One thing I never used to be was open to trying new things, especially when it came to food. I was a picky and habitual eater. I can’t say I haven’t formed new habits and don’t eat some of my favorites almost compulsively, but thank goodness the things I eat on a daily basis have changed significantly. One of my new favorites, one that I’m having tons of fun experimenting with is Quinoa.
What on Earth is Quinoa, you may ask? Trust me, the first time I saw it (and refused to try it) I asked the same thing. The new, braver eater in me finally gave it a shot and my tummy’s first question was, “What took you so long?” In the words of one of my favorite chefs, Rachael Ray, I have to say, “Yum-O!” It was fabulous!
Quinoa is a grain that is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. The difference between this grain and many others is that it has a great nutritional value due to its high protein content and the fact that it is a complete protein – one that contains a balance of amino acids (similar to milk). Quinoa is easy to prepare, similar to rice or pasta, and when cooked is light and fluffy and has a bit of a nutty flavor to it. For those of you who are carb conscious, quinoa does have quite a few carbs. But, remember, when protein is paired with a carb and a vegetable, you have a well-rounded meal, so it’s all good!
So, what do we do with this quinoa stuff, anyway? Well, I like to prepare it in a number of different ways and I’m still experimenting. It was recommended to me recently not to cook it with water. Like I said earlier, you prepare it much like rice. Instead of using water as the base, however, I’ve taken to prefer my quinoa cooked in low sodium organic chicken broth. If I’m making a dish with southwestern flair, I add several shakes of hot sauce to the broth to spice it up.
Once the quinoa is cooked, you can do a number of different things. Two of my favorites are making a Mediterranean salad and a Southwest salad. However, the list of things you can do with it are endless. My next branch out will be quinoa chili. I’ll let you know how that goes. But first, the ones I know are tasty.
For the Mediterranean salad, I start by chopping up cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, pepperoncini peppers, a bit of red onion. Once the quinoa has cooled off, I add these ingredients to the quinoa, with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Then, sprinkle in some Feta cheese, if you like. To complete a meal, add some simple grilled chicken or use this as a side dish for a simple grilled white fish to make it dee-lish!
Next stop… Southwest. This is one of my favorites! Prepare the quinoa (with hot sauce in the broth or not.) I don’t let this one cool. I add chopped grilled chicken seasoned with some southwestern spices to the quinoa. I also mix in some heated black beans and some red peppers and red onion. (If I were a fan of green peppers, they’d be in there, too.) This is excellent by itself or fabulous over some chopped romaine lettuce, if you want to let it cool for a bit.
Cutting to the chase here… Quinoa is simple to cook, it tastes great and is really good for you. Eating protein packed carbohydrates is a good way to get a bit of a two-for-one in your diet. If it’s of interest to you, it’s a great way to help your body build muscle, as well. Give it a try. Who knows, it may be something your family will enjoy without knowing just how good it is for them!