Celebrate the International Year of Quinoa with these Delicious Recipes

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The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa because it has been singled out as a food with high nutritive value and may play an important role in the achievement of worldwide food security.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is typically consumed in the same way as other cereal grasses such as wheat, oats, barley and rye, however it is not a cereal but a member of the same food group that contains spinach, Swiss chard and beets. Researchers can date the popularity of quinoa back to approximately 3000 BC when its consumption became widespread in the Andes mountain regions of South America.

Chenopodium quinoa, the scientific name for quinoa, is potentially perfect for helping to solve the world hunger problem, as the plant is able to survive high altitudes, thin and cold air, hot sun, salty or sandy soil, little rainfall and sub-freezing temperatures. In addition, all parts of the plant can be eaten – the seeds (which are dried and ground into flour), the leaves and the stems.

It is said that even NASA is considering quinoa for long-duration planetary space flights!

Nutritionally, quinoa is considered a superfood as it is high in many nutrients, including antioxidants. It is rich in manganese, tryptophan, magnesium, calcium, folate, and phosphorus. Two flavonoids, quercetin and kaempferol, are found in especially concentrated amounts. Some of the potential health problems that could be averted by including quinoa in the diet are inflammatory diseases including diabetes and certain cancers, cardiovascular disease (due to fiber content and unsaturated fat component), and obesity.

Another group of people that would benefit from adding quinoa into their meal plans include those with an allergy to gluten. Quinoa is gluten free.

Probably quinoa’s greatest downfall right now is price – more than three times that of most grains. Recent US demand has sent the price soaring but foreign demand has made quinoa an export crop too expensive for local farmers in Bolivia and Peru. The United Nations hopes that its international year designation will "heighten public awareness of the nutritional, economic, environmental and cultural properties of quinoa," for its indigenous growers, as stated in the Resolution adopted by the U.S. General Assembly.

Quinoa is generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins, primarily in health-food stores and in high-end grocery stores in many colors – off-white, black or red. When buying in bulk, make sure bins are covered and that the store has a good product turnover to ensure maximum freshness. Ensure that there is no evidence of moisture. At home, store quinoa in an airtight container in the refrigerator where it will stay fresh for three to six months.

Prior to cooking quinoa, you may want to rinse and rub the seeds to remove any bitter taste that may be left behind after commercial milling. To cook, add one part of the grain to two parts liquid in a saucepan. After the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes until the grains become translucent. If you desire a nuttier flavor, you can also dry roast the grain before cooking in a skillet over medium-low heat and stir constantly for five minutes.

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How to enjoy quinoa:
• Combine cooked chilled quinoa with pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, scallions and coriander. Season to taste and enjoy this south-of-the-border inspired salad.
• Add nuts and fruits to cooked quinoa and serve as breakfast porridge.
• For a twist on your favorite pasta recipe, use noodles made from quinoa.
• Sprouted quinoa can be used in salads and sandwiches just like alfalfa sprouts.
• Add quinoa to your favorite vegetable soups.
• Ground quinoa flour can be added to cookie or muffin recipes.
• Quinoa is great to use in tabouli, serving as a delicious (and wheat-free) substitute for the bulgar wheat with which this Middle Eastern dish is usually made.

Here are two recipes from “The World’s Healthiest Foods” and Dr. Janet Bond Brill PhD RD LDN:

Recipe: Quinoa Cereal with Fresh Fruit

Prep and Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 2 Servings

Ingredients:
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cups water
sea salt to taste

Topping
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup blueberries (or use any of your favorite fruits in season)
2 TBS pumpkin seeds
2 TBS sliced almonds
Top with 1/2 cup dairy-free milk alternative (e.g., one made from rice, oats, or almonds) and 1 tsp honey

Placed well-rinsed quinoa with water and salt in a saucepan, cover and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, keep covered, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Divide quinoa between two bowls, adding one-half of the rolled oats on top. Top each bowl with half of the blueberries, pumpkin seeds and almonds. Serve with soy milk and honey.

Recipe: Dr. Janet’s Quinoa with Walnuts and Currants

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
¼ cup dried currants
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
¼ cup finely sliced scallions, green and white part (2 thin scallions)

Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer with cool running water before cooking.
In a saucepan, bring the quinoa and broth to a boil. Add the currants; cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, leave covered, and let sit for 5 minutes. Then open the pan and lightly fluff the quinoa with a fork to separate the grains. Gently stir in the walnuts and scallions. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Resource for Nutritional Information About Quinoa: World's Healthiest Foods

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