In the early eighties when I moved to Washington D.C., my favorite health-food store was a tiny co-op crowded with hefty plastic bins filled with exotic-looking beans and grains that this Alabamian had never before seen or imagined. Quinoa was one of the “grains” in those bins. Thirty years later, the co-op store expanded just a bit, but quinoa’s popularity has grown steadily and this pseudo-grain (actually a seed) now appears in mainstream supermarkets and on many restaurant menus.
Quinoa with Litehouse Italian Blend
Classified as a grain, quinoa is a whole food, and The National Health Information Center recommends eating more whole than refined grains for healthy diets. Since September is National Childhood Obesity Month, it’s a good time to offer recipes to families looking for healthy meal alternatives that include whole grains. During its 2013 “Launch of the International Year of Quinoa” in February, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)," dubbed quinoa the Andean Super Food since it holds promise as a food to help end world hunger and malnutrition. Quinoa is native to the Andes Mountain ranges of Peru and Bolivia and “is the only plant food that has all the essential amino acids, trace elements and vitamins,” according to the FAO. Quinoa’s mildly nutty flavor, light texture, and versatility make it a valuable pantry staple. It enriches soups, stands in for rice and pasta, and is a nutrient-rich ingredient in breads and desserts. Quinoa makes a good meat substitute too—one cup provides 16% of the daily allowance for protein. It’s also a gluten-free and high-fiber food, with 21% of one’s daily fiber allowance in a one-cup serving.
What I appreciate most about quinoa is its ability to readily absorb flavors, which makes it easier to create meals with familiar tastes that kids love. Here, I used Litehouse Instantly Fresh Italian Herb Blend along with quinoa, tomato sauce, green peas, diced tomatoes, and (sparingly) Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Litehouse Gorgonzola Crumbles. Kids will recognize these flavors from pizza and lasagna, and parents will appreciate that quinoa has 36% fewer carbohydrates than pasta per one-cup serving. In addition, the glycemic load for quinoa is significantly lower than rice or pasta. The tiny seed that was once found primarily in specialty food stores is today so widely available that you’re likely to find it in your local supermarket. Introduce or reintroduce your kids to quinoa, paired with the fresh flavor of Litehouse Instantly Fresh Herbs and Litehouse Artisan Cheese. Do you have a favorite Italian-style recipe featuring pasta or rice that you would like to try with quinoa instead? Please share your ideas.