Tag Archives: Quinoa

Fried Rice-Style Quinoa with Grilled Pineapple & Cashews

23 May

It probably seems like I’ve completely disappeared off the face of the online world, and to be honest, it kind of feels that way from my end too. But as Neil said in his last post, life has been busier than ever and it’s not only been hard to get back into the groove of blogging, but cooking as well.

But a few nights ago I had a strange craving that sparked some much-needed inspiration and led me right back into the kitchen to turn an idea into a reality. It felt good. Oh, how I’ve missed feeling inspired and motivated in my poor little neglected kitchen.

The unusual craving was for fried rice with lots of veggies. I have absolutely no idea where that came from because I rarely eat fried rice in the first place. But there it was.

I wanted to turn my craving into a one-dish meal that was actually somewhat healthy, so I immediately defaulted to one of my favorite ingredients: quinoa. I wanted to keep it vegetarian so I planned to add a ton of vegetables and some scrambled egg, which is delicious in fried rice anyway. But then thoughts of perfectly grilled pineapple and crunchy cashews invaded my brain and I knew that I had a complete dish on my hands.

Once again Neil made an immediate judgmental face when I told him what I was going to make for dinner. It’s his shtick when it comes to quinoa. He tells himself that he hates it and assumes it’s going to be terrible no matter what I do to it. But seeing as how we’ve been too lazy to cook lately and there I was offering to take care of dinner on my own, he quieted down pretty fast. 

But just as I expected, after a few apprehensive bites, he was in. I could see him liking it more and more as he ate and by the time the plate was completely clean, he admitted that it was a pretty awesome meal that he would absolutely eat again.

I used organic quinoa and I have no idea if it actually made a difference or not, but I will say that once it was cooked, it was totally neutral and had no trace of that sometimes strange/bitter flavor that quinoa can have. I did still rinse it really well before cooking it, but either way, the quinoa took on the flavors of fried rice beautifully.

The pineapple and cashews were such a delicious addition and because I used so much garlic and ginger, there were a few layers of flavor that came through. It would be really great with tofu either instead of or in addition to the egg as well.

We took the leftovers for lunch the next day and ate it cold and it was still great. I may have even gotten a mid-day email from my lovely husband telling me again how much he liked it.

I’ve really missed enjoying the fruits of my labour in the kitchen. There’s nothing like coming up with a great idea, seeing it through and enjoying its success. Especially when your skeptical husband admits you were right… that’s always a bonus.

Fried Rice-Style Quinoa with Grilled Pineapple & Cashews

Sesame oil

½ large white onion

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large knob of ginger, chopped

Carrots, chopped

Oyster mushrooms, chopped

Broccoli florets

3 Eggs

Tamari soy sauce (or regular soy sauce)

Fresh lime

Green onion, chopped

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

3-4 fresh pineapple rings

Handful of cashews, roughly chopped

Rinse the quinoa really well under fast-running cold water. Bring the 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and add the rinsed quinoa. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for approximately 12 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, cover and set aside. 

Heat a grill pan on high heat until it’s really hot. Place the pineapple rings in the pan and grill on each side until the outside has nice dark grill marks and is nicely caramelized. Take off the heat and set aside.

Heat a wok or large pan on medium high heat until really hot. Add some sesame oil and the onion. Cook until the onion is nice and brown. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add in the chopped carrot and broccoli florets and cook for a few more minutes.  Add the chopped mushroom and keep cooking until any moisture has evaporated. I raised the heat slightly to help cook off the liquid from the mushrooms.

Add some soy sauce (to taste) into the pan and stir-fry well.

Add the cooked quinoa to the stir-fried vegetables and mix. I added a touch more sesame oil to flavor the quinoa and to help it stir-fry in the pan as well. Drizzle in more soy sauce, if needed, and squeeze the juice of half a lime overtop. Mix well.

Whisk the eggs in a small bowl. Make a well in the centre of the hot pan and add in the eggs. Scramble in the pan and then mix to distribute through the quinoa.

Plate the stir-fried quinoa and add the grilled pineapple on top. I chopped the pineapple into bite size pieces, but you can leave the rings whole. Top with chopped cashews and green onion and serve with a lime wedge and some sriracha for a bit of heat.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Quinoa Stuffing

23 Dec

I don’t want to clutter up this post with a ton of text because really I just want you to read this recipe and then try it. Immediately.

I made this one up on the spot after a holiday craving hit me hard. See, I kind of have a thing for stuffing. Some might say that it’s even a mild love affair.

I’ve never attempted to make it myself though. Real holiday stuffing is always a treat that I look forward to eating at other people’s houses but once a year. A cousin of ours makes the most perfect stuffing involving sausage and holiday spices and I crave it the whole year long. She even goes as far as forming it into balls, and frying them up to serve as a cocktail appetizer. A-mazing.

I don’t think I could ever top that, but I think I may have come close this time. As close as a healthy vegetarian version can get, that is.

The other night, as dreams of holiday deliciousness were floating around in my head just days before Christmas, an idea came to me. I figured there had to be a way to bring together the flavors of holiday stuffing and the vegetarian ingredients that I knew I had in my kitchen.

And so, quinoa stuffing with roasted butternut squash came to be.

I will definitely be making this all year round to satisfy my love affair as I wait for the treat of ‘the real thing’ during the holidays.

But this version comes with zero guilt and no need to unbutton your pants at the end of the meal. That is strictly reserved for once-a-year gluttony.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Quinoa Stuffing

1 butternut squash, halved lengthwise (seeds and pulp removed)

1 cup red quinoa

2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 large shallot, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

Handful of dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water, water reserved

Handful of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

Olive oil

Handful of dried cranberries

Handful of pine nuts

Fresh or frozen spinach

Panko bread crumbs (or regular bread crumbs if you don’t have panko, or no breadcrumbs if you want to keep it vegan)

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375F (190C).

Brush olive oil all over the flesh side of the squash and place the halves flesh-side down on a baking sheet or into a glass baking dish. Bake for 40 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, bring the quinoa and vegetable broth to a boil. Reduce heat and let the quinoa simmer for about 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Set aside.

Toast the pine nuts in a small pan over medium low heat until browned and fragrant. Remove from heat, place in a bowl to cool and set aside.

When the butternut squash comes out of the oven, the hollowed-out ends of each half may fall apart. Cut the ends off and scoop the flesh out into a bowl. Scoop out some flesh from the remaining squash halves to form a cavity in each.

In a large pan, sauté the garlic and shallot in a good amount of olive oil. Add rosemary, cook for a few minutes.

Roughly chop the reconstituted mushrooms and add them to the shallot and garlic mixture. Cook for a few minutes and then add half the mushroom water. Cook until liquid is absorbed.

Add spinach and mix.

Add the cooked quinoa and squash that was scooped out and set aside. Mix and mash squash into the mixture.

Season with salt and pepper. Add the rest of the mushroom liquid and mix.

I drizzled a little bit more good quality olive oil into the mixture to add richness.

Add toasted pine nuts and cranberries. Mix well and let the stuffing heat through.

Spoon quinoa stuffing into the cavity of each squash half. Sprinkle with panko bread crumbs.

Put them back into the oven for approx 15 minutes or until the panko is lightly browned and everything warms through.

Serve with a lightly-dressed leafy salad.

Serves 2 really hungry people as a meal (with leftover stuffing to be enjoyed the next day!) or 4-5 as a side dish.

Quinoa Pasta with Broccoli, Spinach, Shrimp and Preserved Lemon

3 Nov

I’ve wanted to try quinoa pasta for a long time and finally found it locally yesterday at Better Bulk in the east end in Toronto. I’ve been feeling under the weather lately and recently discovered that my iron levels are low, so I’ve been trying to eat lots of veggies and fruit that are high in iron and vitamin C.

And that’s what lead to me to cook up this awesome, flavorful dish.

I wanted to make something with the quinoa pasta that included a good protein, vitamin-rich vegetables and some citrus. Iron is better absorbed with the addition of vitamin C, and broccoli and spinach naturally have both. And I knew I wanted a lemon-ey kick and remembered that I had some leftover preserved lemon slices from this amazing salad that I made a few days ago (which by the way, is incredibly time consuming but fully worth it).

It came together beautifully. The quinoa pasta was delicious and even closer in texture to real pasta than rice pasta. The brand I bought, GoGo Quinoa, uses a blend of organic rice flour and quinoa flour. It’s gluten free and high in protein, fiber and iron. I was afraid that it might have that slightly bitter taste that quinoa usually has and that Neil hates, but it tasted clean and neutral which meant the ingredients in the dish really came through. Best of all, I didn’t feel disgustingly full and weighed down, like I normally do after a big bowl of regular pasta.

The preserved lemons are SO worth the effort. And to be honest, it didn’t take much effort at all. You can make a batch and throw them into all kinds of dishes. They kind of brighten up a dish, not just in appearance, but in flavor too. They’re packed with intense lemony goodness and almost explode in your mouth with every bite.

Have you guessed yet that quinoa is one of my favorite foods? I just love that it’s so good for you, so perfectly balanced, so versatile, and tastes great. Neil’s still on the fence, but I think he may be coming around… Or at least, the more I force feed it to him, the more he seems to enjoy it. Either way, there were no complaints with this delicious and healthful meal.

Quinoa Pasta with Broccoli, Spinach, Shrimp and Preserved Lemon

1 large shallot, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 bunch broccoli cut into small pieces (including pieces of trunk, cut into rounds)

Big handfuls of fresh spinach

Fresh or frozen shrimp

Olive Oil

White Wine

Fresh lemon juice

Chili flakes

‘Quick-Preserved’ lemon slices, chopped (*recipe below)

Parsley, chopped (Parsley is also high in Vitamin C and Iron, and a much needed ‘finisher’ to most pasta dishes anyway!)

Parmesan Cheese to grate on top

Quinoa Pasta, cooked al dente and drained, but with a bit of water still reserved.

Sauté shrimp in a large hot pan with a little bit of olive oil, until cooked through. Be careful not to over-cook them. Transfer them to a plate.

In the same pan, add a good amount of olive oil and sauté garlic and shallot for a few minutes. Add the broccoli and some chili flakes and sauté for a few more minutes. Add a bit of white wine to the pan and simmer off the alcohol. Add a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice (about half a lemon) and the fresh spinach. Sautee until the spinach is wilted.

Add back in the cooked shrimp and mix. Add your cooked quinoa pasta right into the pan (it should be wet with a bit of the water it cooked in). Mix well and season with salt and pepper and a bit more lemon juice and/or olive oil, to taste. Mix in the chopped preserved lemon slices.

Plate the pasta in large bowls and top with a good amount of chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.


Quick-Preserved Lemon (from Epicurious/Bon Appetit)

1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

4 teaspoons coarse sea salt

Mix lemon slices, lemon juice, and coarse sea salt in small skillet. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cool. Using a sharp knife, cut slices in half, then cut pulp away from peel; discard pulp.

If you make these ahead of using them and want to store them in the fridge, keep the liquid and store the lemon peel slices in the fridge in an airtight container covered in the liquid until you’re ready to use them. Before adding them to a dish, rinse the liquid off.








Quinoa with Fennel, Olive and Citrus

20 Oct

Quinoa is one of my favorite foods and I’m always looking for new ways to spruce it up. I came up with this dish based on a salad I quickly threw together a few weeks ago with tomato, orange and olives drizzled with olive oil and salt. We ate the salad with some sautéed fennel and a piece of salmon and the combination of flavors on the plate were perfect.

Fennel is delicious no matter how you eat it, but something magical happens when you cook it down in a little bit of olive oil and really let it get soft and sweet. It becomes rich and almost creamy and full of flavor.

Neil has been adding a touch of fennel pollen to our sautéed fennel these days, and it really helps add depth to the flavor. You can find it at specialty food stores or spice markets. We bought one little jar of fennel pollen a long time ago and it’s lasted a long time because you really only need a little to make a big impact. It’s very pungent and powerful stuff but it’s so good that I don’t know how our kitchen could ever be without it. Neil’s dad actually adds a touch of Sambuca to his fennel when he sautés it (cooking off the alcohol but keeping the licorice-ey flavor), which gives a similar effect and is also delicious.

To make this quinoa salad, I pulled together the flavors from the olive salad and the sautéed fennel, and decided that some toasted almonds would be the perfect addition to bring it all together. In my opinion, they made the dish. I was so happy with the way this turned out. It was savory and a little sweet, salty and crunchy. You can serve this hot or cold, but I preferred it cold served as a salad. It makes a perfectly balanced and filling lunch or a great side dish.

Quinoa with fennel, olive and citrus

1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa * Make sure to rinse your quinoa very well in warm water before cooking it. Rinsing it takes away the strange bitter flavor and leaves you with a clean-tasting quinoa

Cherry tomatoes, halved

1-2 Oranges, segmented and chopped

Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped (I think any variety of olive would work well in this, even green ones)

1 head of Fennel, chopped into small bite-size pieces – keep the fennel fronds (the gorgeous stringy bits that come out of the head of the vegetable)

Fennel Pollen

A bunch of slivered almonds, toasted and cooled (I toast mine quickly in a pan on medium heat, constantly stirring them until they smell toasty and turn a nice light brown)

Lemon Juice

Apple Cider Vinegar or Rice Wine Vinegar

Good Olive Oil

Sea Salt

Heat a good amount of olive oil in a pan and add the chopped fennel. Sautee for about 5-10 minutes, until the fennel gets very soft and caramelized. You can add a bit of water or white wine and cook it off to help the fennel soften. Add some salt as it’s cooking. Once it’s cooked down and soft, sprinkle with some fennel pollen, mix and let cool.

Once your cooked quinoa has cooled, add the tomatoes, orange segments, olive pieces and toasted almond slivers. Add in the cooled fennel.

Drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add a bit of apple cider or rice wine vinegar (to taste, really) and some coarsely ground sea salt. Add a bunch of fennel fronds to top it off – they add a hit of bright green and some extra fennel-ey flavor.

C’est tout! You can refrigerate to let the flavors come together and serve cold. It actually tastes even better after a day in the fridge.

%d bloggers like this: