It is so easy to get stuck in a rut and go to the standard starchy sides such as rice, pasta, and potatoes but why not change things up a bit. Want something that is nutritious, easy to prepare, and full of flavor all on its own? Try quinoa! Pronounced keen-wa, quinoa is a nutritious, whole grain that has a fluffy, creamy, and slightly crunchy texture as well as a unique nutty flavor when cooked.
Quinoa is considered an ancient' crop since it has been grown and harvested for thousands of years. In fact, quinoa was once called "the gold of the Incas," who recognized its health benefits and the valuable increase in the strength and stamina it provided their warriors.
Quinoa is commonly considered a grain; however, it is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables such as Swiss chard and spinach. It is a colorful, flowering plant that grows at 12,000 feet above sea level and is native to South America. In areas where it is grown it is common for people to eat the leaves as well as the seeds.
Quinoa is gluten free and is full of vitamins and nutrients such as iron, phosphorus, folate, manganese, Vitamin B and zinc. Since quinoa is an excellent source of protein, providing all eight essential amino acids, it is a powerful food to add to any diet especially a vegetarian diet.
Because quinoa is easy to prepare, similar to the preparation and cooking of rice, it can be used in a variety of ways. From a delicious side dish, pilaf, or stuffing to mixing it in salads, soups, and stews quinoa is very versatile.
Next time you are in the rice isle at your local grocery store pick up some quinoa and try this Carrot, Tomato, and Spinach Quinoa Pilaf. This pilaf makes a great vegetarian entrée or a wonderful quick side dish on busy night!
Chef Heather attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but has been developing family friendly meals since she was nine years old in her mother's kitchen. She is an avid crockpotter and knows how to get food on the table in a pinch. She currently serves as a writer and recipe developer for meal planning sitewww.foodonthetable.com