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January, 2013

2013 – The UN has declared this The Year of Quinoa
By Cheryl Forberg

Quinoa is an especially good choice for vegetarians and vegans who need to up their protein intake; because it’s gluten-free, it can be eaten by people with wheat allergies or sensitivities.

Quinoa Originating in the Andes more than 6,000 years ago, quinoa has been "rediscovered" of late closer to home – and with good reason. Pronounced kin-WAUGH or kin-OH-ah, quinoa is an excellent source of protein, fiber, amino acids, iron and magnesium. No wonder it was renowned for increasing the stamina of ancient Inca warriors!

Quinoa is an especially good choice for vegetarians and vegans who need to up their protein intake; because it’s gluten-free, it can be eaten by people with wheat allergies or sensitivities.

Although often classed as a grain, quinoa is technically a seed from a plant related to spinach and beets. Three varieties of the plant are most commonly cultivated for seed production – resulting in white, red and black quinoa. When cooked, the dried seeds have a fluffy texture with a bit of crunch, and impart a nutty flavor – making quinoa a toothsome alternative to rice, couscous or even bulgur wheat in recipes.

Although modern processing removes most of the bitter, mildly toxic saponins that coat the seeds as they grow, it's a good idea to wash and drain quinoa before cooking. Once rinsed, prepare quinoa just as you would white rice – that is, place one part quinoa to two parts water in a sauce pan, bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes. When it's ready, the quinoa grains will still be a little chewy – think al dente pasta – and the germ of the seed will have separated slightly, creating a curly "tail."

You can find quinoa in the pasta aisle of most grocery stores, or in the bulk bin of your natural foods store. Because it contains protein and fats, quinoa is slightly more perishable than rice or other true grains; use it within three months of purchase.

Below is one of my favorite recipes from my brand new gluten-free cookbook, Cooking with Quinoa For Dummies (Rodale 2013)

Swiss Chard Quinotto with Currants and Pistachios

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons Grapeseed or Olive Oil
1 cup chopped Yellow Onion
2 teaspoons chopped Garlic
1 cup Dry Quinoa
2 cups Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth (or Chicken Broth)
3 cups chopped Swiss Chard (bite-size) (or Arugula)
1 roasted Red Pepper, diced
1/3 cup Currants (or Raisins)
1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
2 Tablespoons Freshly Grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Garnish:
2 Tablespoons Chopped Pistachios

Instructions:

In a 3 quart sauce pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes or until softened and just starting to brown. Add quinoa and garlic. Toast for about one minute; stirring continuously.

Carefully add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 4 minutes. Add chard, bell pepper and currants. Stir well, simmer for about eight minutes longer, or until the quinoa is tender and most of the broth is absorbed. Add cheese and chili flakes (if using), and stir again. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with nuts.

For more recipes and nutrition tips, please visit www.cherylforberg.com.