What is quinoa?

November 9, 2012, 9:36 am Rachel Sibley Yahoo!7

You've heard the hype, but what's it all about? Here's everything you need to know about quinoa.

What is quinoa?
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What exactly is quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) is a seed of the Chenopodium, or Goosefoot plant, but is used as a grain when cooking. This plant is grown in the Andean mountains in South America, and has been used by natives for centuries. Quinoa was dubbed ‘the gold of the Incas’ as it increased the stamina in their warriors from its high protein.

There are three different types of quinoa. Each is very similar and can usually be used interchangeably in recipes.

White quinoa is the most popular variety, and has a mild flavour. It is great for cooking with other ingredients and can be substituted for rice or couscous.

Red quinoa has a stronger flavour and takes longer to cook, and keeps slightly crunchy.

Black quinoa is strongest in flavour and quite crunchy.

RECIPE: Chicken quinoa salad

Why all the fuss around quinoa?

Quinoa is a gluten free, highly nutritious seed, and is the only plant-based protein to contain the nine essential amino acids. Amino acids cannot be produced in great enough quantities by the body, so they must come from food. This high amount of proteins makes the seed ideal for vegetarians. It also makes a nice alternative from gluten-free carbohydrates for the gluten-intolerant and celiacs. Quinoa is also great for those suffering migraines, as it is a source of magnesium, which relaxes blood vessels.

How can I eat quinoa?

Quinoa cooks very quickly, usually about 15 minutes, and in the same way as rice, two parts liquid to one part quinoa. The seed is highly versatile, and can be used as a breakfast food, in salads, in meals normally made with rice and can even be popped as an alternative to popcorn.

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Here are a few quick and easy quinoa recipes that are both yummy and healthy!

Breakfast quinoa – Cook quinoa in water or milk, with two parts liquid to one part seed. Add ½ cup sultanas, 1 grated green apple and a little cinnamon towards the end of the cooking. Serve with maple syrup and a little milk.

Quinoa fruit salad – Process 1/3 cup mint, ¼ cup yogurt and dash of orange juice in food processor. Mix chilled, cooked quinoa with strawberries, kiwi fruit and mandarin. Mix in yogurt mixture and serve cold.

Quinoa Pilaf – Sauté chopped carrot, onion, celery, green capsicum and red capsicum in olive oil, stir in oregano. Add vegetables to 6 cups cooked quinoa. Add dry roasted almonds and salt to taste, mix.

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