I’ll admit it – before considering veganism I was pretty clueless when it came to quinoa. My first impression of this super-food was that it was a mysterious grain used for Goddess knows what…
Turns out it’s a seed, not a grain. It’s pronounced keen-wha, and it has been quite the buffer for my transition into veganhood. I introduced it to my family upon my visit home and despite the fact that my mom continually referred to it as quiznos (“no mom, that’s a sub chain…” – mispronunciation of words apparently runs in the family) she happily and lovingly prepared it.
What is so wonderful about a little seed that I would devote an entire column to it? So much! I’ve managed to narrow it down to five things:
1. It’s a Complete Protein
If I had a dime for every time I’ve been asked, “how do you get your protein?” I’d be a very wealthy vegan. We’ve been conditioned to believe that meat is the only viable way to get this fundamental nutrient. Clearly, as vegans we’ve shaken off this belief and recognize the societal oversight in viewing animal flesh as our only means of protein. Quinoa is one of my top answers for a wonderful source of plant-based protein. It includes all nine essential amino acids, which is what makes it a complete protein, and in one cup you get eight grams of this vital stuff. Eat up and eat often!
Quinoa totally outdoes many of its competitors in terms of delicious preparation options. I have a mile long list of quinoa recipes but just to name a few: quinoa salad, quinoa risotto, quinoa chili, quinoa burgers, quinoa cookies, quinoa casserole, quinoa sushi, quinoa pilaf and the list goes on. Seems I have the same passion for quinoa as Bubba did for shrimp, though I’m sure if we had a contest I’d outdo him with my quinoa options. Not to sound quinoa-obsessed but it can also be eaten for breakfast with fruit and nuts, or in the form of flakes, and quinoa flour can be used in baking a myriad of delicious goods.
3. It has a lot of Friends
Ever notice how flexible people seem to be more popular? Well, same goes for seeds! Because of its adaptable nature quinoa fits right in with the countless veggies we love. Quinoa compliments bitter kale, resonates with root vegetables and teams with tomatoes and peppers for and awesome salad. It can be mixed and matched with different veggies in all the options I listed above and furthermore you can cook it with vegetable broth instead of water to give it some extra flavor oomph. When you want a protein boost eat it with stir-fries instead of rice, or one of my personal simple fav.: with steamed vegetables and tahini sauce drizzled overtop. Basically, no matter what kind of food I have in my fridge or cupboard, if I type it into a search engine with the words ‘quinoa’ and ‘vegan’ I’ll find a recipe. Try it. I dare you!
If you happen to be knife/stovetop/oven-using challenged like I was, cooking healthy and from scratch can be rather intimidating. Enter quinoa, our beloved seed, with its speedy fifteen minute preparation time and suddenly the idea of cooking something nutritious becomes a lot less daunting. Simply bring quinoa and twice the amount of water to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer. When the water is gone and the germ separates from the seed your healthy meal is prepared. It doesn’t get much easier.
5. It’s Nutri-licious
As I mentioned above, quinoa is a great source of protein. But it doesn’t stop there: it also contains significant amounts of fiber, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, copper and manganese. It’s no wonder the Incas referred to quinoa as the “mother of all grains.” To boost the nutritional value even further, germinate your quinoa seeds for about 4 hours before cooking. This will activate the enzymes in the quinoa and will fortify the already high vitamin rate even further. But nutrition is one thing – what about taste? Mild, slightly nutty and complimentary, quinoa makes a delicious choice that is likely to accommodate a wide variety of palates.
For all of the above reasons quinoa is on top of both my tried-and-true recipe as well as fallback-quick-and-easy lists. And just because I enjoy ending with a bit of alliteration I’d like to express my gratitude to quintessential quinoa – an important component of a well-balanced vegan diet!