Saturday, August 7, 2010

Quinoa, "the gold of the Incas"!

I think my first experience with Quinoa was approximately ten years ago. I've always been a fan of healthy cooking and constantly in search of unique ideas to add more nutrients and less fat and sodium to our meals. Quinoa is actually a seed which is related to spinach, beets and swiss chard...although it has an appearance of a grain. It has a light fluffy texture with a bit of a crunch and a mild nutty flavor.

It can be creamy and it makes a great substitute for rice or other grains...and it is gluten free!

Quinoa is rich in nutrients such as manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus, and is a high protein in all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein!

You can find it in your supermarket in pre-packaged boxes near the other grains and rice.  It is also available in bulk as well as larger bags in some stores and is easy to find in most health food stores or natural supermarkets. I prefer the smaller pre-packaged boxes because sometimes bulk bins can harbor moisture or bacteria. It will keep longer if kept in the refrigerator but a cool, dry location is also good.

When cooking Quinoa, I prefer making it like rice...with two parts of liquid to one part of Quinoa according to package directions. It takes approximately 15 minutes to cook and when ready, it will fluff up nicely with a fork. It makes a tasty and satisfying accompaniment to many dishes.

Quinoa is also great for breakfast, with fruits and nuts and a touch of honey, maple syrup or brown sugar and cinnamon. I recently found Quinoa flakes, available as a breakfast food, but I prefer the traditional whole Quinoa for taste as well as texture.  In addition to the traditional, there are several varieties, including red. 

With the many uses for Quinoa, as well as its delightful flavor and texture, I can see why this nutrient packed  seed we use as a grain was once considered
"the gold of the Incas."

I was craving this following dish all day, so I thought I'd share with you something that I've been making for a long time...I call it "Mediterranean Chicken with Quinoa".  It's another easy goes!

Mediterranean Chicken with Quinoa

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
Approx. 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 (14 ounce) cans organic diced tomatoes
approx. 1 cup green olives (sliced into thirds)
approx. 1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric (according to your taste preference)
dash black pepper
2 cups Quinoa and 4 cups water, prepared according to pkg. directions.....(basically, place both in saucepan, bring to boil, cover and reduce to simmer for 15 minutes, then remove from heat for a few minutes and fluff with fork and serve)

In large skillet with olive oil, sauté garlic, onion and chicken until no pink remains and chicken begins to brown.

Sprinkle with black pepper.

Add white wine while scraping browned bits from pan.

Stir in tomatoes, olives, oregano and turmeric. Cover and
simmer on low heat (with the lid vented slightly) for approx. 15 minutes.

When Quinoa is ready, spoon into serving bowls and top with chicken mixture and serve immediately.

If desired sprinkle a little asiago or parmesan cheese on top. 
It's great accompanied with a green salad or a side of steamed broccoli (or both)  ;)

This dish is full of flavor! Every time I make this, my husband says "it smells like Sunday"! ...cozy, comforting and home!

Enjoy! (4-6 servings - depending on who you are feeding :) -  prep time: 15 min; cook time: 15 min; total time: 30 minutes).

* (great the next day, as the flavors intensify!)

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