I enjoy making healthy whole foods-based meals—as long as they’re quick. Between a full-time career, fixing up a historic home with the hubby, and a little volunteer work around town, I simply can’t put multiple hours into food prep. Lately I’ve been relying on my automatic rice cooker to cook quinoa. I love that I can set it and forget it while I finish getting the rest of the meal ready.
If you’ve heard about quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), but don’t really know what it is or how to prepare it, you’re not alone! Here’s a rundown.
What Is Quinoa?
I decided to reach out to Chelsea Fuchs, a state-certified dietitian-nutritionist based in New York, to get more information. Quinoa is a tiny little protein, fiber, and nutrient-packed grain of which we eat just the seed portion. It’s actually a complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index, so it won’t make your blood sugar fluctuate.
“Quinoa is also incredibly versatile, takes 15 minutes to prepare, and can be used in a variety of recipes—from a quinoa tabbouleh, to a stuffed pepper, and even for dessert in a quinoa pudding or parfait,” says Fuchs. “Personally, I like to prepare quinoa with low-sodium chicken stock and drizzle a lemon-algae oil dressing on top for a pop of flavor.”
As a bonus, this superfood is rich in magnesium (which may help ward off migraines) and zinc to help manage blood pressure and prevent osteoporosis. “Quinoa is all the rage lately, and for good reason,” she adds. “Not only is it gluten free, but this trendy South African grain is super high in protein and fiber—a powerful duo when it comes to feeling fuller for longer.”
Quinoa even contains twice the amount of protein as brown rice, weighing in at approximately 8 grams of protein per cup when cooked.
When Do I Eat Quinoa?
This versatile food can make an appearance at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. If you have a favorite rice pudding, rice stuffing, or cold pasta salad recipe, consider using quinoa as the featured carbohydrate instead. Or, try a completely new take on grains.
Quinoa comes in three colors: red, black, and white. Red quinoa holds its shape after cooking, making it a good addition to cold salads and side dishes. Try white quinoa in soups and stews. Black quinoa is sweeter and retains its dark hue after cooking. You can make it in large batches, so you’ll have tons of versatile leftovers.
How Do I Cook Quinoa?
Let’s get this super grain from the pantry to our plates! I like to use my rice cooker, since quinoa absorbs moisture and expands much like preparing rice. However, some quinoa needs to be rinsed under cool water first to remove the bitter-tasting saponins on the outer coating of the edible seeds. Or, buy pre-washed quinoa.
From here, toss it in the rice cooker while it’s still moist. You’ll want to prepare a 2:1 ratio of liquids to quinoa, so for every cup of quinoa, add two cups of water. Feel free to add more flavor by using homemade vegetable stock. You can also try a low-sodium meat broth. Set the rice cooker to “ON” and that’s it. Once it’s done, fluff it and enjoy it in place of rice, pasta, or potatoes.
Keep in mind you can also use the quinoa as the base for a recipe. Sally Eisenberg, a health and nutrition coach and founder of Nourish Ur Life, says quinoa is a great option for anyone following a gluten-free diet and is “considered to be an anti-inflammatory food.” Here is her recipe for a warm, quinoa-based breakfast porridge that’s vegan, gluten-free, and delicious.
To get started, gather up:
- 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 1 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk
- 2 tsp. pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 apple, diced
- 1 banana, sliced
To start, bring your milk and rinsed quinoa grain to a boil in a small saucepan. Or, use a rice cooker like I do so you won’t need the stove at all. Let your rice cooker do its work, but if you opt for the stove option, simmer while covered and until most of the milk has been absorbed. This should take approximately 15 minutes. When cooked, remove it from the heat and stir in maple syrup, cinnamon, and apples. Fill two cereal bowls with the mixture and top with sliced banana. Enjoy!
How Else Can I Eat It?
If you’re looking for more stoveless options, look for microwaveable bowls or invest in a rice cooker or crockpot recipe to make quinoa an easy part of your diet. Here are a few more ways to add quinoa to your family’s menu:
- Easy Quinoa Fried Rice: When you’re craving Chinese food and have leftover quinoa in the refrigerator, try this recipe. It comes together quickly by using frozen mixed veggies.
- Kale and Quinoa Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette: The addition of cranberries and walnuts to this salad make it pretty enough for a potluck dish or Sunday brunch. And, it can be served warm or cold.
- 5-Ingredient Mexican Quinoa: A girlfriend made this recipe for me during the holidays so I wouldn’t be without a vegetarian entree at her party. She added diced bell peppers to give it even more color and texture. This spicy combo is flavorful and the leftovers warm up wonderfully.
Have you tried quinoa yet? Tell us @TomsofMaine how you like to prepare and enjoy this nutritious carbohydrate!
Image source: Angela Tague
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.