Friday, January 11, 2013

Food Focus Friday: Quin...what?!?

Quinoa. What exactly is it??!

Did you know that 2013 has been officially declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Quinoa (IYQ)?? That's right, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has declared this to be the IYQ with the goal of having quinoa "recognized and accepted around the world as a natural food resource with high nutritive value of Andean origin becoming a high quality food for health and food security, for present and future generations."

I think a lot of people have heard about quinoa but aren't quite sure what it is, why they should incorporate it into their diet or how. As my office-mate said the other other day, after looking at my chili and I told her in contained quinoa : "Quin-what??!"

Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") is an ancient seed (not grain) that originated in Peru. Benefits of quinoa include it being the only plant food to contain all essential amino acids, it's a naturally high source of protein and a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium, fiber and other trace minerals. Even more so, quinoa is naturally gluten free. Currently the top producers of quinoa are Bolivia, Peru and the United States, though this crop is quickly spreading throughout Europe and Asia too.

There are three types of quinoa to choose from: white, red and black. White is the most mainstream variety with it having the softest texture, meanwhile the black/red varieties have a more "nutty" in taste and texture.

You can easily substitute quinoa for rice in chilies, soups or stir fry or use it to makes veggie burgers. Even better, quinoa can be substituted in baked goods for some extra protein and fiber without compromising flavor.

Without further ado, here are four of my favorite quinoa recipes:

This is made with white quinoa. We omit the shrimp since we are vegetarian, but it tastes great either way. I made this for the first time last summer and my husband is constantly requesting it!

Sweet Potato & Quinoa Chili by Ambitious Kitchen

I recommend making with red quinoa, and you'll want to double this one for leftovers!

Southwestern Quinoa Black Bean Salad

Features sauteed black beans, zucchini and squash over a bed of fresh greens. Garnish with avocado, spicy hummus, salsa and lime juice! My mom and I ate this almost every day for lunch last summer. It's quick to throw together and travels well. (Full recipe to come soon!)

Simple Tofu Quinoa Veggie Stir Fry

Sauteed broccoli, zucchini/squash and peppers w/ tofu and red quinoa (Full recipe to come soon!)

Some additional recipes to consider:

The Loaded Bowl - originally from Clean Eating Magazine

Quinoa Breakfast Bars by The Lean Green Bean

How do you plan to add quinoa to your weekly menu? Do you have any different recipes to share with me!?


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