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An Guide to Cooking Quinoa

When you think of quinoa gluten free may not immediately spring to mind. While it is a relatively unknown, quinoa is versatile, tasty and extremely nutritious. Best of all, its easy to prepare and naturally gluten free and is a great staple for anyone with a gluten sensitivity. Read on for an introduction to cooking this wonderful food.

What is Quinoa?
Is quinoa grain? You may be surprised to learn that it isn’t. While it is very similar to many grains, it is actually more closely related to beets and spinach, though the quinoa seeds are harvested and used as grain. Quinoa was a staple of the Inca diet and was used in many of their ceremonies. Quinoa was also a major part of many pre-Columbian Andean cultures. Quinoa has an unusually high protein content (12%-18%) which makes it a great protein source among plants. It also contains essential amino acids and is high in fiber, phosphorous and magnesium.

How to Cook Quinoa
Quinoa is a great substitute for rice, couscous and even pasta. It has a mild flavor and a light texture. It’s very easy to prepare. Here is a basic recipe:

Boil two cups of water and one cup of quinoa to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and let it simmer 14-18 minutes. You know it’s done when the germ comes away from the seed and has a little curl to it. Let it sit for 5 minutes covered then fluff gently with a fork. For an easy variation, try cooking quinoa in chicken broth or vegetable broth for a little added flavor.

Quinoa makes a great breakfast food as well. Try cooking 1/4 cup quinoa with 1/2 cup of water and add in a few tablespoons each of raisins, chopped dried fruit, a pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 cup milk and sweetener to taste. Heat on medium until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquids and the fruit is tender. Remove from heat and enjoy.

Shopping for Quinoa
Most grocery stores now carry quinoa. Check the health food section if you don’t see it in the grains and rice aisle. You can also usually find it at specialty health food stores. Online merchants are also a great resource when it comes to finding quinoa. Natures Path, Bob’s Red Mill and Ancient Harvest are a few of the brands that can be found online. Ancient Harvest even has a selection of pastas made from a blend of quinoa and corn.

If you’re looking for a nutritious alternative to rice and pastas give quinoa a try. It’s easy to prepare and will add variety to your menu all the while contributing to your health as a gluten free food.