Tag Archives: quinoa

Quinoa on Passover

Tonight starts the eight-day long Jewish holiday of Passover, during which one may not eat chametz — the collective name for leavened products containing wheat, barley, oats, rye, or spelt.

passover holiday

Last Passover I told you about matzo – the unleavened bread that Jews eat over the course of the holiday. Over the years, supermarket shelves have become stocked with more and more foods that are Kosher for Passover, including noodles and rolls (generally made out of potato flour). One item that was approved for Passover and has become popular over the past few years is quinoa.

As quinoa has risen in popularity, rabbinical authorities realized that it is a Kosher for Passover grain — very exciting news for Jews who knew about quinoa and all it’s virtues. I for one was thrilled with this news — one more food that we can eat on Passover to avoid the monotony of matzo and potatoes.quinoa passover

I’ve mentioned quinoa before, but never really shared all of its benefits. Here are some facts about quinoa:

  • It’s an ancient grain (like einkorn), although it is actually a seed related to leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard.
  • It’s the only grain that is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids you need.
  • It’s high in fiber and a very good source of the minerals manganese, magnesium, and iron.
  • It’s gluten-free.

Interestingly, there was an article in today’s NY Times questioning whether quinoa is in fact Kosher for Passover. The reason for the debate? Some Rabbis say that some quinoa grown in Bolivia (where it originates) is harvested with wheat and corn (two forbidden foods on Passover) so there may be some particles mixed into the packaged quinoa. To me, this debate calls to mind a bigger issue: whether the quinoa is in fact gluten-free —
an important, potentially life-threatening concern for people with celiac disease or wheat and gluten allergies.

To be 100% certain that you are getting gluten-free and Kosher for Passover quinoa you must read the labels. According to Rabbis who approve quinoa for Passover, the two brands that are given thumbs up are Ancient Harvest Quinoa and Trader Joe’s brand. So stick with these if you’re observing the holiday and/or following a gluten-free diet.

What do you think about quinoa? Do you like it?

Protein from Plants

By Jo Bartell

We should all know that protein is an important nutrient our body needs for its everyday functions like growing, strengthening, and repairing body tissue. All together, our bodies need twenty-two amino acids, protein building blocks, thirteen of which our bodies can make on their own. For the other nine amino acids, which are called “essential amino acids,” our body relies on the food we eat. Many people think of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs as the best and most “complete” sources of high quality protein since each of these foods contain all nine essential amino acids. However, some animal products are too high in saturated fat and too low in fiber, which makes them less than ideal as the main source of protein in the diet.

If you are a vegetarian, or if you just feel like taking a break from eating meat for a meal or two, you’ll be pleased to find out that there are many great sources of protein that come solely from plants such as dark green vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), nuts, and seeds. What is important to know, is that some of these plant foods are “incomplete proteins,” so they do not supply all of the nine essential amino acids our body needs. Luckily, different plant foods provide different amino acids, so by eating a variety of whole plant foods throughout the day you can create complete proteins.

Here are a few nutritious and delicious plant foods with their protein contents:

Legumes

  • Lentils (cooked): 1 cup, 18 grams
  • Black Beans (cooked): 1 cup, 15 grams
  • Tofu (firm): 4 ounces, 11 grams

Nuts and Seeds

  • Peanut Butter: 2 tbsp, 8 grams
  • Almonds: 1/4 cup, 8 grams
  • Sunflower Seeds: 1/4 cup, 6 grams
quinoa recipe

California Plum & Quinoa Salad

Grains

  • Quinoa* (cooked): 1 cup, 9 grams
  • Brown Rice (cooked): 1 cup, 5 grams
  • Whole Wheat Bread: 1 slice, 3 grams

*Interesting fact: Quinoa is the only grain that is a complete protein!

Vegetables

  • Broccoli (cooked): 1 cup, 4 grams
  • Spinach (cooked): 1 cup, 5 grams
  • Asparagus (raw): 1 cup, 3 grams

Get creative and think about these plant based protein options when you want to skip the fish, poultry, dairy, and meat but still eat enough of the high quality protein your body needs every day.

What is your favorite way to enjoy a protein-rich meal without meat, poultry, dairy, or fish?

Photo Credit: California Tree Fruit Agreement

Mexican Cooking At Home

by Jo Bartell

As a single person living in New York City in an apartment with a very small kitchen, I know how difficult it is muster up the motivation and set aside the time to cook a healthy meal from scratch. Even though I love food and cooking, I still fall into the trap of ordering delivery and going out for dinner, knowing that I am unnecessarily eating extra calories and fat.

Last weekend, a good friend of mine who also lives alone and has always stated adamantly that she hates cooking asked for some help. One of her New Year’s resolutions was to prepare more healthy meals at home, so she asked if I had any dinner ideas. Sunday night I had her come over to cook dinner together. We searched my refrigerator and pantry and decided to throw together a veggie-filled, Mexican inspired meal. The result was a nutritious and delicious plate of colorful veggies, black beans, corn, black quinoa, and a quesadilla made with a corn tortilla and reduced fat pepper jack cheese. The meal took no time to prepare and we both loved it. Even my friend who hates cooking said she couldn’t wait to make this versatile, easy dish at home!

healthy mexican foodPreparation was simple:

  • We boiled two cups of water, added one cup of black quinoa and simmered for about 20 minutes until the quinoa absorbed all of the water.
  • While the quinoa was cooking, we heated two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan and sautéed onion and garlic until they started to brown.
  • Then we added an assortment of other colorful veggies including broccoli, cauliflower, and red, yellow, and green bell peppers. We sautéed the veggies and added lemon juice, cumin, cayenne pepper, and chili powder to accentuate the Mexican-type flavor.
  • Towards the end of cooking we added about a cup of canned black beans and a cup of canned corn. (Note: if you use canned vegetables or beans make sure to rinse them thoroughly to decrease the sodium content.)
  • For the quesadilla, we heated a corn tortilla over the stove’s flame, flipping it frequently until it was warm, and then added 1 oz of reduced fat pepper jack cheese to each tortilla and topped with some chopped chili pepper.
  • To add in even more veggies, we added some sliced, raw cherry tomatoes on the side.

What are your favorite easy, healthy meals for one (or two)?

This Sunday is Super Bowl XLV – don’t let the festivities get in the way of your healthy diet with these Super Bowl Healthy Eating Tips.

How to Enjoy Sugar Snap Peas

Yesterday I told you all about sugar snap peas including how they differ from starchy green peas and their nutritional profile. With all of the nutritional benefits and the refreshing taste of this seasonal treat, I am definitely going to be enjoying sugar snap peas all summer long.  I love to munch on them raw, but here are some other simple ways to enjoy them:

  • Add blanched sugar snap peas to a vegetable platter with baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes and serve with hummus.
  • Add sugar snap peas to an Asian style stir-fry with vegetables of your choice, brown rice, and either tofu or skinless chicken breast. I love adding a little low-sodium soy sauce, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper for added flavor.
  • In a medium saucepan, sauté sugar snap peas and asparagus (another great farmer’s market find this time of year) in olive oil. Then add a little sea salt, some lemon juice, and red pepper flakes for some spice and toss all together until cooked al dente.
  • Make a cold quinoa and sugar snap pea salad:
    • Boil peas in a saucepan for about 1 minute until bright and crispy then lay on a plate to cool.
    • Cut peas into 1-inch diagonal pieces.
    • Cook quinoa per the directions on the package and set aside to cool.
    • Mix quinoa and peas together and add in some olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper and enjoy cold for a delicious and high-protein side dish.

How do you like to eat sugar snap peas?

Post written by nutritioulicious™ intern Jo Bartell