Quinoa is a heart friendly grain that originated in South America. It is high in protein, and contains all the essential amino acids you need for a balanced diet. It is high in fiber, and 100 grams of quinoa contains approximately half your daily folate and magnesium needs, and over a third of your daily iron needs. It is also a good source of phosphorus, zinc and other B vitamins. It can be used as a substitute for white rice, couscous or other starchy foods. Quinoa has a glycemic index of 53, making it a good choice for low GI diets. Quinoa is also gluten free.
How to Prepare Quinoa
Quinoa has a natural bitter coating which protects it from birds. Most grains bought at the supermarket will have had this coating removed. Even if the coating has been removed, you should still wash the grains thoroughly. To remove the coating, you can either pour warm water through the grains for several minutes, or soak them for several hours, changing the water once or twice. Once the coating is removed, quinoa can be prepared just like white rice, and should have a texture similar to al dente pasta when cooked. Dry roast the quinoa grains in a frying pan for several minutes before boiling to enhance their nutty flavor.
Substitutions with Quinoa Grains
Rice or couscous can be directly substituted with quinoa. It can be used in stir fries, or with curries. Boil it in stock, rather than water, or add some olive oil after cooking for flavor. You can toss a handful of cooked quinoa through a salad to add texture and nutrition, or add it to soups. Quinoa can be used as a substitute for wheat in tabouli salad.
Quinoa makes an excellent breakfast food. You can boil the grains, or quinoa flakes, until they are cooked, drain the water and then prepare the quinoa like oatmeal, adding milk, honey, raisins, bananas and so forth. Sprouted quinoa has even more nutrients than cooked quinoa and can be used in sandwiches and salads like any other sprouted grain.
Substitutions with Quinoa Flour
Quinoa flour is gluten free, which means that it can be excellent for gluten free diets, but it cannot always be used as a direct substitute for wheat flour in baking. Yeast needs gluten in order to rise. You can try mixing quinoa flour with wheat flour (usually 1:1 will work) to lower the gluten content of a recipe, but still allow the yeast to work. You can also use quinoa flour in recipes that don't require yeast to rise, like cookies, pancakes and some cakes. Quinoa flour can be used to make fresh pasta, or quinoa pasta can be purchased from health food stores. Quinoa flakes can be used as a substitute for oats in baking.
Quinoa is a fantastic health food, which can be substituted for many of the everyday foods you already eat. It is low GI, contains good quality protein and can provide many different nutrients to your meals without increasing calorie counts. Quinoa makes an excellent addition to any diet.