasons to be keen about quinoa.
Never tried quinoa? Now is the time! One of the “ancient” grains from South America, quinoa is a snap to cook and packs many nutrition benefits into its small package. It’s got lots of fibre, protein along with important vitamins and minerals. Quinoa goes into salads, pasta sauces, yogurt, pancakes, and much more.
Quinoa: Ki-no-a? Kwi-na? Close. It’s pronounced ‘Keen-wa’ and it’s becoming increasingly popular in our restaurants and on our tables. Sure potatoes and rice have traditionally been our go-to starches but this ancient grain is gaining in popularity, along with amaranth, spelt, millet and many others. This ancient seed from South America is just as interesting as its name. Plus, it is versatile and surprisingly easy to cook with. How great is that?
All types of grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates, various vitamins and minerals, and are naturally low in fat. But grains that haven't been refined — called whole grains — are even better for you. Quinoa fits into that category. Whole grains are better sources of fibre and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium. So whenever you can, choose whole grains over refined grains.
Eating whole grains and getting enough fibre can help prevent chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. It also fills you up and keeps you satisfied longer.
So, squeeze over rice and potatoes, there’s room for quinoa too.
Quinoa is a real multitasker when it comes to nutrition. The tiny grain weighs in as a good source of fibre bringing 5.2 grams per one cup cooked serving to the plate – with less than 4 grams of fat and no cholesterol. This one cup serving also provides 15% of the Daily Value for iron, 20% for folate and 13% for both thiamin and riboflavin. Another bonus is that quinoa packs some good protein providing 8 grams per cup.
Quinoa is also an excellent source of both magnesium and manganese which can help with bone maintenance as well as helping with blood pressure and heart rhythm regulation. It is also a good source of zinc, copper and vitamin B6.
According to the Canadian Diabetes Association it’s also low on the Glycemic Index with a value of 53, (55 or below is considered low GI) making it an option for those who are managing diabetes or pre-diabetes.
As well, researchers have found that quinoa contains a powerful antioxidant from the flavonoid family called quercetin. More research is needed but it’s good to know that quinoa may help fight disease as well as being versatile and tasty.
Quinoa, soaked and cooked
*% DV based a 2,000 calorie diet for a healthy adult.
Source: USDA Nutrient database
Since quinoa is a grain it can be ground up into flour just like wheat. Give it a try in some favourite family recipes. Quinoa flour isn’t like wheat flour though, and it won’t make great bread all on its own. It is best to mix it with other flours, up to 25% of the total flour required. Any more than that may change the properties of the bread or baked good too much. Adding the quinoa boosts the protein and adds a slightly grassy, nutty flavour. It’s gluten free which means those with sensitivities to gluten can use it to bake and cook with.
There are a few different varieties of quinoa. Branch out and try red or black quinoa where you can find it. Some people notice distinguishable tastes between the different types of quinoa while others don’t.
Quinoa also comes in flakes which can be used for a nutritious hot breakfast cereal, pancakes or waffles, coating for cooking fish or chicken, baking muffins or cookies.
Traditionally the more common places to find this type of grain were health and bulk food stores. Now you’ll probably find it on the shelves at many grocery stores. A visit to your local farmers’ market may even turn up some of the seeds as well. Natural foods stores such as Whole Foods and Goodness Me outlets will also carry all forms of the grain. They may even offer classes on how to cook with the grains as well.
Both quinoa and quinoa flour can be fairly expensive. Keep in mind though that a little usually goes a long way. If you’re buying it at a bulk store, ask how often the quinoa supplies are changed to be sure that there is a reasonably quick turnover. Give the grains or flour a little sniff to be sure there aren’t any rancid or off aromas. Make sure the product in the bins looks clean and fresh.
Another option is to buy it online at sites such as quinoa.com and Bob’s Red Mill or Arrowhead Mills. As a bonus, these sites usually have recipes to try and lots of extra whole grain information to check out. Even Amazon.com is now carrying it!
If you’re ordering online or buying it in the grocery store be sure to check the best before or expiry date to ensure a fresh product.
Storing grains is pretty easy for the most part. Put quinoa in an airtight container in a cool dry place. Pantries or cellars are good places for long term storage of quinoa. Or even better, store it in the fridge or the freezer. Keep it away from light since that can destroy some of the B vitamins.
Look for quinoa as an alternative to other starches that you would use in traditional recipes. Rice can be swapped out for quinoa or mixing quinoa in with the rice after cooking can add variety.
Using broths or adding veggies to the cooking water is a great start but don’t stop there, let your taste buds be a guide to new ways to flavor it. How about orange juice? White wine? Left plain, the subtle grassy nutty flavour of quinoa won’t stand out in pasta sauces, soups or casseroles, which makes it easier if you’ve got picky eaters.
The basic recipe for cooking quinoa on the stove top is as follows: in a medium saucepan bring 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until all of the water is absorbed. It’s done when all the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated. Makes 3 cups. Fluff it up with a fork if you like before serving.
To prepare in a rice cooker, simply treat quinoa like rice. Add two parts water to one part quinoa, stir, cover (unlike rice you can stir quinoa a few times while cooking to prevent burning in the bottom of the pan) and when the cooker shuts off, the quinoa is done.
To make in the microwave put 1 cup quinoa, 2 cups water in a 2 quart microwave bowl. Cook on high 100% for 5 minutes and 60% for 8 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes to make sure all of the liquid has been absorbed.
Quinoa flour is excellent in all types of baking, including cakes, cookies, breads and biscuits. It is best to blend it with other flours, substituting up to no more than 25% of the required flour. Try it in highly spiced or flavoured foods.
Note: Toasting quinoa before cooking enhances its flavor and rinsing removes any residue of saponin, its natural, bitter protective covering.
Ancient Harvest Quinoa
Bob’s Red Mill
Northern Quinoa Corporation
Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours by Kimberly Boyce, Stewart Tabori & Chang, 2010.
Quinoa 365: The EveryDay Superfood by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming, Whitecap Books, 2010.
The New Whole Grains Cookbook: Terrific Recipes Using Farro, Quinoa, Brown Rice, Barley and Many Other Delicious and Nutritious Grains by Robin Asbell, Chronicle Books, 2007.