Grain of the Month: Quinoa

By Kelli Swensen, Dietetics Student, Sargent College

The first Tuesday of every month we will be featuring a grain. The posts will include background on the grain, nutritional information, instructions on how to store and cook it, and, of course, one or two healthy recipes for using the grain. Our goal is to help you add variety to your meals in 2012!

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Background

Often called “The gold of the Incas,” quinoa is an ancient grain that has risen in popularity over the last couple of years. While often thought of as a grain, quinoa is actually a fruit of a type of botanical plant. If you’ve never seen or heard of quinoa don’t let that fool you! By look, taste, and feel, quinoa seems very much a grain.

Nutritional Profile

What stands out most about quinoa is it is a vegetarian source of a complete protein. One-quarter cup of quinoa provides approximately 8 grams of protein for 220 calories. In addition to protein, quinoa is a good source for magnesium, folate, fiber (all three important to heart health), phosphorus (important for bone health), and copper.

Buying and Storing
Quinoa can be purchased in bulk or packaged. If you’re short on time, look for quinoa that has been pre-soaked. While off-white colored quinoa is the most common, red quinoa adds a festive color during the holiday season. Feeling really adventurous? See if your store carries black quinoa.

For storing, keep quinoa in an airtight container, and for a longer shelf life keep refrigerated. In the refrigerator it should keep for about six months.

Preparing
Even if you buy pre-soaked quinoa, you will still want to rinse it before cooking to get rid of any remaining bitterness. The basic way to prepare quinoa is to add one part quinoa to two parts liquid in a saucepan. Bring the quinoa and liquid to a boil then reduce heat and simmer covered for 12-15 minutes. When the grains are translucent you’ll know they’re cooked. For a nutty flavor, try placing quinoa in a skilled over medium-low heat without any liquid for five minutes before cooking.

Like many grains we’ve featured, quinoa can be enjoyed as at breakfast as porridge or for lunch and dinner as a replacement for pasta or rice.

Recipes

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