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Volume 7 Issue 1
May/Jun 2001

Honouring the Plants - Giant Hyssop & Wild Bergamot

Nutrition, Cooking & Health - Cooking With Quinoa

Wise Woman Celebration - Beauty, Power and Wisdom

Metamorphic Technique - A Natural Transformative Experience


Nutrition, Cooking & Health
Cooking With Quinoa - An Ancient Grain

author photoby Paulette Millis

Facts and Trivia

Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah"), chenopodium quinoa, is really not a cereal grain but a member of the goosefoot family–other members are beets, chard, spinach and some 200 species of herbs. It is an ancient grain used in the past by the Incas for its magical powers. They called it the "Mother Grain" and it was a staple in their diet and still is for their descendants. It has been grown for 5000 years in South America. At one time in Bolivia and Peru the Spanish had led people to believe feeding quinoa to their children would make them stupid. So for over 400 years these indigenous people chose foods of the upper and middle classes–pasta and white bread. During this time Bolivia had the highest rate of infant mortality in its history. As they eventually became enlightened that their beloved quinoa was healthy, they resumed using it as food for themselves instead of for chicken feed.

Quinoa was introduced into the U.S.A. by the Quinoa Foundation and its founders, Steven Gorad and Don McKinley. This corporation is now located in Torrance, California where it markets quinoa from Bolivia. This ancient grain grows in extreme ecological conditions, so today it is readily available. It comes in several varieties, from black to white, though most is ivory tan in colour. Uncooked, quinoa is a small fairly round seed and cooked, it is both soft and crunchy. The germ that rims each seed in a white curlicue is the crunchy part.

Nutritional Information

Quinoa is an easy-to-digest, gluten-free grain, particularly useful for those on gluten-free diets. It has the highest protein content of any grain (16%). In fact, the World Health Organization reports it is at least equal to milk in protein quality. Unlike other grains, it is a complete protein with an essential amino acid profile similar to milk. Quinoa is high in lysine, an amino acid that is scarce in the vegetable kingdom, one reason why it is so popular with vegetarians. It contains more calcium than milk and many other vital nutrients: iron, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc, B vitamins and vitamin E. Ninety-nine percent of the fat in quinoa is unsaturated. Quinoa has definitely earned the nickname "Supergrain."

Buying and Cooking

Quinoa can be found in health food stores and some supermarkets as a whole grain, flour or pasta. It is also used in ready-to-eat cereals and other processed foods.

Quinoa is covered with a built-in insect repellant called "saponin." This bitter and soapy-tasting substance has been removed before packaging, although it is always wise to rinse quinoa well before cooking as any remaining saponin may aggravate some allergies or irritate digestion. Use a fine strainer for rinsing as the seeds are very small. I prefer the mild flavour achieved with several rinses, although others may like a stronger taste. Before adding liquid to cook quinoa, try toasting or sautéing it to further cut down on any bitter taste and to bring out its nutty flavour.

Quinoa is light and fluffy and has a melt-in-the-mouth quality, unlike the starchy chewiness of most cooked grains. It can be substituted for rice, millet or couscous in any recipe. (Try rice pudding with quinoa instead of rice!) To be sure quinoa is fully cooked check that the opaque dot in the middle of the grain is gone and it is completely transparent.

Whole cooked quinoa is good by itself with a little butter, sea salt and maybe a dash of tamari. It is excellent in soups, stews, pilafs, salads and in casseroles, particularly combined with legumes. Tomato and garlic sauces go well over quinoa. I like to serve it topped with Ratatouille. I use leftover cooked quinoa in muffins, salads or I freeze any extra to use in soups.

Quinoa flour, although used primarily by people with wheat allergies, is an excellent addition to the diet and is easily made at home in a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade. For one cup of flour, add 3/4 cup of quinoa to blender and process until smooth. To be sure of no whole grains left, sift through a fine strainer. Use a little quinoa flour when making quick breads, pancakes and muffins but remember it has no gluten, so follow gluten-free recipes or be sure there is plenty of wheat if making yeast breads.



  • 1 cup rinsed quinoa
  • 2 cups boiling water
Place grain in water in saucepan and cook over low heat 15—20 minutes or until transparent and tender-crunchy. Drain remaining water, if any. Let stand several minutes, fluff with a fork and serve plain or with butter, sea salt, dash of tamari or a sauce such as Ratatouille.



  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • 3 green onions, sliced diagonally
  • 3/4 cup cabbage or suey choy, sliced fine
  • 3 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup celery, sliced diagonally
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. honey, melted
  • 1 tsp. ginger, grated
Stir and shake dressing ingredients and let stand while you prepare the salad. Combine the salad ingredients and toss with the dressing.

Additional ingredients that can complement this salad:

  • Chicken, 1 cup cooked and cut into strips
  • Shrimp — fresh, frozen, or canned, cooked, 1 cup
  • Sunflower or pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup
  • Bean sprouts, 1/4 cup
  • Chow mein noodles, 1/2 cup
(Recipe adapted from Artesian Acres, a quinoa supplier)


  • 1 cup sliced zucchini
  • 1 tin of baby corn cobs
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can of tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 green pepper, cut in chunks
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • herbs and spices such as oregano, basil, curry powder — you choose!
In a skillet, heat the olive oil on medium heat (no smoking!). Add the onion and garlic and stir until well coated by the oil. Add the zucchini, corn, green pepper and mushrooms. Stir often to coat the vegetables with oil. Let cook for 8—10 minutes over fairly high heat. Add tomatoes, herbs, and spices. Continue to cook over high heat until the mixture bubbles. As the mixture cooks, the juice from the tomatoes will reduce and thicken — this usually takes about 15 minutes. Serve hot over quinoa or any grain, pasta, toast, or even in a pita pocket topped with grated cheese or parmesan. May be eaten cold.


  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup potato, cubed
  • 1/2 cup carrot, sliced
  • 1/4 cup celery, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of red lentils
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup corn
  • 2 cups milk or rice milk
  • 1 cup grated cheese (may use soyloaf, nut cheese, or dairy cheese)
  • season to taste with sea salt

Simmer quinoa, vegetables, garlic, lentils and seasoning until veggies are tender–about 30 minutes. Add milk and cheese. Bring soup to a gentle boil and serve.

(Recipe adapted from Artesian Acres, a quinoa supplier)


  • 3-1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, well rinsed
  • 1 cup brown rice, washed and drained
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup celery, chopped (or substitute red or green pepper)
  • butter
  • salt, thyme, tarragon, parsley, oregano to taste
Saute onion and celery in butter until soft. Add in all other ingredients and bake at 350º F. for 2 hours or until rice is soft and liquid is absorbed.


  • Easy and a perfect blend of flavours!
  • 2 tbsp. hulled sesame seeds
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa ( it should still be warm)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
Place the sesame seeds in a small skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until seeds turn golden. Remove from heat. Combine quinoa, butter and seeds in a bowl until butter is melted. Serve.

* taken from Nutrition, Cooking and Healing by Paulette Millis

** taken from The Complete Whole Grain Cookbook by Carol Gelles

References: The Complete Whole Grain Cookbook, by Carol Gelles; The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, by Rebecca Wood; Waves of Grain by Barbara Grunes and Virginia Van Vynckt; Alive Magazine #216, October 2000.

The above information regarding nutritious food is not intended to replace any instruction from medical or health professionals.

Paulette Millis lives and works in Saskatoon as a nutritional consultant, counsellor and family life educator. Her cookbook, Nutrition, Cooking and Healing is available in health food stores or by calling Paulette. To contact her call (306) 244-8890.


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