Sunday, January 8, 2012

Quinoa: The Great "Grain"

Quinoa: an ancient "grain" that is actually a seed.  Not only is it high in protein, but it is a complete protein, which means it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids.  This is not common in plant-based foods, so quinoa is a great option for vegans or vegetarians concerned about their protein intake! (One cup of quinoa contains 8g of protein)

I personally LOVE quinoa and use it often.  I describe it as a small, fluffy grain that is also crunchy and nutty in flavor.  It's super easy to cook with, preparing 1 part quinoa with 2 parts liquid and boiling for about 15 minutes.

I usually buy Ancient Harvest Quinoa (picture above...usually about $4.99 a box, 8 servings).  I recently came across these packets of Roland Quinoa in the store (below...2 for $5, 3 servings per bag).  They come in different flavored mixes, including Roasted Garlic, Garden Vegetable, Black Bean, Toasted Sesame Ginger, and Mediterranean.  I figured I'd try them out, and bought Black Bean and Mediterranean.  

I cooked the Mediterranean packet, and added a bunch of sauteed spinach and a little feta cheese to complete my meal.  

It was super easy to cook and I'd recommend these flavor packets to others, but I probably won't use them again.  For me, the added seasonings and flavor was too salty.  One serving contains 270mg of sodium, which isn't SO bad, but I prefer to make plain quinoa and add my own seasonings.  I don't cook with salt or use table salt on my food, so my palate is very sensitive to it.  

Either way, quinoa is delicious and definitely packs a big nutritional punch! It can be cooked as an alternative to couscous or rice, prepared as a breakfast dish or even ground down to flour for use in baking.

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