Kitchen Basics – What’s the Deal with Quinoa?!

By December 31, 2014Kitchen Basics

Have you hopped on the quinoa bandwagon? Maybe you’ve been on it for a while. I got on years ago, before it was super trendy. I can’t remember how I discovered it, or even why. I know that I didn’t know how to pronounce it. I called it ki-no-wah, instead of keen-wah.

What a great discovery!

One cup of quinoa has: 22 g protein, 10 g fiber, 83 mcg folic acid, 4.98 mg niacin (vitamin B3) (“important for blood circulation and reducing cholesterol levels in the blood”) (1), 357 mg magnesium, 697 mg phosphorus, and 1258 mg potassium. (1)

I didn’t realize this when we first tried it, but quinoa “has the highest protein content of any grain” (1) (even though technically “it’s the fruit of an herb, not a grain” (2)). If you would compare the amount of protein in one cup of quinoa (22g) to the amount in one cup of brown rice (14.8g), pearled barley (20g), bulgur (19g), and whole wheat pasta (8.4g) (1), quinoa wins. (That’s not to take away from the other options, which I think are great, and are all a regular part of our menu.)

I think that quinoa has a great texture hot or cold, so it’s a perfect fit. I used it this past summer in a Mediterranean Quinoa Salad. The year before, the salad was a similar idea, using tomato and corn. The year before that, it had a bit of a southwestern feel when I added black and pinto beans. I took these salads to potlucks and they were a hit!

Quinoa is super versatile. I use it as I would rice or bulgur, and sometimes even in place of pasta. You could use quinoa in this End of the Week Pasta, instead of the whole wheat penne. You could substitute it for rice and make Spanish rice to go with some Vegetarian Soft Tacos. You could bump up the protein content of some Cannellini and Beet Green Soup with Feta by adding a handful of quinoa to the broth, or adding a generous spoonful of cooked quinoa to a Massaged Kale and Tuna Salad. Why not, right?!

It’s great all wrapped up too. I think it would be fabulous in place of the bulgur wheat in the Cabbage Rolls with Italian Sausage that I made a few weeks ago (even though bulgur has a good amount of protein too – 19g/1 cup (1)). It makes for a great stuffing agent for things like tomatoes and bell peppers. And, it’s practically the star of the Heart Healthy Chard Wraps with Quinoa and Walnuts.

Of course, it’s also great when it’s not being substituted for anything. I love it hot in this Mediterranean Quinoa dish with kale, olives, beans, and tomato, or with lentils and plenty of veggies.

And last, but not least, I really enjoy it in granola. Oats have lots of protein (26g/1 cup) (1). So I don’t add the quinoa for a protein boost. I just kinda like the extra crunch and kinda nutty flavor it brings.

If you want to come up with your own quinoa dish, some suggestions for what to pair it with are: Nuts, tomatoes, greens, salads, onions, black beans, olive oil, feta cheese, corn, and citrus (2)… to name just a few.

So there you have it, friends. All sorts of reasons to start (or continue) enjoying quinoa. I mean, how many foods can boast that they’re a great source of protein as well as being a delicious option for breakfast, lunch, or dinner?!

Happy Eating!

(1) Nutrition Almanac, Mc Graw-Hill 2001, Fifth Edition, Lavon J. Dunne

(2) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, Little, Brown and Company 2014, First Edition, Karen Page

Author Rachel Oberg

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