Quinoa (pronounced – Keen-Wa) and I have become best buds in the kitchen over the years. I discovered these little morsels of goodness when I stopped eating meat and I was looking for a plant based protein source. Quinoa is the meca of all plant based protein sources and can be found in any supermarket, even Costco! Those of you that might not know what quinoa is, I will explain. Quinoa is a tiny grain very high in protein, fiber, and it’s gluten free. Quinoa is one of the few grains that contains all nine of the essential amino acids. AND, quinoa contains lysine, as well as all eight of the other amino acids, making it a complete protein, similar to animal proteins. Most grains do not contain lysine, so it’s really rare to find one tiny grain that packs so much nutrition. One cup of quinoa provides about 220 calories and 8 grams of protein, which is equivalent to the protein in one egg.
Quinoa, is high in plant-based antioxidants called flavanoids which help heal and prevent many types of illnesses. Flavonoids are known for their disease-reducing benefits as in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, inflammation and diabetes. Quinoa has one of the highest sources of quercetin naturally occurring in foods, which has been shown to reduce the risk of multiple types of cancer! Quinoa is also considered one of the super foods. It is a huge source of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, riboflavin, folate, and iron. Since quinoa is a whole grain, it is not refined or processed, therefore all of the important vitamins remain intact.
If you haven’t tasted it yet, if it is just boiled in water, quinoa can be very plain tasting, as it does not have much flavor on its own. The lack of flavor is actually a great thing increasing its versatility to be used in a variety of recipes. A great way to cook it is in beef, chicken, or vegetable broth instead of plain water, this will help add a little bit of flavor. One great way to try quinoa for the first time is to mix it with rice. That’s how I first introduced it to my son and I still continue to make rice mixed with quinoa. Any spices taste great and the possibilities are endless. It may be substituted for rice, pasta, or couscous in casseroles, soups, and other side dishes.
To cook quinoa, just simply follow the directions on the package but, if you do happen to get some from the bulk bins at the health food store here’s the easy way to do it. Boil 2 Cups water. Use 1 cup dry quinoa and turn down the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and leave room for air to escape. Simmer for 10 minutes or until all the water is gone. That’s it! EASY!!!
I have endless quinoa recipes and I’d like to share one with you here. Please let me know if you make it. It’s one of my favorites.
Spinach Quinoa Casserole
Ingredients: (all organic when possible)
4 Cups Cooked Quinoa
2 Cups Baby Spinach, chopped
1/2 Yellow Onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Feta Cheese (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon Mint
1 teaspoon Dill
1 teaspoon Parsley
2 Large (pasture raised, organic) Eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a medium saucepan, cook in the onions in the olive oil on medium heat until tender.
- Add the spinach and cook until the leaves are wilted.
- Remove from heat.
- In a large bowl, mix the Quinoa, Eggs, Cheese and Spices together.
- Fold the spinach and onions into the Quinoa mixture.
- Pour into a baking dish.
- Sprinkle more Parmesan Cheese on top.
- Bake at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes, or until the Parmesan is browned and crispy.