Quinoa, Mother Seed of the Incas
Each of us live very busy lives—school, work, taking care of children, taking care of parents, play-dates, after-school activities.To save as much time and energy as I can and to optimize the nutrition of each meal and my dollar, I usually piggy-back my meals. I make a big pot of one specific item that can be transformed into at least three other meals. I add something fresh to it every meal.
My mom’s fried rice was usually leftover brown rice at week’s end. She added left over roast pig, and fresh ingredients such as eggs, peas, and Chinese sausage to make a delicious fried rice for dinner. It was an accumulation of all that we had eaten earlier in the week with the addition of a few fresh ingredients. There was never any waste. All the leftovers were eaten!
To this day, I’ve continued this way of cooking, piggy-backing my meals to save time and money.
In recent years, I’ve been piggy-backing with quinoa ( keen-wa). I thought I’d give you some information on this nutritious food and how best to prepare it. In future posts, I’ll share what I’ve added to the quinoa to make delicious, nutritious, and economic meals.
Although quinoa is prepared like a grain, it is not a grain. It is an herb! It is wheat-free and gluten-free. It is available as a seed, a flake, a flour, a pasta, and as a leaf. Its leaf is related to Swiss chard and spinach.
The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan describes the history, nutritional benefits, and the best way to prepare quinoa.
Quinoa has been a staple food of the Indians in South America for thousands of years. The Incas and Aztecs considered it a sacred food. It is called the mother seed of the Incas. It was known to build the stamina of Aztec warriors. The Spanish conquerors had forbid its cultivation and burned its fields. In the 1980s it was imported to the United States and grown in Colorado.
There are many health benefits to eating quinoa. Although it is a plant, it supplies all the essential amino acids. It is a food that’s an excellent source of protein for vegans and people who are looking for a non-meat source of protein. It is high in the amino acid, lysine, which is essential for the growth of tissue and repair. Not only is quinoa high in protein as a plant based food, it is also high in minerals. It is a good source of phosphorus, iron, magnesium, manganese, and copper. Its rich source of iron, which is essential part of several enzymes necessary for the production of energy and metabolism. Quinoa is also a good source of phosphorus, a mineral needed for the cell’sproduction of energy. Phosphorus also joins calcium to form calcium phosphate, which helps bone density.
Quinoa is also helpful in enhancing cardio-vascular health. Because of its fiber content, it lowers LDL (the bad cholesterol) and its high magnesium, a mineral that relaxes the the blood vessels.
It also contains tryptophan, which promotes sleep.
It’s been helpful to people with migraines, improve the cardiovascular system,and good for post menopausal women with high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
I wash quinoa as I would usually do when preparing whole grains for cooking. In the case of quinoa, you want to wash it thoroughly to remove the saponin compounds that coat it. The saponin compounds that coat each seed are a natural insect repellent, which give quinoa a soapy taste. I fill the pot I’m going to cook my quinoa in with water. Then I add my grain, in this case I add the quinoa. Then I take handfuls of quinoa and rub each handful between my hands. This was the way my mom washed her brown rice. Repeat this procedure until the water is clear. Taste as you complete each washing. If the quinoa tastes bitter, continue washing and rinsing.
Although Janie Quinn in Essential Eating, The Digestible Diet says it’s not necessary to soak quinoa because it’s an herb, I still soak my whole quinoa, because it’s a seed. Janie Quinn also says that quinoa may be too alkaline and needs to be more acid for some people to prevent indigestion. She suggests adding some grated lemon rind or lemon extract to the cooking water to make the quinoa more acid, more balanced for better digestibility. To be on the safe side, after I thoroughly wash my whole quinoa, I soak it over night with more than enough water to cover the quinoa plus one table spoon of lemon juice.
Whenever I bake with quinoa flour, I also soak the flour with some of the wet ingredients from my baking recipe plus one tablespoon of lemon juice the night before I bake. This makes for a light and fluffy dough or batter.
The reason for soaking the grain or flour is to neutralize the enzymes inhibitors that grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes naturally contain to protect their contents until the proper conditions are met for them to come to life. These enzyme inhibitors in unsoaked nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes may interfere with the digestion and assimilation of these nutritious foods. I have more information about about the soaking of grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes in a future post.
To cook quinoa, I use a two part procedure. Part one is the preparation and part two is the actual cooking.
I cook quinoa as I would other grains with two parts liquid and one part grain. After thoroughly washing the quinoa, I soak it over night in an acid medium such as lemon juice and enough of my two parts liquid to cover the quinoa, because the quinoa will absorb the liquid and swell. If more liquid is needed, add more to cover the quinoa. Let it stand over night covered on the kitchen counter.
The next day is part two of the preparation for your grain. Add the remaining liquid (of the two parts liquid), cover the pot, and let it come to a boil. I then lower the flame and let the quinoa simmer for 15 minutes. The cooking is complete when the quinoa becomes translucent and the germ has detached and looks like white tails.
If you decide to soak the quinoa in water only over night without any acid added to the water, make sure to discard the soaking water. It will contain the enzyme inhibitors. Rinse the quinoa, add the two parts liquid and one tablespoon of lemon juice, cover the pot, and let it come to boil. Lower the flame and let the quinoa simmer for 15 minutes. The cooking is complete when the quinoa becomes translucent and the germ has detached and looks like white tails.
As a variation, add half tomato juice to the filtered water, or cook in broth. For a nuttier flavor, roast the quinoa in some fat such as ghee, butter, or coconut oil before adding filtered water.
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