Food fads are contagious. I happen to love them because they introduce new foods into our life. One of my favorites in recent memory is quinoa, pronounced KEEN-WAh. It’s been dubbed the super grain of the future and a nutritional power house. It is a seed, but we use it just like we would use a whole grain. The big differentiating quality about quinoa is that it’s what is considered a whole food, which is nutritionally balanced, unlike whole grains such as barley or wheat. Nutritionally balanced basically means you could eat a bowl of quinoa and have a complete meal. It is a great source of protein, which whole grains lack. It’s rich in nutritional content and is a great choice of carbohydrate. It’s also a great choice for anyone looking to avoid eating meat. Let’s take a look.
Here are most of the vitamins and minerals that are found in cooked quinoa:
- Complete Protein – 8grams! – more than one egg
- Complex carbohydrates
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B6
And that’s only the list of what we consider quinoa a main source of. You could eat a bowl of quinoa within a balanced diet, instead of taking a multivitamin and be a lot better off because vitamins and nutrients are best absorbed through foods we eat, not pills we take. In other words, quinoa is incredible.
Still not convinced?
- Very filling – it will keep you full for a very long period because it’s a complex carb, rich in fiber.
- It is very low in Cholesterol and Sodium.
- It’s considered low glycemic index.
- It’s considered anti-inflammatory.
- It’s a good source of heart healthy fat – monounsaturated / polyunsaturated.
- Gluten free!
- NON DAIRY source of calcium – 30-milligrams in one cup cooked quinoa.
- Easily digested for optimal absorption of nutrients.
- Easy to prepare.
Overall, quinoa is pretty diverse and well liked for its nutty flavor and chewy texture. In our house, we use it most as a rice replacement or addition to the tops of salads. It’s more nutritious than a piece of chicken breast, so if you dump a cup of quinoa on top of a spinach and veggie salad, you’re eating a bowl of gold, nutritionally. Use a healthy fat dressing on top, such as olive oil and vinegar.
The only warning I will give to quinoa is that it is higher in calories than expected, with 220 in one cup cooked. It’s really not when you consider, it should be your meal centerpiece, like your piece of chicken would be. It’s also not really when you consider the amount of nutrients you are getting. I only say this to warn you not to eat it as a side item if you are trying to watch your caloric intake (which, who is not?). And also, limit to one cup of quinoa at a time. That’s all you need, anyway.
I usually buy a bag in bulk at my Costco and it’s pretty inexpensive when you see how far a bag will go. I cook up a few cups and put it in my fridge to use all week. Cook according to package directions – it’s easier than rice!
The simplest thing to do with quinoa is to cook and eat some with a little salt and pepper. If you don’t like it plain, make a quinoa salad by adding your favorite chopped veggies and other ingredients. I love quinoa with just a little oil and vinegar and a handful of arugula, mixed up. Also, use it as a replacement for recipes that call for rice or barley. I have even used it instead of noodles with my favorite pasta sauce on top.
This recipe is my favorite way to use quinoa as a meal:
Quinoa and Bean Stuffed Peppers:
4-green peppers, all relatively close in size and shape
1-cup cooked quinoa
1-cup of white beans, rinsed and drained (any variety, but I use navy)
1/4 of a red pepper, diced
1/4 of a yellow pepper, diced
1-small can of artichoke hearts in water, diced
2-green onions, chopped
1/4 cup of crumbled feta
2-tablespoons of your favorite italian seasoned oil and vinegar OR hot sauce
Preheat your oven to 375.
Remove the tops of your green peppers and carefully scoop out the contents. Wash. Pat dry.
Spray your casserole dish with Pam, lightly.
Spray the outsides of the green peppers so very lightly with Pam, just a tad.
Mix in a bowl the remaining ingredients. Feel free to use a little more hot sauce or onion, etc… to flavor it how you like.
Stuff each pepper with the mixture and place it in your casserole dish.
Bake for 30-minutes and check. The peppers should be semi soft to the touch, but you don’t want to cook them so long they collapse. If it gives a little when poked, it is done. Otherwise, leave in the oven for 10-minute increments and check.
I serve these with a big bowl of chopped fresh fruit.