How To Use Quinoa in Your Meals

Quinoa in a wooden bowl

Quinoa punches way, way, way above its weight in the battle of the grains. Never heard of it? You and your family are missing out big time in both nutrition and flavour!  Keen-wa or Keh-no-ah was a staple in the diet of the Incas in Peru a millennium ago and it's resurfacing today in the Life Style glossies.

Quinoa is an ancient seed originating from the Andes mountains of South America and used like a grain. But it contains more protein by weight than any other grain.  Beyond that, it has a near perfect amino acid balance. It is the 800 pound gorilla in lysine, an amino acid needed for tissue growth and repair. Quinoa is also a good source of fibre, phosphorous, iron, manganese, magnesium, copper and Vitamins B and E.  It is the Swiss Army Knife of nutrition.

With a lovely light nutty flavor, it goes well on your table as a salad or in salads mixed with vegetables. It can take the place of rice or cous-cous or noodles. Or serve it as a breakfast cereal with honey, chopped apples, raisins, and cinnamon.  

Quinoa is easily available in healthy food stores or in bulk barns. It is dead easy to prepare. In 15 minutes  2 cups of water and a cup of quinoa will give you 4 to 6 servings especially if you fluff it up. And as quinoa becomes more popular, many sites and magazines carry recipes on how to make it a table triumph. Once you know how to boil it up,  you can invent your own recipes and be a nutritional superhero!

  1. Get these ready: 1 cup quinoa, 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water and salt enough to give it a taste. A soup cube will do just fine but don't add any more salt if you use one. You may use other seasonings as well. Chopped garlic, some cranberries, curry powder, Italian seasoning, a dab of butter, chopped parsley, diced red pepper...go for it.
  2. Rinse the quinoa. Although most packaged quinoa has already been cleaned, it is necessary to rinse the seeds as they are naturally coated with saponin, a bitter substance that protects them against birds. You can do this by running warm water into a pot, rinse thoroughly 3 times, stirring with your hands and draining well. You may also soak it for about 15 minutes if you are using cold water and drain very well afterwards.

  3. In a medium saucepan, put two cups of water or stock and bring it to a boil. Then put the quinoa and salt or other seasoning stirring it occasionally. Bring back to a boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer it for 15 minutes. Some prefer using 3 cups of water and drain the excess water when the quinoa becomes tender and then simmer it for 15 minutes. When you see your grains becoming translucent and white threads curling around them, your quinoa is done. Allow it to sit undisturbed with lid on for about 5 minutes.
  4. Fluff and serve. If you use rice, this is a much healthier replacement. Fried onions on top is a family favourite.

Not too often can you try something new that is so much better for you than what it replaces. The Incas knew a thing or three about cooking, and quinoa was the King of the Kitchen.


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