Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") is often called a grain, but it's actually the seed of a plant related to amaranth, grown in South America (the Incas held it as sacred & worshipped it). Quinoa has an extremely high protein content, contains balanced essential amino acids, is a good source of dietary fiber and minerals and is also gluten-free. It also has a low glycemic index, making it a great substitution for high-GI foods like short-grain rice.
Quinoa purchased in bulk has a natural coating of saponin to protect the seed; this coating is bitter and needs to be removed. If your quinoa has a waxy coating, simply soak the quinoa in water for 2 hours, then change the water and soak another hour. Then, rinse thoroughly in a fine-mesh strainer under cold running water. Most boxed quinoa has already been cleaned for convenience; the bulk quinoa that I buy locally has been cleaned, so I simply rinse the quinoa for 1-2 minutes in a strainer under cold running water.
Quinoa is cooked exactly like rice, in a 1:2 ratio with water or broth (for a more al dente texture, use a 1:1 1/4 ratio). Once cooked, it has a fluffy texture and a mild but nutty flavor. Quinoa can be cooked on the stovetop or in an electric rice cooker, and only takes about 15-20 minutes. I like to mix quinoa into salads, pilafs, or even mixed into vegetarian-friendly burgers with lentils, mushrooms or black beans. It's also great as a breakfast, mixed with honey or maple syrup and topped with fruit or nuts.
I prefer to cook quinoa in a rice cooker; simply combine 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water/broth/stock in a rice cooker. Cover/close the rice cooker and turn on; the quinoa will be perfectly cooked in about 15-20 minutes.
To cook quinoa on the stovetop, simply combine the quinoa and 2 cups of water/broth/stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed (it will look as if the seed has grown a small tail). Let stand 3-4 minutes or until fluffy. Honestly, I am TERRIBLE at cooking rice on the stovetop, so I just stick to the rice cooker.
Cooked quinoa will keep in the refrigerator for about 1 week.