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Friday, September 14, 2012

Quinoa. Gesundheit.

A few years ago I began strictly limiting the kind of meat that I ate. A story that I could tell perhaps in another post, I decided to only eat meat that was raised humanely and without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. I made this decision for both health and humanitarian reasons. When I decided to limit the kind of meat I was eating, I also decided to cut back on the amount of meat that I was eating. So, gone are the two-steak-dinner nights, and the chicken for every meal days. But since meat is a good source of protein, I knew I needed to find some substitutes, even though we don't really need as much protein as we think we do (many of us get more than our fair share in a day...and unless we're professional athletes, we're going to be just fine). Even so, I began to search for substitutes, and I quickly found one that would become a favorite.

Quinoa (pronounced: keen-wah), is a grain-like crop that is grown primarily for its edible seeds. Cultivated by the Incas over 5,000 years ago, quoinoa is now considered a superfood, packed with phytonutrients and antioxidants. You can prepare quinoa in myriad ways, which is part of its appeal (seriously, Google: quinoa recipes). I have used quinoa as a dip, a rice substitute, in salads, and have even eaten it as a dessert. It's like the duct tape of food. When cooked, quinoa is light, fluffy with a slight crunch to it, and a subtle flavor that compliments nearly anything you put in it or next to it on the plate. And it's good for you. Quinoa has 6 grams of protein per serving, with all nine of the essential amino acids that help build muscle! Quinoa is also loaded with the vital nutrient magnesium, and also manganese and copper which act as antioxidants in the body. And for those of you looking to add some fiber to your diet (which you should always be doing), look no further than quinoa (3 grams per serving - not enough to have you running for the restrooms, but just enough to give your body what it needs).

I typically make a large bowl of quinoa with veggies and black beans and then eat it all week with pretzels or pita chips as a dip. It's a great snack idea as you can eat it warm or cold. Here is my recipe for a quick and easy dip:

  • Black beans (as much as you would like)
  • Half a bell pepper (I prefer the red because of the extra vitamin C)
  • 3/4 tsp of cumin
  • 3/4 tbsp of oregano (fresh if available, I use dried because it's quicker, easier, and cheaper)
  • A few pinches of salt (to taste, but don't overdo it on the salt)
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Any other veggies you'd like to add - it's really up to you!
Place 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes). Add the other ingredients and serve.

You could also use this same recipe as a rice substitute for tacos, but add some cilantro!

So grab a bag of quinoa from Trader Joe's, or even from Wal-Mart (though it's actually cheaper at Trader Joe's), and cook up a snack or meal using this ancient seed. If you try it, let me know. Or if you have other great recipes using quinoa, share them down in the comment section.

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