Quinoa: ‘The Mother of All Grains’

The Incas called quinoa the mother of all grains. One thing is for certain: the Incas had their nutritional priorities straight.

More of a seed than a grain, quinoa’s health benefits are as vast as the seven oceans. Not only is it high in complete protein, quinoa is a good source of phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It’s also rich in phytonutrients, calcium and the antioxidant flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol. (For further benefits of quinoa including its anti-inflammatory effects, check out this article on the nutrition of quinoa.

Just a few hundred years after the Incas were forced to replace their quinoa crops with wheat, the United Nations announced that it will be declaring 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa.”

So why not get started celebrating early?

When it comes to enriching your daily diet with quinoa, the culinary possibilities are eclectic. The fluffy grain is quick and easy to prepare, and can be enjoyed sweet or savory: add milk, cinnamon and honey and enjoy it as a breakfast cereal, or whip it up into a savory dish with some vegetables and a few key ingredients. (See recipe below for a light and delicious quinoa salad.)

Just one thing: rinsing your quinoa before cooking it will make it taste way better! This is something I recently learned, and it has catapulted my opinion of the superfood from “pretty good” to something close to Godliness.

Rinsing quinoa in a constant stream of running water removes the ‘saponins’ which can give your quinoa that bitter flavor, and also acts as a laxative. One friend even goes as far as removing any ‘bad seeds’ that float after the quinoa has been rinsed for several minutes.

All rinsed? Now you’re ready to try this super healthy recipe for a quinoa salad. The recipe calls for microgreens from New Natives, which can be found at the Live Oak and Downtown Santa Cruz Farmers Markets. Of course, other ingredients can be substituted but there is just something about the combination of quinoa and the spicy microgreens with asian dressing that is really delicious.

Recipe for Quinoa Salad with Microgreens


1 cup quinoa (red, white, or mixed. You can find it at Trader Joes, or local health food stores)

2 cups water (substitute one cup of chicken broth for extra flavor)

finely chopped white onion, about a quarter cup.

one bag of New Natives microgreens (the arugula or salad mix ones are great. I love the peppery flavor they add)

toasted almonds (as many as you want man! try Trader Joe’s new honey roasted sliced almonds)

carrots (sliced, either raw or cooked for a minute in a tiny bit of toasted sesame oil.)

I also sometimes add peas. Throw in whatever you would like!

Sesame Ginger Salad dressing to taste (I either cheat and use Japanese Ginger salad dressing from Kracy for Kazus, or make my own, using rice vinegar, sesame oil and maybe some garlic. A splash of Mirin cooking wine is a nice touch too.

Sprinkle of sesame seeds


Bring 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and simmer until all of the water has evaporated and the quinoa looks translucent. Note to self and others: Don’t let the quinoa burn! Allow to cool, and toss in the other ingredients. Serve cold or at room temperature.


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