A new food for a new year
If you haven’t heard of quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa) you’ll definitely hear more about it this year.
2013 is a new beginning for this very old, gluten-free ancient grain, which actually isn’t even a grain. It’s a seed, grown, harvested and eaten for centuries in an Andean-origin diet.
The United Nations has declared this year International Year of the Quinoa because of its exceptional nutritional qualities, and its potential to help combat hunger and malnutrition worldwide.
Here in North America non-meat eaters tend to be the most likely to consume quinoa, including it in their diets because its protein is the same as what’s found in animal sources such as poultry, fish and red meat.
More Canadians are starting to eat and enjoy it, thanks to a new recipe book The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook published in 2012 by the Ontario Home Economists Association.
Mairlyn Smith — a name women who attend the Manitoba Farm Women’s Conference will recognize — is the Toronto-based professional home economist who edited the cookbook. Mairlyn is also author of Healthy Starts Here and a popular guest speaker and commentator on healthy cooking and eating.
She brought a great deal of personal knowledge of quinoa to the project. She began eating quinoa when she became vegetarian in her early adult life and continued to enjoy it even after reintroducing meat to her diet in her later life.
Fifty-eight home economists and rising PHEc Ontario students created and submitted the recipes for The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook. The book also explains everything you need to know about different types of quinoa as well as selecting and cooking them.
It takes time for any new food to catch on. The intent of this cookbook was to help make that happen, says Mairlyn. This is a cookbook that she hopes encourages more to familiarize with it, and learn to cook and prepare it with ease.
A common mistake among newcomers to quinoa is to cook it by boiling it and draining off the excess water, she notes. If you do, you send all the good B vitamins in quinoa down the drain. Instead, it should be cooked in just enough liquid to absorb it while cooking, so use one portion of uncooked quinoa to two portions of liquid.
There’s also some confusion she hopes the book clears up around different brands and different amounts of cooking time, with some specifying eight to 10 minutes, others 15 to 20 minutes. Shorter cooking times simply mean the quinoa is a type that has had its outer layer removed much the way barley is “polished” to become a pearl barley. All the recipes in The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook use a type of quinoa that takes 15 to 20 minutes to cook — it’s the most nutritious because it hasn’t had its outer coat polished off. If you’re confused about how long to cook it, look for the word “unpolished” on labels.
White, red and black quinoa as well as quinoa flakes and flour are now sold in select grocery, health and bulk food stores.
It’s exciting to know quinoa will get special attention in 2013, said the home economist. Quinoa can play an important role in maintaining a healthy diet especially as people eat less meat. Many are doing so already.
“People are not adopting vegetarian diet per se, but they’re putting more meatless meals into their week,” she said.
Given quinoa’s ease to prepare, its nutritional quality and the fact it’s mild tasting, she’s prepared to assert that quinoa will be no fad. It could become a much bigger part of our daily diet one day, says Mairlyn.
“In my personal opinion, I really think this is going to take over rice,” she said.
- You will have to search for quinoa outside larger centres. Ask for it from your local grocery, of course, but you should be able to find it in the nearest health food or bulk food stores near you. When you find it, here’s a delicious recipe to try selected from The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook. The cookbook contains eight chapters carrying recipes for breakfasts, quick and yeast breads, soups, salads, side and main dishes, baked goodies and desserts made with quinoa.
Mexi Meatless Shepherd’s Pie
This great family-friendly casserole is a variation on a traditional shepherd’s pie. Serve with a tossed green salad and you are in the zone — the healthy zone!
- 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, scrubbed well and pierced all over with a fork1 tbsp. canola oil1 onion, chopped 1 red pepper, diced2 cloves garlic, minced2 tsp. ground cumin1 can (19 oz./540 ml) black beans, no salt added, well rinsed and drained1 c. cooked quinoa made with water1 c. frozen corn, no need to thaw1 c. mild or medium salsa, deli style1⁄4 c. light sour cream1⁄4 c. finely chopped cilantro1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 1⁄4 c. thinly sliced green onion or cilantro for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the sweet potatoes for 60 minutes, or until tender. Alternatively, microwave on high for eight to 12 minutes. Cool until easy to handle. Lightly grease an eight-cup baking dish with canola oil or line with wet parchment paper. Set aside. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, red pepper, garlic and cumin. Cook — stirring often, for five to seven minutes. Stir in the black beans, cooked quinoa, corn and salsa until well combined. Remove from heat. Pour into the prepared pan. If you used a microwave to cook the sweet potatoes, at this point preheat the oven to 350 F. Meanwhile, cut the cooled sweet potatoes in half and scrape out the flesh. Discard the skins. Mash the sweet potato well with the sour cream. Stir in the cilantro. Season with pepper, if desired. For a rustic look, spoon the sweet potato mixture over the quinoa mixture in heaping teaspoonfuls. (If you like more conformity, spoon on and spread out.)
Bake for 30 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly. Sprinkle top of the casserole with green onion or cilantro (if using) to garnish.
Makes 6 cups. (one serving as 1-1/2 c.)
Nutrition per serving: 413 calories, 6 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 75 g carbohydrates, 24 g sugars, 13 g fibre, 13 g protein, 544 mg sodium, excellent source of vitamins A and C.