Saturday, October 22, 2011

A quintillion reasons to love Quinoa

Yo! Have you tried chisaya mama (Mother of All Grains), otherwise known as Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa)? The Inca considered the crop to be sacred and worshiped its magical qualities. It also sustained the appetites of many hungry Inca soldiers with its incredible protein power and essential nutrients. Quinoa originally grew in the Andean Region of South America, in the land now known as Peru and was first harvested for people to eat about 3000 to 4000 years ago. It is a species of the Chenopodium family and mostly grown for its edible seeds. It is called a pseudocereal, meaning it is a broadleaf plant, not a grain. Other examples of pseudoceral plants are: amaranth, love-lies bleeding, red amaranth, Prince-of-Whales feather and buckwheat. These “grains” are sometimes referred to as “Anciant Grains” because they originated long, long ago. Modern-day cereal crops are known as grasses and some well-known, commercially grain crops include: Barley, Corn, Oats, Rice, Rye, Sorghum, Wheat and Millet.

What makes Quinoa so outstanding in its field is its uniquely nutty flavour and best of all, its high nutrient content, boasting essential amino acids like lysine and good quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 grams of uncooked Quinoa yields 14g of Protein, 7 g of dietary fibre, 4.6 g of Iron and plenty of Vitamin B1, B2, B6, Folate, Vitamin E, Magnesium, Phosphorous and Zinc. It is a perfect alternative for people who are gluten-intolerant or allergic to wheat and is also known for building muscle, promoting weight loss and stabilizing blood sugar.

So what’s not to love? Well, during the European Conquest of South America, the Spaniards turned up their noses and gave it the thumbs down, labelling it “food for the Indians”. They banished the Incas from growing Quinoa and forced them to grow wheat instead. Why? Because the Spaniards recognized that this mighty crop gave the Inca armies great strength and stamina. Of course they claimed it was because the Incas used it in non-Christian ceremonies. Being tactful folk…the Incas simply obliged. Perhaps they knew this mighty and resilient food gem would make a resounding comeback thousands of years later among North Americans looking for sustainable non-animal protein food options.

A great cookbook to get you started is Quinoa 365 by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming. I am a huge fan of their recipes for Ginger Molasses Cookies, Bocconcini and Oregano Salad, and Quinoa Stuffed Chicken Breasts. I have successfully adapted a few of my own recipes using quinoa flour in cookie recipes and quinoa instead of couscous, rice or bulgur. If you have a Bulk Barn or a health food store near you, be sure to explore all the various colours of Quinoa, flour options and flakes and adapt away! Just remember, it has no gluten in it so I wouldn’t attempt making bread or muffins entirely with Quinoa flour. Gluten, which is in wheat flours is needed to help bread rise.

Here is my Quinoa Pistachio-Chocolate Shortbread recipe and another (below) for Spicy Cookies adapted from my Grandmother Upton's recipe:

Quinoa Pistachio-Chocolate Shortbread

½ cup butter

½ cup granulated white sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cups Quinoa Flour

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp orange zest (orange peel finely diced)

*¼ cup chopped pistachios

2 squares dark chocolate chunks- roughly chopped (preferably 2 wrapped squares of Baker 100% Pure dark chocolate)

*Other optional additions: blanched almonds, chopped dried cranberries, etc.

Topping to brush on shaped cookies before baking:

1 egg yolk, beaten

¼ c granulated sugar

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Add in the egg, vanilla and orange zest and mix well. Stir in flour and knead by hand until dough comes together. Add a little more flour if dough is too sticky.

Cover and refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove dough from refrigerator. At this point you may roll the dough into 1” size balls by hand OR roll the dough out flat to ½” thickness and cut with cookie cutters into desired shapes and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. If making balls, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and flatten carefully with a fork dipped in water or a smooth bottomed glass lightly dipped in water.

Brush with a little egg yolk and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes. DO NOT let them brown! Remove to cool on a cookie rack.

Spicy Cookies

3/4 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cups Quinoa flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cream of tartar (found in the spice section-this is a dry white powder)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

(For flattening dough balls have ready: a small bowl of water and a small bowl of granulated white sugar)

Preheat oven to 325F.

Cream together sugar and butter. Mix in egg. In a separate bowl, mix well together flour, soda, cream of tartar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add flour mixture to sugar and egg and stir well to form a smooth dough. Shape dough into 1" balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a flat bottomed glass lightly dipped in water, then dipped in small bowl with white sugar to flatten each ball. OR, flatten with a fork lightly dipped in water.


SBHAle said...

Thank you for such an interesting history of Quinoa. I didn't know that it is from a broad leaf plant.

I have eaten Quinoa for several years now, and I am grateful and interested to learn more about it. Baking with it is a new twist.

I am interested in learning more about baking with non-glutenous flours. A friend once made me rice flour biscotti, and she was aghast at how hard they became. Me? I just held them for longer in my coffee.

Thank you again for such interesting and well written, not to mention beautifully photographed inspiration.

Suzanne in New Ed.

Barrhaven Bites said...

So happy you are enjoying Quinoa! I hear Rice Flour shortbreads are very delicious.
Thanks for reading!!!

Anonymous said...

Thіs deѕign is wickеd! You obνiously know how to keep a rеader entеrtained.
Betwеen your wit and your videoѕ, I wаs
almoѕt movеd to staгt my own blоg (well, almost.
..HaHа!) Fantastic job. I really loved what you had to ѕaу, and moгe than thаt, how you ρreѕenteԁ
it. Too cool!

Feеl free to viѕit my web ρage;