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Superfood Seed: How to Make Perfect Quinoa

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For a long time, I pronounced quinoa “quinn-oh-uh”. I was very wrong, and either other people didn’t know either, or they just never took the time to correct me. Even if I didn’t know how to say the word, I knew I liked the stuff: lightly nutty, surprisingly satisfying, with echoes of various cereal grains, while retaining its own distinct personality. There’s nothing quite like quinoa.

Well, in case you’re wondering, the proper pronunciation is “keen-wa”–not very intuitive! But even if you do know that, there are probably a few things you don’t know about quinoa.

  1. What is quinoa, exactly? In spite of a popularly held opinion, it’s actually not a grain. It comes from a grain–a species of goosefoot, which is a grain grown primarily for its seeds.
  2. Even though it’s not a grain, you can pretty much treat it like one in your cooking. While quinoa is usually considered to be a whole grain, it is actually a seed, but can be prepared like whole grains such as rice or barley.
  3. There are over 120 different varieties of quinoa. While the seeds are the most popular version, flakes and flour made from quinoa are increasingly popular.
  4. It’s very, very old. It was grown in the Andes as long as 4,000 years ago. The Inca held the crop as sacred, and the sowing of the first seeds of the season was a red letter day on their calendar. Warriors are even said to have fueled up with quinoa balls before long marches to battle.
  5. It almost went extinct. Conquistadors even forbade its cultivation for a time, scorning it as “farmer food”. Luckily, the tradition did not die entirely. The conquistadors would probably be quite surprised to learn that today, quinoa is considered a gourmet food!

What makes it so healthy?

True story: the year 2013 was dubbed the “International Year of Quinoa” by the United Nations, owing to its high level of nutrition and potential to contribute to health and food security internationally.

This award was not arbitrary: cooked quinoa provides substantial sustenance. Among its many selling points:

  • It contains all eight essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.
  • It contains double the fiber of most other grains.
  • It is rich in iron, which is vital for keeping red blood cells healthy.
  • It is rich in manganese, bone production, blood sugar control, and protection against free radicals.
  • It is a low glycemic index food, meaning that it won’t cause a spike in blood sugar and will give you an even, long-lasting energy.
  • Quinoa is a gluten-free grain. This means it’s appropriate for gluten-free diets as well as vegan diets. Given the rise in popularity of these healthier ways of eating, it’s no wonder that quinoa is having its moment as a superfood.

In language you can easily digest? This is a food that will fill you up, give you long-lasting energy, and benefit your body in many ways.

How is quinoa used?

Quinoa is an unbelievably versatile seed. It can be used as a side dish or as part of a main dish, as a breakfast cereal or even in sweets. Here are five creative ideas for how to use quinoa:

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Photo via CakeSpy

 

Top your quinoa with yogurt, fruit, and nuts for a morning cereal.

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Photo via Flickr member sweetonveg

Pair cooked quinoa with sautéed mushrooms and kale for a hearty and healthy meal.

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Photo via Flickr member vegateam

Stuff peppers with quinoa and vegetables for an appetizer or light dinner.

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Photo via Flickr member totalnoms

Combine quinoa with cheese and pan-fry for a savory vegetarian dish.

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Photo via flickr member jamieanne

The secret ingredient in these cookies? Quinoa! Date-sweetened quinoa cookies are a sweet treat indeed.

Things you need to know about quinoa

Before you cook quinoa, you should know some important things about this grain.

  1. You need to wash it before cooking.
    It is absolutely vital that you thoroughly wash your quinoa before cooking. It might sound fussy, but please, don’t skip this step. Why? Quinoa contains something called saponin. Saponins are occurring chemical compounds present in a number of specimens of plant and sea life. Among other things, they act as a natural repellent. While that is good for keeping away bugs and animals when the grain grows, the saponin can impart a bitter taste to cooked quinoa, so be sure to wash until the water runs clear. Don’t soak the quinoa to clean it, as this may actually help the saponin deposit itself in the seed.
  2. There will be natural variations in coloring.
    There are actually 120 different types of quinoa. This will cover many variations in color and subtle size difference. The most commonly sold versions are white or ivory quinoa, red quinoa, and black quinoa. Black quinoa in particular is notably lower in carbohydrates and tends to cook crunchier.
  3. The ratio of water to quinoa matters
    There are different schools of thought about how much water should be used in ratio to the amount of quinoa. I find that the following is a good rule of thumb:If you are pretty much eating the quinoa as-is, perhaps mixing it with nuts and brown sugar for breakfast or sprinkling on top of a salad, use a 2:1 ratio of water to quinoa.If you are going to use the quinoa as a component of a recipe that will be cooked further, such as a stir-fry, used a ratio of 1:1 water to quinoa. This will keep the quinoa “al dente” and will allow for absorption of more moisture and flavor during further cooking.

How to store quinoa

Uncooked quinoa: Be warned, quinoa’s lifespan is not infinite. If not properly stored, it can go rancid.  For your safety and for best flavor results, store uncooked quinoa in an airtight container for up to three months (up to six months in the fridge or freezer).
Cooked quinoa: First, let your cooked quinoa cool to room temperature. Place in an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to a month.  

How to cook quinoa

This is an easy to master method of cooking quinoa that will reap you many delicious benefits.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1-2 cups water (see notes above)
  • pinch salt

Step 1: Wash the quinoa. Place the quinoa in a mesh strainer. Run under cold water and stir once or twice. This will clean the quinoa of any possible impurities and the bitter taste of saponin.

Step 2: Place the cleaned quinoa, 2 cups water, and salt, in a medium saucepan (you want a healthy amount of clearance above the liquid so it has room to bubble without boiling over). Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Once it has reached the boiling point, reduce the heat to low-medium (the boiling will reduce to a simmer).

Step 3: Cover and let simmer until the water has been absorbed by the grains. If you are using a lower ratio of water to quinoa, this can take as little as 8 minutes. If you’re using the full 2 cups, it can take 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the lid (you may want to lift it using an oven mitt, as steam will rise once you lift it), and let the quinoa chill out in the pan for 5 minutes (this should absorb any remaining liquid).

Step 4: Fluff with a fork. You’ll be amazed at how really fluffy it becomes! Your quinoa is ready to serve.

Creative variations

Once you’ve mastered the simple art of cooking quinoa, you can start to have some fun with it. Here are some variations that can add flavor and intrigue to the recipe:

Change up the liquid – You don’t have to stick with just water to cook your quinoa. For breakfast, I like to use part milk or coconut milk to give it a rich, creamy flavor. If I am making a savory dish, it can be quite pleasant to cook the quinoa in a vegetable or meat broth.

Add a little butter – Simply adding a tablespoon of butter at the same time you fluff the quinoa works wonders: it will melt almost instantly in the residual heat, and will lend a richness and luxuriant flavor to your quinoa.

Toast your cooked quinoa – Place the quinoa in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until lightly browned and toasted. It makes a fantastic garnish for salads or vegetable dishes.

What’s your favorite way to eat quinoa?

Article by Jessie Oleson Moore

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Back to Fundamentals: Chocolate Chip Cookies, Deconstructed

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Chewy. Cakey. Crisp. Soft. Gooey. Which is the chocolate chip cookie of your dreams?

When I was young, I used to like chocolate chip cookies, but without the chips. I would painstakingly pick out the chips (no small feat for a toddler) and enjoy my cookie. One day, my sister made me a batch without chips. But this wasn’t right either: turns out I liked the flavor that the chips lent the batter, just not the texture of the little chocolate lumps in the cookies.

As I got older, my tastes matured. Today, my ideal cookie is mostly chewy, with the slightest touch of crispness on the edges, but soft throughout, with extra salt and slightly fewer chips than most recipes call for.

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Recipe Inspiration: Smoky Baked Salmon with Avocado-Corn Salsa

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I love this salsa. It reminds me of vacations in lake cottages full of white wine and laughter. It’s so simple to make for a group and it always impresses.

This particular avocado-corn salsa was born this summer over a long weekend in Maine. I knew it was going to become a staple in my weeknight meal rotation after returning home. It’s easy to make and goes well with so many foods.

The avocado-corn salsa happens to be particularly delicious with fish. Salmon is one of my favorites. It’s flavorful, bold in color, and quite good for you.

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Chefworks Unveils V1.1 of Its Dress The Chef© Virtual Dressing Room

- Upgraded Application Includes the Addition of the Company’s Entire Women’s Culinary Apparel Collection -

San Diego (September xxxxx, 2014) – Chef Works, the world’s leading provider of culinary apparel for professionals and home cooks alike, today announced the immediate availability of V1.1 of its Dress the Chef© Virtual Dressing Room, an interactive application that allows customers to instantly visualize various styles and color ways available when selecting their culinary and hospitality uniforms.

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Creating the Perfect Tasting Menu

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Tasting menus, also known as a “prix fixe” menu, were once only found in fine restaurants, and while less pricy than eating from the regular menu, still pricy.

With many types of restaurants opening up all over the country, both upscale and casual, chef’s everywhere want to give customers a chance to try a sampling of their best dishes. These days you’ll find tasting menus even in restaurants without a white chef coat in sight. In fact, in many larger cities, there are organizations that will host what is known as “restaurant week,” in which diners can visit a variety of restaurants within the city and try some of what they have to offer at a reduced price.

So, exactly what is a tasting menu? Is it something you should consider adding to your restaurant? It just might be the way to get more customers in the door, but you have to know how to do it well. Read on to learn more about this new restaurant trend and whether or not it may be for you.

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Do You Need a Kid’s Menu? (And How to Create the Perfect One)

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With people dining out in droves, you’ve undoubtedly seen children in restaurants everywhere. As a restaurant owner, it pays to cater to today’s children, as they are the restaurant diners of the future. The easiest way to make kids (and their parents) feel at home is to have a kid’s menu. 

If you own an independent restaurant, you may be wondering if you need a kid’s menu if you don’t already have one. A traditional kid’s menu is full of foods like chicken nuggets, mac n cheese, or hot dogs, but if this type of food doesn’t fit with your menu, it my be difficult to add these types of foods on, especially if you don’t get a lot of families in your place. You may want to consider it, however.

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Using Locally Sourced Meat and Agricultural Products

Serving locally sourced products has become trendy as individuals and business owners become increasingly concerned with the health of patrons, the agriculture consumed, and the world they both live in. Read on to learn more about the benefits of using locally sourced products.

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Dessert Trends You Should Try

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There are two types of chefs in the restaurant world; those that cook and those that bake or create desserts. If you cook, you may put on your executive chef coat and head into the kitchen to test your latest menu item without giving a second thought to dessert. After all, a chocolate cake or cheesecake will do, right?

Yes and no. While there are plenty of diners that will happily order a big slab of chocolate cake, or a familiar slice of apple pie, many will pass if the dessert menu doesn’t have something that stands out. After all, you’re asking people to order more food after they’ve already completed their meal; most people are full by this point, and may need something unique to get them to want more.

Revamping your dessert menu can increase the size of your average check, as well as leave your guests walking out with a memorable ending to their meal. It will take more than a frozen chocolate cake to get them talking.

If you think that simply making your desserts from scratch will help, you’re on the right track, but you haven’t quite pushed the limits as far as you can. Even the creamiest, most delectable cheesecake is still cheesecake in some people’s eyes, and while it may make your guests swoon while eating it, it doesn’t keep them talking, because, well, everyone has had cheesecake.

Instead, to really push the limits, you need to think outside the box. There are many upcoming trends that will not only encourage diners to order desserts, but also leave them so impressed that they will keep talking about it after they leave.

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How Much Do Online Reviews Matter to Your Business? (And How to Deal With the Bad Ones)

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The Internet has changed how we do everything, from shopping, to business, to yes, even dining.

In addition to being able to find restaurants quickly and look at menus online before you go, nowadays it’s not an uncommon thing for diners to leave a restaurant and immediately post a review to a website such as Yelp.

As a restaurant owner, you may be wondering if these reviews can help you or hurt you. Do people actually read such reviews before deciding on a place to eat?

The answers to these questions are that they can both help and hurt you, and depending on the type of restaurant you have and your location, you can very much expect that diners will in fact read these reviews before visiting.

As a business owner, you can’t choose to participate in the online review process, and you certainly can’t change the direction that technology is heading. Since more and more people are reviewing everything they spend money on these days, you might as well get used to the fact that your restaurant is probably going to be reviewed at some point. You can’t change a bad review, but you can increase your chances of getting good ones. Read on to learn why these reviews matter, how to get good ones, and what to do if (gasp!) you get a not so friendly review from a customer.

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Chef Works Supports March of Dimes!

Experience the epicurean event of the year when more than twenty top San Diego restaurants, mixologists and California vintners come together for an incredible evening benefiting the March of Dimes. Guests will enjoy culinary masterpieces from the participating chefs, seasonal specialty cocktails and a live auction featuring one-of-a-kind travel and dining packages. Chef Works supports this worthy cause by donating products to chefs participating in the 2014 March of Dimes Gala!

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