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Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a grain-like seed, like rice or oats. It has a crunchy texture with a hint of softness, like white rice. I discovered it this past year and have become a big fan. I think it is delicious.
Even though it’s relatively new to the American table, quinoa has been around for thousands of years. The Incas used it as one of their staple crops, favoring it over both corn and potatoes. They believed it gave strength and stamina to their warriors.
When the Spanish explorers arrived in South America in the sixteenth century, they outlawed the growing of quinoa in an effort to wipe out the Inca civilization. They burned and destroyed the Inca quinoa fields.
The Incas’ belief that quinoa enhanced strength and improved health is true. It is high in protein, containing all the essential amino acids, plus it’s low in saturated fats and high in complex carbohydrates. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, and is believed to help strengthen women during pregnancy and postpartum, and promotes healthier milk production in nursing mothers. Because of its high calcium content, it was customary in Andean society to heal broken bones by both eating quinoa and applying a plaster made of ground quinoa and water. This practice continues today.
The basic technique for cooking quinoa is similar to rice. It is rinsed and drained, combined with water or broth, brought to a boil, then covered and simmered for 15 minutes or so till liquid is absorbed. When you turn off the heat, let it stand, covered, for five minutes before serving. The proportions are one part quinoa to two parts water or broth, also like rice. One half cup quinoa mixed with one cup water makes two cups cooked quinoa. It is naturally gluten free.
Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion or shallot, peeled and diced
1 c. broccoli florets
4 asparagus spears, chopped
4 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. chopped fresh rosemary
½ c. corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 batch cooked quinoa (1/2 c. quinoa, 1 c. water, cooked=2 c. cooked quinoa)
In large bowl, mix together red bell pepper, onion or shallot, broccoli and asparagus. Drizzle 2 T. olive oil over vegetables, and toss to coat. Spread on pan in single layer and roast in the oven at 400 degrees till vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes or so. In large bowl, whisk together remaining 2 T. olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and rosemary. Add corn, roasted veggies, and cooked quinoa. Toss to mix well. Serves four. To make this recipe into a green salad, add 4 c. chopped lettuce or mixed greens.
Quinoa Turkey Wraps
8 slices bacon
4 (10-in.) flour tortillas
2 c. fresh baby spinach leaves
8 oz. thinly sliced deli turkey
½ c. cooked quinoa
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 medium ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 hard-boiled eggs, thinly sliced
1 c. ranch dressing
½ t. salt
½ t. black pepper
Cook bacon till crisp. Drain on paper towel, then crumble. Place tortillas on flat work surface. Place ½ c. spinach leaves in the center of each tortilla. Top each with 2 oz. deli turkey, and add 2 T. cooked quinoa. Then put on sliced tomatoes, avocados, cheddar cheese, egg slices, and crumbled bacon. Top each with ¼ c. ranch dressing, then sprinkle on salt and pepper. Roll up tortilla to make a wrap, and serve. Serves four.
Quinoa Corn Chowder
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 envelope taco seasoning mix
2 baking potatoes, peeled and cut in l-in. cubes
1 can creamed corn
1 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 c. red, green or yellow bell pepper, diced
½ c. uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
5 c. vegetable or chicken broth
2 c. water
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
2 c. shredded pepper jack cheese
1 c. chopped fresh basil leaves, chopped *optional
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil. Add onion and taco seasoning mix, and saute’ for about two minutes. Add potatoes, creamed corn, corn kernels, jalapeno, and bell pepper, stir. Stir in quinoa, and add vegetable broth and water. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste for flavor and add salt and black pepper; simmer for 10 more minutes. Add cheese and stir and cook till melted. Top each bowl with chopped basil if desired. Serves eight.