Quinoa, the ancient Incan grain, has become a huge hit these days and for good reason.  This gluten-free, pseudo-cereal (actually related to beets, chard and spinach) is high in fiber and protein.  It is also one of the only plant foods considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids.  These are amino acids which cannot be made in the body, so must be consumed via food. Quinoa keeps you feeling full longer because of the high fiber content.  It has a nuttier flavor than other grains, giving it a unique taste.

When I first tried quinoa, maybe ten years ago, no one could pronounce it and it was not available in many grocery stores.  There were very few recipes out there and no products made from quinoa.  Now it is being used to make gluten-free pasta, cereals, granola bars, chips- and the list goes on!  I still think it is best to consume it in the natural state, but some of the newer products are great for the gluten-free community.

Here is my go-to quinoa recipe.  It is a version of the very first quinoa recipe I ever tried.  I have adapted it over time and it actually changes depending on what I have in the fridge.  It is great as a side dish or can be enjoyed as a meatless main meal- it is definitely filling enough! We enjoy it cold or at room temperature.  Nutritional information does not include the optional add-ins.

Quinoa Salad

Serves 4 large portions

1c uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
2c water or broth
1 cucumber diced
1 bell pepper diced
1 tomato diced
1 green onion chopped
1T olive oil
2T red wine vinegar
3T various herbs- basil, dill, oregano- etc (3T total)
salt and pepper to taste
Optional- feta or bleu cheese, nuts or seeds

Bring water and quinoa to a boil.  Reduce heat and cover, let cook until water is absorbed- around 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes.  Fluff with fork. Add all the other ingredients.  Let cool completely in fridge, covered.  Before serving, let sit out of fridge for 30 mins, if desired.

Nutrition Information: Kcal: 231, Fat:7g, CHO: 27g, Protein: 7g, Fiber: 6g