Spring Quinoa Salad and the Four-Hour Vacation


I decided something a few weeks ago. “Nothing” deserves a much higher place on my priority list. Recently we were given a rare gift – an extra weekend day, with no set plans and nowhere to go. Sure, the ever growing to-do list was still there. But the hubs and I decided to set it aside, pack a picnic and a deck of cards, and head to the park to check out Dallas’ new social oasis in the city – Klyde Warren Park. Side note for Dallas residents: If you haven’t been yet, I highly recommend making an afternoon out of it. It will make you excited for Dallas. Just go, you’ll see…

We parked it for about four hours. We ate lunch, listened to music (they were setting up for a concert that night), people watched, took silly pictures, played cards and just veged. It was like a little four-hour vacation. And it was for no reason other than to spend some time together doing nothing. It was awesome.




I decided to make a spring resolution to take more four-hour vacations. I realize resolutions are typically made at the beginning of a year, but I’ve always found the change of seasons to be the best time for a shift in routine or perspective. It’s a time for cleansing, renewal and starting fresh.

Speaking of fresh… I’m excited to share this delicious spring quinoa salad I made for our picnic. This was the first really springy-tasting dish I’ve made this year. I love that transition when you first have those foods and flavors that tell your taste buds its time for a change. What are your favorite spring meals to make?

Spring Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Radish and Basil


4 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 in. pieces
1/2 cup thinly sliced radish
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil
1/2 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
juice from 1 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper


Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus and sautee until tender. Add radish slices and corn and continue to cook 2-3 minutes until heated through. Stir in quinoa. Remove from heat, add basil.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over quinoa mixture and stir to mix evenly with dressing.


butternut squash + kale + white beans + quinoa

Things I will miss about winter:

1. My UGG boots
2. Using the excuse “It’s too cold” to do nothing but curl up and watch Bravo
3. Meals like this….

I’m coming to terms with the fact that this will likely be my last bite of butternut squash for awhile, which makes me a little sad. Is it weird to miss vegetables? Wait, don’t answer that… My husband on the other hand does not share my nostalgia for these peculiar-shaped roots. As the “chopper” of the household, he’d be happy if he never came head to head with one of these guys on the chopping block again. They sure are little boogers to get into, but man, it’s so worth it. That buttery flavor and heartiness make them the perfect healthy comfort food. Plus with their dye-your-skin-orange flesh they’re chock full of antioxidants to keep your immune system in tip-top shape, just when you need it the most.

Literally, all I did here is saute sliced red onion in a skillet. Add the squash. Then broth. Then kale. Then beans. Serve over quinoa and voila! You’ve got yourself a dinner that might make you miss b-squash too. It’s crazy healthy, and even crazier that it’s so delicious. I almost can’t believe it myself. Here’s the full recipe….

Butternut Squash with Kale and White Beans over Quinoa


  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small butternut squash. peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 bunch kale, torn into small pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, cut into thin crescents
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 can cannellini beans (or 2 cups cooked beans)

For the dressing (whisk all ingredients together to combine):

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper


Rinse and drain quinoa well. Bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil and add quinoa. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes until all of the water is absorbed.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about five minutes. Add squash and stir to coat with oil. Cook 7-10 minutes. When the edges of the squash begin to sear and stick to the pan, stir in the vegetable broth. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes. When the squash is soft, add kale and stir to combine. When the greens have reduced, add white beans and stir to combine.

Serve over quinoa; drizzle with lemon dressing.

And enjoy that last taste of winter.

As sad as I am to pack up my UGGs and say goodbye to b-squash, I’m just as excited to move on to spring. To help you get your body ready for the season, I’m offering a Spring Clean Your Body program. Now is the time we can all use a little spring cleaning — inside and out. Sessions can be done individually or with friends. For more information, click here.


Cranberry Apple Quinoa Stuffing

A new favorite at Thanksgiving this year was a gluten-free cornbread stuffing with cranberries and apples that came from the Gluten-Free Goddess (Thank you, Karina!). I thought the flavor combo was just too delicious to be reserved for only special occasions, so I tried making it a little simpler for something more weeknight appropriate and used quinoa instead of gluten-free cornbread. I use quinoa a lot (like here, here and here) because it’s such a versatile and incredibly good-for-you grain. Quinoa is like a lighter, finer rice. It’s ridiculously high in protein – and is actually the only grain that is a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids making it an excellent choice for vegetarians. It serves as the perfect base for pilafs and medleys, and works great as a side dish or tossed in a salad. You could serve this cranberry apple quinoa mixture on the side of roasted chicken or have it, like I did, simply over a bed of spinach. The flavors scream holiday and the spice from the curry powder and cinnamon warm you up from the inside out. Why not make a regular old Monday night in just a little more festive?

Cranberry Apple Quinoa Stuffing

What you need:

1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup red onion, chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, diced
1 cup cranberries, halved
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp thyme
1-2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp maple syrup
salt and pepper

What you do:

First, rinse the quinoa well and set aside. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized pot and then add the quinoa and little salt. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes or so, until all of the water is absorbed.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325. In a cast iron skillet (you’ll be transferring it to the oven later. If you don’t have cast iron, any skillet will do, you’ll just need to put everything in a baking dish when it comes time to bake). heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add thyme, curry powder and cinnamon and stir to flavor the oil. Add the onion, celery and apples and stir to coat everything evenly with oil. Continue cooking until the apples soften. Remove skillet from heat and add cranberries. Mix in quinoa and stir until evenly combined. Stir in vegetable broth, maple syrup and salt and pepper to taste.

Move the cast iron skillet to the oven (or transfer contents to a baking dish) and bake 20-25 minutes.

Serve over fresh spinach for a lighter meal or along with herb roasted chicken as a seasonal side dish.

Have leftovers? Throw it in with a mixed green salad for lunch.


Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash

One of my favorite things about fall is its iconic vegetables. I love all those funny-looking squashes and pumpkins that pop up in the store come September. They can be a little intimidating, but don’t let their thick-skinned tough exterior fool you. They’re all just softies on the inside. Winter squashes are starchy like potatoes because they’re mostly carbohydrate (but wait!). Unlike starchy potatoes and other refined carbs that don’t pack much else, these are loaded with antioxidents and are anti-inflammatory (double score). Their yellow-orange hues, just like citrus fruit, bell peppers and carrots, mean that they’re high in carotenoids and vitamin C, giving your immune system a boost… just what we all need as the seasons change and the sniffles start. They’re also a source of omega-3 fatty acids, an essential nutrient that protects us from inflammation and helps keep us balanced. It’s not as much as what you’d get from, say, walnuts or salmon, but there’s a decent amount considering squashes are vegetables and low in fat.

Steam, stew, bake or roast them. The ways of preparing these suckers are endless. And it can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. In this recipe, all I did with the squash was cut it in half, longwise down the middle. Rub the insides with a little extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper and lay both sides face down on a baking sheet.

I’ll leave you with the full recipe. And those brussels sprouts on the side are coming up next time…

Enjoy. Happy Fall!

Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash

What you need:

1 acorn squash, halved
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 currants
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup almonds, sliced
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

What you do:

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the seeds from the squash and brush the inside with 2 tbsp olive oil. Place squash face down on a foil covered baking sheet. Cook 20 minutes.

While the squash cooks, make the quinoa by first bringing 2 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until all of the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Allow quinoa to cook and then add the currants, almonds, parsley, remaining oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. (Side note: I used red quinoa, but any variety will do. Red, black and white (the most common) are available at most health food stores. I like the black and red varieties because they are a little sturdier so they mix well for salads.)

Fill inside of squash with quinoa mixture and serve.

This recipe serves two, but will provide enough quinoa salad for up to eight servings. Roast a few more squashes to feed a crowd, or use the leftover quinoa mixture to add to a green salad for tomorrow’s lunch. Just add spring mix and a bit more oil and vinegar. I’m all about the leftovers, and the short cuts. Cook once, eat twice!


Go Gourmet

I made this raspberry walnut quinoa-meal a few weeks ago for breakfast and since then it’s all I’ve wanted for breakfast. I’ve tried it several ways now reheating leftover quinoa with a little almond milk over the stove or in the microwave and then adding whatever is around that sounds good. I’ll add berries if I’ve got them. Or just stick with the more reliable stuff like walnuts, raisins, unsweetened coconut like in the picture here. Add a little cinnamon. Drizzle some honey over the top and OMG you’ve got something that looks way too fancy for the weekday. But you just made it in about two minutes in your kitchen. It doesn’t get any better than that right there. It’s Wednesday, go for the gourmet! Take the two minutes and splurge. It might be your only shot all day (yikes), so take it. Start it off better than everybody else. And enjoy it.

Now, here’s what you do for the fastest, most delicious, gourmet breakfast in a hurry…

Cook some quinoa early in the week and make enough so you’ll have leftovers.

Spoon some leftovers in a cereal bowl. Add enough almond milk (soy, coconut or cow’s milk works too) to moisten the grains and heat in the microwave for a minute, or until its warm. Add fruit, nuts, raisins, coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg… go crazy. Whatever sounds good to you will be delicious. Drizzle honey or agave nectar on top or sprinkle on a little sugar. The one below was with red quinoa. It tastes the same, but the grains turn out a little bigger and less mushy than the white kind.

And there you go. Instant vacation-grade breakfast… but so much better than anything you’d find in a continental buffet.


Raspberry Walnut Quinoa-meal

Any given day it’s a good bet that I have a bowl of cooked quinoa in the fridge. I make it a lot. Like here. And here. And there’s always leftovers. Usually I’ll eat it the next day with some cooked veggies, or I’ll add some to a salad. But now I’m gonna really get crazy here… How about quinoa for breakfast? Just reheat some leftover quinoa with milk (be it from a cow, coconut, almond or soy), add a little cinnamon, fruit, nuts and honey and you’ve got one fancy start to the day. It’s like grown-up oatmeal. Play around and try out your own combo, or follow this recipe…

Raspberry Walnut Quinoa-meal

What you need:

1 cup cooked quinoa
1/3 cup milk (cow, coconut, almond or soy)
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1 tbsp chopped, toasted walnuts
honey (or agave nectar)

What you do:
Combine leftover quinoa and milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Allow quinoa to absorb the milk. Once the liquid has been absorbed, add raspberries, walnuts and cinnamon. Transfer to bowl and drizzle with honey.

Starting from scratch? Here are the proportions:

1 cup uncooked quinoa (rinsed)
1 cup milk (cow, coconut, almond or soy)
1 cup water
2 cups raspberries
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup copped, toasted walnuts

culture, recipes

Delicious Quinoa Combos

Have you meet my friend Quinoa?

“Key no WHO?” If that’s your response then I take it you have not.

Quinoa – sounds like “KEEN-wah” – is part of the whole grains family but it’s actually a seed. I’ve mentioned it here. Think couscous, but with a nuttier flavor. When you cook it, the little seeds pop and they look like tiny spirals. Can you tell in the pic? It’s a nice change of pace from the standard brown rice. Plus it’s crazy good for you. It’s very high in protein (about 16%) and is one of the few vegetarian sources that’s considered a complete protein. It has all eight essential amino acids. And a serving has more calcium than a glass of milk. Talk about a match made in heaven for vegetarians. Did I mention it’s gluten free too? I haven’t even gotten to all the vitamins and fiber and folic acid in there. The stuff practically has super powers. So where did this grain come from and why are you just now in the year 2010 hearing about it?! Quinoa was the staple grain of the Incas. It’s what gave them the strength and stamina to run long distances across the desert. So they praised it and the land it came from. That little tid bit along with their and bloody sacrifices freaked out the conquistadors. People shouldn’t worship a seed they said. So quinoa was forbidden and cast into obscurity. If they’d only realized the health benefits and that it cooks in just 15 minutes! That’s my absolute favorite part. Just rise it, put it in a pot with the right amount of water, let it simmer and DONE! Eat it by itself or try one of these delicious combos… Don’t be afraid to mix it up and try your own. Have fun!

For each of these recipes, start with four cups cooked quinoa.


(makes 4 cups cooked quinoa)

What you need:

1 cup quinoa
1 3/4 cup water

What you do:

Rinse* the quinoa in a fine strainer. Combine quinoa and water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork when done.

Now your ready to make it unique. Try one of these…

Quinoa with Cranberries, Almonds & Parsley

What you need:

4 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup cranberries
1/4 sliced almonds
2 tbsp chopped parsley

What you do:

Mix the cranberries, almonds, parsley  into the quinoa. Combine well and chill in fridge.

Quinoa with Spinach and Feta

What you need:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup quinoa
1 3/4 cups water
3 cloves garlic
2 cups fresh spinach
2 oz. feta cheese

What you do:

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Addd garlic and cook 1-2 minutes until it’s lightly browning. Add quinoa and spinach. stir to combine and cook until spinach wilts. Remove from heat. Add feta and stir to combine evenly.

Tomato Basil Quinoa

What you need:

1 medium tomato, chopped OR  a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp basil, chopped
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

What you do:

Combine quinoa with tomatoes, basil, parsley and seasoning. Add balsamic vinegar just before serving.

*Rinsing removes the bitter tasting outside coating called saponin. Saponin is naturally occurring, but it’s toxic so it needs to be removed before cooking. If you buy grains in bulk you should always rinse them to remove any dust, dirt and whatever else may have found its way into those silos.


Butternut Squash Quinoa

Food & Wine’s recipe calls for couscous, but all I had was quinoa. I’d never cooked quinoa (sounds like key-NO-waa) before so why not try? It cooks like a grain, but it’s really a seed. Raw, it definitely looks like seeds. Bird seed, as Ashley put it. Cooked, it’s quite good though, and pretty funny looking….


There are lots of different grains (or seeds) out there, but we usually stick to what we know: wheat. Why not change things up a bit? The quinoa only takes about 15 minutes to prepare…. I’m getting ahead of myself here. Cooking the quinoa is one of the last steps. Let me back up. This dish is really a stew served over quinoa (or couscous). So, we’ll start with the stew… 

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 butternut squash (2 pounds), diced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups drained and rinsed canned chickpeas
  • 3/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley

Here’s what you do:

In a large soup pot (or dutch oven if you have one), heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add cayenne, cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic – stir together and cook another minute. Stir in tomatoes, squash, raisins, broth, and 1 tsp of salt. Bring to a simmer. Stir in chickpeas and cook, covered for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer until squash is tender, about 10-20 minutes more. When it’s just about done, stir in the parsley.

butternut-squash stew

NOW, for the quinoa….

What you need:

  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup quinoa

What you do:

In a medium sauce pan, bring the water and 1/4 tsp of salt to a boil. Stir in the quinoa. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. When all the water is absorbed, fluff the quinoa with a fork.
Serve the stew over the quinoa and top with sliced almonds. 

butternut-squash couscous

Critics (a.k.a. roommates) say: “Tastes like Christmas.” and “That tastes healthy!” (with a positive, delighted exclamation mark). Interesting contradiction, don’t you think? Christmas? Healthy? In the same dish? Is that allowed? Of course it’s also delicious, or I wouldn’t be telling you about it. The critics and I think it is at least. You’ll of course be the judge. Hope you enjoy!