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Quinoa To-Go!


Carolyn-Burris-Heas-shot-picture by Carolyn Burris
MS, Nutrition Counselor at
Forum Health Knoxville


When it comes to quinoa, you may have a few questions. For starters, how to you pronounce it?


Pronounced KEEN-wah, it is native to the Andes Mountains of South America where it has been considered a super food for over 5000 years. Quinoa has a mild, nutty taste and chewy texture. Individually, it looks like tiny beads and are most often beige in color, but black and red varieties are also available. Although it has similar characteristics and preparation methods to most grains, quinoa is actually a seed!


Americans are crazy for quinoa!


Recently, quinoa has become an increasingly popular food choice in the United States. It’s no wonder we’ve gone quinoa-crazy; it’s a complete protein, it’s heart-healthy, contains fiber, folate, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, and it has a low allergy risk making it a great choice for children and the gluten intolerant. Quinoa is very nutrient dense, including all eight essential amino acids, making it a very vital food for vegetarians.


One cup of quinoa (or one serving) will provide:


220 calories (70 percent carbs, 15 percent fat, 15 percent protein)
40 grams of carbohydrates (13 percent daily value)
8 grams of protein (16 percent of daily value)
3.5 grams of fat (5 percent daily value with no saturated fat)
A glycemic load (blood sugar spike) of only 18 out of 250
5.2 grams of fiber (20 percent of daily value)
20 percent of daily value of folate (one of the B vitamins)
30 percent of magnesium daily value (helpful for people suffering from migraines); 28 percent daily value of phosphorous; iron (15 percent); copper (18 per cent); manganese (almost 60 per cent); zinc (13 per cent)


Americans aren’t the only ones praising this super food for its unique nutritive value. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.



How do I prepare quinoa for cooking?


If the quinoa is not pre-rinsed, you will need to wash it well, because the seeds are covered with saponins, which are plant compounds that foam when they are mixed with water, similar to soap. The saponins are not harmful if you eat them, but will give quinoa a bitter taste if not rinsed thoroughly with cold running water until water becomes clear.


How do I cook quinoa?


Quinoa cooks easily, in about 15 minutes. Similar to rice, it takes 2 cups of water per 1 cup of quinoa. Cook quinoa at a high setting until it starts to boil then cover and simmer for approximately 12-15 minutes. One way to know that it’s ready, is seeing the ring-shaped sprouts popping out from the seeds. Stir the quinoa until all of the water absorbs.


Tips for taste:


Quinoa, on it’s own, is pretty bland so add a small amount of organic coconut oil, organic olive oil, or organic ghee butter for flavor and consistency. You can also add spices, herbs, or even nuts such as walnuts or almonds.




Quinoa Salad-in-a-Jar is a healthy lunch option that you can make in advance. Because of its higher fiber content, quinoa digests slowly which helps you feel full longer and decreases the urge for un-healthy snacking.


Here are two options when making this salad in advance.


Without greens: In a 1 pint (2 cups) jar or container, layer the quinoa pilaf and salad ingredients, omitting the greens.
With the greens: In a 1 quart (4 cups) jar or container, layer quinoa and salad ingredients, with greens added to the top of the jar.




(makes 4 cups; serves 4)

1 cup quinoa
1 tablespoon organic olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon whole mineral salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


(for 1 jar)

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoon organic wine or apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon whole mineral salt
1 teaspoon gluten free, organic taco seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground chia seeds (optional)


(for 1 jar)

1/4 – 1/3 cup organic corn (fresh or frozen); patted dry if wet
1/4 – 1/3 cup organic black beans (chick peas), rinsed, drained, and patted dry
1 teaspoon diced jalapeno or chili peppers (if more heat is desired)
6 – 8 small grape or cherry tomatoes, left whole (optional)
1 – 2 cups packed greens (optional); cut romaine lettuce, uncut arugula, uncut baby spinach, or shredded cabbage, preferably organic



To make quinoa pilaf, in a strainer, rinse the quinoa under running water for 60 seconds, until water runs clear; drain. In 2 quart pan on stove top, heat olive oil over medium-high heat; add onions and cook until soft. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add water, quinoa, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove lid, remove from heat, and fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool completely.
Combine dressing ingredients in bottom of jar, stirring them with a fork. Add 1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa pilaf; use a fork to toss with dressing until well combined. Level out quinoa for an even bottom layer.
Layer the salad ingredients in the order given from the bottom up. If adding greens in the quart jar option, you can pack them in to get as much as possible in the jar.
Put a lid on the jar and refrigerate. Salad should stay fresh for approximately 4-5 days, depending on the freshness and type of ingredients used. Jars that include greens may have a shorter shelf life.


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