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Newsletter » About Quinoa
Newsletter June 18/01 - Susan Van Dueck
Quinoa (Keen-Wa)
  1. The Mother Grain

  2. Quinoa is Not a Cereal Grain

  3. How to Remove the Saponin

  4. Versatile Quinoa

  5. Recipes

  6. Quinoa Book

  7. References

The Mother Grain

Quinoa is an annual herb that has been cultivated for thousands of years in the west Andes Mountains of South America. It was a staple food of the ancient Inca Indians and their Empire. Quinoa was such an important food of the ancient Incas that they considered it the "Mother Grain."

Quinoa is Not a Cereal Grain

Quinoa is a plant that is very hardy and drought resistant. It bears clusters of seed on top of the plant that can range in colour from white to orange, red, purple and black, depending on the variety. The ancestral seed colour of quinoa is black; the other colours have been obtained from mutations and breeding. The quinoa seed, about the size of millet, resembles the grain of some cereal grasses, but it is not a grass.

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How to Remove the Saponin

The seeds are coated with a saponin which has a bitter taste. This bitterness is removed by washing in water or by a dry polishing process. Before consumption of quinoa the seeds should be rinsed to remove any of the saponin dust that may remain on the seeds. [Suggestion: Mix two tablespoons of yogurt or buttermilk in enough purified water to cover quinoa by one inch. Soak the quinoa for at least 12 hours and then drain and rinse before cooking.] The seed of quinoa is an excellent food, rich in protein and high in fibre. The protein is well balanced and is particularly rich in the amino acid lysine, which is difficult to obtain from other vegetable sources. It is also high in calcium, phosphorous, vitamins B and E.

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Versatile Quinoa

Quinoa is a very versatile plant that can be cooked many ways and tastes excellent. The green leaves can be used in salads or cooked like spinach. The grain can be sprouted, like alfalfa; used as a hot cereal; used in soups, casseroles and soufflés; used in the place of almost any other grain, including rice; ground into flour; and toasted. An imaginative chef can find many more uses and ways to prepare quinoa than those given above. Dishes ranging from appetizers through desserts can be prepared from quinoa.

I have used quinoa to stuff peppers and Rodney (Dr. Van Dueck) recently used it to make veggie patties. (I'd give you the recipe but he made it up and he never writes down the measurements.) 1/3 cup cooked quinoa contains 13 gm. of carbohydrate and 3 gm. protein. Brown rice contains 1/2 the amount of protein and 15 gm. of carbohydrate. The best part about quinoa is that it has not been hybridized. It is relatively the same as when the Incas were eating it.

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Quinoa (Basic Recipe)

  • 2 cups water or chicken stock

  • 1 cup quinoa

Rinse quinoa thoroughly, either by using a strainer or by running fresh water over the quinoa in a pot. Drain excess water. Place quinoa and water in a 1½ quart sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all of the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). You will know that the quinoa is done when all the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated. Makes 3 cups. This is delicious with a little butter and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. 1/3 cup serving = 13 gm. of carbohydrate and 3 gm. of protein.

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Quinoa Spoon Bread

Makes about 12 servings at 14 gm. of carbohydrate each

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 1 cup Quinoa

  • 1 tsp sugar

  • 4 well-beaten eggs

  • 1 tsp. baking soda

  • 1/4 lb butter

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 4 cups warm milk (see below)

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Fry the chopped onion in butter until golden brown. Turn the heat to low. Rinse quinoa and drain well. Add quinoa to onions and mix well. Add the sugar, salt and warm milk. Stir slowly until the quinoa starts to thicken. Remove from heat. Add the well-beaten eggs, baking soda and cinnamon. Mix well and place in a casserole dish. Bake in a 325 F oven for 1 hour.

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* Here's a little trick. Instead of buying milk, buy whipping cream. In most recipes that call for milk simply use water with a little whipping cream added: approximately 1/4 cup whipping cream to 3/4 cup water. Here are the advantages: whipping cream is mostly fat which means you are getting less of the casein and lactose that commonly cause allergic reactions. One cup (8 oz.) whole milk contains 11.4 gm. of carbohydrate. One cup of whipping cream contains 6.6 gm. of carbohydrate. In the mixture we have suggested, the carbohydrates are decreased to 1.65 gm. per cup of liquid. Quite a big saving! With this method you can cut the grams of carbohydrates in the recipe to 11 per serving.

Andean Quinoa Casserole

This is almost like risotto. Used as a side dish a 1/2 cup serving has about 25 gm. of carbohydrates.

8 -10 servings as a side dish.

  • 2 cups quinoa

  • 6 cups warm water mixed with 2 tbsp yogurt or buttermilk

  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tsp annatto seeds (if you can't find see below)

  • 4 cups beef, chicken or vegetable stock

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt or to taste

  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed

  • 2 medium potatoes, washed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

  • Several sprigs of cilantro tied together with string

  • 1/2 cup crème fraiche (recipe to follow)

  • 5 tbsp cream cheese

Soak quinoa in warm water mixture at least 12 hours. Rinse and drain well. Sauté annatto seeds in oil for several minutes or until oil turns yellow. Sauté the onions in the same oil until softened and add garlic at the last minute. Add quinoa and stock and bring to a boil. Skim, reduce heat, cover and simmer for one hour or more on low heat.

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Meanwhile, parboil potatoes until partially cooked. They should not be quite fork tender. Twenty minutes before the casserole is finished cooking add the potatoes, cilantro and salt to the casserole. Cover and continue to cook. When ready to serve, remove cilantro and stir in cream cheese and crème fraiche.

*If you can't find annatto seeds, which are usually available in Latin Markets, leave out that step and go straight to the onions. Annatto seeds are mainly to get a yellow colour so you could add a little turmeric when you add the potatoes. I got my annatto seeds at Seacoast Organic Produce in Steveston (No. 1 Rd. and Moncton).

Variations: Instead of potatoes use 2 cups diced butternut squash or your favourite winter squash. Remember to parboil like the potatoes.

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Crème Fraiche (European Style Sour Cream)

Makes 2 cups

1 pint (1/2 litre) good quality whipping cream (I used Avalon)
1 tbsp good quality buttermilk

Place cream in glass container. Mix in buttermilk. Cover tightly and place in a warm spot for about 24 hours. Chill well.

(If you jumped here from the Organics newsletter, click here to return.)

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Here's a book I found available on the web, but haven't reviewed yet. Let me know if you have it and your opinion.

Quinoa the Supergrain: Ancient Food for Today - by Rebecca Wood

Examines many of the properties of Quinoa. Over 120 Quinoa recipes.


Next time, bagel alternatives and another healthy grain choice...Wild Rice. Gee...some wild rice would go great with some game meat! My creative juices are starting to flow...time to go to the kitchen!

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  1. Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats - by Sally Fallon

  2. The Complete Book of Food Counts (Ctn Food Counts) - by Corinne T. Netzer

  3. The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Losing Weight, Being Healthy, and Feeling Younger and The Schwarzbein Principle Cookbook - by Diana Schwarzbein, M.D.

  4. Living Low-Carb: The Complete Guide to Long-Term Low Carb Dieting and The Low-Carb Cookbook: The Complete Guide to the Healthy Low-Carbohydrate Lifestyle with over 250 Delicious Recipes - by Fran McCullough

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