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Cheat Sheet

Cooking with Quinoa For Dummies

From Cooking with Quinoa For Dummies by Cheryl Forberg

Quinoa — easy to prepare, easy to cook with, and packed with nutrients and protein — is deservedly known as a super food. A pseudo-cereal with whole grain properties, quinoa has become more common on store shelves and increasingly popular on menus for all meals of the day. In the following articles, you can find basic cooking instructions, what makes quinoa so nutritious, a guide to help you choose healthier grains, and a list of gluten-free grains and cereals.

Basic Quinoa Cooking Instructions

Quinoa is one of the easiest whole grains to prepare and one of the most versatile. Measure out twice the amount of water as dry quinoa (1 cup of water to 1/2 cup dry quinoa, for example) and then use any of the following cooking methods:

  • Basic stovetop quinoa: Place the quinoa and water in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes).

  • Energy-saver quinoa: Place the quinoa and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.

  • Rice cooker quinoa: Add 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, stir, and cover. When the cooker shuts off, the quinoa is done.

  • Microwave quinoa: Place the quinoa and water in a microwavable dish. Cook on high for 5 minutes, stir, and then cook 8 minutes longer at 60 percent power. Allow the quinoa to stand for a few minutes before serving.

For all these preparation methods, stir the quinoa a couple times during cooking to prevent it from burning or sticking. You can tell that the quinoa is done when the grains turn from white (or red or black) to translucent and the germ spirals out.

The Nutrition Profile of Quinoa

Quinoa is a nutrition-packed super food. It possesses a variety of important vitamins and minerals and shares the best characteristics of whole grains, even though it's not actually a whole grain itself. Because of all the good things it offers, quinoa has earned its place as a staple in healthy diets. Here’s why:

  • It’s gluten-free. Never had it, never will.

  • It’s one of the most complete sources of plant-based protein and has all nine essential amino acids.

  • It’s high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps you to feel full, and insoluble fiber helps to clean out your system.

  • It’s easy for most people to digest.

  • It’s a rich source of vitamins B-1 (thiamin), B-2 (riboflavin), B-6 (pyridoxine), and B-9 (folate).

  • It’s high in polyunsaturated fat (the good kind) and low in the saturated fat (the bad kind).

  • It has twice the amount of calcium you find in whole wheat.

  • It’s full of cancer- and cardiovascular disease-fighting antioxidants.

  • It’s an abundant source of many vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium.

In fact, quinoa, even when ground into flour or pressed into flakes, retains all of its nutritional components.

Whole Grains versus Processed Grains

Some whole grains lose much of their nutritional value when they are processed into flour or flattened into flakes. Quinoa doesn’t. It is always gluten-free and always whole grain. When you shop for whole grains, use the following chart to help you make the choice that’s better for your healthy lifestyle. (Note: Not all of these grains are gluten-free.)

Comparing Whole Grains and Processed Grains
Grain Whole Grain Winner Processed Variety to Avoid
Barley Hulled barley Pearl barley
Corn Stone-ground cornmeal or polenta Fine ground
Oats Steel-cut or old fashioned rolled oats Instant oatmeal
Rice Brown rice, wild rice White rice
Bulgur Coarse, medium or fine ground N/A
Couscous Whole wheat Regular or white
Quinoa All varieties N/A
Wheat Whole wheat Enriched wheat; all purpose

Gluten-Free Whole Grains and Cereals

Quinoa is one of a variety of gluten-free whole grains and pseudo-cereals (plants that produce seeds that are used in much the same way as whole grain seeds are), but it’s not the only one. The following is a list of popular, gluten-free whole grains and pseudo-cereals that you are likely to find in your local store or available online:

  • Amaranth

  • Buckwheat

  • Corn

  • Millet

  • Oats (when not produced alongside gluten-containing products)

  • Quinoa

  • Unmilled rice and wild rice (not white rice)

  • Sorghum

  • Teff

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