Quinoa Baby Boomer Super Food
Tired of buying that gluten free, fat free, sugar free, and of course, nutrition free food at the store? Try some quinoa. Okay, it’s not just for baby boomers, and okay, it’s not the only alternative high protein food out there (Can someone say amaranth?), but I call it Baby Boomer Super Food.
The United Nations has declared that 2013 is the “International Year of Quinoa.” Well, I rarely talk about politics, but food is one of my favorite topics. To be precise, quinoa (pronounced “ˈkiːnwɑː”) is one of my favorite foods. Wikipedia says we have the ancient Andean native cultures to thank for this wonderful food.
Another unique component of Hispanic culture is its ability to use and apply good things from other cultures like the Andean native culture and incorporate them. Cooptation and assimilation are not bad things – pragmatic. Epicurus and Lucretius would feel right at home.
Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, in that order, produce the majority of quinoa in the world. Quinoa is catching on around the planet and soon we’ll being hearing from many parts of our globe with their own quinoa production. Even the U.S.A. is trying to get into the act in a big way. We’ll see.
I began eating quinoa a couple of years ago on a regular basis. I was searching for an alternative to meat and wheat in my diet. I noticed that when I eat quinoa and grains that do not contain wheat, it’s kinder to my digestive system. Besides, I like the taste, texture, and energy it delivers minus the glycemic index rise.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good baguette with olive oil and Italian food-including pasta, bread, cheese, and the sauces that go with it. It’s a delicious thing, especially with good wine. But, if I ate that on a regular basis I would have to purchase that “extra seat” on the airplane and ignore my triglyceride count.
I sort of compare quinoa to sweet potatoes because of the essential amino acids – only without the higher sugar content. It’s like a complete food without the gluten, sugar, and meat – some people call it a super food.
Okay, you carnivores out there, take it easy. I eat meat. When traveling to Argentina or Uruguay I enjoy the grass fed beef – very tasty, but if you want to skip the meat occasionally, this is one great way to do it. It’s nice to think you can do without it if you so desire. Some folks do okay without the meat period.
However, I simply love quinoa. I actually use it as substitute for pasta when I do eat Italian at home. Most of you already know that quinoa is a very nutritional food all around. It’s actually related closer to beets and spinach than to cereals or grains. Quinoa is a complete protein source with the essential amino acids required for good nutrition. There are apparently 1800 plus varieties out there in the world.
It’s a wonderful world we live in with all of the choices we have.
Compared to pasta, quinoa is not cheap in the U.S.A., but when you consider its total nutritional value, it’s relatively inexpensive. It costs about $4 or more a pound in bulk at the grocery store. I stock up at my local grocer when I find a sale because it stores well on the shelf. Most of the quinoa I find is imported from Bolivia.
Again, the nutritional value of quinoa is the focus. Of course, quinoa is a lot less expensive in some of the Andean countries, even though others claim the global demand is driving up the cost of it in those native countries. Well, that’s a important discussion we’ll have at a later date.
Cooking And Eating Quinoa
So, how do you cook the stuff? There are myriad ways to prepare quinoa, but the most common way is boiling it for a few minutes in water, very similar to rice in that you use about 1 1/2 cups water to 1 cup of quinoa. It depends on how crunchy you want it – more water-less crunchy. From my experience, there is no need to simmer it for 20 minutes like most directions tell you.
I simply get my water boiling, pour in the quinoa, boil it for about a minute or so, turn the heat off and let it set for 20 minutes. By the way, cooked quinoa stores well in the fridge, so you can use it as a “fast food” when you’re in a hurry. You can heat it quickly or just eat it like a salad. I top it off with organic yogurt – which I use as a sour cream substitute. It’s a good brain food to eat prior to learning something like speaking Spanish.
When I first prepared quinoa, the instructions told me to rinse it with cold water to remove the “bitter” saponins and then cook it. I don’t bother with that now. Maybe it’s an acquired taste but it doesn’t seem to bother me. If you find that the saponins irritate your stomach or you don’t like the sometimes bitter taste, by all means rinse it off first.
The saponins seem to have a detergent quality. Perhaps that’s a good thing to clean your system. There’s a ton of information about quinoa on the net, so go read all about it and decide for yourself.
One of the best parts about quinoa is that you can add just about anything – vegetable, spice, or flavor. I like onions, carrots, garlic and curry or Puerto Rican sofrito in mine, but the list is endless.
It’s sort of like how you eat your “grits.” So when you eat that first or last bit of the savory quinoa cooked the way you like it, think about the great choices in food we have now. The choices are legion, so experiment. That’s the fun part about eating a super food.
Quinoa Baby Boomer Super Food
You’ll have to check out quinoa for yourself. These days you can find it in most grocery stores in the U.S., so try it, you might really like it. Like the Spanish philosopher and writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra said in Don Quixote, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”