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How to Get More Quinoa into Your Diet

A Simple Introduction To Quinoa

This is a food that is both old and new; as an ancient staple and a rediscovered foodie favorite. If you have noticed quinoa at all, you know what everyone is saying about it. Can it be that quinoa is the perfect food for you and your family? Could quinoa be the one new ingredient you try this year that changes the way you cook? Let's find out!!!

What is Quinoa?

Those who are not yet familiar with quinoa, may think of it as a grain, or at least a replacement for grains. The little tiny disc is actually a seed of a plant in the same family as beets, chard, and spinach. These nutritious, amino acid rich seeds are light and fluffy when cooked, with a little snap to it. You'll also find quinoa in a variety of beautiful colors such as gold, red, and even black.

Ancient History

While relatively new to the US market, quinoa has been cultivated in Peru, Chile, and Bolivia for over 50 centuries (that's right, I said centuries!) and is a staple food in their diets. The Incas considered quinoa a sacred food and referred to it as the "mother seed, which is why we often refer to it as Gold of the Incas.

When Spanish conquistadors were trying to gain control of the South American indigenous people, they destroyed the fields in which quinoa was grown, and outlawed the farming and sale of quinoa. In1980, two Americans re-discovered the health and nutrition potential of quinoa and started cultivation in Colorado. Today, quinoa is finding its way into homes and restaurants all over the map.

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Health Benefits

For being such a tiny little seed, quinoa is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa is also a great source of manganese, magnesium, folate, phosphorus, and lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. The minerals contained in relatively high amounts may also be especially helpful for those people who have consistent migraines, diabetes, and atherosclerosis.

One of the most highly valued aspects of quinoa for many people is it is gluten free. Those looking for alternatives for wheat and other gluten foods can turn to quinoa in several forms to replace the gluten in their diets.

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How to Eat Quinoa

The quinoa seeds are naturally covered by a saponin residue that is bitter to the palate. This is one defense mechanism the plant has to fend off the occasional passing critter that wants a snack. While commercial cultivation processes remove much of the saponin that coats the seed, it is still a good idea to rinse the seeds in cold water to make sure the process is complete. However, there are many brands that are pre-rinsed. You can use your own judgment.

Once you have the quinoa rinsed, bring a pot of one part quinoa and two parts water to a boil, cover, and simmer slowly for fifteen minutes, or until the the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. If you want to keep more of the natural nutty flavor, you can dry roast the seeds before cooking them. Put the quinoa in a skillet over medium heat and toss, just until the quinoa becomes fragrant.

Now you have a multitude of options for preparing your quinoa. Whether you like it hot or cold, you can put it into a salad or in a soup. You can also form your cooked quinoa into patties with a variety of ingredients. Go ahead and add cooked quinoa to your favorite pancake or muffin recipe for a brand-new take on healthy eating.

No matter if you are looking for a gluten free alternative to grains, or you are a food lover who is just looking for something new to experiment with, or you want to give your nutrition a real boost, give quinoa a try. With all the possibilities, you could easily create a quinoa creation for every day of the year!

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5 Classic Meals With A Quinoa Twist!

So you cooked up a batch of quinoa and now have a mountain of it sitting in the fridge. Of course you do because no one ever realizes how much a small amount of dry quinoa actually makes. It's easy to go overboard when you make this delicious, protein packed seed. And, making extra quinoa is also a great way to plan ahead for future meals.

Having quinoa cooked and ready in the refrigerator is a definite plus when you're trying to throw together a nutritious meal in minutes for your family. Once you have your quinoa ready, what do you do with it? With just a few simple and basic ideas, you can transform your stockpile of quinoa into wonderful meals for your family.

A Variety of Salads

Quinoa is easy to incorporate into salads. Because of its chewy yet crunchy texture, it gives salads an interesting new contrast. Of course you could warm the quinoa up and use it to give your salad that warm-and-cold combination we love. Or you can leave the quinoa cold for a quick and easy dinner. Just toss the cold quinoa in a big bowl of fresh salad greens, cucumbers, and any other vegetables you like, then sprinkle with a tasty vinaigrette and you have a fresh and colorful food group spectrum in one bowl.

You can also choose to make a salad sans greens by combining cooled quinoa, garbanzo beans, avocado, red onion, and the juice of one lime and a light drizzle of very good olive oil. This hearty salad makes a full meal in itself. Chances are you have most of the ingredients in your kitchen already, making it a great throw-together meal for those days where you are on the run.

Kick Up Breakfast Basics

A classic breakfast can be turned into a high-powered protein pick-me-up. Using quinoa added to your oatmeal, or even in place of it, can give your body and metabolism the start it needs to keep you going all day. Place your leftover quinoa in a bowl with a little milk and honey and warm it up for a few minutes to make it nice and creamy. Add in a little fruit and a sprinkle of cinnamon and you have a delicious and nutritious breakfast in less time than it usually takes to make instant oatmeal.

If you are a fan of breakfast muffins, quinoa is the perfect excuse to bake up a batch when you're really hungry. Quinoa adds a nice texture and a delightful little 'pop' in your everyday breakfast muffin. Try any of your favorite muffin recipes, add quinoa, and see what you can create.

Anytime Patties

Whether you're making breakfast patties or lunchtime burgers, the bowl of cooked quinoa you have in the refrigerator is a great addition. For breakfast, a simple quinoa, chopped corn, and egg mixture can make a delicious patty to serve alongside your eggs. For lunch, combine cooked quinoa in a bowl with eggs, garlic, onions, Parmesan cheese, and some bread crumbs. Pack into patties and cook for a nutrition-dense lunch.

Re-Think Risotto

This is a creamy rice dish, but does it have to be rice? Because quinoa has the potential to turn into a a delicious, creamy food, risotto is a classic use for your stash of cooked quinoa. Simply simmer the cooked quinoa slowly in broth, adding broth a ladle at a time stirring regularly, until broth is complete absorbed. Once you have your creamy texture, add in some chives, Parmesan cheese, and butter and you have a delicious quinoa risotto that is sure to satisfy even the pickiest eater.

Surprise Sweet Treat

Quinoa as a dessert? Who would have thought! But believe it or not, quinoa makes a great substitute in a rice pudding dessert. Take your favorite rice pudding recipe and substitute in your cooked quinoa. Talk about a sweet way to use your supply of quinoa, and serve a nutritious dessert! Having a big bowl of cooked quinoa in the refrigerator is a great tool to have in your kitchen at all times. When the question is "What's to eat?" the answer is right there at your fingertips. With just a few ideas, you can turn that mountain of cooked quinoa into a culinary creation to please the entire family.

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