Did you know that quinoa is not a grain?  Although it is cooked and eaten like a grain, it’s technically a seed.  Quinoa is a seed of a broad-leaf plant.  Grains are seeds of cereal grasses such as rice, corn, wheat, and barley.  Thousands of years ago, the Andes Mountains cultivated this “pseudograin” and cooked them in their South American meals.   Quinoa is a popular substitute for rice in soups, stews, salads, stir-fries, and breads.  For those who have never tasted quinoa, it has a faintly nutty flavor.

Quinoa has three types: white, red, and black.  White quinoa is the most popular and may appear more tan or yellow than a white appearance. Red quinoa is enjoyed for its deep red color.  This is used in salads since it holds its shape after cooking.  It can also be used to add color in numerous other dishes.  Black quinoa is the sweetest and earthier of the three.  Try adding all three types of quinoa in a burrito or burrito bowl, and note any differences!

Fun facts:

  1. Quinoa has as much protein as dairy products.  In fact, it is known as a complete protein, meaning that it offers a balance of all nine essential amino acids.
  2. If you notice a tiny white ring popping out of each seed during cooking, never fear!  This is just the germ separating from the seed, meaning that your quinoa is ready.
  3. Quinoa belongs to the same family as spinach and beets.  The plant’s green leaves can be harvested and eaten just like spinach.
  4. Quinoa is the seed of the goosefoot plant.  The leaves of this plant resemble the feet of a goose.

Prep Tip: Some varieties of quinoa have a bitter outer layer of the seeds.  Remove the outer layer before cooking but placing the seeds in a fine-mesh strainer, then rinse and rub them under cold water.

Recipe Tip: If you prefer cooking quinoa like rice, measure out a precise ratio of seeds to water and allow water to simmer until fully absorbed.  You can also cook quinoa like pasta.  Add quinoa to a large pot of boiling water and simmer until seeds are tender (10-12 minutes, or by taste), then drain and enjoy!Cool

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