Monday, January 26, 2009

Hello quinoa! Lovely to meet you...Won't you please come in?

I'd like to preface this post by stating that my sister, Green Gal, has gone green. And I don't mean in a commercialized-sort-of-way (the kind where you pay more for a bottle of glass cleaner because it has trees on the label) but honestly wants to make the earth a better place to live. I think I first noticed this when I saw her baby crawling around in brown, environmentally friendly diapers. I, on the other hand, have put numerous cloth bags into my diaper bag to later use at the supermarket and conveniently "forgot" to take them out when bagging my groceries (I'll line my bathroom garbage with them, okay!? sheesh!)

Green Gal is also always raving about these yummy organic and healthy foods she's been making lately: "oh you just have to come over and try my black bean burgers I made today, they are unreal!" she'd say. I'd have two words for her: Dr. Praeger. Don't get me wrong, her food is always delicious but I didn't think of myself as someone who actually wanted to take the time to, shall I say embrace new ingredients and prepare them...Until I was introduced to Quinoa.

The deal with quinoa:

Originally from the Andean region of South America, Quinoa is a complete protein source due to its balanced set of essential amino acids. It's a great source of fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. (Wikipedia: Quinoa) For a pseudocereal (non-leaf plant) to contain all these nutrients is extremely rare.

I was excited. After trying my sisters delicious quinoa that she had boiled in chicken stock with sauteed peas and onions mixed in it, I was truly hooked.

Quinoa has a bitter outer layer that should be washed thoroughly. I recommend using a flour sifter (quinoa is very tiny and if you put it though a colander you'd lose most of the grains). My sister recommends filling a bowl with water and soaking them for a couple minutes until you find that the water has a sudsy appearance. This works well top, just be sure you strain it well.

Bring one and a half cups to two cups of water or stock (I used Imagine Vegetable Stock) to a boil with one cup of Quinoa - I started with the one and half cups and towards the end added when I found it wasn't cooked through. The directions say to cook covered for 14 to 18 minutes once it's come to a boil but I found I needed at least another 5 to 8 minutes on top of the 18. You'll probably need to experiment a couple times until you like the consistency.

Here are links to great looking quinoa recipes I am anxious to try:

Making small steps to healthier eating habits; using brown rice pasta, throwing more veggies into the stew, or even experimenting with more nutritious ingredients can really go a long way. And just remember, making a few healthy dishes now and then doesn't mean your kitchen needs to look like Whole Foods - it just means your making smart decisions for you and your family!

Happy Quinoa Making!

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