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Quinoa - Another Super Food of our Ancestors | July 1, 2009

Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) is an ancient crop dating back to the Myan, Aztec and Incan civilizations. Thought of as a powerful food, it was used to sustain their armies. Recently quinoa has been rediscovered. Though not technically a grain, quinoa can substitute for nearly any grain in cooking. It’s actually the seed of a leafy plant and related to spinach, beets and swiss chard.

With a very delicate taste, quinoa is packed full of protein, iron, potassium and other vitamins and minerals. It is actually one of the most nutritious of the “pseudo grains” and high in fiber. But the most unique feature of quinoa is that it has a balanced set of all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein food. No other grains offer this. In essence, it is a great substitute for meat in the vegetarian diet, and filled with nutrients—that’s what makes it a super food. Considered a gluten-free whole grain food, it can be readily used by those on a gluten free or celiac diet.

Quinoa comes in several colors, including yellow, red, brown and black. When you cook it, it expands to four times its original size, offering a slightly nutty taste a unique texture-- smooth, creamy and crunchy all in one. You can also find it processed in many forms such as pasta, cereal, flour and even polenta.

If you want to try preparing it yourself, most grocery stores in Coeur d’Alene now carry quinoa, but Pilgrams Market has the most variety. When preparing it, be sure to rinse the seeds first to remove any powdery residue. Simply place the grains in a strainer and rinse until the water runs clear. You can toast it in a dry skillet for about five minutes to give it a roasted flavor. To cook, bring one part quinoa and two parts liquid to a boil; cover and reduce to a simmer for about 15-20 minutes. When the grains are done they become translucent. Try it alone, or mixed with rice or couscous, or add it to soups or stir fries for great taste and texture. One of my favorite sites for quinoa recipes is http://vegweb.com/index.php?board=396.0 because they have pictures--they even have a recipe for quinoa sushi. Bon appétit!