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Quinoa: Incan Gold, Diabetic’s Delight
by Marjorie Dorfman
page 2

For diabetics who cannot eat rice, recent studies indicate that quinoa provides a wonderful substitute that aids in the regulation of glucose levels as well. Quinoa’s most interesting feature is that it is so very versatile. It can be added to create a myriad of different types of dishes. For more intense flavor, cook with chicken or vegetable broth instead of water and add to pilafs. It can also serve as high protein breakfast fare and is delicious mixed with honey, almonds or berries.

For those with gluten allergies, here comes quinoa to the rescue! Quinoa can be combined with tapioca, sorghum flour and potato starch to create a nutritious and gluten-free baking mixture. If you go this route, consider three parts sorghum flour, two parts potato starch and one part tapioca starch for the best results. Quinoa can also be used as a filling for chocolate!

Types of quinoa and unusual characteristics

quinoa growing
Quinoa has only been grown in America since the 1980s when two Americans who learned about it from a Bolivian began to grow it in their home state of Colorado. Quinoa can be found in most natural food stores in the U.S. and many regular supermarkets are beginning to carry it as well. Its color can range from ivory to pink, to brown to red and even black, depending on the variety. Although there are more than one hundred different species, only three main varieties are cultivated: white or sweet, dark red and black quinoa.

Quinoa seeds are similar in size to millet but are flat and oval. Uniquely, as it cooks, the outer germ around each grain of quinoa twists outward and forms a little, white, spiral tail which is attached to the kernel. Quinoa has a crunchy, slightly nutty flavor which can be bland all by itself, but whose very nature invites creative cooks to "spice it up a notch" as chef Emeril Lagasse always says. The leaves of the plant are also edible and taste somewhat like spinach. It should also be noted that a salad made of quinoa leaves is far more nutritious than most green salads.

Rinse the seeds before cooking to remove the coating of saponin. Quinoa is usually rinsed before it is packaged and sold, but it is best to rinse again at home before use to remove any of the powdery residue that may remain on the seeds. The presence of saponin is easy to spot by the production of soapy looking "suds" which appear when the seeds are rinsed in water. Placing quinoa in a strainer and rinsing thoroughly with water is the easiest way to remove the saponin. In South America, this bitter coating from the quinoa is used as detergent for washing clothes and as an antiseptic to promote healing of skin injuries.

soaking the seeds Quinoa is excellent in casseroles, soups, stews, stir-fries or even cold in salads. It is quick to prepare, requiring only about 15 minutes and uncooked seeds can be added to stews and such just as rice might be. Dry roasting quinoa in a pan or in the oven, before cooking will give a toasted flavor, and it can be cooked in fruit juice to add character to the flavor for use as a breakfast cereal or in desserts. Quinoa flour is used in making pasta and a variety of baked goods such as pancakes, bread, muffins, and crackers. The seeds can be sprouted and eaten as raw, live food for snacks or in salads and sandwiches.

Quinoa has a very short germination period and the seeds will sprout after soaking about 1/3 cup in a jar for 2 to 4 hours. Drain and rinse twice a day for 2 to 4 days. When the sprouts are about 1-inch long, place them near a window for chlorophyll to develop, which will give them a vibrant green color. Another fascinating way of using quinoa is to "pop" the seeds in a dry skillet and eat them as a dry cereal.

Is quinoa for you? There’s only one way to find out. Try this recipe below or find many others online. (Thanks to Karen Railey at Chet Day’s Health & Beyond)

Happy, healthy quinoa!

Toasted Quinoa Salad

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup minced parsley or cilantro
2 sliced green onions
Juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime (or 1 – 2 tablespoons of each)
1-1/2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
2 cloves minced or pressed garlic
1 teaspoon chili sauce (Tabasco) (or use a pinch of cayenne, a few red pepper flakes, etc.)

Rinse quinoa and drain. Put in a pot and dry toast until a few grains begin to pop. Add 1-1/2 cups of water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool.

Mix carrot, red pepper, parsley and green onion in large bowl. Add cold quinoa and toss to combine, Whisk together lemon and lime juices, tamari, garlic and chili sauce. Pour over salad and combine well. Chill until serving time.

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