What is Quinoa??? Why You Should Always have It in Your Pantry!
I have run across many people who tell me they don't like Quinoa (pronounced Keen Wah) and I'm sure some people have never even heard of it. To be honest, before writing this post, I didn't know much about it either...except is it on the "healthy" food list and I love cooking with it! So...what is quinoa? Why is it good for us? AND most importantly, why it should be a staple in your pantry?
Quinoa has been called, "the mother of all grains" and it was first cultivated over 5000 years ago. Although there are hundreds of different varieties of Quinoa, the most common types that I've seen in grocery stores are white and red quinoa. The Cranberry Almond Quinoa Bars are made with a 50/50 mixture of red and white quinoa and I love the way they look! The colors of quinoa doesn't change the taste, so use what you have or which ever color appeals to you.
I'd love to find the black variety to play around with. I do find that the red quinoa stays just a tad crunchier than the white and I like that texture difference a lot. If I were going to pick one quinoa to get, I'd probably choose the red.
Even though we consider quinoa to be a grain, it is actually a seed and it sprouts when cooking. I might be weird (okay...I am weird!), but I think quinoa is beautiful and I love using it in place of grits for Shrimp & Grits. I like it as a hot cereal in place of oatmeal, it's perfect in soups in place of barley, and of course it's awesome for Cranberry Almond Quinoa Bars!
The big question you might have if you don't have experience with quinoa is...what in the world does it taste like? Well...describing the taste of quinoa can be tough! Honestly, to me at least, it doesn't have much taste. I've seen it described as a bit nutty in flavor and I guess I can see that, I would also have to say it has a very slight earthy taste that can take a little getting used to.
I LOVE cooking with quinoa because it's like a blank slate and you can add any flavors to create your own masterpiece. It works perfectly for a hot cereal, savory or sweet. The texture is a combination of brown rice (it has a little tooth to it like al dente pasta), but it is fluffier when cooked...kind of like risotto. The best way to answer the question of what does quinoa taste like is to cook it for yourself! I'm working on several recipes and until they are posted, feel free to shoot me an email or comment on this post and I'll be happy to give you ideas for your first quinoa experience!
Why is quinoa featured on all the nutritional sites??? It's not low carb or even low calorie...but it does have more protein than brown rice, barley, oatmeal, and steel oats and it is one of the few plant foods that are considered a complete protein; meaning it has all 9 essential amino acids. Let's take a look at the nutritional value of quinoa verses some of the foods we are more familiar with.
So why is Quinoa so good for you? This chart shows that oatmeal has less calories and carbs, so wouldn't it be a better choice? Not necessarily! Don't get me wrong, oatmeal is pretty good for you, but eating 1/4 cup (about 1/2 cup cooked) will not keep you as satisfied as the same amount of quinoa due to the increased protein and staying power of quinoa.
Why should you always have Quinoa in your pantry? We have already established that it's good for you...BUT, it's also versatile and easy to cook with! Quinoa can be used for breakfast, lunch or dinner and in sweet or savory dishes. You can make the most delicious quinoa and raisin pudding for dessert or an earthy quinoa and mushroom side dish.
Be sure to grab that quinoa next time you go to the grocery store and let me know how you describe the taste!
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