Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a hot food trend but it is truly an ancient food. Considered the "mother grain" of the Incan civilization in the Andes Mountains of South America, quinoa has become popular here in the United States for several reasons.
Actually a seed, but nutritionally thought of as a whole grain, quinoa offers excellent nutritional value reflected in its NuVal score of 91. Set apart from the rest of the whole-grain crowd by its slightly higher protein content, quinoa also offers fiber and nutrients such magnesium and iron. This seed is naturally gluten-free and therefore a nutrient-rich grain for those needing to avoid wheat and gluten because of celiac sprue, wheat allergies or gluten sensitivity.
Different varieties of quinoa are available in different naturally occurring colors, such as white, black and red. The range of colors is simply different varieties of quinoa with different hues. Quinoa is also available ground into flour to use in baking, blended into pastas or added to various convenience items in the HealthMarket section of your neighborhood Hy-Vee store.
Quinoa is quick to cook; just treat it the same as rice. Add 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups boiling water. Cover and simmer until the water is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Fluff with a fork and you are ready to use in any recipe.
Quinoa works well in hearty dishes that fall brings back to our tables. Serve chili over cooked quinoa or use quinoa in place of rice in comfort-food casseroles for a welcome twist on your families' favorites. Quinoa's slightly nutty flavor and delicately crunchy texture are also a great partner for fresh fall produce, such as flavorful pears in the following recipe:
Serves 6 (about 3/4 cup each)
Active time: 20 minutes Total time: 40 minutes
All you need
1 (14 ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa, rinsed if necessary
2 tbsp. walnut oil or canola oil
1 tbsp. fruity vinegar, such as pear, raspberry or pomegranate
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 ripe but firm pears, diced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
All you do
1. Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in quinoa, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa has popped, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whisk oil, vinegar, chives, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add pears and toss to coat.
3. Drain any excess liquid from the cooked quinoa, if necessary. Add the quinoa to the pear mixture; toss to combine. Transfer to the refrigerator to cool for about 15 minutes or serve warm. Serve topped with nuts.
Nutrition facts per serving: 246 calories; 13g fat (1g sat, 2g mono); 0mg cholesterol; 28g carbohydrate; 0g added sugars; 7g protein; 4g fiber; 253mg sodium; 332mg potassium.
Nutrition bonus: Magnesium (20% daily value), Folate (18% dv).
Source: adapted from Eating Well, Inc.
Katie Wilhelmi is a registered dietitian at the Marshall Hy-Vee Food Store.