It is so easy to get stuck in a rut and go to the standard starchy sides such as rice, pasta, and potatoes but why not change things up a bit. Want something that is nutritious, easy to prepare, and full of flavor all on its own? Well try quinoa! Pronounced keen-wa, quinoa is a nutritious, whole grain that has a fluffy, creamy, and slightly crunchy texture as well as a unique nutty flavor when cooked.
Quinoa is considered an ‘ancient’ crop since it has been grown and harvested for thousands of years. In fact, quinoa was once called "the gold of the Incas," who recognized its health benefits and the valuable increase in the strength and stamina it provided their warriors.
Quinoa is commonly considered a grain; however, it is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables such as Swiss chard and spinach. It is a colorful, flowering plant that grows at 12,000 feet above sea level and is native to South America. In areas where it is grown it is common for people to eat the leaves as well as the seeds.
Next time you are in the rice isle at your local grocery store pick up some quinoa and try this Carrot, Tomato, and Spinach Quinoa Pilaf. This pilaf makes a great vegetarian entrée or a wonderful quick side dish on busy night!
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Carrot, Tomato, and Spinach Quinoa Pilaf
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Serves 2 as a entrée and 5 as a side dish
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 teaspoons vegetable bouillon granules
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 cup baby spinach
Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat; cook and stir the onion in the hot oil until translucent, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat, stir in quinoa, and toast, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Stir in the water, bouillon granules, black pepper and thyme.
Stir in the carrots. Cover and simmer until all water is absorbed, about 15 more minutes. Turn off the heat, add the tomatoes and spinach, and stir until the spinach is wilted and the tomatoes have given off their moisture, about 2 minutes.
adapted from Food on the Table