I love quinoa. It's true—I love the way it pops in my mouth when I eat it; I love the nutty flavor; I love that it is high in protein so I feel good about feeding my body. Quinoa is a food that I am constantly encouraging my patients to try. It's an excellent choice for diabetics because it doesn't spike blood sugar and for pregnant women because it's a good source of protein. It is gluten-free so it's a good choice for those with gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Like rice, it is a great carrier of flavor—you can eat it with anything. Unlike rice, as Chef Brett mentioned in her post, quinoa is a complete protein—this means that it contains all of the essential amino acids our bodies require for building muscle, proteins & enzymes. Quinoa contains 5 grams of protein per half cup serving and is particularly high in lysine, an amino acid important for tissue growth and repair (it also is important for preventing herpes outbreaks). In addition to protein, quinoa is also high in iron: 4 milligrams (40% of the RDA) in a half cup serving. Compare this to brown rice which only has 1 milligram of iron per serving. Quinoa is also a good source of magnesium and riboflavin, both important to heart health. So, quinoa truly is aptly named by the Inca as the "mother grain."
I'm going to share with you 2 ways that I most enjoy quinoa. I do have a disclaimer—I am not a chef (I leave this to my dear Chef Brett) and thus do not have "recipes" per se. I rarely measure ingredients unless I'm baking or making a dish for the first time. And, when I make up a recipe, I rarely write it down so it's never quite the same twice. The good news is, there is a lot of room for experimentation in the kitchen so you can take my suggestions and make them your own!
One of my favorite breakfasts is quinoa and black beans topped with fried eggs, avocado, sour cream, salsa, and fresh cilantro. Unlike Chef Brett, I do rinse my quinoa (that is how I learned to make it so that's how I continue to make it). I usually sauté some diced onion and minced garlic in a little olive oil, add the rinsed and drained quinoa and stir it around a bit before adding chicken stock (water works too), cover and simmer 20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. For the beans, I also sauté diced onion and minced garlic in a little olive oil, add a can of rinsed and drained black beans, salt and pepper, a handful of fresh cilantro leaves, and a decent amount of cumin. I let this simmer on low to let the flavors mingle while the quinoa cooks. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, fry 2 eggs in some butter with salt and pepper. To serve, put a scoop of quinoa in a wide shallow bowl, top with a scoop of beans, the 2 fried eggs, diced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, salsa (preferably fresh) and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro leaves. Enjoy!
Another way I love to eat quinoa is in a cold salad. Cook quinoa in water with a bit of salt or in broth. While still warm, stir in diced green onions, diced fresh mango, diced red bell pepper, and lots of fresh cilantro. Make a dressing with olive oil, fresh mango juice squeezed from off the pit, the juice of 1 lime, your favorite vinegar (I like either seasoned rice vinegar or white balsamic vinegar), salt and pepper, and curry powder to taste. Stir the dressing into the quinoa mixture until well coated. Adjust seasonings as desired and serve warm, at room temp, or chilled.
I hope you have fun experimenting with quinoa and we'd love to hear about your favorite ways to eat it!
Yours in health!