Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Quinoa, Wondergrain

When I started my blog, I was worried that I wouldn't have anything to say. I sometimes talk a lot, but rarely do I actually have anything to say (see below). To help me determine if I would indeed have enough content to warrant a blog, I made a brief starter list of things I could post about. Today's post is drawn from the bag of starter ideas. The note I wrote to myself about today's topic was "Profess love to quinoa," so that is what I will do.

In case you are unaware, quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is probably the most bitchin' grain out there. 

(1) Quinoa is high in protein and fiber, making it more filling that wheat or rice. A quarter cup of quinoa has 3 grams of fiber (that's 12%, folks!) and 5 grams of protein. It is also the only grain that is a complete protein. It has all the amino acids you need, so you don't need to worry about mixing and matching foods to ensure you're getting all of the building blocks you need (lookin' at you, rice and beans). 

(2) Quinoa is easy to prepare, cooking in about the time it takes to cook white rice (about 10-15 minutes). Add water. Simmer. Eat. Wash dishes. Done. 

(3) Quinoa is delicious. The flavor is slightly nutty, which provides a nice change of pace from the blandness of rice. Although it has a distinct flavor, the flavor is not so overpowering as to make quinoa not pair well with other foods. I have used quinoa instead of noodles for a spaghetti-kludge dinner when I didn't have any pasta in the house. (<-- WTF is that? Quinoa with pasta sauce, sundried tomatoes, and parmesan cheese) I have also used quinoa as a rice substitute for stir fries. There are even recipes for great quinoa-based stuffings and hot and cold salads. Sometimes when I am lazy, I just cook quinoa and eat it with olive oil, salt, black pepper, and parmesan cheese. If you want to enhance the flavor, cook it in veggie/chicken/beef broth instead of water. 

(4) Quinoa has a fun texture, similar to that of couscous. Some people don't like it, but I think the itty bitty grain-balls are great. Uncooked quinoa looks like pellets. Cooked quinoa puffs up and gets soft, but still has its tiny little germ/bran circle around the puffy pellets.... mmm, roughage. A forkful of quinoa feels fun in the mouth -- far more fun than rice -- and you also have a hint of residual crunchiness from the germ/bran/whatever.* 

(5) According to the company that sells their quinoa in the teal box (or Ancient Harvest, as they call themselves), quinoa is an ancient Incan grain. That sounds far more bad-ass as part of dinner conversation than "this is a staple grain in the American diet." You can maybe even make up a story about your trip through the Andes, where you first encountered quinoa while eating with an isolated tribe that is normally pretty hostile but was so enamored with you that they decided to let you in on the secret that is their mother grain. 

If your local grocery store doesn't carry quinoa and you don't have easy access to a Trader Joe's or a Whole Foods (sending out a big HELLOOOO to my rural readers!), you can find it on Quinoa itself is gluten free, but you might want to check labels to ensure that it hasn't been cross-contaminated with wheat, barley, rye, or oats. Ancient Harvest processes theirs in a gluten-free facility. 

*I realize that I talk a lot of shit about rice in this post, which is unfair. Rice is a great grain. It is very versatile, inexpensive, and I actually really like rice, especially the brown kind. ...You know what they say: once you go brown, you never go back. 

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