Quinoa Quandary

There’s a quinoa storm blowing out there in the world and I have been too consumed by other grains to pay much attention.  As far as quinoa is concerned, I’ve pretty much regarded it as a hairy bitter little seed—with political consequences (but that’s another post).  So why bother?

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Workers in Quinoa fields courtesy quinoa.net

It’s pretty difficult to completely ignore the quinoa frenzy, especially with the vast number of folks looking for a reprieve from food allergies and sensitivities such as gluten intolerance.  The media has jumped all over this even referring to it as one of the healthiest foods of all time and the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization even proclaimed 2013 International Quinoa Year.

I’m not a quinoa convert, but I am impressed with its adaptability and nutritional value.  Since it is a complete protein, vegans and vegetarians are on board, and it also wins over many on workout regimens with its whooping 24 grams protein in one cup or 48% of daily food intake. Quinoa has no cholesterol, it is low on the glycemic index and high in dietary fiber—which aids in weight loss and reduces arterial plaque build up (that nasty contributor to heart disease and strokes).  It’s high in magnesium, B-12, iron and potassium–a very good thing for women.

Many say that the bitterness from the saponin in its outer coating is no longer an issue, thanks to new varieties on the shelf of most markets.  I still rinse it, because I haven’t found that to always be the case.

quinoaSince it only takes 15 to 20 minutes to cook, it easily competes with white rice and beats out many grains.  There are endless varieties of the tiny seed, but three are most popular, a red, black, and a white.  The white cooks fluffier and the red and black are nuttier and tend to stick together less.

Cooking Quinoa

Standard directions suggest cooking quinoa similar to rice, 1 to 2 ratio–simmering for 15 to 20 minutes or until curly threads appear.  I’ve found that less water works better:  cooking 1 cup quinoa in 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups water for 20 minutes leaves it less soggy.  I have also brought an ample pot of salted water to a boil, added the quinoa and let it simmer for 12 minutes; then removed it from the heat, let it stand covered for 10 minutes and drained it. No muss, no fuss.

I’m always working on nourishing snacks that hold up well and can get me to the next meal without resorting to ineffective fillers with nothing to offer except sugar, salt, or fat.  Quinoa provides a surprisingly versatile base for a bar that is not too heavy or dense.  It holds together without being sticky or gooey and its flavor is light enough to allow  fruit to shine through.

quinoa snack bar 3 IMG_0242Quinoa Snack Bars

Tasty almond butter does the work of the usual butter or oil in this not too sweet, nouishing snack.  Quinoa and chia seeds keep it moist along with one high powered egg, banana, and a handful of dried fruit.   

Ingredients

  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • ½ cup sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, light chop
  • 1 cup regular rolled oats (or quick)
  • 1 banana, smashed
  • 1/3 cup almond butter (or peanut butter)
  • ¼ cup honey (or agave syrup)
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, drained if necessary, and cooled
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds, soaked in ¼ cup water 15 minutes
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten lightly

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, line and spray 8×8” pan.
  2.  In food processor bowl, place the flour, soda, cinnamon, salt and sesame seeds and pulse to combine.  Add the cranberries, apricots and oats and pulse briefly to chop up the fruit and oats but not pulverize; the fruit should be identifiable.
  3.  In a medium bowl, mash the banana; add the almond butter, honey, vanilla, quinoa, chia seeds, vanilla and beat in the egg.  Add the dry ingredients to the quinoa mixture and stir to combine well.
  4. Spread batter into prepared pan and smooth evenly into all corners and crevices.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the top is slightly browned.
  5.  Let cool 10 minutes on wire rack; remove from pan and cool thoroughly before slicing.  Yield: 18 pieces.  
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