Ingredient of the Week: Quinoa

What is it?

Quinoa is often used in place of a grain, but it is actually a seed. The plant it comes from is called a goosefoot, and it is more closely related to beets and leafy greens than grains like wheat or barley.

Quinoa is also unique in the fact that it contains more protein than grains - up to 20 percent in certain varieties, but with an average of around 16.5 percent compared to to 7.5 percent in rice and 14 percent in wheat.

However, quinoa isn't a new health-food item, it's been around in South America for hundreds of years. The Incas used quinoa in everyday life and revered it as their "mother grain" because of its importance in their civilization.

How is it used?

It is often used in place of rice, barley, potatoes or any other starch. Because of its chewy texture, it holds up well in salads and soups.

In Incan times, it was combined with fat and eaten by soldiers during times of war and called, appropriately, "war balls."

Where can I buy it in Houston?

Any grocery store with a bulk section will have quinoa as well as pre-packaged versions in the same aisle as rice and pasta. I've found it at H-E-B, Whole Foods, Central Market and Kroger.

Recipe: Quinoa for Breakfast - Courtesy of 101 Cookbooks

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