Quinoa originated in South America and has been an important food for the people there as well as the Inca tribes that also originated in that region. Quinoa grows best in areas where soils drain well and needs a relatively long growing season. While it has been referred to as a grain, it is actually related to the leafy green family such as spinach, kale and Swiss chard. One can actually eat the outer leaves while the main use and purpose for harvest is for the quinoa grain.
Quinoa is high in protein, making it a great option for vegetarians and vegans. It actually is a complete protein as it contains all nine essential amino acids. It is a good source of fiber and is high in iron and magnesium. Magnesium is known to help relax blood vessels and therefore aid in the relief of headaches and migraines. Because it is also gluten-free, quinoa is a great option for those with a more restrictive diet.
Quinoa is light and fluffy; I typically compare it to the consistency of couscous but with a nuttier, hearty flavoring. It is a great alternative to rice, potatoes or pasta as a side dish.
A quick and easy method to make quinoa is to bring a couple cups of water to a boil with one cup of quinoa (2:1 ratio). Cover the pot and let simmer for about 15–18 minutes or until you see the germ separate from the seed. The germ is white in color and looks like a curly tail. Seeing this process having taken place will let you know the quinoa is ready to eat.
One of my favorite and super easy ways to have quinoa is in Quinoa Tabouleh, chilled with freshly chopped tomato, cucumber, parsley, mint and lemon juice to toss, similar to a Mediterranean-style tabbouleh. Also try these additional recipes: