Quinoa.

Wow. Folks really struggle with the name of this food. Quinoa. It’s pronounced [key-n-wah]. Some folks pronounce it as [quin-O-a]. That’s OK too, the name is just as versatile as the food.

I get so—so—many questions about quinoa. I eat it regularly and every time someone sees me eating it at lunch, I get questions: Do I like it? (Yes, obviously, because I’m eating it.) What does it taste like? (Neutral, like rice.) Is it difficult to make? (No.) and so on.

Uncooked quinoa.

The fact of the matter is that I like carbohydrates but carbohydrates don’t love me… or maybe they love me so much that they never want to leave me, they just turn into fat and stay around forever. So, I need to be reasonably careful which carbs and how many carbs I eat. Quinoa couldn’t be better, it is a carbohydrate that is PACKED with nutritionally-dense protein instead of being packed with nutritionally-void starches.

The folks at Bob’s Red Mill explain more about quinoa:

Quinoa was a staple food for the South American Indians living in the high altitudes of the Andes Mountains. It was immensely popular because it was one of few crops that could survive in such high altitudes (10,000 – 20,000 feet above sea level). It could withstand frost, intense sun and the often dry conditions that characterized the Andean climate. It was also recognized for its superior nutritional qualities. For these reasons, it was dubbed “mother of all grains” by the Incas, so much so that it came to have spiritual significance for them. Many traditions and ceremonies surrounded the cultivation, harvest and consumption of quinoa.

Quinoa is a “pseudo-grain”—actually a gluten-free seed, but used in cooking like a whole grain. This nutrient-rich grain is a wonderful source of complete protein, providing all of the essential amino acids. It is also a good source of dietary fiber. Naturally gluten free, this powerful little grain is a great addition to any diet, but is an ideal solution for those following a gluten free, vegan or vegetarian diet that are looking to increase their protein and fiber.

Quinoa is a beautiful plant too!

Quinoa is easy to prepare (I make it using my homemade vegetable broth) in a rice cooker set to brown rice. Despite recipe guidance I have found online, I find a 40/60 water/quinoa ratio to work very well in my rice cooker. Once it’s cooked, you’ll see little spirals appear (that’s how you know it’s done.) From there, the sky is the limit. Use it with a spicy tomato sauce like pasta (just go ahead and mix the sauce right in), or with a zesty basil pesto sauce, or in place of rice in a stir fry, or just “plain” with some sautéed vegetables. Quinoa can be eaten hot or cold and reheats perfectly. It also stands up to the freezer really well, and makes a great addition to soups and chili, giving body and texture wherever it goes.

Cooked quinoa (see the little spirals?)

Quinoa is one of my go-to pantry staple items. It keep a Mason jar of it in my Airstream all the time!