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Originally published February 16, 2014 at 6:18 AM | Page modified February 18, 2014 at 9:41 AM

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Quinoa: hard to pronounce but easy to digest and good for you

The pronunciation of quinoa may be a mystery, but it’s high in protein and contains all the necessary amino acids, making it an excellent option for vegetarians and vegans. As a whole grain, it is also an excellent source of fiber and important minerals.

Lexington Herald-Leader

Quinoa cooking tips

You’ll need 1½ cups water to every 1 cup of quinoa.

Thoroughly rinse quinoa under cold water, and drain it in a fine-mesh sieve. Better yet, let the quinoa soak for about 15 minutes in cold water, then drain the grains through a fine-mesh sieve.

Combine 1½ cups water and the rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

You’ll know the quinoa is finished cooking when it appears as if each grain has “popped” open. Remove from heat; fluff with a fork.

Source: Cooking Light

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A Bud Light commercial about quinoa might get more people to eat the healthful grain than any health or nutrition expert could.

The TV ad shows a Philadelphia Eagles fan tailgating when he realizes his wife packed another one of those “quee-no” burgers. He accidentally ate a quinoa veggie burger before the last game, and the Eagles won. Now he chooses to eat it again to help out the team.

It’s a funny commercial that brings a lot of attention to the hard-for-some-to-pronounce (it’s keen-wah) healthful whole grain that isn’t on the grocery list of many consumers.

It is becoming more mainstream, as noted in the TV ad, as people realize its nutritional value. It’s high in protein and contains all the necessary amino acids, making it an excellent option for vegetarians and vegans. As a whole grain, it is also an excellent source of fiber and important minerals. It’s a popular choice for many with celiac disease because it’s gluten-free.

Quinoa is versatile and can be used in all kinds of dishes. Search for quinoa on Pinterest and you’ll get dozens (maybe hundreds) of pins for quinoa recipes. You’ll find buffalo quinoa bites, sweet potato quinoa patties, crunchy quinoa and buckwheat chocolate truffles, blueberry quinoa pancakes and quinoa coconut chocolate-chunk cookies, as well as a number of salad recipes.

Quinoa is actually a seed from a vegetable related to Swiss chard, spinach and beets, although it is often referred to as a “supergrain” because it’s a nutritionally complete protein. The pinhead-size seeds can be white, red or black.

According to America’s Test Kitchen, white quinoa, the largest seeds of the three, has a slightly nutty, vegetal flavor with a hint of bitterness; it also has the softest texture of the three quinoas.

The medium-size red seeds offer a heartier crunch, thanks to their additional seed coat and a predominant nuttiness.

Black quinoa seeds, the smallest of the three, have the thickest seed coat. They were notably crunchy in recipes and retain their shape the most during cooking, but many of the Test Kitchen tasters disliked their slightly sandy texture. These seeds had the mildest flavor, with a hint of molasses-like sweetness.

“Quinoa is a grain native to South America; in fact, the red that I carry is called Inca heirloom grain,” explained Victoria Guy, a specialist in Good Foods’ grocery department in Lexington, Ky. “It is gluten-free, and makes a good substitute for couscous, because it has a similar mouth feel and texture in cooking.”

When choosing packaged quinoa to cook, you’ll want to buy the prewashed, even though it might be a few cents more per ounce.

Thoroughly washing quinoa before cooking removes all traces of its bitter saponin coating, nature’s way of making the high-protein seeds unattractive to birds and other seed eaters. In addition to being unpalatable, saponin is mildly toxic, causing low-level gastrointestinal distress in some people.

But cleaning quinoa is a chore because the tiny seeds (often mistakenly called grains) can easily slip through a fine-mesh strainer and down the drain. America’s Test Kitchen found that the traditional quinoa offered no flavor or textural advantages over prewashed brands.

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