Practical food tips for parents from a RD and mom of three

Thursday, August 26, 2010


My spell-checker does not know what quinoa is. Do you?

Quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wah”) is a protein-rich seed. It falls into the “whole grain” category, since it contains the nutrient- and fiber-rich outer layers that are removed when grains are processed and refined.

The protein in quinoa is a complete protein, which means that it contains all of the essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Essential amino acids are necessary for good health and must be obtained through food. Typical sources of complete protein are: meat, egg whites and casein (the protein in milk). Since quinoa is a plant source of complete protein it is a good addition to vegan diets.

Quinoa is also a good source of magnesium, riboflavin, manganese and copper. A serving of quinoa has about the same amount of fiber as a bowl of oatmeal and is gluten-free.

I set out to try quinoa as a side dish for our family's dinner. Since it was a beautiful summer night, I decided to mix in grilled vegetables for texture and flavor. I often blend vegetables into a grain side dish to increase the kids' exposure to them.

Here's how I prepared our quinoa:
  1. I rinsed the quinoa under cool water per package instructions.
  2. I added one part quinoa to two parts liquid (I used broth for added flavor) to a pot on the stove, brought the mixture to a boil, and them covered and simmered it for 10-15 minutes until the liquid was absorbed (again, per package instructions). I used 1 ½ cups quinoa and three cups of broth for our family.
  3. Meanwhile, I sliced one eggplant, one green pepper, and one red pepper. I brushed these with olive oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper, then cooked them on a pre-heated grill (about medium flame) for 5 minutes per side.
  4. I finely minced one clove of garlic and added it to about 3 Tbsp of olive oil in a large bowl. When the veggies were done I cut them into bite-sized pieces and added them to the bowl, then dumped in the quinoa when it was ready. I stirred all this together with about 4 oz of herbed goat cheese and salt/pepper.

Since this was a totally new food for the kids, I kept some of the quinoa plain and served them both the plain quinoa and the quinoa-veggie mixture so they could try both. I also sliced some raw peppers for them to enjoy plain, too.

I just added “quinoa” to the dictionary on my computer, and to our family's food repertoire. You should introduce it to your family, too. Oh, and I'm still working on the crock-pot meal I mentioned the other day – you'll hear about it when it has been perfected.

Today's tip: Try quinoa for a side dish or vegetarian meal.

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