Quinoa is a protein-packed grain whose use goes far back to ancient South American regions like Peru. It contains all essential amino acids with lysine being found in abundance.
Lysine helps with maintaining healthy tissue growth. Apart from this, quinoa provides excellent source of vitamin E, fiber, iron, magnesium and potassium.
It has grabbed the spotlight all over the world for its various health benefits, the fact that it is versatile and can be used in various recipes and has a delicious nutty flavor. You will find quinoa in the menus of many restaurants and find recipes to cook it at online sites.
How to cook quinoa?
Quinoa’s taste closely resembles couscous and can be cooked like rice although its taste and flavor is better than either. The seeds of quinoa are hard and bitter to taste.
This deters birds from feeding on them. Hence, it cannot be used raw but must be soaked before cooking. This is the main challenge that is posed when cooking with quinoa.
The following basic steps can be followed to cook quinoa. This will make it easier although different recipes and different chefs may follow their own methods. Most packaged quinoa available in food stores come pre-soaked.
- Take a cup of quinoa and soak it in 2 cups water for at least 5-10 minutes. This will remove remnants of any the bitter outer coating.
- Drain out the water.
- Rinse once more.
- Place in a pot, add 1 ½ times water and ½ tsp salt
- Cover with a tight fitting lid and boil for 15 minutes.
- Switch off and let it remain covered for at least 5 minutes to absorb the heat
- Now it is ready to serve!
Various uses of quinoa
Quinoa can be served on its own after boiling as a side dish by simply seasoning it with some salt, pepper, butter or oil and any favorite seasonings.
It can also be made into breakfast cereals, soups, salads, casseroles or stir-fries. It is a healthy substitute for rice and a great protein alternate for vegans.
It easily combines with various vegetables – especially beans. Quinoa flour can be used for baking nutritious and tasty muffins or breads. It can replace meat to make burgers.
Benefits of cooking with quinoa
Quinoa is a complete protein that contains all essential amino acids and hence is a great option for vegetarians. It has a high manganese content that keeps blood sugar levels normal and helps in maintaining strong and healthy bones.
The high niacin and fiber content in quinoa ensures cholesterol levels are lowered and kept in check. What is more, being gluten-free, it is a great nutritious food for those who suffer from gluten-intolerance and need to avoid dairy products and other gluten-rich foods and have celiac disease.
Quinoa is easy to prepare and very versatile. It can be used as a substitute for white rice in most recipes. Quinoa has a low glycemic index and can be used by diabetics.
It also has fewer calories than brown rice which is considered a healthy food. Quinoa is also rich in many other vitamins and minerals, hence find out various ways to prepare it and enjoy nutritious and tasty meals.
Some Popular Quinoa Recipes
Quinoa can be a tasty addition to various types of soups. Not only does it thicken soups but provides excellent nutritive value and is tasty too. The following chicken and quinoa soup can make a complete and comforting meal for a cold winter’s night.
- Olive oil – 2 tbsp
- Carrots– ½ cup chopped
- Celery – ½ cup chopped
- Onions - ½ cup chopped
- Water – 2 cups
- Chicken broth or stock – 3 cups
- Quinoa – ½ cup (rinsed)
- Diced and cooked chicken – 2 cups
- Parsley – ¼ tsp finely chopped
- Black pepper, garlic powder and salt – ½ tsp each
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add carrots, celery, onions and sauté for 5 minutes until they turn brown. Now stir in the water and chicken stock and boil. Mix in the parsley, diced chicken, quinoa, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Cover the saucepan and cook in low heat for 20 minutes. Seasonings can be increased or decreased according to taste.
The following recipe can be used to make a hot bowl of nourishing breakfast cereal or a side dish to a main meal. Take 2 cups of stock (chicken or vegetable) or water and boil.
If you are making a breakfast cereal, substitute it with 2 cups milk. Add a cup of rinsed quinoa, reduce heat and simmer for 15-18 minutes. Once the liquid has been completely absorbed, remove from fire and stand for a few minutes.
Fluff the quinoa and add required garnishing depending on the meal. For a breakfast cereal, you can add nuts, fruits, raisins, honey and such. For a side dish, you can add fresh chopped herbs, onions and your favorite spices.
For your fussy kids who do not get enough nourishment, quinoa can be a great addition for various children’s recipes. Now, learn to cook easy snacks, salads, stir-fries, and breakfast cereals that children will love.
You can feel satisfied that they are eating nourishing food that they love.
Try this orange quinoa salad. It is a filling snack after playtime or can be used as a side dish with grilled meats like pork. For the salad dressing, you need:
- Fresh orange juice – ¼ cup
- Olive oil – 2 tbsp
- Low-fat buttermilk – 1 ½ tsp
- Honey – 2 tsp
- Salt – ½ tsp
- Ground pepper – 1/8th tsp
For the salad you require:
- Uncooked quinoa - 1 1/3 cup
- Water – 2 ¾ cup
- Salt – ½ tsp
- Green onions – 1 cup (sliced thin)
- Dried and sweetened cranberries – 1 cup
- Fresh parsley – 1/3 cup chopped fine
- Toasted almonds – 3 tbsp (sliced)
Combine all the ingredients for the salad dressing and whisk briskly. Cook quinoa in a non-stick pan for 4 minutes. Take off, place in a sieve, dip in a bowl of water and rub vigorously for a few minutes.
Drain and repeat the process. Now combine the quinoa with the water and salt in a saucepan, boil, then reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes until the water is completely absorbed. Remove and cool it. Add all the other ingredients, cover, chill and then serve.
This is a favorite main meal for many families. It is easy to cook and inexpensive as well. The following is a recipe for black bean-quinoa casserole.
- Cooked quinoa – 1 cup
- Black beans – 3 cups cooked
- Sweet potatoes – 2 large, shredded
- Low-fat cheddar cheese – 1 cup
- Ground cumin – 1 tbsp
- Salt and pepper – to taste
- Eggs – 2
- Salsa – 1 cup
- Fresh Cilantro – 2 tbsp chopped
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Mix black beans, quinoa, ½ cup cheese, sweet potato, salt, pepper and cumin in a bowl. Mix eggs and salsa separately and add to the vegetable mix.
Pour into a prepared casserole dish, sprinkle rest of the cheese on top, place in oven and bake for 30 minutes uncovered. Garnish with fresh cilantro before serving.
Quinoa can be enjoyed all year round - during summer by making fresh salads or in winter as warm soups. It is easy to cook and digest.
Quinoa is a ‘superfood’ that keeps heart healthy, it acts as an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, regulates blood sugar and provides many other health benefits for kids and adults alike. So, learn from your ancestors and add this ‘super grain’ in your diet using these and other recipes.