Rooted In Wonder:
Nurturing Your Family's Faith Through God's Creation
Master Naturalist, Bible teacher, author, wife, and mama of four! Join our adventures of discovering God while adventuring in creation.
While my mother-in-law was visiting with us last week to help me with the boys, she asked if I knew much about quinoa. I didn’t. In fact, I had only eaten it a handful of times, and only ever cooked it once, and not very successfully. The next day, Grayson and I were browsing through the bulk section of a local natural food store. We spotted a gorgeous tri-colored quinoa mix and decided to give it a try while mom was in town.
The next day I searched the internet for some inspiration. After finding a recipe for a quinoa salad with bell peppers, scallions, zucchini, celery, and almonds, I took inventory of my kitchen. I had the quinoa on hand, that was a start.
I decided I could adjust the recipe by improvising with what I did have available:
People often ask me where I find recipes, this is my approach. I start with the main ingredient I want to showcase, in this instance it was quinoa. I do a search and find one to three recipes that look both wholesome and delicious. This is where the creativity comes in, I intermingle the recipes together, adjusting them to incorporate the fresh vegetables I have on hand that week, and create a new recipe.
Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I find that the more I experiment in this way, the more successful my food becomes. In this case, it did work.
In the realm of cooking and eating real foods I am constantly learning. In researching for this particular post, I quickly came across a fact about quinoa that was a bit surprising to me. Quinoa is not a grain. Perhaps this is old news, but it was new to me. Quinoa is actually a seed (related to beets, spinach, and chard), even though it acts and tastes like a grain. This is great news for those following a gluten-free diet!
We have not embraced an “extreme” diet such as gluten-free simply because we have not seen a need to. Our bodies do well with a bit of gluten. We do, however, make sure that the grains we eat are whole (everything in moderation).
I completely understand however that some people have an intolerance to grains; and for those, quinoa provides a delicious way to satisfy that desire for grains while avoiding the consequences gluten may cause on one’s system.
Another astounding attribute of quinoa is that it is a complete protein, which is very rare in plant foods. Vegetarians must eat a wide variety of plants to achieve enough incomplete proteins in order to thrive in their diet (as opposed to animal proteins which are complete). Quinoa is therefore a fantastic staple source of complete protein for vegetarians, vegans, and those who don’t include much meat in their diet
Quinoa is not only a beautiful ingredient, but also a playful one. As it cooks, a “tail” uncoils out from the seed, which might help in enticing young children to give it a try in place of rice or pasta. It is simple and quick to prepare, and is cooked much like rice (1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water or broth).
Quinoa is a fantastic addition to soups, salads, and casseroles. It’s a great foundation for vegetable dishes, as it is a complete protein (replacing the need for meat), and has a lot of umami (the “taste” or sensation of eating meat).
Quinoa is a perfect way to add color to a dish. Quinoa colors can range from white and ivory, to red, brown, and orange, to deep purple and black.
Always be sure to thoroughly rinse quinoa seeds before cooking them or else they may taste bitter! Rinse them in a colander with holes small enough so the seeds don’t slip through. Rinse until the water from the quinoa runs clear instead of frothy. The frothiness is the natural chemical compound known as saponin being carried away. Saponin protects the quinoa seeds from predators as they grow.
You can find quinoa in the bulk or grain section of any market. I have found this tri-colored quinoa in both of our local health food stores as well as Trader Joes (It runs about $4.99/pound)
Some additional health benefits of quinoa include:
This recipe is sure to impress with its beautiful presentation of color. It’s the perfect vegetarian dish (if prepared with vegetable stock), that showcases quinoa and edamame, both of which are complete proteins, a rare find in the plant world.
I believe in a well-rounded diet with a great variety of whole foods. Therefore, I don’t believe in “super foods”, but if I did then Quinoa would definitely be one of them. Don’t be deterred if it’s an unfamiliar ingredient to you. Embrace it, pair it with some more familiar fresh ingredients, and prepare it in a simple way. This seed with its great abundance of healthful attributes, fantastic flavor, and vibrant colors is worthy of an introduction to your diet.
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!