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Kañiwa: A “New” Gluten-Free Ancient Grain

Always on the lookout for healthy grains for my gluten-free lifestyle, I came across a new one recently: Kañiwa. Well, actually it is really quite old.

Gluten-Free Kaniwa Boosts Nutrients in Salads

Gluten-Free Kaniwa Boosts Nutrients in Salads

Pronounced “ka-nyi-wa,” it is a cousin to quinoa, but only one-third the size of a quinoa seed. Notice I said “seed.” Technically, both quinoa and Kañiwa are seeds of a plant and are members of the goosefoot family which also includes beets, Swiss chard, and spinach. But we usually include seeds when we discuss grains because we cook them like grains. So, when I say “grains” I include seeds, as well.

Why Should You Eat Kañiwa? Like amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, and teff?Kañiwa is an ancient grain. It was originally cultivated thousands of years ago in the Andes of South America and was prized for its ability to thrive in harsh conditions as well as its nutritional content. It contains 16% protein, the highest of any grain, and has more fiber and antioxidant density than quinoa, which was considered to be the healthiest grain on earth. Kañiwa also has significant levels of calcium, zinc, and iron. In other words, it is just plain good for you!

Kañiwa is considered to be a whole grain because nothing has been removed during processing so I count it toward my daily intake of whole grains, which should be 3 to 5 servings (some experts recommend 6 servings) daily. Remember, 1/2 cup cooked whole grains is one serving so you only need to eat 1 ½ cups of cooked grains to reach the minimum. Not hard, considering today’s mega-portions.

How Can You Eat Kañiwa? The answer is “any way you want.” Its pleasing, nutty flavor won’t overpower other foods. One of the easiest ways to eat the whole grains is to cook it in water or broth, just like rice, for about 15 minutes, and then refrigerate it. Then eat it:

• as hot cereal (or tossed into other hot cereals)

•on top of mixed green salads (see photo) or as grain salads such as Tabbouleh

•in smoothies

•in puddings

• added to baked goods, perhaps ¼ to ½ cup in muffin or bread batter or perhaps waffle or pancake batter. It adds important protein and fiber, especially if our flour blends have lots of starches. The seeds are a dark color, so use it in items where this won’t hinder the food’s appearance.

Kañiwa is also available as flour for baking, so treat it the same way as other gluten-free protein flours. For example, use it as part of your gluten-free flour blend in:

•breads, muffins, and flatbreads

•bars, brownies, cakes, and cookies

•pancakes and waffles, or anything else you can think of

Again, just like the grains, the flour is darker in color (light brown) so I use it in darker baked goods such as chocolate desserts, darker breads such as Pumpernickel, or bars such as brownies or gingerbread. To get started, simply try adding ¼ cup to the batter or dough of your favorite recipe. With this little amount, you won’t need to adjust the liquids. Then next time, add more flour but, depending on the recipe, you will probably need to add more liquid.  You might increase the amount to the point where Kañiwa replaces all of the protein flour (e.g. sorghum, brown rice flour, or bean flour in your flour blend). Like any new ingredient, you can experiment to see what you and your family like.

Where Can You Buy Kañiwa? Look for Kañiwa in natural food stores, specialty stores, and online. The primary brands are Roland and Zocalo Gourmet. Store it in a dark, dry place and enjoy one of nature’s most nutritious foods.

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