It’s that time of the year. The time of the year when we’re all still meticulously sticking to our New Year’s health, exercise and diet resolutions. The time of the year when we (hopefully) have not yet plummeted head first into a vat of Ben & Jerry’s. It has taken great personal strength for me not to do just that lately! During this time it always helps to have a super food in our arsenal. Honestly, this is a food you’ll always want to have in your diet regardless of resolutions.
Perhaps you’re already familiar with the nutritional powerhouse that is quinoa. For those of you who aren’t, hold onto your hats!! Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) can most definitely be classified under the category “super-food.” In fact, it’s so awesome I may actually have to add a new blog tag just for quinoa.
Quinoa cooks up like a grain but is actually the edible seed of the Goosefoot plant. It can be used in many different ways. It can be tossed with any number of vegetables and spices for serving beside any meal. It can be used in casseroles, stews, soups, stir-frys and salads. It’s also right up my alley because it’s a quick food. It only takes 15 minutes to make and that is always a gigantic plus in my book.
Versatility aside, the thing that truly amazes and astounds me about quinoa is just how incredibly healthy it is. Just one cup of cooked quinoa packs a whopping 9 grams of protein!! Not only that, but it’s considered a complete protein because it contains all 8 essential amino acids. As if all that wasn’t enough, it’s also high in calcium, folate, iron, magnesium and zinc. Oh, and did I mention that it’s gluten-free? The list goes on but I think you get it… Quinoa is incredibly healthy. This is a pretty perfect food and has been a staple in my diet for years now.
Best of all, as I mentioned, quinoa is easy to prepare. First, make sure you give your quinoa a good long rinse. Quinoa has a coating on it called saponin that is very bitter. Place the quinoa in a fine strainer and run it under cold water for a few minutes before placing it in boiling water. Once you place it in the boiling water, you’ll notice a beautiful transformation begins to occur.
As quinoa cooks, it twists out from being a flat, round, little circle to a small spiral and becomes light and fluffy. When you eat it, you’ll notice its very mild, slightly nutty flavor and it has a little crunch to it. Due to the delicate taste of quinoa it is complimented nicely by nearly any ingredient.
Here I have a simple, fresh recipe that couples the flavor of quinoa with ripe tomatoes, sweet basil and tangy feta all tossed together with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It’s a bright, crisp combination that will delight you. This can be used as a side dish or (due to the high protein in quinoa) can even be eaten as a main course.
Tomato Feta Quinoa
1 c. dry quinoa, rinsed
3 plum tomatoes, diced or 1 large tomato of another variety (I used grape tomatoes because that’s what I had on hand but I wouldn’t recommend them)
1/2 c. packed basil leaves, chopped
1/4-1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
Juice of 1 small, fresh lemon
-Rinse the quinoa under cold water for a few minutes then place it into boiling water and cook it according to the package directions.
-Once the quinoa is cooked, fluff it with a fork and allow it to cool to room temperature.
-Toss the quinoa with the tomatoes, basil and feta. Squeeze the lemon juice over the quinoa mixture and add a little salt and pepper. Toss it all together one last time.