Vegan Grandma

Monday, November 27, 2006

Quinoa Casserole and Some Interesting things about Quinoa

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, and a wonderful week. I enjoyed spending time with my family. One of my sons and his wife, who live in another state, were here for a few days. I don’t get to see them enough, so it was great to have them here for Thanksgiving.

My family members are not vegetarian, and I find that they don’t like things like mock meats, tofu turkey and soy cheese, since these things don’t really taste like what they pretend to be. My family does like foods that don’t pretend to be anything but what they are. The following quinoa casserole is one of their favorites. It also goes over well at vegan potlucks.

The recipe is adapted from The Quick and Easy Vegetarian Cookbook, by Ruth Ann and William Manners, published by M. Evans and Company, Inc., New York, page 174.

Vegan Quinoa Casserole with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Cashews
Serves 4

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 medium mild onion, chopped

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup quinoa, rinsed in a strainer under warm running water for 1 minute (see above)

5 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (not the oil- packed kind)

2 cups hot vegetable broth (you can buy this in natural food stores)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste, optional)

1/2 cup chopped, roasted cashews

In a Dutch oven, saute the garlic and onion in the canola oil until the onion is transparent, but not browned.

To the Dutch oven, add all other ingredients except the salt and cashews. Stir. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, reduce heat to low and simmer until the liquid is absorbed (about 45 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat, let stand covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Taste for seasonings, and add salt if needed. Stir in the cashews.

Serve hot or at room temperature, with a green salad. Quinoa casserole can also be used as a stuffing for vegetables, such as pepper, squash, etc.

Some Interesting things about Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) is a small seed. It is usually a pale yellow color but some species may vary from almost white through pink, orange, or red to purple and black. Quinoa has a fluffy consistency and a mild, delicate, slightly nutty flavor.

Quinoa is not a true cereal grain but is technically a fruit of the Chenopodium family. Chenopodium plants have characteristic leaves shaped like a goose foot. The genus also includes our common weed, lamb's-quarters. Quinoa is also related to Swiss chard, beets, and spinach.
Quinoa is an annual herb that grows from three to six feet high, and like millet its seeds are in large clusters at the end of the stalk.

Quinoa thrives with low rainfall; high altitudes, thin, cold air; hot sun; sub-freezing temperatures; and even poor, sandy, alkaline soil. It is this ability to thrive where few other food crops can that has allowed quinoa to remain the staple of millions of descendants of the Inca Empire.
Quinoa has been cultivated in South American Andes since at least 3,000 B.C. The ancient Incas called quinoa the "mother grain" and revered it as sacred. Each year at planting time it was traditional for the Inca leader to plant the first quinoa seed using a solid gold shovel. Quinoa was used to sustain Incan armies, which ate a mixture of quinoa and fat, known as "war balls."

Quinoa can be found in most natural food stores.

Quinoa is high in protein, calcium, and iron,. It is a relatively good source of phosphorous, vitamin E, and several B vitamins. It contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans. It is exceptionally high in lysine, cystine and methionine-amino acids typically low in other grains. Quinoa is also high in oil and fat compared to other grains. It is also a good complement for legumes, which are often low in methionine and cystine.

The seeds are gluten-free which makes this a nutritious and flavorful alternative grain for those with gluten sensitivity.

The seeds are covered with saponin, substance that is extremely bitter and forms a soapy solution in water. The saponin protects the quinoa plant from insects. For the quinoa to be edible, the saponin must be removed. Quinoa is rinsed before it is packaged and sold, but it is best to rinse again at home before use to remove any of the powdery residue that may remain on the seeds. The presence of saponin is obvious by the production of a soapy looking "suds" when the seeds are swished in water. Placing quinoa in a strainer and rinsing thoroughly with water easily washes the saponin from the seeds.
In South America the saponin which is removed from the quinoa is used as detergent for washing clothes and as an antiseptic to promote healing of skin injuries.

Quinoa cooks twice as fast as rice (about 10 to 15 minutes).

Quinoa increases 3 or 4 times its volume when cooked.

To boil quinoa, rinse ½ cup quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer (or line a strainer with several layers of cheese cloth) under cold running water until the draining water turns from cloudy to clear (about a minute). In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Stir in the rinsed quinoa, reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and cook just until the grains are tender and the liquid is absorbed (about 10 to 15 minutes). When cooked, each grain of quinoa will be translucent, revealing a curly white seed sprout. This makes two cups.

You can use quinoa to replace rice in pilafs, baked casseroles, soups, and skillet dishes. Use the same proportion as rice, but reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes.

Uncooked seeds may be cooked with soups and stews as you would barley or rice .

Dry roasting quinoa in a pan or in the oven, before cooking will give it a toasted flavor

You can "pop" the seeds in a dry skillet and eat them as a dry cereal.

Try cooking quinoa with dried fruits for breakfast.

You can use quinoa to replace rice in rice pudding recipes.

Use boiled quinoa in salads. Add crunchy sliced vegetables such as radishes, carrots, celery, and sliced water chestnuts. Toss with a vinaigrette dressing. A vinaigrette dressing made with lime juice is especially good.

Quinoa seeds can be sprouted and eaten as raw, live food for snacks or in salads and sandwiches. To sprout the seeds, soak about 1/3 cup seeds in a jar for 2 to 4 hours, then drain and rinse the seeds twice a day for 2 to 4 days. When the sprouts are about 1 inch long, place them near a window for chlorophyll to develop, which will give them a vibrant green color.

Quinoa pasta and quinoa flour is available at health food stores. The flour, which is high in protein, is good in muffins, biscuits, and waffles. You can combine quinoa flour with other whole grain flours.

Due to the relatively high oil and fat content of quinoa, the grains and flour should be stored in glass jars in the refrigerator. Use the grains within a year and flour within 3 months.

Information Sources:

Brilliant Food Tips and Cooking Tips, by David Joachim, published by Rodale

Grandmother’s Food Secrets, by Dr. Myles H. Bader, published by Mylette Enterprises, LLC, Las Vegas, Nevada 89102

More Soy Cooking, Healthful Renditions of Classic Traditional Meals, by Marie Oser, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
From The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and Thomas M. Campbell II, published by Ben Bella Books, Inc. :

"At the end of the day, the strength and consistency of the majority of the evidence is enough to draw valid conclusions. Namely, whole plant based foods are beneficial, and animal-based foods are not. Few other dietary choices, if any, can offer the incredible benefits of looking good, growing tall and avoiding the vast majority of premature diseases [such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes] in our culture."-page 107

Eight Principles of Food and Health (paraphrased): (pages 226-240)

1. Nutrition represents the combined activities of countless food substances. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. (The chemicals in foods work together, and should not be taken in isolation).

2. Vitamin supplements are not a panacea for good health, because they take the chemicals in isolation. (see above)

3. There are no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants. (Plant foods have more antioxidants, fiber and minerals than animal foods).

4. Genes do not determine diseases on their own. Genes function only by being activated, or expressed, and nutrition plays a critical role in determining which genes, good and bad, are expressed.

5. Nutrition can substantially control the adverse effects of noxious chemicals.

6. The same nutrition that prevents disease in its early stages (before diagnosis) can also halt or reverse disease in its later stages (after diagnosis).

7. Nutrition that is truly beneficial for one chronic disease will support health across the board.

8. Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.("Good nutrition and regular exercise combine to offer more health per person than the sum of each part alone."....physical activity has an effect on emotional and mental well being."-page 239)