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Quinoa, Beets and Orange

For as often as we eat quinoa, I realized it has a relatively small presence on the blog.  I’d say at least once a week (if not more) quinoa will show up in some form for lunch or dinner – or breakfast on occasion.  So when my aunt emailed me asking for a more ideas on how to use the protein-packed seed, I picked up my camera and snapped a few pics of the lunch I was making right when she wrote.

And no surpise that it was a quinoa salad.


If you aren’t familiar with this ancient ingredient, although it seems like a grain, it is actually a chenopod and is related to beets and spinach.  It is also one of the few plant-based foods that is a complete protein, so it a great thing to incorporate into meals that don’t contain meat (which everyone can use a few of, carnivore or not :)).

For this version, I roasted beets in my new favorite way.  Instead of peeling the beets after they are cooked (and HOT and messy), just quickly run a vegetable peeler around the root before roasting.  A quick cut, a small douse of olive oil, salt and pepper, and a sprinkling of fresh herbs (if you have any handy) and pop them into a 400ºF oven and roast for about 30-40 minutes, flipping them once during that time.

Roasting Beets


Hello – why are all beets not roasted like that??? You know those good crusty nubs that form on the edges of anything you roast?  Well, now beets finally have that!  Old method of individually wrapping unpeeled beets in foil – g’bye!

After that, I just tossed in a segmented orange (I used a blood orange because it it January and I love them), some pan-roasted tofu (again, new method there – non-stick skillet is MANDATORY, requires almost no oil!!), some lettuce, and a quick bit of olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt and pepper.  Since the beets and tofu were seasoned during cooking, it didn’t take too much more.

I know this is hardly a recipe, but I love getting new ideas for how to keep simple and inexpensive meals from getting boring, and I think this one fits the bill nicely!

Let me know your favorite things to pair with quinoa!

Quinoa and beet salad

As we already discussed, there is no real recipe here, so I am not going to write up non-exsitant dressing proportions, but here is how to cook quinoa if you are not familiar with it.

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Not too long ago, I made my first twitter inspired meal. I know there are tons of people who post short ‘recipes’ on twitter and so I can imagine that many folks have already had their first “twitter dinner.” But to be honest, I still don’t really “get” twitter and so this is all still new to me – I understand it in theory, but I don’t tweet all that often and use it more to see what is going on with friends and bloggers I like.

So it seemed quite serenditpitous when I was already planning on a big quinoa salad for dinner to see @CannelleVanille tweet “making pumpkin seed, watercress and lemon pesto for quinoa tonight. Sans cheese this time.”

I remembered I had some pumpkin seeds (or pepitas) in the pantry from a random bulk bin binge.  This would be great – something not totally expcted, but still simple, easy and healthy (which is I was obviously looking for with quinoa salad dinner plans).


Turns out I didn’t have watercress on hand, so I went with a parsley pesto – I know not totally similar and might not be everyone’s fave, but I love parsley and will take  excuse to move it from the garnish column to ingredient (plus it was the only “leafy green” in the fridge). And unlike Aran, I did add in the cheese, because I wanted that extra richness, and who are we kidding … I rarely pass on the cheese.

To make it a meal, Read the rest of this entry »


I like to make a big grain salad to have on hand for lunch during the week.  They pack well, keep well and well, make me feel better than most other things I would come up with for lunch.

Quinoa is a fave of mine, and I often change up the veggies, but keep the dressing the same – some version of a vinaigrette to flavor it all.  So when Heidi reposted this double broccoli quinoa on 101 cookbooks this week, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.

Especially when it packs a little punch with chile oil.  The heat is important against all the other good-for-you stuff.


I am a big fan of pestos, especially non-basil ones, and so the thought of a broccoli pesto was right up my alley.

I changed it slightly from Heidi’s and a traditional one, as I omitted the parmesan.  Shocking that I left out the cheese, but I figured it wouldn’t really be missed – and I was right.  Plus, then I could amp up with more feta at the end.

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For quinoa cakes
3 scant cups water*
1 1/2 cup quinoa
1 clove garlic, peeled but still whole
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 t. salt
zest of 1 lemon (depending on your zester, chop the zest so its finely minced)
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
For topping
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/4 t. salt, divided
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 carrot, peeled and finely grated
1/4 t. dried chili flakes
2 T. olive oil
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Make quinoa cakes:
Rinse the quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer. Note – I find this to be the biggest pain that no one mentions!!  The quinoa grains are so tiny they either slip through or stay behind in the strainer.  My fix is to line the strainer with a paper towel, and then once rinsed, I transfer the quinoa with the paper towel to the saucepan with water, and then just toss the paper towel.  Its not perfect, but better than nothing.  DOUBLE NOTE – I think Viva paper towels are the best, so i can’t promise this would work with ones not so sturdy…
In a medium saucepan heat the quinoa and water until boiling (I throw in the garlic clove too for a hint of flavor.  *If you want a richer base, you can substitute the water for chicken or veggie stock). Cover, reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, about 15 minutes. Quinoa is done when you can see the spiral germ in each grain, and it is tender but still with a bit of bite. Drain any extra water and transfer to a bowl to cool, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Stir in egg, oregano, salt, pepper and the zest of lemon to combine.
Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and brush with oil (or a quick spritz of cooking spray).  Using your hands, make quinoa balls, packing together firmly – about the size of large meatballs or a tennis ball?? – and then place on the backing sheet.  (If you read the original recipe – the technique for this was so complicated I could hardly read it, let alone do it!)  Chill the cakes, uncovered, in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, up to 1 hour.
Make Ragu while quinoa cooks and chills:
Toss eggplant cubes with 1 teaspoon salt in a colander and drain 30 minutes. Squeeze handfuls of eggplant to extract liquid, then pat dry.
Heat a heavy bottomed pot or skillet to medium with oil.  Add eggplant and onion, cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally as onions and eggplant begin to soften.  Add garlic, carrots, chili flakes and oregano and continue cooking about 2 minutes (I don’t add these right away as they have a tendency to burn.) Also, the addition of the carrot is a trick from the other orange inspiration, America’s favorite Italian chef.  The carrots adds a bit of sweetness, which is a nice balance to the acid in tomatoes and the slight bitterness that eggplant can have.
Add the tomatoes with juice and the additional water, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until the ragu thickens nicely.
Cook quinoa cakes:
Preheat oven to 200 .
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy bottom skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Carefully add quinoa balls (I was able to fit 4) to the oil, gently flattening out with a spatula.  Cook for about 5 minutes on the first side until golden.  DO NOT turn them too early, and let them cook a minute longer than you think.  It will help develop an even tastier crust and keep them together for the flip.  Carefully turn the cakes and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes until crisp and golden, adding a touch more oil if you think necessary.
Transfer cooked cakes to baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm while you cook the remaining cakes.
To serve:
Plate two cakes per person, with a spooning the ragu over the top.  Sprinkle with pecorino or parmigano and parsley. Spoon over quinoa cakes, then sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
Serves 4.
Additional notes:
**  The original recipe included smoked mozzarella in the ragu.  I think that would be awesome (or a good feta), but I wasn’t going to the store.  This was simply going to be a “work with what you have” type dinner.
**  The cakes were also excellent on day 2 – I didn’t cook them all up at night, since there are only 2 of us, and quickly fried a cake for lunch the next day, served with cold ragu and garlic-yogurt-garlic sauce.
**  How great would these quinoa cakes be with eggs?  Poached or fried – what a great substitution for hash-browns or even and english muffin for a healthier eggs benedict.

I had every intention to make these.  Don’t they look amazing?  I even bought the eggplants.  Granted, I was going to change the recipe a bit (not because one should do that with anything Smitten Kitchen, but because I like to do dinner a few nights a week meat free, and thought this could be a good one). Switch out the meat for quinoa and mushrooms.  But then a few days passed and the mushrooms went into an impromptu chicken dinner and the eggplants needed to be cooked.


Thank goodness for the internet!  Seriously – how many cookbook indexes did one have to claw through before when looking for inspiration for a particular ingredient?  No thank you!

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Martha Stewart I am not -
I have no intention of
whittling my own table
and can handle a martini
like nobody's business -
but I do have lots of
great ideas on cooking,
entertaining, and living
that I want to share with you.

Together, perhaps we can find
ways to have a bit more fun!


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