The quinoa plant is native to the Andean regions of Peru, Bolivia and Chile on the continent of South America. There are many different types of quinoa, particularly wild quinoa which grow today. While wild quinoa has been cultivated as a crop in some parts, it is considered a weed in others. This crop has been called “vegetable caviar” or Inca rice, and has been eaten for around 5000 years. Archeological evidence suggests that some of the wilder forms of quinoa were also cultivated in this same region as long ago as 9,000 years. Quinua means “mother grain” in the Inca language. This crop was a staple food of the Inca people and remains an important food crop for their descendants, the Quechua and Aymara peoples who live in rural regions.
Quinoa, Chenopodium Quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds. Its leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but the commercial availability of quinoa greens is currently limited. The succulent like plant grows from 4 to 6 feet high and has many angular branches. The flower heads are branched and when in seed looks much like millet, with large clusters of seeds at the end of a stalk.
In the 16th century, when the Spanish invaded the Andes region, the Incas were forced into submission and the cultivation and consumption of quinoa was banned due to its association with non Christian ceremonies. The Incas were forced to grow corn and potatoes instead (and when you understand the nutritional qualities of quinoa, you’ll see why these new crops were vastly inferior for them). But some wild quinoa continued to grow out of sight and a small amount was able to be cultivated. So in secret, quinoa remained. What was a sacred crop to the Incas has been classified as a “super crop” by the United Nations because of its high protein and omega 3 content. Quinoa was imported into the US in the 1970’s and has seen an increase in popularity in western cultures, particularly in the last 5 – 10 years. While quinoa is now commercially grown in some other areas of the world, the majority still comes from the same South American regions that it originated from.
Quinoa seed are covered with bitter tasting saponins that naturally repel insects and birds. Removing the saponins is a somewhat involved process but is already done for you when you buy a quality brand. It’s believed that the bitter tasting saponins are what discouraged the Spanish from using Quinoa. If you are worried about serving it in variation then you shouldn’t because quinoa is probably one of the most versatile foods we have. You can serve it for breakfast, lunch or supper and it will not alter the taste of other ingredients. It’s the best “non-wheat” pasta substitute in my opinion. I’ve been eating it for breakfast and lunch for a while, and have felt an incredible boost in my energy through each day. Try these Quinoa recipes, they are surprisingly tasty and healthy! So, without further Buen Apetito!
1 cup(s) of quinoa (rinsed & drained if not pre-rinsed)
2 cup(s) of chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp. of dried minced onion
6 medium tomatoes, tops removed and hollowed out
2/3 cup(s) of Herb & Garlic PHILADELPHIA tub Cream Cheese
1 tbsp. of fresh parsley, chopped
In a medium size sauce pan, combine quinoa, chicken stock, and dried minced onion.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, turn heat down to low and simmer quinoa for about 20 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. While the quinoa is cooking, using a sharp knife, carefully remove the tops from your tomatoes. With a small spoon, scrape out the inside of the tomato, making sure to leave the outside of the tomato intact.
Lightly season the inside of the tomato with salt & pepper, and place tomato, upside down, on a baking sheet lined with a cooling rack, or paper towels. This will allow excess moisture to run out of the tomatoes until they are ready to stuff. Once the quinoa is fully cooked, remove from heat and stir in fresh chopped parsley, and Herb and Garlic PHILADELPHIA tub Cream Cheese. Stir to combine.
Spoon quinoa/PHILADELPHIA cream cheese mixture into the hollowed out tomatoes, and place in oven-safe baking dish. If you like, you can place the top of the tomato, that you removed before hollowing the tomato, on top of the quinoa/PHILADELPHIA cream cheese mixture.
Bake in preheated 375 degree F oven for 20 minutes. Garnish with a sprig of fresh parsley. Serve immediately.
16 Ounces Grape leaves
3/4 Cups Extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 Cups of Quinoa
1 Lemon, juiced
1 3/4 Cups Hot water or Broth
3/4 Teaspoons Salt
1/4 Teaspoons Pepper
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon Butter
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the quinoa, fresh thyme and toast, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Then remove it from heat and let it stand for about 3 minutes to become fully fluffy. Set aside. Steam the grape leaves and rinse with plenty of water in a collander.
Wrap the Quinoa with the grape leaves. You want to make them small in size (about 1-2 inches.) Do not hesitate to cut big leaves in half. Discard the central stem of these leaves and if you can reduce (with a sharp knife) any other tough stems it would be good. Place the Quinoa in one end, fold from the short end and the two sides and then roll while pushing the Quinoa downwards to pack it really tight. If they are not tightly packed they will unroll later.
Arrange the stuffed grape leaves in a casserole, tightly. Make more than one layers. Add the lemon juice, the rest of the olive oil and 1 1/2 cups of hot water. Cover them with a plate or something to keep them in place. Let them simmer for 8 minutes. Serve then cold, with tzatziki sauce. Simple delicioso!