Sprouted Quinoa: The Mother Grain

I fell in love with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) the first time I ever tried it in Ecuador. It's a staple food of the Quechua, the indigenous people of the South American Andes. The ancient Incas called quinoa the "mother grain" and revered it as sacred.

Technically, quinoa isn't a grain at all, but the seed of the Goosefoot plant. Grain. Seed. Whatever. I just love its delicate, slightly nutty flavor and the fact that it's gluten-free. It's also considered to be a complete protein due to the presence of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans. Grains like barley, wheat, and rice generally have less than half the protein of quinoa.

The seeds cook very quickly and always provided a nice, fluffy texture to my stews and soups. The thought of giving up my beloved little grain when I transitioned to a raw foods diet made me very sad. That is, until I discovered that quinoa seeds can be sprouted and eaten as raw, live food in salads and wraps. Turns out, it sprouts almost as quickly as it cooks. Well, not quite, but in 8-12 hours you have little baby quinoa sprouts. Hallelujah for the living mother grain!

For easy directions on sprouting quinoa, check out these Sprouting Instructions from the Sproutpeople®. And, from the basic to fancy schmancy, check out this assortment of sprouting kits.

Here's a couple of my favorite ways of enjoying quinoa in the raw.

Marinated Quinoa Salad

3 C sprouted quinoa
1/4 C olive oil
1 Tbsp tamari
juice of one lemon
juice of 1/2 lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
handful of fresh mint, rough chopped
10 grape tomatoes, sliced
1/2 onion, diced
1 cucumber, chopped
1/2 C red bell pepper, chopped
handful of goji berries

Marinate sprouted quinoa for 20 minutes in olive oil, tamari, citrus juices and garlic. Add mint, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, goji berries and toss. Serve on a bed of red and green leaf lettuce.

Quinoa Raisin Cookies
yields two dozen

1 C quinoa, soaked overnight and rinsed well
1 C almond meal **
1/2 C local raw honey or agave nectar
1 C raisins, soaked
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

Place quinoa, almond meal, honey, cinnamon and salt in a food processor and process until dough-like. Transfer dough to a large bowl and hand mix in the raisins.

Using a spoon for scooping, place small dollops on a dehydrator tray lined with a Teflex sheet. Use the bottom of a drinking glass to gently flatten. Tip: Wipe the bottom of the glass between cookies to prevent sticking.

Dehydrate at 105 degrees for 4 hours. Remove the Teflex sheet. Dehydrate another 4 hours. Climate, temperature and humidity all affect dehydrating time. The cookies should be crispy on the outside and still moist inside.

**Almond meal is raw, whole almonds that have been finely ground. I like Trader Joe's brand and you can't beat the price.

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