I don’t eat red meat or port, so I’m looking always looking for new forms of protein to help me build muscle.  I know there are tons of drinks and powders out there, but I’m stubborn and like to get my protein through “real” food unless I’m absolutely desperate — or starving.

So when I heard about quinoa and about this best-selling book I had to check it out — especially when I learned that it was written by two sisters who grew up in the same part of Canada where I was born. 

Quinoa, which is pronounced ‘keen wah’ and not “ke-no-ah” like I used to pronounce it, is one of the newest superfoods to hit the mainstream market.  There are articles about in a health magazines everywhere and its popularity is continuing to grow – especially with the help of Carolyn and Patricia, who were great to interview.

“It contains all eight essential amino acids making it a complete protein,” said Carolyn Hemming, co-author of Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood. “Because it’s so high in protein, it’s great for vegetarians and vegans who are looking for a non-animal protein source.”

Like I mentioned earlier, Hemming wrote the cookbook with her sister Patricia Green. They say being high in protein is only the beginning of the wonders of quinoa. The seed is gluten-free making it a good choice for people with food allergies and sensitivities. It is also full of vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc and potassium.

“It is not enriched like some other foods. They are all naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. There really isn’t any one food that can trump it nutritionally,” Green said.

And there’s more good news for NPC competitors like me who are watching their carbs, sugars and blood sugar — Quinoa also is a complex carbohydrate with a low rating on the Glycemic Index. Yay! So you’ll feel really full and you won’t crash after like you do with chocolate.

Because it digests slowly, it is becoming a popular alternative for diabetics, as well as adults and children trying to balance their blood sugar. But even though the seed is one of the world’s superfoods, many people have no idea how to incorporate it into their daily lives. I know I didn’t.

“When we first came across the seed, we saw a deficiency of quinoa recipes out there. We saw, especially in cyberspace, tons of questions on how to cook it, what to eat it with and why it’s good for you,” Green said.

This lack of information was the main reason Green and Hemming decided to write the book.

“We thought that as we had done all this research and we had a ton of recipes, we should really share this,” said Green. “The book, Quinoa 365, was released in the US in May 2010 and it’s already sold out. We are on our second printing.”

Of course, I don’t really cook and my diet plan is really strict, but even I was able to use some of this.  All they had to do is tell me I could mix it with my daily oatmeal or use it as part of my eggwhite/cream of white pancakes and I was hooked. 

EVERYDAY QUINOA RECIPES FOR EVERYDAY PEOPLE

But for those of you who don’t have a coach checking to make sure you’re following a plan, there are tons of options.

The sisters’ book contains over 150 quinoa recipes showing the versatility of the seed. You can use it in everything from breakfast items to salads and entrees, to desserts, soups and stews.

Hemming says one of their favorite quinoa recipes is a moist chocolate cake. The cake is made with cooked white quinoa seeds that are put in a blender with the other wet ingredients. They are then blended until smooth and added to the dry ingredients.

“What makes it so fabulous is that the cooked quinoa seeds hold the moisture,” Hemming said. “When baked, the cake is moist. It is also gluten-free, will have all the quinoa minerals in it, and it is so tasty and rich that you would never know it wasn’t something grandma made.”

OMG…I may have to make this after my next competition as a treat.

Hemming says quinoa, which can be bought in most grocery stores, doesn’t take long to prepare and it is even quicker to cook than rice. You simply boil it for 10 minutes and then let it sit for 10 minutes with the lid on, or you can use a rice cooker.

“Where rice doubles in volume when it’s cooked, quinoa will triple. You get a lot more quinoa for your original volume,” said Hemming. “You would cook it the same way as you would a plain white rice. It is that easy.”

The sisters say you can throw the cooked seeds into many of the foods you are probably already eating including yogurt, scrambled eggs, chili and pasta. Other ideas include adding it to a fresh cucumber and dill salad, into muffin batter and serving it as an alternative to rice in Spanish-style seafood dishes.

“The book really prides itself in not being fussy. There aren’t complicated recipes. Instead it helps to bridge the gap between the cooking you do now and one that would increase nutrition,” Hemming said. “Each recipe is labeled with a stamp such as vegetarian, gluten-free and kid approved.”

The book is available on Amazon.

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