My New Obsession: Quinoa

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This post is all about quinoa. Some of you probably eat it regularly. Others may be wondering what all the fuss is about.

Quinoa has been cultivated for thousands of years and is considered a “super food.” It contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a high quality protein that’s easy to absorb. It’s also packed with many important vitamins and minerals. Used like a grain, quinoa is actually a seed (botanically, it’s related to spinach and chard.)

Dried quinoa flower bunch grown at the Farm Stand

Fresh quinoa flower bunch grown at the Farm Stand

It’s naturally gluten-free, which partially accounts for its newfound popularity. Even my 85-year old mother cooks it up regularly (she calls it “kin-no-ah” when the proper pronunciation is “keen-wa”).

This year was declared the International Year of Quinoa by the United Nations to raise awareness of this incredibly nutritious, highly adaptable food, which has great potential to help eliminate hunger around the world.

There are three types of quinoa you’ll find in the store: white, red, and multi-colored “rainbow.”

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Since the nutritional content of these varieties is virtually the same, I pick my varieties based on what I think will look best in what I’m cooking.  For example, I use white quinoa in my yummy Raspberry Maple Quinoa & Corn Muffins, because I want the muffins to stay bright yellow.

Here are a few other things I’m making with quinoa these days:

A hearty salad: Add chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, basil, and garlic and toss it all in a red wine vinaigrette.

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A custom grain blend: Use half short grain brown rice and half red quinoa (the rice needs a 25-minute head start) as a side dish, or for dinner topped with veggies.

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A delicious hot breakfast cereal: Combine 1 cup of thoroughly rinsed white quinoa with 1½ cups water and a pinch of salt.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add a whole chopped apple and simmer for 5 more minutes.  Stir in ½ teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup.  Serve with chopped nuts and ground flax seed.

This gorgeous Pink Lady apple came from my garden!

This gorgeous Pink Lady apple came from my garden!

Earlier this year, farm researchers from Washington State University (WSU) came to our farm stand for a meet and greet. WSU is currently running trials on more than 30 varieties of quinoa to see which can be grown successfully in the northwestern United States, since now virtually all the quinoa in the world is grown in the Andean communities of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

I asked our executive chef, Sarah LaCasse, to feature quinoa in the meal she prepared for us, and she invented some potato-quinoa cakes that are out of this world. Check out her recipe, and taste them for yourself. Sarah serves them as an appetizer on top of a bed of lightly dressed arugula.  They are delicious that way, but when Drew and I make them at home we eat them hot as a side dish. We love their versatility, as well as their delicious flavor.

Enjoy the earth’s delicious bounty!

Myra

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