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What Is Quinoa?

Quinoa is a kind of seed. It belongs to the same family as spinach, Swiss Chard and Beets. It is sometimes used as a substitute for grain, and is valued for both its subtle flavor and rich nutritional value. It contains protein, potassium and iron, as well as a lot of fiber—ideal for those suffering from problems with digestions. It can be found in supermarkets and health stores.

Quinoa is endemic to the Andes and is also found in South America. However, this hardy plant can grow in the harshest environments, including those with very little rainfall and dry soil.

Quinoa comes in different kinds of colors, from brown and black to the more vivid yellow and red. Though small and flat it tends to expand to as much as four times after it has been cooked. The tip of the seed is quite crunchy but the grain has been described as quite smooth and creamy.

How does one prepare quinoa for eating? Quinoa seeds must first be washed, to rinse out the powdery coating. Observe the water; stop only when the water no longer looks cloudy. Some people also like to toast the quinoa seeds in a skillet—with no oil or water—to give it a lovely roasted flavor. Quinoa seeds are then boiled for about 15 minutes (there should be 2 cups of water for every cup of quinoa). Others like the convenience of a rice cooker. Quinoa can be eaten like oatmeal (with fruit or berry toppings) or included in soups or stews.

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