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Written by Darci Tomky   

The mother of all grains

It’s 2013 and it’s time to shed those holiday pounds and get back on track! I am super pumped for the CSU Extension 12-week Healthier Weigh competition (which starts Jan. 14), and I think all of you should join me in the program! I promise I’ll try to not get too competitive.

So in honor of the Healthier Weigh, New Year’s and all you folks who have set resolutions, here’s a healthy recipe for you and an education lesson on the ultra trendy superfood quinoa.

Pronounced KEEN-wah, this nutrient-rich food comes to us from the Andes Mountains (that’s in South America), a sacred “mother of all grains” to the Incas many, many years ago.

According to wholegrains, quinoa is what they call a “pseudo-cereal,” their name for foods that are cooked and eaten like grains and have a similar nutrient profile. Botanically, quinoa is related to beets, chard and spinach, and both the leaves and grains can be eaten.

The most common varieties of quinoa are white (also called yellow or ivory), red and black. Quinoa flakes and quinoa flour are also becoming increasingly more available.

This superfood is a great option for gluten-free diets, useful in reducing the risk for diabetes and it helps you feel fuller longer. Quinoa is one of the only plant foods that’s a complete protein, offering all the essential amino acids in a healthy balance.

If that wasn’t enough, the grains have an unusually high ratio of protein to carbohydrate, with the germ making up about 60 percent of the grain, and it’s the highest of all the whole grains in potassium, which helps control blood pressure, according to wholegrains

To sum it up, quinoa is healthy. Yay!

The tiny grains cook up in about 15 minutes and can be added to a wide variety of dishes. I found lots of dishes pairing it with meats, like this chicken recipe from Weightwatchers’ cookbook “Ready Set Go,” but it can also be used in granolas, salads and even beverages. (Take note that quinoa should be rinsed before cooking because it grows with a bitter coating called saponin.)

Quinoa is so amazing that 2013 has been named the International Year of Quinoa by the United Nations “in recognition of ancestral practices of the Andean people, who have managed to preserve quinoa in its natural state as food for present and future generations, through ancestral practices of living in harmony with nature,” according to their website.

This is the first step in focusing the world’s attention on the crop’s biodiversity, nutiritional value and the role it can play in providing food security around the world.

Orange and Honey-Marinated Chicken with Quinoa


1/2 C orange juice

1/4 C lime juice

2 Tbsp honey

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

12 oz boneless skinless

chicken breast (halved)

Combine orange juice, lime juice, honey, salt and pepper in large Zip-lock bag. Add chicken. Squeeze out air and seal bag; turn to coat chicken. Refrigerate, turning bag occasionally, at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours.

Spray broiler rack with nonstick spray. Preheat broiler. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Place chicken on prepared broiler rack. Broil 7 inches from heat, turning until chicken is browned and cooked through, about 25 minutes.


2 C quinoa

4 C low sodium chicken broth

1 can mandarin orange segments in juice, drained

1/4 C dried cranberries

Place quinoa and broth in saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until all broth is absorbed (10-15 minutes). When done, the grain appears soft and translucent, and the germ ring will be visible along the outside edge of the grain. Add oranges and cranberries.

Holyoke Enterprise January 3, 2013