The Top-Secret Superfood

The Top-Secret Superfood

Packed with protein, loaded with fiber, and older than Peru, quinoa is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet.

Quinoa is a true wonder food,” says Daniel Fairbanks, Ph.D., a professor of plant and animal science at Brigham Young University. “It has about twice the protein of regular cereal grains, fewer carbohydrates, and even a dose of healthy fats.” Plus, it’s considered a “complete” protein, which means that, like meat, eggs, and dairy, it packs all of the essential amino acids your body needs to build muscle.

Ready to harness the full power of this superfood? Here’s everything you need to know to make it a staple at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The User’s Guide to Quinoa

Quinoa has an addictive nutty flavor, cooks up quicker than rice, and can be used to make pilafs, risottos, salads, soups, and even desserts.

As for preparation, the simplest way is to cook quinoa like pasta: Fill a large pot or saucepan with water, and bring it to a boil. Add just about any amount of quinoa, turn the heat to low, and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the water and allow the quinoa to cool.

Cook up a big batch and store it in Tupperware in your refrigerator, and you’ll have a ready-to-eat side dish–like rice or pasta–that goes with just about any meal. (To warm, microwave it for 60 seconds.) Or you can be far more creative. For instance, quinoa can be used to…

Power up your breakfast: Combine a cup of cooked quinoa with 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, and microwave for 60 seconds. This makes a great alternative to oatmeal.

Redefine dessert: In a blender, puree two very ripe bananas with 2 cups whole milk. Combine the mix with 2 cups cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup raisins, a tablespoon of sugar, and a teaspoon of cinnamon, and simmer for 10 minutes. If you’re celebrating, add a glug of dark rum at the last second. Creamy and sweet, it’s a healthier version of rice pudding.

Quinoa as a Salad

1 cup uncooked quinoa

8 asparagus spears

2  oz crumbled goat cheese or feta

1/4 cup green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

4 Tbsp chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 Tbsp olive oil + a drizzle for the asparagus

1 Tbsp balsamic or red-wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Boil the quinoa according to the instructions on the previous page.

3. While the quinoa cooks, prep the asparagus. Remove the woody ends by gently bending each spear until it breaks–it’ll naturally snap off at the right place. Lay the spears on a cookie sheet or baking pan and drizzle with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Place in the oven and roast for 10 minutes.

4. Chop the asparagus into bite-size pieces and add to the quinoa, along with the cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, oil, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4 servings; great with grilled pork tenderloin or roast chicken.

Change It Up

Try mixing the cooked quinoa with any of the following combos:

A sliced avocado, the segments of one grapefruit, a handful of chopped green onions, and the juice of half a lime. Goes great with grilled fish.

Half a cup of dried cranberries, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 2 Tbsp crumbled blue cheese, and 1 Tbsp each balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Two cups of baby spinach or arugula, 8 oz grilled chicken, and ¼ cup roasted red peppers.

…as a Stuffing

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa

1 tsp olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

6 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 tsp cumin

Handful chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

2 red bell peppers

1. Cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the previous page.

2. While the quinoa simmers, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, and add the onion, garlic, and tomato. Cook the mixture until the tomato is soft and the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the shrimp, black beans, and cumin, and cook for another

3 minutes, until the shrimp is just pink and firm. Add the cooked quinoa and cilantro, stir to blend, and turn off the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

4. Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds. Stuff each with half of the mixture, place them in a baking pan, and cook in the oven for 15 minutes.

Makes 2 servings

Change It Up

Replace the shrimp, cumin, and cilantro with two links of chicken sausage and a 6 oz jar of marinated artichoke hearts.

Replace the shrimp with 8 oz lean ground beef or ground turkey.

Go Greek: Trade the shrimp, cilantro, cumin, and black beans for lean ground beef, a cup of frozen spinach, and 1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese.

…as a Risotto

1 tsp olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup uncooked quinoa

3 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas

2 oz prosciutto, cut in thin strips

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese for grating

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan or saucepan over medium heat, and add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent and the garlic is lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

2. Add the quinoa and cook for another 3 minutes. Add 1 cup of the chicken stock, using a wooden spoon to occasionally stir the grains. When the liquid is mostly absorbed (about 10 minutes), add the remaining chicken stock. Continue cooking and stirring until the quinoa is tender (but not mushy) and most of the liquid has evaporated; the risotto should be moist, not soupy. At the last minute, add the peas and prosciutto. Stir until warmed through.

3. Remove from the heat, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Before serving, grate a bit of Parmesan over each portion.

Makes 4 servings as a side dish, or 2 as a main course

Change It Up

Replace the peas and prosciutto with a cup of shredded rotisserie chicken (or leftover grilled chicken), a cup of cherry tomatoes, and a handful of chopped fresh basil.

Add 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms to the pan with the onion and garlic. Before adding the stock, add 1/2 cup of red wine to the pan. Peas and prosciutto are optional.

Replace the peas and prosciutto with 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree. Stir in a handful of chopped fresh sage a few seconds before you remove the pan from the heat. Goes great with pork tenderloin.

From Men’s Health

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