Welcome! I'm a 48 (and 1/2) year old, wife, mother (8 1/2 year old son), daughter, sister, friend and volunteer. So, 48.5 really means I'm into my 49th year on this amazing planet, and on July 19, 2010, I'll be in my 50th year. The mid-century mark. L. The big 5-0. However you want to say it, to most of the English speaking world, it means "old". I want to get there with grace, passion, beauty, love and laughter. I want to get there the old-fashioned way: by taking care of myself, eating right, creating a balanced life, laughing and living life to it's fullest. I'll be documenting my journey and hope you will watch and learn along the way. I'll also provide some of my tips for looking young and feeling your best as we head to and beyond our mid-century mark. Here's to being "Beautifully 50".

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Can you say Quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah!) is one of my new food obsessions, and I find the history behind this edible seed so interesting. Quinoa has been an important food source for the past 6,000 years in the Andes region of South America and the ancient Incas viewed the crop as sacred. In fact, the Inca emperor would sow the first crop of the season with his "golden implements." However, during the European conquest of South America, the Spanish suppressed production of Quinoa since it was only a "food for the Indians". The conquistadors actually halted production for a time, and the Incas were forced to grow corn to survive.


Quinoa plant, quinoa in flower stage, harvested quinoa.
(photo credit: Wikipedia)


In modern times, quinoa has seen an increase in production, due to its' immense nutritional content. Quinoa is 12-18% protein and, unlike most grains, provides a balanced set of essential amino acids, making it an excellent food source. It's also a good source of fiber, magnesium, phosphorous and iron. Ask any vegetarian you know, and I'm sure they'll know the many benefits of this tiny seed.

To me, quinoa has a mild nutty flavor that you can enhance by lightly toasting the seeds prior to cooking. Use quinoa just like rice, couscous or any other grain, in soups, as a side dish, and even as a breakfast cereal. 

Here is a recipe that I've enjoyed time and time again...very quick and easy to prepare. Most store packaged quinoa has been pre-rinsed (otherwise it can have a soapy-like, bitter tasting residue), but I always soak mine in water for at least 10 minutes and then rinse well.

Quinoa and Black Beans (Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.
  2. Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes,
  3. Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro.


I've added other vegetables (tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms) and sometimes put a little cheese on top. This is delicious as a side dish or a meal in itself. 

For breakfast, quinoa is traditionally served with apples and honey, and I've enjoyed it with chopped pecans and craisins as well. 

So, looking for a protein rich grain source? Try Quinoa...and now you know how to pronounce it!