I love healthy recipes but I am a quinoa recipe newbie. I have NEVER made quinoa before! I am a rice or pasta kind of gal and quinoa straight-up made me nervous. What is it? Is it a grain like rice? Is it more like a veggie? How do I make it?
Healthy Recipes: Pesto Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas
Quinoa is like mystery meat to me.
But it is SO healthy I really want to learn to cook it – if not for me then for my kids!
Simply put, Quinoa, a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium) is a pseudo cereal (that is their seeds can be ground into flour and consumed) rather than a true cereal, as it is not a member of the true grass family.
Quinoa Recipes are Super Healthy
Quinoa seeds contain essential amino acids like lysine and acceptable quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron. A study showed that deficiency of essential amino acids leads to symptoms of nervousness, exhaustion, and dizziness to a greater or lesser extent and moderate consumption of Quinoa can help avoid such symptoms.
Quinoa consists of a unique combination of anti-inflammatory compounds that show to an extent the decreased risk of inflammation-related problems (including obesity) when animals under study are fed quinoa on a daily basis.
Quinoa is Gluten-Free
It is high in protein and lacks gluten which is good news for those who suffer from Celiac disease which is an autoimmune disease attacking the small intestine due to the presence of gluten for which the only remedy is maintaining a gluten free diet. While scientists are yet to confirm whether oats are a gluten free food, it is safe to say that Quinoa, like amaranth, is gluten free and good for your health as it is considered easy to digest. Because of these characteristics, it is being considered a possible crop for long-duration human occupied space flights undertaken by NASA.
Quinoa is High in Protein and Fiber
The protein content per 100 calories is higher than brown rice, potatoes, barley and millet, but is less than wild rice (Indian rice) and oats. In comparison to cereal grasses like wheat, quinoa is higher in fat content and can provide valuable amounts of heart-healthy fats like monounsaturated fat (in the form of oleic acid).
The grain is additionally a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron.
Vegan Friendly and Good For Those Who Are Lactose Intolerant
It is also a source of calcium, and thus, is useful for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant.
So now we get to the good part: Exactly HOW does one consume quinoa?
The grain may be germinated in its raw form to boost its nutritional value, provided that the grains are rinsed thoroughly to remove any saponin that contains an unpalatable bitterness which in turn aids during cultivation as it wards off birds reducing the need for protecting it.
The seeds are in general cooked the same way as rice and can be used in a wide range of dishes.
The good news is processes of boiling, simmering, and steaming quinoa do not appear to significantly compromise the quality of quinoa’s fatty acids, allowing us to enjoy its cooked texture and flavor while maintaining this nutrient benefit.
Now, bear with me because I made this recipe one night and kind of just added ingredients willy-nilly. But this is the gist. You can adjust for your own taste.
Quinoa Salad Recipe with Pesto and Chickpeas
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1 Tablespoon prepared pesto
1 bunch fresh baby spinach
1/2 can chickpeas (or 1/2 cup dried, soaked and cooked)
4oz dry spaghetti
salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare quinoa and pasta separately.
- Chop tomato and add to saucepan on medium-low to soften and get the juices runny. Add pesto and spinach and spices.
- When it’s nice and combined and soft, you can add the chickpeas, quinoa and pasta, if using.
- Voila! All done. This quinoa salad is SO super easy and SO yummy! It reminds me of the simple pasta dishes I ate in Italy with my host mother.