About three years ago I sat down at a café called Huckleberry in Santa Monica, California. I will never forget the look that the waitress gave me when I asked for the “Kue-noah” salad. Actually, she chuckled a little and made me point to the entrée on the menu that I was talking about. I had never heard of this powerful food, let alone learned how to pronounce it correctly. Apparently, quinoa pronounced “keen-wah” is a pretty common superfood that most people on the westside of Los Angeles are familiar with. Well after becoming a total nutrition nut and discovering the amazing, nutritious, FAT BURNING effects that this grain-like seed has, I started to incorporate it into my diet daily. I want to share with you what quinoa actually is; why it is known as a Superfood; and four of my favorite mouth-watering quinoa recipes.
What is Quinoa?
Commonly mistaken as a grain, quinoa’s nutrition value is actually related to leafy green plants like swiss chard and spinach. Derived from South America three to four thousand years ago after it was first realized fit for human consumption, it soon became called “the gold of the Incan warriors.” This is because it was believed to increase their health and stamina. While quinoa is usually considered by the public to be a whole grain, it is actually a seed that contains a high amount of protein! Quinoa is gluten, soy, and wheat free.
Why is Quinoa a Superfood?
There are a few reasons why quinoa is known as a magical, nutrient dense superfood but the first reason is that it is an exceptional source of a plant based ‘complete protein’. This means that it contains the nine essential amino acids that your body can not produce on its own (particularly lysine, which plays a strong part in tissue repair.) This is extremely rare as most plant foods do not contain all of the amino acids. If you are a vegetarian or have trouble getting enough protein into your diet, quinoa is a wonderful natural alternative to support your lean muscle tissue. Quinoa is also known as a Superfood because it is one of the five most fiber-rich plant foods in the world. This means it does an exceptionally good job of slowing the rate at which sugar enters your bloodstream (so likely less of what you eat gets converted to fat) and also, the high amount of fiber fills you up and gives you slow-burn energy, meaning you can go longer on less actual calories. On top of these powerful benefits, the seed is also a wonderful source of iron, magnesium, calcium, vitamin B, vitamin E, as well as a host of other potent vitamins and antioxidants. Let’s look at some delicious ways that we can prepare it.
Coconut Cinnamon Quinoa
- 1/4C of quinoa
- Berries of choice
- 1/tsp of cinnamon
- 2tbsp of shredded coconut
- 1tbsp of slivered almonds
- Stevia to taste
Directions: Prepare quinoa separately. Add cinnamon, stevia and mix well. Top with berries, coconut flakes, and almonds
Kale and Feta Quinoa Salad
- 1/2c of quinoa
- 2 cups of chopped kale
- 2oz of crumbled feta cheese
- 2 tbsp of dried cranberries
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 1/2tbsp of balsamic vinegar
- 1/4tsp of sea salt
- 1/4tsp of fresh ground pepper
- Squeeze of fresh lemon
Directions: Toss all dry in ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Add oil, vinegar, and seasonings and mix well.
Dark Chocolate Covered Quinoa Protein Bars
- -1/3c of cooked quinoa
- -16 dates (whole and pitted with no sugar added)
- 1/3C of peanut butter, natural, crunchy
- 1tbsp of honey
- 1/2C of raw almonds
- 1/4C of dark chocolate chips
Make into twenty small bars and each is under 100 calories. Cook quinoa and let cool to room temperature for at least 2 hours. Place almond in blender or food processor and pulse until finally minced but do not make into almond powder! Add dates, peanut butter, and quinoa into processor or blender and pulse until ingredients are well . Remove into mixing bowl and shape into bars. about 1 inch thickness.
In a small saucepan, add chocolate chips, and honey and melt over low heat. Spread chocolate over bars and return them to the refrigerator where they can set.
Southwestern Stuffed Quinoa Bell Peppers
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2tbsp of coconut oil
- 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
- 1/2c of sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 of a poblano pepper, diced
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
- 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 3/4 cup quinoa
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups grated pepper Jack cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat oil in a large pan with a lid over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and poblano pepper cooking 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms and drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.
Meanwhile bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a covered sauce pan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender.
Add the quinoa to the onion mixture. Toss in the black beans and 1 cup of cheese. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Fill each bell pepper half with heaping 3/4-cup quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 40 minutes. Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with 1 tablespoon of remaining cheese. Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and drizzle each with pan juices before serving.