Recipe of the Week: Ancient grain, modern recipe |

Recipe of the Week: Ancient grain, modern recipe

Chef Heather Hunsaker
Special to the Sun
Nolwenn Daniel/Thinkstockphtos.comQuinoa is a nutritous, versatile food, actually related to leafy green vegetables.
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

It is so easy to get stuck in a rut and go to the standard starchy sides such as rice, pasta and potatoes but why not change things up a bit? Want something nutritious, easy to prepare, and full of flavor all on its own? Try quinoa! Pronounced keen-wa, quinoa is a nutritious, whole grain that has a fluffy, creamy, and slightly crunchy texture as well as a unique nutty flavor when cooked.

Quinoa is considered an and#8220;ancientand#8221; crop since it has been grown and harvested for thousands of years. In fact, quinoa was once called and#8220;the gold of the Incas,and#8221; who recognized its health benefits and the valuable increase in the strength and stamina it provided their warriors.

Quinoa is commonly considered a grain; however, it is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables such as Swiss chard and spinach. It is a colorful, flowering plant that grows 12,000 feet above sea level and is native to South America. In areas where it is grown it is common for people to eat the leaves as well as the seeds.

Quinoa is gluten free and full of vitamins and nutrients such as iron, phosphorus, folate, manganese, Vitamin B and zinc. Since quinoa is an excellent source of protein, providing all eight essential amino acids, it is a powerful food to add to any diet, especially a vegetarian diet.

Because quinoa is easy to prepare, similar to the preparation and cooking of rice, it can be used in a variety of ways. From a delicious side dish, pilaf, or stuffing to mixing it in salads, soups, and stews quinoa is very versatile.Next time you are in the rice isle at your local grocery store pick up some quinoa and try this Carrot, Tomato, and Spinach Quinoa Pilaf. This pilaf makes a great vegetarian entree or a wonderful quick side dish on busy night!

and#8212; Chef Heather attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but has been developing family friendly meals since she was nine years old in her mother’s kitchen. She is an avid crockpotter and knows how to get food on the table in a pinch. She currently serves as a writer and recipe developer for meal planning site

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Serves 2 as a entree and 5 as a side dish


2 teaspoons olive oil

1and#8260;2 medium onion chopped

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1 1and#8260;2 teaspoons vegetable bouillon granules

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

1 large tomato, chopped

1 cup baby spinach

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat; cook and stir the onion in the hot oil until translucent, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat, stir in quinoa and toast, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Stir in the water, bouillon granules, black pepper and thyme.

Stir in the carrots. Cover and simmer until all water is absorbed, about 15 more minutes. Turn off the heat, add the tomatoes and spinach, and stir until the spinach is wilted and the tomatoes have given off their moisture, about 2 minutes.

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