There are many good reasons for getting to know – and love – whole grains. They are a stick-to-the-ribs kind of food that contain important nutrients and the fiber necessary for good health. Studies show that people who eat at least three servings of whole grains a day have a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. They also seem to maintain a healthy weight more easily.
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is commonly referred to as a grain, the individual “grains” being the plant’s actual seeds. Quinoa is a delicate-tasting alternative to rice and other grains, offering a mild, nutty flavor and a great deal of protein. It also contains saponins, which appear to fight a wide range of chronic diseases.
A staple of ancient Andean civilizations, today there are thousands of quinoa varieties, from pale ivory to yellow and even purplish black. Like so many grains, quinoa is as marvelously versatile as its flavor and texture, easy to prepare and complementary to virtually any entrée.
Here, garlic and onion jazz up its flavor, and thyme and lime juice accent the chicken and green beans. Good green beans are now available year round. Cooked together with canned tomatoes (high in the antioxidant lycopene), chicken broth and seasonings, the flavors of this dish meld nicely during the cooking process.
If you don’t have quinoa on your shelf and would like to substitute another whole grain instead, bulgur wheat, barley and brown or wild rice all work beautifully in this dish, bulgur being the fastest to prepare if time is a concern. You can also add leftover grains and serve with several different grains mixed together. Also, provide enough bulk and nutrition so that you can easily omit the meat for vegetarian friends or for those trying to cut back on fat intake.
Chicken with Quinoa
– Makes 4 servings.
- 1 Tbsp. canola oil
- 4 large skinless chicken thighs (about 1 lb.), bone in
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken
- 2 Tbsp. lime juice
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained
- 1/4 lb. fresh green beans, cut in 1-inc pieces
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
Heat oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add chicken and brown on both sides. Transfer chicken to a plate.
Add onions and garlic to the pan and sauté until onions are lightly browned, about 5 minutes, taking care that garlic doesn’t turn dark brown. Add tomatoes, chicken and any of its juices to pan. Add broth and lime juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, according to taste. Cover pan and simmer 20 minutes.
Add quinoa, green beans and thyme. Cover and cook until quinoa is cooked and beans are crisp-tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and let sit, covered, 10 minutes, until quinoa is fluffy and soft. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired, and serve.
Per serving: 231 calories, 7 g. total fat (1 g. saturated fat), 24 g. carbohydrate, 18 g. protein, 4 g. dietary fiber, 214 mg. sodium.
“Something Different” is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
AICR offers a Nutrition Hotline (1-800-843-8114) 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday-Friday. This free service allows you to ask a registered dietitian questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR is the only major cancer charity focused exclusively on the link between diet, nutrition and cancer. It provides a range of education programs that help Americans learn to make changes for lower cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S. It has provided more than $65 million for research in diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR’s Web address is www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.