Quinoa 101

What it is.

Quinoa is the seed of a goosefoot plant called Chenopodium quinoa, which traces back to ancient Peru. It’s a gluten-free, cholesterol-free and kosher whole grain. Quinoa is packed with all nine essential amino acids and provides a strong dose of iron, magnesium, vitamins E and B, potassium and fiber.

Its nutrition profile.

Once cooked, Forberg says ¼ cup of dry quinoa yields about ¾ cup, which counts as one serving. It generally provides about 170 calories, along with 6 grams of protein. You’ll also get 3 grams of fiber, helping you stay full throughout the day. Quinoa is low in sodium and sugar, and contains no saturated fat.

How to get started.

Cooking small, hard seeds into fluffy quinoa isn’t difficult, Forberg says. The first step: Rinse the seeds well. That’s necessary because of saponins, a bitter-tasting chemical that deters birds and other pests. Soak your quinoa under strong running water in a mesh strainer for at least a few minutes. If the label says “prewashed,” you can skip this step.

Types of quinoa.

Choose white (or yellow), red or black quinoa. White is the most bland, and brands typically package a tri-color blend to liven it up, Forberg says. Red tastes slightly nuttier than white, and black is “an even fuller, nuttier, earthier flavor than red.” Which type you choose is a matter of taste and preference, but keep in mind that some cost more than others. In 2011, for example, a worldwide shortage spiked red quinoa’s price to more than $4 for 16 ounces, up from $2. These days, a 16-ounce box at Trader Joe’s goes for $3.99.

Measure your ingredients.

Typically, you’ll use twice the amount of liquid (water, whole milk, oil) to the amount of dry quinoa, or a 2:1 ratio. To cook 1 cup of dry quinoa, for example, use 2 cups of liquid, Forberg says. Too much or too little liquid can make the quinoa mushy, dry or undercooked. Keep in mind that 1 cup of dry quinoa will yield slightly less than 3 cups of cooked quinoa.

Monitor cooking times.

No one likes mushy or burned quinoa. The basic rule is to cook it for 15 minutes. When it’s ready, Forberg says “you’ll smell its aroma more strongly, the kernels will be nearly translucent all the way through and the germ will spiral out, appearing like short threads on each kernel.”

Choose a cooking style.

You can prepare quinoa in a saucepan, rice cooker or microwave. No matter which method you choose, stir it a couple times while you’re cooking to prevent burning or sticking. Once it’s ready to go, fluff it with a fork, stirring it around the pot and separating the kernels. “You can use it in a recipe, reserve it for later use or serve it straight up with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and seasoning of your choice,” Forberg says.

Consider other quinoa products.

Tired of basic quinoa? Turn it into flakes or flours. The seeds will maintain their health benefits, unlike most whole grains, which lose some of their nutrients in processing. Quinoa flour has a grittier texture than white flour and a nuttier flavor, Forberg says. And quinoa flakes, which are flattened kernels, are often used as a thickener in sauces and smoothies, or a protein-packed topping in cereal.

Common quinoa swaps.

Instead of using breadcrumbs made from white flour, try cooked and dried quinoa or quinoa flakes. And sub a warm bowl of quinoa in for your morning oatmeal. Other ideas: Sub it for rice in traditional dishes; meat in soups and stews; and as protein in your salad or stir-fry.

What you probably didn’t know about quinoa.

Its bitter-tasting coating, saponins, can be used as a detergent – or even an ingredient in shampoo. It’s colorful and grows on magenta-colored stalks that can reach 9 feet in height. It nearly disappeared in the 1500s when a Spanish explorer destroyed expansive quinoa crops in an effort to defeat the Incas. And NASA has considered growing quinoa in space because of its nutritional value, ease of processing and versatility.

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source: Us News Angela Haupt

 

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