Relax, It's Just Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wah”), certainly the “it” girl of the whole-grain world for quite some time now, is actually a seed, but it’s treated and cooked like a whole grain. It’s mild and delicious, with a satisfying texture, and it takes beautifully to all kinds of seasonings. It’s got a crazy-high protein count (8 grams of protein per 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa), so it’s a boon to vegetarians and vegans; it contains a nice dose of fiber. Quinoa is also gluten-free.

It’s quite popular these days, but actually it was a staple in the diet of the ancient Incas because it was able to grow in the high altitude of the Andes. It also cooks up much more quickly than most other whole grains, and any of us who have stood watching a pot of brown rice take its own sweet time to become tender will appreciate that.

Quinoa comes in different varieties, with different colors as well, which can be a lot of fun to play with, visually. White, red and black are the most-common colors/varieties available, and some brands make a rainbow quinoa, which is a blend of different colors. Cooking times vary from type to type, so check package directions.

Quinoa can be used as a side dish, added to soups and salads, and used as a nice base for different kinds of stews and chilis. It’s great both hot and cold, and you can make up a big batch at the beginning of the week and use it for days, heating it up for dinners, adding vegetables for a portable salad and so forth. You can also freeze it in freezer-proof containers or heavy-duty zipper-top bags — just press the air out, seal it up, and it will keep for months.

To cook perfectly fluffy quinoa every time, check out Katie’s step-by-step gallery; then make her Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Dried Apricots. 

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