On a busy day, quinoa can be a very good friend. It’s a great companion for many vegetables, plus it’s nutritious and cooks quickly. Today’s Meatless Monday recipe, quinoa with carrots and kale, can help you get some delicious, real food onto your table in no time at all. And while the frenetic pace of contemporary life has the tendency to pull you out of the natural cycles of nature, having easy recipes like this on hand will help guide you back.
Is Quinoa Better Than Rice?
People often consider rice and quinoa interchangeably, so they ask which is preferable, from a health perspective. The short answer: quinoa is generally more nutritious than rice. But this seemingly simple question is a little more complicated than it might seem. Food is about so much more than nutritional value, and what we get from it varies according to how we, as individuals, digest. Both rice and quinoa can be challenging for a compromised digestive tract according to a number of dietary theories. It doesn’t matter how nutritious a food is if your body can’t assimilate it. That said, here’s a little more information on the rice/quinoa comparison.
There are more than 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice with different nutritional values. Brown rice, which includes germ and bran, is more nutritious than white, but it’s also more difficult to digest. This is the reason why white rice is recommended over brown in the therapeutic version of kitchari, an Ayurvedic detox food. Quinoa and rice share a similar calorie and macronutrient content, but brown rice contains more of some minerals, like selenium and manganese.
There are about 120 known varieties of quinoa. The most common types are red, black, and white. Unlike rice, quinoa is—arguably—a complete protein. It contains all nine essential amino acids which the body cannot make on its own, and as a result, must come from food. This makes it a particularly good choice for vegans. It’s a good source of folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese. Quinoa also has another advantage: because it has more fiber and protein, it tends to be more filling than rice (I also find that quinoa is a little easier to cook.)
Know Yourself & Your Food
If you’re in good health with a robust digestive system, you’re in a great position to enjoy a variety of foods, be it rice, quinoa, or the occasional slice of cake (the real food version, of course.). In that case, I say worry less about nutritional content between similar foods and concentrate on eating seasonal, whole food, learning to cook, and listening to your body. Eating food in season will fortify your health, and when you finally taste seasonal foods after waiting through three seasons it brings happiness like few other experiences—just imagine the taste of the first good cherries of summer. And isn’t that what eating is really all about?
Quinoa With Carrots & Kale
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa (or 3 cups cooked)
- 2 cups filtered water
- 2 Tablespoons ghee, extra-virgin olive or coconut oil
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea or pink Himalayan salt
- 2 scallions, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 bunch of Lacinato kale, stems removed, roughly torn or chopped
- fresh chopped cilantro (for garnish)
- Make the quinoa: in a fine mesh strainer, rinse it thoroughly under cool running water and allow to drain.
- Place the drained quinoa in a saucepan with the 2 cups of filtered water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for about 20 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Allow the quinoa to stand covered in the pan for about 5 minutes before fluffing it with a fork.
- Make the carrots: heat the ghee, olive, or coconut oil in a skillet of medium heat. Add the cumin seeds to the pan, and stir for a few minutes to release their fragrance. Add the carrots, curry, and salt to the pan and cook, stirring often, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Add the scallions, stir, and cook for a few minutes more before adding the kale. Stir again, turn off the heat, and cover the pan, allowing the kale to steam for a few minutes.
- Transfer the warm quinoa and cooked vegetables to a large mixing bowl, toss to combine, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve, adding fresh chopped cilantro to each portion.
Additional Cooking Notes
- You’ll know the quinoa is done when you see a little beige curl in the seeds. This is the germ separating from the seed.
- Before adding the chopped cilantro to the quinoa, carrots, and kale, survey your audience. Some people just don’t have a taste for cilantro (apparently it’s a genetic thing), but others (like me), enjoy generous amounts of this healthy herb.
Photos by Shiraz Leyva