20 years ago NASA researchers sung the praises of quinoa as a potential new food staple for astronauts due to its superior nutrient density. Talk about being ahead of the game! Quinoa has burst into the homes of many a health-conscious folk in the last two years and cemented itself as a favourite amongst vegans and the gluten-challenged amongst us. So what’s all the fuss about this little grain (or non-grain as you’re about to find out), and what are some easy ways to whack it into your daily meals? Here’s the quinoa low-down.
What is quinoa, and how is it pronounced?
Avoid getting kicked out of a trendy café and practice saying ‘keenwa’ instead of ‘kwa-nowa.’ Keeeeenwa. Got it? Awesome.
Quinoa is actually a nutritious seed that is part of the same plant family as spinach and chard. It’s not a grain at all! It’s gluten free and in comparison to the highly consumed grains of wheat and white rice, has a much superior range of nutrients – most noteworthy being its’ complete source of proteins. Hence it’s almost religious status among vegetarians and vegans.
Why else is it good for you?
Protein not impressing you? Well you’ll also see quinoa is also a fantastic source of good fats that are vital for heart health, and protection from inflammatory diseases. Throw in a good amount folate, zinc, magnesium and antioxidants and you can see this little seed really punches above its weight.
How do I cook it?
I’ll never forget the time I recommended a friend to try quinoa porridge when she was going gluten free. She text to tell me that her milky bowl had exploded inside the microwave. One confused conversation later I realised she had plonked uncooked quinoa seeds in milk and tried to zap them like you would rolled oats. Ha! Quinoa doesn’t quite work that way. Before using quinoa in any way, be it in baking, salads or sides – you need to cook it, like you would rice. I use the ratio 1 cup uncooked quinoa to 1.5 cups of water. Bring quinoa and water to the boil in a pot and then simmer for 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on it, cooking times can vary depending on your stove.
How do I use it?
Ready to rise as the queen of quinoa? Let’s get stuck into the good stuff. Quinoa has a non-offensive nutty flavour that means it can be used in all aspects of the kitchen, sweet and savoury, hot and cold, morning and night. I prefer the red or tri-coloured variety as it tends to hold its shape better when cooked compared to white quinoa which seems to go mushy a lot easier.
Morning: Banana, quinoa & coconut bread
Let’s be honest, this heavenly loaf shouldn’t be restricted to just one time of day. The fact that it’s dairy and refined sugar free, plus packed with fibre and protein means it’s the perfect guilt-free breakfast, morning or afternoon tea. The smell this baby creates in your kitchen when baking is reason enough to prepare it. Drool. I love to cut a think slice and eat it warmed with a little good quality coconut butter or traditional butter (am eating some right now as I type this!)
I doubled this mixture to make a larger loaf. Recipe originally found on Coffee & Quinoa.
What you’ll need:
- 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
- 3 ripe bananas
- 1/4 cup melted coconut oil (I used H2COCO organic)
- 1/4 cup 100% pure maple syrup or good quality honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose wholemeal flour
- 1 cup rolled oats + some to sprinkle on top
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut + some to sprinkle on top
- 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
- 1/4 cup organic coconut milk
How to go about it:
- Cook quinoa according to package directions. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 175C and prepare your loaf tin by lightly greasing with coconut oil or lining with baking paper.
- Mash the bananas with a fork in a large bowl, before stiring in the coconut oil, maple syrup/honey, and vanilla extract.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, shredded coconut, flaxseed, and cooked quinoa. Then, combine dry ingredients with wet banana mixture in the large bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in the coconut milk.
- Pour bread batter into prepared loaf tin. Sprinkle with a handful of rolled oats and shredded coconut.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes until top of loaf is golden brown and sides are pulled away from the pan. A skewer test should come out almost clean.
- Allow to cool completely before removing from pan. Wrap tightly in foil and keep in the fridge.
Noon: Quinoa & brown rice Persian salad
Photo from petite-kitchen.com
This ticks all the boxes for me; quick, minimal ingredients and full of fresh flavours. Since discovering the recipe on Petite Kitchen, I sometimes add my own twist (throw in spinach, cucumber and celery) and religiously make a batch every couple of weeks for an easy mid-week dinner and reliable office lunch.
Night: Quinoa & kale pilaf
Kale and quinoa together in one dish? Uber trendy. When we prepare this at home we follow the recipe to a tee as it works pretty perfectly every time. To turn this into a main dish we sometimes add sliced grilled chicken.