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Quinoa – The Superhero in Your Pantry

Nathalie Montoya Curabba May 6, 2013 Nutrition Comments Off on Quinoa – The Superhero in Your Pantry
Quinoa – The Superhero in Your Pantry

It might be hard to imagine this tiny seed as an actual superhero  but the Incas once regarded quinoa more valuable than gold.

The Incas valued quinoa highly. There were special rituals in place to honor this sacred grain that when consumed brought them sustenance, longevity and psychic ability.

It sounds like a story from a mythology book, but in reality those Incas inherently knew something about this crop that science is now confirming.

To start, quinoa is not a grain in the traditional sense.  It is a gluten-free, incredibly versatile and quite delicious pseudocereal.  It gets its hero status from the fact that it contains all 9 essential amino acids that make it the only vegetarian source of a complete protein.

The list goes on.  Quinoa is:

  • a great source of magnesium – necessary for muscle contraction so if you’ve got a fitness regimen, this is for you
  • high in iron – we need iron to oxygenate our blood and to produce it, more oxygen in the blood also means more energy
  • a great source of antioxidant Vitamins B and E – antioxidants help ‘sweep up’ the free radicals in our bodies that cause oxidative damage which can lead to many diseases such as Alzheimer’s and various cancers
  • loaded with anti-inflammatory phytonutrients – being as inflammation is a root cause for many diseases, it’s a great idea to get these into your diet
  • an incredible source of fiber – when you see fiber, think gut and colon health
  • high in monounsaturated fat – the good fat; yes, there are plenty of good fats that are a must to maintain our physical and mental wellness

So, what can you do with a superhero sitting in your pantry?  Think of it as a grain and use it where you would normally use rice or couscous.

I like to cook up a couple of cups and leave it in the fridge so I have it handy to make salads for lunch (think shredded chicken, cherry tomatoes and avocados) or to have as a side for dinner. Add some fresh chopped herbs (parsley, mint, or cilantro) and nuts and dried fruit to really make it stand out.

Staple pantry items can be boring but with little additions like these they will be surprisingly delightful.  If you’re feeling really kitchen adventurous, try this recipe where I use quinoa to bind this delicious, wholly satisfying and enlightened veggie burger.

The enlightened part I attribute to the quinoa.  Not sure about you, but I like to roll like the Incas did, fully nourished and in a heightened state of being.

What will this little superhero do for you?

Pinto Bean and Quinoa Burger

Ingredients:

  • 1 C dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 1″ piece of kombu
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t ground smoked paprika
  • 1/2 t ground coriander
  • 3/4 C cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 C pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1/2 C finely shredded carrots
  • 1/4 C scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 C cilantro, finely chopped
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil + extra as needed
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Procedure:

1.  Drain and rinse and add beans to a soup pot with enough water to cover.  Add kombu and bay leaves and let boil on high heat for 10 minutes.  Skim any foam off as often as needed.  After about 10 minutes, reduce heat to medium, add cumin, paprika, coriander and a good pinch of sea salt.  Partially cover and cook for 45 minutes or until beans are very tender.  When done, drain the beans and reserve some liquid, in the event you’ll need some later, and mash with a potato masher.

2.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the beans and mix well.  Form 6-8 burgers, depending on size.

3.  Heat 1/2-1T of oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Cook each burger about 5 minutes on the first side or until golden brown, then flip burger and cook for another 4-5 minutes.

4.  Serve on a sourdough roll and top with your favorite burger toppings.  I also like to serve it over a green salad with avocado.

Key: C = Cup; t = teaspoon; T = tablespoon

Have you tried quinoa? Tell us your superhero recipes in the comments section below…

[Photo Credit: net_efekt]


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About The Author

Nathalie is a graduate of the Chef's Training Program at The Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. She is dedicated to teaching and learning about the health benefits of organic, whole and unprocessed foods while making them utterly delicious. She currently lives in the UAE where you can find her cooking, blogging and exploring new foods at http://guayagourmet.com/.

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