Mind Your Qs, Help Your Diet

Is your midlife palate bored to ambivalence about mealtime? Often I lament the ho-hum of my menu repertoire, but I still go back to the tried and true in every food group. But recently, in an unlikely coincidence, I tried and enjoyed two new- to-me foods that begin with the letter Q: quinoa and quark.

Quinoa (KEEN wah) has been around for centuries, dating back to the Incas, but only popular in the recipe books for a few years. I didn’t try it sooner because I thought it was time consuming to prepare, but even with the required prerinse it can be ready to eat in 15 minutes and is available at any grocery store.

Quinoa is called a grain (and by some, “the perfect grain”) but it is actually a seed. It’s “perfect” because it provides high levels of protein and amino acids, has many minerals and is gluten-free. The flavor is a little nutty, and its unique texture is mildly chewy with a tiny crunch. I cook mine in broth and it absorbs flavors nicely. Quinoa can be eaten as a side dish or in a salad or casserole, like rice. You may think of the grain-shaped pasta called couscous when you see quinoa, but quinoa is smaller, not as soft and so much better for you. For quinoa recipes and tips, I suggest Savvy Vegetarian.

My German friends introduced me to quark. As much time as I spend in the grocery store, I had never heard of it! Quark is a fresh (not aged), soft cheese. A little like yogurt or whipped ricotta, it can be on the menu any time of day. I first had quark served with fresh fruit but have since experimented by mixing in savory spices to use as a dip and a baked-potato topper.

In Germany, quark is a dessert staple for cheesecake and other treats. With twice the calcium of cottage cheese, and half the carbs of low-fat yogurt, quark is very low in fat and high in protein. I found it in Whole Foods in tubs in the dairy aisle.

Add a “Q” to your menu this weektell us what you think.