THE SKINNY ON QUINOA
By Rob Striks, Special Writer for Encompass HealthCare & Wound Medicine
The problem with writing about quinoa is there are just way too many good things to say about it, and then it gets boring to read very quickly. For example, it’s really interesting and notable that quinoa is what’s called “a complete protein,” meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body and therefore must come from the foods we eat.
So now you know you’re eating something that’s possibly the polar opposite of, say, an elephant ear. This grain is very good for you. But it seems like if you go one more step down that road to report that it has significantly greater amounts of both lysine and isoleucine than any grain, despite the fact that quinoa isn’t a grain at all, then….things….get….slee….sleepy…
So for the purposes of this piece, suffice it to say that this super grain is definitely one of the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat and there is vast proof of this all over the Internet, should you choose to do the research. But here, I’m going to speak of quinoa as if I’m in a relationship with it, which I am, and that relationship is going extremely well.
You see, I used to have a thing going with rice. Rice and I used to be inseparable. We had an understanding. But then I discovered rice was abusing me by spiking my sugars and ruining my health like potatoes and bread products had done to me in the past. Rice lied to me, telling me that I’d have loads of energy because I was “carbing up.” But I didn’t have that kind of metabolism and all rice ever did was make me tired and fat. Well, I’m smarter now and see that rice and I were never well suited for each other on a metabolic level.
The reality is that rice wishes it were quinoa. Even brown rice, white rice’s more nutritionally superior first cousin, stands in the shadow of this super grain’s awesome greatness. And for good reason. It is delicious, nutritious, simple to make and ridiculously versatile.
A cup of quinoa.
Two cups of water.
Simmer for 20-25 minutes.
That’s how simple it is to make it. Flavor the water with chicken base, maybe a few dried onion flakes, a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and some poultry seasoning and you have the way-healthier, gluten-free version of turkey stuffing for Thanksgiving. Add some diced turkey breast and you have a healthy, protein-packed lunch that’ll tie you over nicely until dinnertime.
But that’s just the start. Add a food processor to the recipe and the possibilities become limitless. For example, clean and de-stem a head of cauliflower, rough cut it into florets, pulse it to a grainy texture and add it to the above recipe. Now, you’ve got an even healthier, vitamin-power-boosted stuffing or side dish. Or, simply call it lunch.
The recipe above is for when you’re late getting home from work and you just want something fast and wonderful. But if you’ve got 10 or 15 minutes extra to play with, an entire galaxy of flavor opens up if you toast the quinoa first. And all that involves is placing the quinoa in a dry sauté pan over medium heat and stirring it for around five minutes until it turns golden and a nutty aroma wafts throughout the kitchen.
LIVING IN THIS SUPER GRAIN’S UNIVERSE.
To call quinoa versatile is an understatement. But let me put that in other terms. There’s a scene in Forrest Gump where Bubba is reciting all the ways he knows to prepare shrimp. At the end, he says, “…shrimp salad, shrimp sandwich…that’s about it.” With this grain, that scene would never end. Whatever you match with quinoa, it blends in perfectly.
- Combine cooked chilled quinoa with diced cucumber, chopped parsley, cherry tomato halves and seasonings for incredible quinoa tabouli.
- Add a few chopped nuts and fruits to it cooked and you have a hearty breakfast porridge.
- Add it to your favorite soups to give them big-time nutrition and body.
- Use it borth cooked and cooled instead of breadcrumbs to firm up your next turkey meat loaf.
- Two words: Quinoa Fritters.
- Two more words: Quinoa Crackers.
Seriously, is there anything that it can’t do? Quinoa ice cream? Not only has it been done a million ways, if you Google quinoa ice cream and click on images, what you see will make you salivate like Pavlov’s dog. It merits any superlative you can think of. In fact, I want the taste of my toasted quinoa stuffing to be on my lips as I pass into the next life.
It’s that good, my friends, and that good for you. How many times do we get to say that in our lives? Rest assured I don’t own stock in any super grain company; I’m not on the Quinoa Board of Directors. And they didn’t hire me to promote it. But when I see all the damage done to our bodies by genetically modified, over-processed everything, I feel good about offering a voice to such a healthy, tasty alternative to all that junk.
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