Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Oh Quinoa, I Love Ya!

Quinoa (Pronounced 'keen-wa') is a type of grain that has been an important part of the ancient Inca civilization of South America. In the grocery, you would often find Quinoa in the grain/ cereal section but it is not actually a cereal grass.  Researches thus refer to it as a 'pseudocereal'.  Although it is commonly grouped with wheat, rye and oats, it is interesting to know that it is from the same food family as spinach and beets. Quinoa may not be a pantry staple just yet, but it is gaining popularity as a superfood because of its high nutritive value and various health benefits. Here are some of the qualities and benefits of QUINOA:

1.  It is a complete protein that contains all essential amino acids.

2.  It contains significant amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients

3.  It has twice as much fiber as other types of grains

4. It contains no gluten making it a perfect food for vegans and people into wheat-free/gluten-free diet

5.  It is filling and easy to digest

(Source: whfoods.org)

Cooked Quinoa: To prepare, boil 1 cup quinoa in 2 cups water. When cooked, grain appears soft and transluscent and the germ ring will be visible along the outside edge of the grain

The question now is, how does it taste? Quinoa by itself has a unique texture and taste. Cooked quinoa is fluffy and chewy with a slight nutty, bitter taste. Hmm.. I know, I know.. It does not quite sound appetizing. Well, today, I'm letting my toddler be the judge.

The first time I tried Quinoa was in a salad - cooked quinoa tossed with some lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, feta cheese, pepper and cucumber. I have to admit that it was not love-at-first-bite, but I knew that it is something worth keeping in my food pantry. Just like pasta and rice, it is a versatile product that I can have fun experimenting with.

But the real question is... Will my 2-year old like it?

I did not plan on serving quinoa today, but somehow, the quinoa box I bought from the States spoke louder than the Kraft Mac n' Cheese. Oh, thank goodness! With my kitchen as my lab, and Hi-5 as my babysitter, I surveyed our fridge for what I could find and braved myself for an experiment.

Here are the Ingredients to my own recipe, I'd simply call Quinoa Shrimp Pilaf

1/4 cup Quinoa, cooked
Olive Oil
1 Onion, chopped
2 slices Cooked Ham, chopped
2 Celery stalks, sliced
2 Tomatoes, diced
1 Zucchini, diced
1/2 cup Mushrooms
2 Tbsp Tomato paste
1 cup peeled Shrimps
1/2 cup water 
1 cube Knorr Chicken broth cube
Grated Parmesan cheese, pepper and dried oregano to taste
Cheddar Cheese, grated (optional)

Cooking Procedure: 3 Simple steps for a healthy, satisfying lunch 

1.  Saute onions, add cooked ham, tomatoes, celery, zucchini and mushrooms

2.  Add tomato paste, shrimps, water, chicken broth cube and simmer. Season with parmesan cheese, pepper and oregano (I did not add salt anymore because the broth and cheese will already give it enough flavor)

3. Toss in cooked quinoa and mix with the ingredients. Top with grated cheddar cheese before serving (optional). For an extra kick, I added some Sriracha on my bowl like I would normally do on almost anything I eat. 

STEP 1:  Saute onions and add all vegetables

STEP 2: Add tomato paste, shrimps, broth and simmer. Season with Parmesan cheese, pepper and dried oregano

STEP 3: Toss in cooked quinoa and mix with the ingredients. Before serving,  top with grated cheddar cheese while it's still piping hot (optional)

The verdict: One happy tummy (make that two tummies) and another recipe on my book!

Don't you think that something this good and healthy is worth giving a shot? Unfortunately, it's not yet widely available here in the Philippines, but you can find it in the international aisle of big supermarkets like Rustan's, Metro Gaisano, SM and Shopwise. Hopefully with more Pinoy moms buying quinoa, it will be more accessible to us. Watch out for my future quinoa recipes. Hmm.. I actually have something in mind. If you did try this recipe, please let me know what you think.  Happy eating!  

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