By Brandy Jo Neth-Aranjo
Quinoa pancakes, quinoa pasta, quinoa salad and quinoa burgers. It’s all the rage these days but what the heck is quinoa and how do you even pronounce it?
Welcome to quinoa 101.
First of all, quinoa is pronounced “KEEN – wah.” Quinoa originated in the Andes mountains in the areas of Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia. As a staple food in the Incan diet, quinoa is considered the “mother grain,” however, this “grain” isn’t a grain at all. Technically it’s part of the goosefoot plant and is considered a seed.
This seed can be ground into flour and be used for baking and making pasta. The whole quinoa seed can be cooked like rice and has a nutty taste similar to brown rice, in my opinion.
One of the main benefits of quinoa is the amount of protein that it provides. Quinoa contains all 9 amino acids, making it a complete protein, which is rare for plant based foods. It also holds a gluten free status which is extremely important to those sensitive to the gluten found in many grains.
You can find prepackaged quinoa in most stores these days from brands like Bob’s Red Mill, Eden Organic and Arrowhead Mills, however I usually purchase mine in bulk. Most pre-packaged quinoa has already been washed, however, I suggest rinsing it again before cooking to wash away the bitter coating of saponins. If you stick to a vegan or vegetarian diet, and find it hard to consume enough protein, I’d suggest adding quinoa to your grocery list because it’s extremely versatile, from using it in sweet granola bars and breakfast bowls to mixing it with other vegetables to create burgers.
I’m sharing with you some personal recipes of mine that I made at a yoga retreat recently, and they were very well received, so I think you and your family will enjoy them as well!
Quinoa Berry Breakfast Bowl
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 cup water
Rinse the quinoa and strain well. Add to saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and add a pinch of sea salt. Cook covered for about 15 minutes, turning the heat down as low as possible. Once the quinoa is cooked, turn off heat.
- 1 ½ cup almond milk (I used unsweetened vanilla)
- ½ banana
- ¼ cup of your favorite berries ( I use strawberries & blueberries)
In a blender, add ½ banana and 1 ½ cup almond milk and blend until smooth and set aside. (you can also add a little cinnamon if you’d like)
Wash your favorite fruit or berry to sprinkle on top.
MIXED NUT TOPPING
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch sea salt
- ¼ cup mixed nuts (almond, walnuts, pecans)
- pinch cayenne
- 1 tbs local honey
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix the honey, salt, cinnamon & cayenne. I use a fork to stir it up. Sample it!! See if it needs more spice or sweet for your taste.
Pour this mixture over your mixed nuts. Pour this nut mixture in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place in oven for about 15 minutes. Keep checking this mixture so it doesn’t burn. Once the nuts are done, immediately use a metal spatula to remove them from the cookie sheet so they don’t stick.
Putting your breakfast bowl together
- Fill your bowl with quinoa.
- Pour your milk mixture over the quinoa.
- Add your favorite fruits or berries.
- Sprinkle your sweet & salty nut mixture over the top.
Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- 1 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup fresh spinach
- 1 ½ cup quinoa
- 1 small carrot (grated)
- 4 large bell peppers (any color) remove ribs and cleanly slice the top off.
- 4 tbs grated parmesan cheese
1) Preheat oven to 350
2) In a saucepan bring 1 ½ cup quinoa and 1 ½ cup water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
3) Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in spinach and cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated. Reduce heat and add grated carrots.
4) Combine the quinoa and spinach mixture.
5) Fill each bell pepper half with quinoa mixture, place the “top” back on the pepper then place in a baking dish and cover with foil. Bake 1 hour. Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with parmesan cheese. Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates.