Quinoa-The Mother of Grains

An ancient food that is not yet well known in North America, Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) has been cultivated in the South American Andes since at least 3,000 B.C. and has been a staple food of millions of native inhabitants.

The quinoa seed is high in protein, calcium and iron, a good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. It contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans. The protein in quinoa is a 'complete' protein due to the presence of all 8 essential amino acids. Quinoa is 12% to 18% protein and four ounces a day, about 1/2-cup, will provide a childs protein needs for one day. The 6-7% fat of quinoa is relatively high when compared to other grains, but it boasts a low sodium content and also provides valuable starch and easily digestible fiber. The seeds are also gluten-free which makes this a nutritious and flavorful alternative grain for those with gluten sensitivity. Quinoa would be a worthy addition to anyone's diet, supplying variety as well as good nutrition.

Cooked quinoa is excellent in hot casseroles and soups, stews, in stir-fries, or cold in salads. The seeds cook very quickly, in only 15 minutes. Uncooked seeds may be added to soups and stews as you would barley or rice and quinoa is often substituted for rice in rice dishes.

Quinoa seeds can be sprouted and eaten as raw for snacks or in salads and sandwiches. To sprout the seeds, soak about 1/3 cup seeds in a jar for 2 to 4 hours, then drain and rinse the seeds twice a day for 2 to 4 days. When the sprouts are about 1 inch long, place them near a window for chlorophyll to develop, which will give them a vibrant green color.

Try this recipe on a cold winter evening. Paired with a fresh spinach salad, it will soothe you in a way only Mom's mac and cheese did when you were a kid. Enjoy!

Artichoke, Asparagus & Mushroom Quinoa Risotto

Ingredients:
2T butter
4T olive oil, divided
12 oz mushrooms (such as white, shiitakes, oyster, chanterelles) thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
3 cloves garlic,minced
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups quinoa (about 13 oz), rinsed
1/2 cup white wine
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 lb asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 8oz artichoke hearts, canned & chopped
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup shaved Fontinella cheese

Directions:

  1. Melt butter with 1 T oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; saute until brown and tender.
  2. Add garlic: saute 2 min. Set aside.
  3. Heat remaining 3 T oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  4. Add onion; saute until translucent, about 5 min.
  5. Add quinoa; saute 2 min.
  6. Add wine; cook until liquid is almost absorbed, about 2 min.
  7. Add 3 cups of broth; cook 10 minutes.
  8. Add asparagus and artichoke hearts; simmer until quinoa and veggies are tender, adding remaining broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed, about 7 min. (quinoa is cooked when you see a circle or a 'tail' around the seed).
  9. Add parmesan cheese and reserved mushrooms. Stir until cheese is melted and mushrooms are heated through, about 2 min. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  10. Divide risotto among bowls, garnish with shaved Fontinella cheese and serve. Serves 6-8

This recipe can be made ahead of time. Let stand at room temperature.

Carol DiPirro has been passionate about cooking, nutrition and healthy eating since she was a child, baking her first eggless cake from scratch at 8 yrs old. Growing up in an Italian family, clean healthy eating was the furthest thing from her dinner table. She has enjoyed years of re-creating her family’s favorite meals in a lighter, healthier way. She is currently studying towards a degree in Nutrition. Join Carol's Facebook Fan page: Chilly Peppers.

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