Quinoa – What It Is and Why You Should Be Eating It

It’s pronounced KEEN-wah, and it’s name is quinoa. And it’s VERY hot right now, showing up in a lot of restaurants, recipes and healthy-eating articles.

What the heck is it, you ask?

It’s an ancient grain, dating back over 5000 years to the time of the Incas in South America. It contains more high-quality protein than any other grain, and is the only grain that provides all the essential amino acids. It is gluten-free, to boot.  It looks like a cross between couscous and tapioca – round little spheres. Here’s what it looks like cooked:

I tasted some at a wine-pouring event last summer. It was served in a tasting cup with a slice of tri-tip, and it was delicious!  I’m a big fan of healthy eating, so I bought a box and made it one evening, to be served with a pork roast and some vegetables.

My family loves a side dish of plain rice (jasmine, basmati or brown) seasoned with just butter, salt and pepper. No icky rice mixes from a box. (Well, one exception that my 88-year old mother in law loves. I make an exception for her). The subtle flavors add a nice contrast to the main dish and vegetables or salad that accompanies the meal. I fixed the quinoa just like that – cooked up and added some salt, butter and a dusting of garlic powder.

I took a bite and ….. was rather underwhelmed. It seemed bland even though I had seasoned it. It was okay, but in my house, “okay” usually means no repeat visit. Sigh. It just didn’t move me. Drat. I had such high hopes.

I had made enough to create leftovers, so I decided to make a cold pilaf. We don’t throw away perfectly good food here even if it is a little less than spectacular. I added olive oil, seasoned rice vinegar, chopped cucumber, red pepper, red onion, and a sprinkling of feta cheese.

WOW! 🙂 It was amazingly good! I thought back to the tri-tip and quinoa tasting bite at the wine pouring event – it wasn’t served hot, either.

So that’s how I plan to keep this amazing grain in my food rotation. It gives me another way to do a hot-weather meal besides a pasta-based salad, and it provides way more protein and doesn’t need any mayonnaise to taste great. I can also serve it as a side dish instead of potato salad.

Check out quinoa today!!

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