Do you ever just get tired of your staples? I do. I get bored SO easily. And that is sometimes a problem because we do eat a lot of rice. I switch up the main part of our dinners with a lot of variety. But unless I’m making something like pasta for dinner, our evening meals usually involve a serving of rice – usually brown rice. Sometimes I feel like I would love to mix it up and have a rice pilaf or a risotto, but when I look at the nutrition labels I practically chuck the boxes back at the shelves in the grocery aisle and run away in horror. (Not that that stops me from eating it in restaurants. Because in restaurants there are no nutrition labels and I can pretend it’s not that unhealthy. Just like when I tell myself ice cream is a good source of calcium. And that second glass of red wine is really just doubling the benefits to my heart.)
But then I thought about the possibility of using other alternatives that are healthier than rice. I initially wanted bulgur, but bulgur is really hard to find in this town. Unless you want to go to the co-op. But our co-op is kind of far from me, and I really didn’t feel like going out on a trek for just one ingredient because, hey, I’m lazy efficient. So I decided to go with quinoa. Pronounced kinwa, quinoa is kind of a grain, but it’s high in protein, fiber, magnesium and iron, but lower in carbs than rice and it’s gluten-free.
So. I give you my veggie-rich pilaf alternative!
Here’s what you need:
Quinoa, broth (any kind will do), olive oil, garlic powder, carrot, zucchini, scallions, flax seeds, chili powder, dijon mustard, lemon juice, (salt optional). And of course, I forgot to put the dijon mustard and lemon juice in the photo because I always manage to forget an ingredient or two to include in the photo. That’s what happens when I post too long after I’ve made the dish. But too late now. It’s Saturday night, all the good light is gone, and my hubby’s waiting on me for us to go out. So this’ll just have to make do.
To serve two:
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup broth (you can use any kind: vegetable, mushroom, chicken, etc.)
2 tsp olive oil
2-3 dashes of garlic powder
2 tsp lemon juice
1 carrot (or about 1/2 cup, minced)
1-2 zucchini (or about 1 cup, minced)
1 scallion, chopped
1 tsp flax seeds (gives a nice added nutty flavor and is a good source of your omega-3s and fiber)
1 tsp dijon mustard
pinch of salt (optional)
hint of chili powder (if you like a little spice in your life)
Here’s what you do:
1. Cut up the carrot and zucchini into tiny little minced pieces. Chop the scallion.
2. Wash the quinoa. It cooks basically just like rice. If you have a rice cooker, this becomes SO EASY. But if you don’t, you can cook it stove-top. Put the quinoa into the rice cooker or pot. Add broth of your choice. (Water is fine too, but broth adds more flavor.) Add olive oil, garlic powder, carrots, zucchini, flax seeds, dijon mustard, lemon juice and a pinch of salt.
3. Cook as per directions on the quinoa box. Again, if you have a rice cooker, it cooks just like rice. If you’re doing it stove-top, you’ll probably need to bring it to a boil, then simmer, covered, just until the broth is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).
4. Serve topped with chopped scallions and a hint of chili powder.
And it’s quite yummy! Even my hippie-grain-skeptic of a hubby enjoyed it because the broth adds a richness to the nutty flavor and the mustard adds a hint of spice that’s a little more complex than just chilies. Anyway, it’s nice for when you just want to switch things up. I served it with spice-rubbed grilled chicken and a salad with a balsamic vinaigrette and all the flavors complemented each other quite nicely. Great for a simple mid-week meal.
And I title this after Don Quixote. Because why? ‘Cuz Quixote and quinoa both begin with q-u-i, that’s why. ‘Cuz with all the health benefits and ease of cooking, it really is nothing like quixotic. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. But whatevs.