High in the Andes Mountains, my husband Rod and I rolled into Cusco, Peru with our explorer spirits leading the way. We were on a mission to see Machu Picchu, Wayna Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Maras, Moray and Pisac. Not knowing exactly where we were going and being slightly overwhelmed with the amount of people offering us transportation, we sidestepped to call a number of a car service a friend had given us back in the States. In no time a 4.5 foot tall gentleman with dark hair, chestnut eyes and a giant, toothy smile appeared in front of us. He agreed to our itenerary and we set out to discover the remains of the oldest known complex civilization in all of the Americas.
En route to Ollantaytambo we drove through wide-open spaces and fields upon fields of some sort of agriculture. I was taking in every sound, sight and smell of the scenery that I could to completely connect with the moment. It was tranquil to stare in a rhythmic gaze at the continuous mystery stalks passing my window. I took a deep breath in. The air was brisk and sacred.
Suddenly, our guide pulled to the side of the dirt road and opened his door to get out. We followed him to the edge of the farmland and watched him with lifted hands stand in a salute to all that was before him. What had seemed beautiful before as we drove by was in no comparison to the beauty I saw up close. Majestic clusters of cones gathered together, lifting themselves upwards towards the sky. The cones were made up of tiny, round balls with stalks of magenta supporting them. “Quinoa” (keen-wah), he said holding one up to my face. Suddenly a surge of excitement overtook me. I had been eating quinoa for years! I knew the super powers those little seeds gave to humans and how the indigenous people had been eating them for possibly the past 5,000 years.
As I took the stalk of quinoa from his hand, I paused for a moment to appreciate and absorb the vitality in this ancient grain. It felt like a cherished gift and I felt a connection to the humanity who has been growing and eating this miracle plant for longer then my brain could comprehend. My heart was full of gratitude to Pachamama for this and all of her blessings.
The next morning for breakfast at our lodge (Apu Lodge) I spotted a cereal that looked like quinoa only it had a smaller sized grain. Come to find out, it was puffed Amaranth, another pseudo-grain, that is a popular Peruvian desayuno (Spanish for ‘breakfast’) item. I tasted it with almond milk and was surprised at how well it worked as a cereal. Surely my beloved quinoa could fit the breakfast bill too. When we returned home to Miami I started playing around with using quinoa in place of the traditional oats I always use in making my granolas. Come to find out, quinoa bakes really well! We are big granola eaters in our house so this discovery was huge! Not only did I find a new variety of granola for us but also a new way to eat quinoa. Double score!
Although Quinoa has been called the “Mother of Grains”, it is actually a seed. It is a complete plant protein and one of the few plants containing all nine essential amino acids. This is rare in the plant world. Quinoa is gluten-free, nutrient-rich, and full of fiber. In my opinion, it is a staple in the vegetarian and vegan diet because of these benefits, as well as its protein content. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8.14 grams of protein. It really does a body good!
There are around 3,000 varieties of quinoa. I usually see four different colors here in the states: red, white, black and rainbow (tri-color). White is the most common kind but I have not found significant differences between the colors, other then the way they look! Nutrition and flavor seem to be pretty similar across the board. I am drawn to different colors depending on the recipe I use them in. For this one I chose white quinoa but feel free to use whichever one you like.
If you have not bought quinoa before, check out the grain aisle at your grocery store. I reach for brands like Alter Eco and I heart Keenwah. Both of these brands are fair trade and organic. These things matter to me and I always look for these words on labels. Fairtrade is important because it is a farming certification that establishes relationships with the small farmers who grow the quinoa to make sure they are earning a living wage. Organic labels mean that the quinoa hasn’t been grown with GMO’s or pesticides. This helps protect the earth and keeps crops growing sustainably.
There are several different ways we like to eat this quin-ola granola. Currently, our favorite is mixed in a bowl of yogurt. I like Kite Hill plain almond milk yogurt and my son, EO likes Redwood Hill Farm plain goat milk yogurt. We eat quin-ola with plain yogurt so that the granola is what adds a splash of sweetness to the dish. We also enjoy eating quin-ola with Malk pure almond milk or simply straight out of the bag. You can also heat this up for a porridge style breakfast. I make it with 1 cup of quin-ola and ½ cup of milk on the stove (we avoid microwaves) for 2 minutes on high heat.
*If you are eating a low sugar diet or don’t eat maple syrup, simply omit this ingredient in the recipe. It will still have a touch of sweetness from the raisins.
*If you do not eat nuts, simply omit the pecans. You could replace it with sunflower seeds, hemp seeds or add more sesame, pumpkin seeds and raisins.
You will need these ingredients:
Step by Step
You can store leftovers in a sealed container at room temperature for a month or in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.
I will leave you with these inspiring words we saw in Saqsaywaman, the ruins above Cusco. “Continue to Continue”. Do you find it as comical as we did? It is quite an obvious statement but compelled us to keep going. Which is exactly the suggestion I would like to offer up in the challenging times we are living in. Continue to continue, showing up for yourself and others. Continue to continue in vibrations of love that lift up and unite us. Never underestimate the power of a smile, a kind word or your positive thoughts and prayers.
Savor the moment,