Thursday, February 23, 2012

commentary: quinoa

I was just minding my own business, cooking couscous and brown rice for dinner, when I became virtually bombarded with quinoa recipes. Pinterest recipes for quinoa, bloggers blogging about quinoa, even a Chopped episode featuring quinoa.

So, quinoa is 'in' right now, I get it. But, it is also 'in' for good reason. Quinoa is like the mother of all grains. The master grain. King grain. So, here is a bit of information (there is a lot of it out there) I have compiled on the topic for your consideration.


What is Quinoa?

Quinoa is not actually a grain (kindly disregard the King grain statement above), but rather a seed of a green leafy plant cultivated in South America. The quinoa plant is related to beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds. Quinoa is common and can be found in most grocery stores and certainly in the bulk sections of health food stores.


Nutritional Content*
  • Protein. The main reason quinoa tends to be a better choice than other grains is because its protein content is higher (Table 1). Quinoa is also a complete protein, which means that it contains a nutritionally-sufficient amount of all nine essential amino acids. 

  • Minerals. Quinoa contains calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc. The amount of these minerals contained in quinoa tends to be greater than found in other cultivated grains. Specifically, a 1/4 cup dry serving of quinoa contains about 15% iron in a highly soluble form, which is important for maintaining healthy muscles, among other benefits.
  • Vitamins. This seed also contains notable amounts of alpha-carotene, niacin, thiamin, folic acid, and Vitamin C. One study found that compared with many other cereals, quinoa also contains considerably more riboflavin, Vitamin E, and carotene (see reference 27). Vitamin E is especially important as it has antioxidant properties.
*As with chia seeds, the nutritional information I located is highly variable, so Table 2 presents my best summary and includes ranges of important nutritional components based on my internet 'research'.


How to Eat Quinoa

Quinoa is simple to cook and has a light, fluffy texture and a mild, nutty flavor. If your quinoa hasn't been pre-rinsed, the first step is to throughly rinse the grain. A great tutorial on cooking quinoa can be found here. Then simply cook quinoa as instructed with water or vegetable/chicken broth (a 1:1.5 cup ratio of quinoa to liquid is recommended). Bring to a boil and simmer for about 12-15 minutes. Fluff, add flavorings, and enjoy!


What you can add to quinoa is endless:
  • Add seasonings or cooked vegetables for a dinner side dish.
  • Add nuts, eggs, or other protein source for a healthy one dish meal.
  • Add nuts, dried fruit, berries, or honey and enjoy quinoa for breakfast.

And finally, here are some quinoa recipes that have caught my eye to give you some quinoa-spiration:


Now - be brave, buy a box, throw in some tasty toppings, and go get your quinoa on.

(image 1, 2, 3, 4)

28 comments:

  1. oooooh that's my photo! <3 I have a big bowl of that stuff sitting in my fridge right now - it re-heats like a flipping champ -- unlike rice which gets kind of gross the next day lol!

    Thanks for linking back to my recipe Sara! <3 You're a rockstar! Now come over for some quinoa! =)

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    1. you are quite welcome! it's a great post!

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  2. The protein content is one reason I love quinoa. That's cool to see the actual plant - I knew it wasn't a grain, but never looked up a pic of where it comes from. Great write up!

    I like to add a little sweet to mine to shake things up - I've made a Moroccan-spiced version with goji berries. Talk about a power bowl! :)

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    1. yeah, i didn't know that either until i started researching the topic. that moroccan spiced version sounds great! send me the recipe!

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  3. I am capital O obsessed with quinoa. I eat it allllllll the time. Thanks for the recipe links...I always appreciate being able to sneak it into more meals :)

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    1. you are welcome. let me know if you make any of them!

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  4. i love quinoa! i am a vegetarian, so i have been eating it for a while! thanks for all of the recipes!

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  5. I am in love with quinoa - such a great complete protein source for us veggies and vegans. Delish!

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    1. it is a delicious protein source! even for us non-veggies! i eat meat - but not often so this is a great option!

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  6. I just bought my first bag of quinoa last week and I need to make it! I have a few recipes I want to try! I hope I like it!

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    1. i was intimidated the first time i made it - but it isn't hard at all! good luck! :)

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  7. You did a really great job with this post! I love quinoa and will definitely be trying some of your recipes :)

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  8. Quinoa is delicious, but I never realized how healthy it is!

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  9. I have been wanting to try Quinoa but didn't know much about it! Thanks for posting this! I will have to include it to the menu this weekend!!

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    1. i would love to know how it goes!

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  10. YUM! I don't think I've ever actually tried quinoa, but now I definitely want to.

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    1. hey kristine! thanks for commenting on my blog! means a lot. let me know if you try quinoa - it really is fantastic.

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  11. I've never had quinoa but I'm obsessed with Chopped. I'm not exagerating either. I'll watch an episode I've already seen 5 more times...

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    1. hahaha! i, also, am obsessed with Chopped. i can't get enough. although i rarely watch episodes more than once ;)

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  12. Love quinoa! I just made a quinoa quiche it was really good! I might try using with fruit for a new twist too! Have a good weekend girl!

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    1. so, i am totally craving quiche right now (making one sunday night). would love if you shared this quinoa quiche recipe with me...

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  13. Quinoa is probably my favorite grain! I eat that or brown rice multiple times a week. It's such a great way to incorporate protein AND healthy carbs. Not to mention, it's delicious!
    Thanks for sharing all of the recipes. (:

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    1. hey emily! thanks for stopping by i know you are busy right now. it is a fantastic grain!

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  14. i loveeee quinoa! i always get really excited when the dining hall has some :)

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    1. haley i can't believe that your dining hall has quinoa. how fancy! pretty sure mine just had white rice. but, then again, that was a long time ago...

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  15. A favorite of ours is Quinoa "Fried Rice" that we found online. Check it out! http://www.skinnytaste.com/2009/02/quinoa-fried-rice-525-pts.html

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