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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Knowledge for Life: Be a food explorer

  • March meant different things to different people. I, like many people, enjoy the excitement of college basketball and the NCAA Tournament.
    However, my interest was cut short this year when my bracket, too, was busted. That gave me more time to focus my attention back on my other favorite activity — National Nutrition Month.
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  • March meant different things to different people. I, like many people, enjoy the excitement of college basketball and the NCAA Tournament.
    However, my interest was cut short this year when my bracket, too, was busted. That gave me more time to focus my attention back on my other favorite activity — National Nutrition Month.
    Yes, I am a food geek and during National Nutrition Month, I enjoyed the opportunity to share the fun of food exploration. During our recent Master Food Volunteer training, I had the opportunity to encourage others in some food exploration with one of my new favorite foods, quinoa.
    Quinoa was the March star of the Whole Grains Council Grain of the Month. It is technically a "psuedo-cereal," the name given to foods that are cooked and eaten like grains that have a similar nutrient profile. Though quinoa is known as an "ancient grain," for most people, it's the new kid on the block. Botanically, quinoa is related to chard and spinach and the leaves can be eaten as well as the grains.
    Native to the Andes mountains, quinoa grows on stalks three to nine feet tall, with large seed heads that can be almost any color, from red, purple and orange to green, black or yellow. The seed heads are quite prolific, with a half-pound of seed able to plant a full acre, yielding 1,200-2,000 pounds of new seeds per acre.    
    While research on quinoa pales in comparison to other well-studied grains like oats or barley, research is increasing  and is presenting some intriguing findings. Quinoa is a nutritious option for gluten free diets, is useful in reducing the risk for diabetes and lends a feeling of satiety, helping you feel fuller longer. Unlike most grains, in addition to being high in fiber, quinoa is also very high in protein.
    Now, the question for us foodies, what do you do with quinoa? Like many grains, quinoa is bland on its own, making it a wonderful "blank canvas" for a variety of recipes. A very important thing to remember when cooking with quinoa is that unlike other grains, quinoa must be rinsed to remove a bitter coating. It can be cooked in pilafs like rice or as a breakfast food like other cereal grains.
    The first way that I tasted quinoa continues to be a favorite of mine. The following salad recipe from the Whole Grains Council is very tasty and healthy. The second pizza recipe is a creation of my own that I modified from an appetizer recipe.
    Have fun being a food explorer.
    Fiesta Quinoa Salad:
    1 cup quinoa, rinsed                    
    2 cups vegetable broth
    Page 2 of 3 - 2 ears corn, roasted and cut off cob            
    1 red bell pepper, roasted and chopped
    1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained        
    3 scallions, sliced        
    ½ cup chopped cilantro                    
    Juice of 3 limes
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil            
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    ½ teaspoon salt                        
    ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
    1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper    
    Instructions:
    Put quinoa and broth in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. In a large bowl, mix together quinoa, corn, pepper, beans, scallions and cilantro. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, olive oil and seasonings and pour over quinoa mixture. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes to let flavors blend. (Makes 6 servings)
    Nutrition facts per serving:  Calories: 240, Total Fat: 7 g, (Saturated Fat: 1 g), Sodium: 460 mg, Carbohydrate: 37 g, Fiber: 6 g, Protein: 9 g.
    Veggie Pizza with Quinoa Crust:
    2 cups cooked quinoa                    
    2 eggs
    1 teaspoon garlic powder, divided            
    1 teaspoon onion powder, divided
    2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, divided            
    2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, divided
    1 cup tomato puree                    
    1 cup chopped fresh spinach
    ½ cup sliced fresh mushrooms                
    ¼ cup roasted red peppers
    2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley            
    1 cup grated Italian blend cheese
    Instructions:
    Combine quinoa, eggs, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1 Tablespoon parmesan cheese and ¼ cup grated Italian blend cheese; stir until well blended. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray (or silicon baking liner). Spread quinoa mixture onto prepared pan in a rectangle about ½ inch thick. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. While crust is baking, combine tomato puree with remaining spices and parmesan cheese. Remove crust from oven, spread tomato over crust. Top with vegetables and remaining Italian blend cheese. Return to oven and bake for 7-10 minutes. (Makes 4 servings)
    Page 3 of 3 - Nutrition facts per serving:  Calories: 250, Total Fat: 7 g, (Saturated Fat: 2.5 g), Sodium: 390 mg, Carbohydrate: 29 g, Fiber: 4 g, Protein: 18 g.
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