Cooking with Alternative Grains

Tired of the same old rice, potato and pasta dishes?  Try cooking up some amaranth or quinoa this week to add a tasty and nutritious flavor to your plate. 

Amaranth is a high protein, gluten free grain that is also a good source of calcium, lysine (an essential amino acid) and other vitamins.  It is reported to have 30% more protein than other grains such as wheat, rice, and oats.  It is also a great source of fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese.  This grain has been gaining popularity in the U.S. since the mid 1970’s and today it is found in many health food stores; amaranth flour is used as a substitute for many gluten free baked goods.  Amaranth can be cooked as a cereal, made into pasta, flat breads, and pancakes.  It can also be popped like popcorn, sprouted or toasted. 

To cook amaranth, bring 2 ½ cups liquid such as water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth to a boil.  Add 1 cup amaranth seeds and boil for 18-20 minutes.  You can doctor this dish up by adding fresh herbs, lemon juice, or olive oil to the mix.  
Quinoa is another gluten free, high protein grain.  Due to its balanced set of essential amino acids, this tiny grain makes a complete protein source and is a great vegetarian alternative to meeting your protein needs.  Quinoa is also high in fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.   Quinoa is a great alternative to white rice or couscous.  Once cooked it has a light and fluffy texture with a bit of a nutty flavor.  Cooking quinoa is pretty simple, a very similar process to both amaranth and brown rice.  However, there is one prep step that needs to be done in order to remove the saponins (or outer coating) of the grain.  Prior to cooking, it is recommended that you soak the grain for a few hours and rinse using a fine strainer or in a cheesecloth.  This step helps with digestion of the grain – if you consume quinoa without soaking, then you may experience a laxative effects.  The good news is though, once again food manufactures have heard our cry to make eating cleaner easier in this fast paced world, most of the boxed forms of quinoa have been pre-rinsed, therefore all you need to do is cook!

To cook just bring 2 cups of water or liquid of choice to a boil.  Add one cup of grain and cover and cook on low for about 15 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed.   To make it even simpler, you can also use a rice cooker to prepare.  Can we get any easier?  You can also find quinoa flour, flakes, and pasta.

If you are interested in learning more information about cooking quicker, leaner, and cleaner consider signing up for one of my new nutrition e-courses “How To” Eat Cleaner or “How To” Cook Quick and Lean.  Go to for more information.

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