Cooking with Quinoa

Continuing with the whole grain theme for this month, this week’s article is about a grain that has been gaining popularity – Quinoa. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an ancient “grain,” native to Central America. This tiny seed can be found in a variety of colors, although white is the most commonly consumed. The seeds are similar in size to a sesame seed. Quinoa comes from the goosefoot plant, a relative of leafy green vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard.

A Nutrition Powerhouse

This tiny seed is a powerhouse when it comes to nutrition. It is high in protein, around 1218%, an unusual occurrence among plant foods. In fact, the protein in quinoa is considered to be a “complete protein,” as it contains all eight essential amino acids which are needed for building and maintaining muscle in humans.

The quinoa seed is also high in calcium and iron, two more essential nutrients. Naturally gluten-free, quinoa also makes a nutritious and flavorful alternative grain for those with gluten sensitivity. Providing 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving, quinoa would be a worthy addition to anyone’s diet.

Simple to Use – Tips for Preparing Quinoa

The first step is to remove the saponins, a natural bitter coating, by soaking the ancient grain in water. While most boxed quinoa has been pre-rinsed for convenience, it is still a good idea to wash the seeds and remove any remaining saponin residue. Simply run cold water over quinoa.

A common cooking method is to treat quinoa much like rice. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add 1 cup quinoa. Bring the mixture back to a boil, covering the pan with a lid, and continue to cook over medium heat for 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff, cover again and let stand for 15 minutes. This should yield around 4 servings. Occasionally I will replace half of the water with low-sodium broth to add extra flavor.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

Quinoa will produce a fluffy, creamy and slightly crunchy consistency with a mild and somewhat nutty flavor when cooked. Try incorporating quinoa into your next meal using one of these quick serving ideas.

Substitute quinoa for rice in any entree, soup or salad recipe.

Create a side dish with a kick of flavor by substituting water with chicken or vegetable stock when cooking quinoa.

Mix quinoa with honey, almonds or berries for a high-protein hot breakfast cereal.

For a twist on your favorite pasta recipe, use noodles made from quinoa.

Hot Apple Quinoa


Serves: 4

All you need

cup quinoa

cup steel cut oats

1 apple, cored and chopped

1 Tsp ground cinnamon

2 cups water

2 Tbsp raisins

2 Tbsp dried cranberries

2 Tbsp chia seeds

2 Tbsp honey

All you do

1. In a 4-quart microwave-safe bowl, combine quinoa, oats, apple, cinnamon and water.

2. Microwave on high power for 12 minutes.

3. Stir in raisins, dried cranberries, chia seeds and honey.

Nutrition per cup serving: 130 calories, 27 g carbohydrate, 3 g protein, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 3 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium.

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Katie Wilhelmi is a registered dietitian at the New Ulm Hy-Vee.

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