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February, 2009

Quinoa

By Cheryl Forberg

Often considered a whole grain, quinoa is actually the seed of a plant called Chenopodium quinoa, which is related to beets, chard and spinach.

Mediterranean Quinoa
Although it’s just being discovered here, quinoa has been cultivated in South America for over 5,000 years and was a sacred staple food of the Incas. Quinoa has gained popularity in the U.S. in recent years, as its nutrition and health benefits have been revealed. Quinoa is not only high in protein, but is considered a complete protein too. That means it contains all nine essential amino acids. This makes it an especially good choice for vegetarians.

Quinoa is also:

- A very good source of manganese as well as a good source of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax blood vessels, thus promoting healthy blood pressure.

- A very good source of minerals that help provide antioxidant protection, which helps slow the aging process.

Cooking Quinoa:

Quinoa expands during the cooking process to several times its original size. Before cooking, dry quinoa should be rinsed well to remove a soapy coating on the seeds called saponins. The general rule of thumb is to cook one part rinsed quinoa in two parts water (or broth). Bring the liquid to a boil, add quinoa and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook gently for about 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed . Quinoa has a creamy, slightly crunchy texture and a mild, nutty flavor.

Ways to Enjoy Quinoa:

- In side dishes - combine cooked quinoa with your favorite beans (black, pinto, and garbanzo) fresh herbs, and a vinaigrette.

- For breakfast – add chopped nuts and fresh or dried fruits.

- In soup – replace noodles or rice with cooked quinoa.

- In tabouleh – serve as a delicious (and wheat-free) substitute for the bulgur wheat which is typically used.


Mediterranean Quinoa
This Mediterranean-inspired recipe for quinoa is high in flavor and low in preparation time.

Yield: 7 cups or about 8 servings

Ingredients:
8 oz. pkg. Melissa’s Quinoa with Garlic and Herb Seasoning packet (about 1 ¼ cups)
2-3/4 cups fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 (6.5 oz.) jar marinated artichoke hearts
2 Melissa’s Fire-Roasted Red Bell Peppers, diced
1/4 cup Melissa’s Sun-Dried Tomatoes, drained and cut into thin slices
2 oz. low fat feta cheese, crumbled
2 bunches arugula, roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
2 Tbsp. Melissa’s Organic Good Life Food Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

Instructions:
Rinse quinoa and drain well. Bring broth to a boil in a 3 quart saucepan. Add quinoa and seasoning packet. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until broth is absorbed. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Let cool. Fluff with fork. Meanwhile, drain artichokes and reserve vinaigrette from the jar for another use. Slice artichoke hearts and set aside. Add the artichoke hearts and remaining ingredients to the quinoa and toss to mix well.