A review of quinoa, one of the top tier “grains” for grapplers.
Quinoa is an ancient “grain” that dates back thousands of years to the Inca who “believed it increased the stamina of their warriors.” Their view on quinoa relates directly to us as modern day warriors. Also besides it being a black belt in nutritional value it has black belt level versatility within cooking applications. Withing this review of quinoa you will find a recipe, health benefits and other fun facts. Oh and did I mention it is a super source of cheap and easy complete protein that are not egg whites and boiled chicken!? Exactly, I am sold on it too already.
As you might have noticed I am using quotes on the word “grain” when talking about quinoa. Why is that? That is because oddly enough quinoa is in fact not a grain but it is a seed. Resulting in it being part of the same competition team as beets, spinach and Swiss chard. There are over 100 varieties of quinoa with origins in South America. The primary source being Peru. We commonly see white, red, black or tricolor quinoa being sold in stores today. So do not fret over which is better for you, just buy it and start eating it on the regular. Quinoa is a monster in the protein zone. You will find 24 g of protein per cup of uncooked quinoa. Also quinoa has a plethora of other benefits which we will dig deeper into later as you read further including heart-healthy fats.
When is the best time to eat Quinoa?
Time of year: As far as the harvesting of quinoa goes…don’t worry about it. It is a science all on its own because it has to be very precise and is based on the climate and weather. Luckily for us those since it is a seed and sold dry or ground it is available year round! Rejoice!
Time of ingestion: The best times for ingestion for quinoa would be morning or night. Quinoa with fruits, nuts and berries makes a great porridge-esque breakfast that will give you lasting energy and kick start your metabolism. Also at night it makes an excellent dinner choice because it is a complete protein on its own and has a wide range of uses. It is light and chalk full of nutritional benefits so it will leave you not only actually healthier after eating it but you will feel lighter and not bogged down.
Important to note: Always, and I mean always rinse quinoa before cooking it. The reason behind this is to wash off any remaining bitterness left behind from a compound(if you want to nerd out, yea Im talking to you, the guy who knows the lineage of every top competitor by heart, the compound is called Saponin.) found on the outside of the seed itself. Is it harmful? No. Is it bitter and can be unpleasant to some people if left un-rinsed? Sure. So for the sake of making something delicious and enjoyable, rinse your quinoa under cold water and drain it before cooking it to avoid any bitterness. Also it will remove any hard shells left behind too. Rinse under cold water in a fine mesh strainer and lightly massage it with your strong gi gripping hands.
Fun fact: Because of the structure of the fat content in quinoa, unlike other cereal grains such as wheat, when it is cooked it loses very little of its nutritional value while still improving in texture and flavor. The retention of its protein along with omega-3 fatty acids, and alpha-linolenic acid(ALA) while cooking is huge from a nutritional standpoint.
- Quinoa is truly a super food, and I hate using that term but it is the only fitting description.
- Since it is not a grain, it contains zero gluten. Yet it can be used in place of most grains. Even ground into flour and replaced in pasta, baking, etc. This is huge for gluten-free diets by choice or by allergy.
- It is a complete protein.
- Contains high levels of lysine which is essential for tissue growth and repair. This makes it clutch for dinner after a long day of weights and training.
- Contains B2 vitamin which is a energy producer that improves how energy is metabolized within our muscle cells and brain. Not only will our body be ready but so will our mind!
- Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Studies have shown that it has more antioxidant qualities than cranberries.
- High in fiber, magnesium and iron.
- Full of heart-healthy fatty acids/ monounsaturated fats. 1 g per 63 calories compared to 1 g per 350 calories of wheat.
- Affordable, easy to store, and accessible.
Cooking tips and tricks:
Best methods of cooking: boiling, simmering, steaming, dehydrating, even frying.
Flavor pairings: Pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, cranberry, raisins, cucumber, lemon, mint, basil, spinach, red pepper, onion, garlic, shrimp, lobster, asparagus, egg, goat cheese.
- Store uncooked quinoa in a dry, air-tight container for upwards of 6 – 8 months with no issue. Cooked quinoa can be cooled and stored for 3 – 4 days.
- Cook, cool and dehydrate in the oven for a nice crunchy snack to replace chips, make into a trail mix or top you yogurt with.
- Use in place of rice or other grains for chilled “salads.”
- Grind and use in place of flour while baking or making your own pasta.
Quinoa CORNelius Shrimp Risotto
Makes 2 servings
Quinoa, rinsed: 1 cup
Vegetable stock: 2 cups
Extra virgin olive oil: 4 Tbsp
Red onion, diced: ½ cup (which is about ½ onion)
Garlic clove, peeled, minced: 1 clove
Ground chili powder: ½ Tbsp
Roasted red peppers (homemade or canned), diced: 2 ea
Corn: ½ cup
Shrimp, deshelled: 1 lb
Fresh basil, chopped: 2 Tbsp
Salt & Freshly ground black pepper: to taste
Dry your shrimp with a paper towel and season with salt, pepper and a little chili powder.
In a large pan over medium-high heat add 2 Tbsp. Once the pan is hot add in your shrimp and cool on one side for 1 minute until they get nice color and begin to turn pink and curl, flip the shrimp and cool for another 30 second and then remove them from the pan onto a dry paper towel. Let them sit we will add them back in later.
In a pot bring your vegetable stock to a boil.
While that is boiling in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat add your olive oil. Add the onions and sweat for 4 minutes. Think of the term sweat in relation to yourself at the gym. What happens when you remove a lot of your sweat? You become pale and stinky. You want this to happen to your onions. Once that has occurred add in the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Make sure to season very lightly with salt during each step. This builds flavor.
Now add in chili powder and quinoa. Stir constantly and cook for 2 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour in your boiling vegetable stock. Return to the heat and bring it up to a simmer (lazy bubbles rather than roaring boiling.) Season with salt and a healthy portion of black pepper. Cook for 8 minutes and stir pretty regularly. You will cook until the liquid is gone but the quinoa is still moist.
Once this has occurred add in roasted red pepper, corn and shrimp and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
Add in the basil and stir constantly while cooking for another 2 minutes until the “risotto” is creamy and still slightly moist.
Remove from the heat and portion half into a bowl for dinner now and top with some basil, and place the other half in plastic container and cool without a lid in the fridge for dinner tomorrow or the next day. Remember once it is cool cover it with a lid.
Fine mesh strainer
Knife and cutting board.
If you want to splurge try lobster instead of shrimp and add a little mushrooms.
You can interchange a lot of the vegetables in here to your tastes too.