Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Quinoa: The Mother Grain

Five years ago no one knew what the heck quinoa was.  These days I'm finding that quinoa (pronounced "KEEN-wah") is a common household grain.  If you don't have any quinoa in your pantry at the moment, then maybe this blog is your call to action to purchase some next time you hit the grocery store :)

Quinoa is an ancient grain that has been around since at least 3000 BC, originating in the Andes mountains of South America.  The Incas thrived on it and referred to it as "The Mother Grain" because it is so nutritious.  Quinoa contains more protein than any other grain, delivers all eight essential amino acids, is a good source of fiber, and contains calcium, B vitamins, vitamin E, and iron.

Nutrition Facts (1/4 cup dry)
160 calories
2.5 g fat
28 g carbohydrates
3 g fiber
6 g protein

Cooking quinoa is super easy and QUICK!  All you do is add water & quinoa to a saucepan (2 cups water per 1 cup quinoa).  Bring the mixture to a vigorous boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, until quinoa is tender but still chewy and white spiral-like threads appear around each grain.  This takes about 15 minutes total.

Quinoa is delicate in flavor, perhaps slightly nutty.  The texture is fluffy once cooked.  It may be used as part of a main dish, a side dish, in soups, salads, and even desserts or breakfast foods.  One of my favorite uses of quinoa is as the basis for a grain salad.  I'll cook quinoa and combine it with a variety of veggies, kind of like how you would make a cold pasta salad.  These quinoa salads are the perfect thing to pack for lunch because they deliver vegetables & whole grains and free you up from the boredom (and cancer-causing nitrites) of deli-meat sandwiches.  Plus, they are great for summer because they are light and refreshing!

Because quinoa is such a great food, it's the July Food of the Month at TOPS.  In addition, I'm inviting everyone to participate in a Quinoa Cook Off!  Whoever produces the best quinoa salad will win a FREE one-month unlimited membership to TOPS Athletics!  Here are the rules:

*Spend the month of July perfecting your quinoa salad recipe.  The only caveat is that it may not contain any animal products (come on, it should not surprise you that I'm looking for whole foods plant based recipes here people!)

*When you have perfected your recipe, send it to me at tara@synergyonelab.com along with your name, your email address, your phone number, and the name of your recipe.  This will be your official entry into the contest.

*Cook a batch of your quinoa salad and bring it to the TOPS tent at TryThursday on August 7th (exact time TBA, but it will be around 5:30/6:30 pm).  [TrySports at Mayfaire in Wilmington, NC]

*All participants at TryThursday will be invited to sample the quinoa salads and cast a (blind) vote for their favorite.  The winner will be announced that evening and recipes will be available to all!

To provide you with extra inspiration, my friend Heidi Bucher, owner of Heidi's Healthy Kitchen, will be making a new quinoa salad every week in July.  She'll be bringing samples to TOPS every Tuesday for you to try!  And OMG I absolutely love her Healthy Honey Balsamic Red Quinoa Salad which is going to be the first sample, available TODAY!

Put your creativity in the kitchen to the test this month and use this as a good opportunity to introduce  quinoa to your family, friends, & coworkers who may still be living in the dark when it comes to incorporating this healthy superfood into their diets.

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