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From its' ancient origins high in the Andes Mountains, quinoa, pronounced KEEN-wah, is a naturally gluten-free super food that adds a big nutritional boost to gluten-free diets.
Quinoa is a member of the "chenopodium" plant family, related to spinach, beets and chard. It is an edible seed, unlike cereal "grass" grains like wheat, barley, rye, maize, rice, oats and millet.
The earliest known domestication of quinoa as a crop is thought to have originated high in the Andes Mountains of Peru about 5000 years ago. The seed was an essential part of the Inca diet until the Spanish invasion, when cultivation was vigorously suppressed.
Today quinoa is experiencing a real resurgence as it is recognized as a valuable food crop and a gluten-free nutritional super food. Although there are hundreds of varieties of quinoa it's most often available in its' cream-colored or red varietal. A delicious black varietal of quinoa is becoming increasingly available as well. The Ancient Harvest brand, available in most markets in the U.S. sells an organic, pre-washed quinoa in a tasty blend of all three varieties.
Some stores sell quinoa in bulk bins. If not pre-washed it's necessary to thoroughly rinse quinoa before cooking, to remove a natural protective coating of a substance called "saponins." Saponins have a bitter taste and when rinsed make soapy bubbles.
My experience with quinoa is that it is a delicious, easy to find, fast cooking addition to my family's gluten-free diet. It is a versatile, healthy substitute to rice and works in breakfast, salad, side dish, entree and dessert recipes.
8 Reasons to Add Quinoa to Your Gluten-Free Diet
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