Most people tend to stick to what they know, and I am one of them. Diversity, which is so important in the diet, however, depends on coming out of our comfort zone. Sometimes it takes a little push to get me to try something new, and that little push came in the form of one of my Hawthorn University school assignments.
My assignment was to take a given recipe and remove the meat (protein), (which would also remove the essential amino acids), then add a plant source back to it, returning the essential amino acids to the recipe. Essential amino acids (and there are 9 of them) are those amino acids that are required for life and growth, but cannot be produced by the body from other foods, so they themselves must be eaten, thus the name, "essential." It is essential that we add them to our diet. Meat, dairy and eggs contain all of the essential amino acids, but my assignment was to avoid these and choose another source for the amino acids.
So my search for making this recipe complete with all 9 essential amino acids, yielded a few choices, but not many. I could have chosen a combination of corn and beans, or beans and rice, or adding in some nuts and seeds to certain varieties of grains, but I would need to know which essential amino acids were missing from each (the limiting acids), then pair them up with other sources that contained those limiting acids. I was delighted when I found that quinoa contained all 9 essential amino acids. Now that made my assignment a little easier, and so I took the easy way out. Quinoa to the rescue! Since then, quinoa has become one of my favorite dishes. I compare it to rice, but also prefer it over rice.
Want to know more about quinoa? Well, it's gluten free, higher in heart healthy fat and calcium than regular grains, and it is a great source of fiber and protein, with anti inflammatory phytonutrients. Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as "The International Year of the Quinoa."
To prepare quinoa: Soak quinoa overnight in warm water and rinse. Quinoa's outer layer contains saponins, which impart a bitter taste without proper soaking and rinsing, but most quinoa sold commercially in North America has been processed to remove this coating. Still, it is good to soak and rinse even a little. Taste the quinoa after you rinse. If you taste bitter, then rinse some more. Quinoa can be purchased sprouted from To Your Health Sprouted Flour Company. Their directions say to just give it a 5 minute soak and then rinse.
To cook, mix with 1 part quinoa to 2 parts liquid. For the liquid, I like to use chicken stock or broth. Add some sea salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for about 15 minutes. A little butter added makes it taste great also. You will know that the quinoa is done when all the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated.
Other ways to enjoy: Add fruit, nuts, maple syrup for a breakfast cereal. Quinoa is great to use in tabouli, as a substitute for the bulgar wheat in the recipe. I used it in my soup recipe for my assignment. Enjoy this nutty, down to earth flavor and see the Quinoa Corporation for more information and recipes.
What about you? Have you tried quinoa?