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quinoa: history, nutrition, & recipes

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Grain crops that produce seeds have always been popular throughout regions because of their malleability, rich sources of vitamins and minerals, and their versatility when utilized in cooking. Quinoa is another harvest seed that is used extensively around the globe for its health benefits and culinary nuances. Although flowering and crop like, the quinoa is more closely related to vegetation sources such as beets or spinach, rather than seed families.

The history of the quinoa resides in regions such as Ecuador and Peru and has been a staple ingredient for over 4,000 years. Quinoa is found and consumed in many grain like cereals because it offers such minerals as lysine, phosphorus and iron which are all essential for health. Easy to prepare, the quinoa is prepared much like one would cook rice but it can also be consumed as a leafy vegetable, although in America finding the leafy versions can prove to be difficult as quantities are limited. Still, there are many dishes that are prepared utilizing quinoa in seed or grain form.

The simplest way to make quinoa is to boil one cup of it in two cups of water and then simmer it in the water for about 15 minutes. When done quinoa should have an al dente texture rather than mushy. Many consume quinoa for breakfast because of the nutritional value and it keeps the body full for long periods of time. For a great breakfast dish, prepare the quinoa as above and then add a bit of honey, some nuts like almonds or walnuts or top with your favorite fruits.

Quinoa is found in both red and white versions, although the white is easier to locate and is also less expensive than the red versions. While both have equal nutritional value, the red quinoa has a grainer consistency and tougher texture than the white.

Here are a few recipes to try with quinoa that are filling, delicious and can be frozen to eat at a later time for convenience.

Quinoa Burgers

•2 tsp olive oil

•1/4 cup chopped celery

•1/4 cup chopped carrot

•1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper

•1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves

•1/2 tsp dried thyme leaf

•1/2 tsp ground cumin seed

•1 tsp ground coriander seed

•1/2 tsp paprika

•1 3/4 cups cooked quinoa

•1 cup cooked chickpeas

•4 Tbsp flour

•1 tsp soy sauce OR Bragg's Liquid Aminos

Preparation

Place oil and vegetables into a frying pan and sauté over medium heat until tender. Add seasonings (cumin, coriander, paprika and garlic) and cook for an additional minute. Place a half of the quinoa and chickpeas into the food processor along with the vegetables and mix until the ingredients are combined but not until they are mushy or over processed.

In a separate mixing bowl mix the remaining amounts of quinoa and chickpeas together and mix well; add that mixture to the processor along with the soy sauce, tahini and salt and pepper. Process until the consistency is mixed but remove before it becomes to dry or caked.

For perfect patty forms it is recommended that the mixture be chilled for an hour before making the burger patties.

Cook patties in light oil, frying them over medium heat for 5 or 10 minutes on each side until cooked to order.

For a switch up and healthy version of the traditional stir fry try this quinoa stir fry. The whole family will love it!

Quinoa Stir Fry

•2 – 3 cups cooked quinoa 

•1 – 2 Tbsp cooking oil

•1 stalk celery

•1 small carrot

•1 cup frozen peas

•1 tsp brown mustard seed

•1/2 tsp dry ginger

•1 tsp paprika

•1/2 tsp ground cumin

•1 tsp ground coriander

•1/2 tsp turmeric

•pinch cayenne

•1 Tbsp Braggs liquid amino or soy sauce

•1/4 cup cashews pieces or sunflower seeds

•1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley

Preparation

In a large pan heat the oil on medium heat; once the oil is hot add brown mustard seeds and cook until you hear them pop. Add in the vegetables, buts and sunflower seeds and sauté for 5 minutes. Add any seasonings of your choice and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Slowly add the cooked quinoa, soy sauce, frozen peas and 2 tablespoons of water and cook over low heat, covered. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. When completed add parsley and cilantro (if desired) and serve hot.

Quinoa is also great served with black bean dishes or as a substitute for regular white rice or couscous. It can also be prepared using a rice steamer and to do so simply follow the instructions as you would if preparing rice.  

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