05 June 2008
A Quinoa Breakfast Fit for the Gods
After a trip to South America's altiplano in 2006, I discovered the versatility of quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). 5,000 years ago, this grain was considered the "Gold of the Incas," who believed that the kullku bird delivered it to them from the gods to give them strength, endurance, and psychic abilities. Remember, during the height of the Inca empire, runners would often cover 150 miles in 24 hours to deliver news. The terrain of this region is extremely rugged and most of the land is 12,000 feet above sea level. With such thin air, and needing to perform great feats of endurance the Incas looked to quinoa to sustain them. The Incas also looked to quinoa to heal them, as it is known as the "medicine for soul calling." This supergrain was once used to treat any number of illnesses: such as urinary tract problems, tuberculosis, appendicitis, liver problems, altitude sickness, motion sickness, and even broken bones.
While the story of how the Incas actually got the quinoa is somewhat mythological, with the resurgence of quinoa in the North American diet, the nutritional benefits of this whole food are scientifically proven. Quinoa is known as a superfood. It is considered to be a leafy grain like buckwheat or amaranth, and is highly nutritious, able to supply the body with everything it needs from complex carbs, to fat, protein, amino acid, fiber, and a range of vitamins and minerals. More specifically, this supergrain is rich in manganase and magnesium, and is good for treating and preventing migraines headaches because it relaxes the blood vessels; riboflavin (B2)which helps the body to regenerate tissues and heal effectively; copper that helps protect the body's cells against free radicals; and finally, this grain is actually a highly effective protein, as it contains all nine amino acids. Quinoa is a perfect choice for vegetarians and vegans to ensure that their diets are rich in vitamins and protein.
So now you're probably wondering, "what do I do with it?" "How do I cook it?" Frankly, it's quite easy. Basically you start with two parts water for one part quinoa, and cook. You can flavor it however you like, eating it for breakfast with fruit, or as a side dish at dinner with savory accompaniment like spinach and feta cheese.
This morning, I wasn't feeling well. After the massive storms that we had in DC last night, we were left with a brisk and refreshing morning. The Midwesterner in me immediately wants to turn to a hearty breakfast, one that as my dad always said, "sticks to your ribs." My first thought was my usual Old Fashioned oatmeal. I usually prepare this with lots of cinnamon and nutmeg, brown sugar, and blueberries (Andrea prefers the same, but with raspberries instead) which turns the oatmeal a nice shade of purple (if you like raspberries, be prepared to eat magenta breakfast!). But this morning, I'm not in the mood for oatmeal. Finding a bag of quinoa in the cupboard, I ran with it. Here's my recipe:
3/4 c Quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 c Soy milk
1 T cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 T honey
pinch kosher salt
After you've rinsed and drained your quinoa in a strainer. Add it to the soy milk, and turn the heat on med-high. Add your cinnamon, nutmeg, and pinch of salt. Once it reaches a full boil, turn the heat down to low and cover it, making sure you leave some room for steam to escape. Let the quinoa cook for 10-15 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Set it aside away from the heat for a few minutes while you slice your banana.
Spoon the cooked quinoa into your bowl and top with banana, honey, and more cinnamon.