Southwestern Quinoa Pilaf

I don’t know about you, but I am definitely a fan of quinoa. It’s just a great canvas for making great dishes – sort of like rice, but counts as a “superfood” and is just a little better for you. I hadn’t made quinoa in a while, and had about a cup left in a container in the pantry. Thankfully, I spotted this recipe over at Annie’s Eats several weeks ago, and it’s one of those recipes that you just can’t seem to get out of your head after you read about it.

It was a great side dish to accompany some chicken habanero patties that I had stashed away in the deep freeze. Dinner was delicious and filling, and there was enough quinoa leftover for lunch the next day.

Southwestern Quinoa Pilaf

adapted from Annie’s Eats 

  • 1cup quinoa, rinsed (you have to do this or else your quinoa will be bitter!)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1¾ cups water
  • ½ cup crumbled queso fresco or cojita cheese
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • juice of 1 lime
  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the quinoa and toast it stirring frequently, until it starts to sizzle a bit. Remove from heat & transfer the quinoa to a bowl.
  2. Put the pan back onto the burner and increase heat to medium.  Melt the butter and olive oil together.  Add the diced onion, chili powder, cumin and salt.  Cook until the onion begins to soften – stir occasionally.
  3. Once the onions are nice soft, turn the heat up to medium-high.  Add the quinoa back to the pan and add the water, bringing the mixture to a simmer.  Cover and reduce the heat to low, creating a simmer. Cook for 18-20 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Mix in the corn and remove the pan from the heat and let sit, still covered, for 10 more minutes.  Remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork.  Add the cheese, scallions and lime juice; toss to combine.

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I could not find queso fresco at the store – they were out – so I had to substitute in cojita cheese. The saltiness of the cheese really complimented the dish, so it is a nice replacement if you can’t find the fresco. Corn was not in the original recipe either, but I think it really worked well in the pilaf. If you want to spice it up even more, add some crushed red pepper in with the spices. You won’t be disappointed 😉

I have a feeling I’ll be making this a few times this coming spring/summer, once the grill is officially fired up for the season. Or, I may make it on a random Saturday; it could easily become a meal on its own. It’s quick, easy, and very flavorful!

BBQ Chicken & Quinoa Salad

Alright, I admit it – any salad that doesn’t include lettuce in it is a salad that’s up my alley. Then again, I’m learning to broaden my horizons and eat lettuce-based salads in an attempt to be a tad healthier…the flavor combination that’s gotten me through band camp is pickled beets & goat cheese (maybe it sounds weird, but it tastes pretty good to me!)

One of my new favorite blogs to peruse is How Sweet It Is.  Jessica posts a lot of great recipes and I absolutely adore her writing style. She posted this one a few weeks ago and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I had, had had to make this or else I knew I’d be missing out.

 BBQ Chicken & Quinoa Salad

adapted from How Sweet It Is

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa**
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/3 cup BBQ sauce, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly torn cilantro
  • 4 green onions, sliced

** To cook quinoa, rinse 1 cup of dry quinoa for about 30 seconds to rinse off its bitter coating. Cook with 2 cups of water, just as you would with rice (I actually use my rice cooker)

  1. In a large skillet, over medium-heat, cook the bacon until it is a bit crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set it aside, atop a paper towel (to drain the excess grease).
  2. In the same skillet, add the red onion and toss to coat in the bacon grease. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to low and cook until the onions begin to caramelize, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside in a small bowl.
  3. Season the chicken with the salt & pepper, as well as the paprika & onion powder. Add it to the same skillet and cook over medium-high heat until golden brown.
  4. Once the chicken is cooked through, stir in the 1/3 cup of the BBQ sauce and turn the heat down to low. Add in the cooked quinoa, red onions & garlic mixture, the chickpeas, corn, and roasted peppers, plus half of the cilantro & green onions. Mix it all around so that the ingredients are well-distributed.
  5. Right before serving, add the bacon. Serve, topped with the remaining cilantro & green onions.
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Hubba hubba!

I decided to add pinto beans instead of chickpeas because i had them on hand. We both really, really enjoyed the flavor combinations of this dish and the house smelled amazing while it was cooking. The chicken itself, with the smoked paprika & onion powder, was fantastic! I could probably have eaten that all by itself.

It also helped improve my husband’s mood, as he had had a rough day at work – he wasn’t too keen on the idea of having a ‘salad’ for dinner, but I think the bacon & barbecue sauce changed his mind. 🙂

This dish will also be perfect for when fall rolls around and we don’t want to fire up the grill for barbecuing.  The flavors blend together very well and really are “summery”. I highly recommend it!

Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bowl

This recipe was one that I sort of threw together on a whim. I was in the mood for fajitas, but didn’t have enough shells. I also have an abundant supply of quinoa in my pantry. Since I’m a huge fan of one-bowl dinners, I figured that this one would be a winner.

If you’ve never cooked with quinoa before, don’t panic! It has a similar cooking time& style to rice. I make it in my rice cooker, using a similar ratio of water to grain (2:1). It also reheats very, very well – much better than rice. The only catch is that you need to rinse it before boiling, or else it will have a bitter taste to it.

The leftovers are good on their own, as well as in a stray tortilla shell.

Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bowls

  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 lb chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 1 pepper, your choice of red or green (I used red)
  • 1 onion, your choice of red or yellow (I used red)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • taco seasoning – I used Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming blend. You can also use your own favorite taco/fajita seasoning.
  • 2 cups quinoa, cooked – make sure you start cooking the quinoa about 15 minutes before you start the chicken!
  • your favorite taco fixin’s
  1. Heat oil in pan. Add pepper & onion.
  2. Once they are tender, add garlic and chicken. Cook until chicken is no longer pink, adding spices to the pan as time goes on.
  3. Once chicken is cooked, remove from heat.
  4. In a bowl, layer as follows: Quinoa, fajita mixture, taco fixin’s.
  5. EAT.

Easy peasy deliciousness.

Beef or pork can easily be used instead of chicken. Truthfully, you could even eat this sans meat, as quinoa is chock-full of protein. And, as I said before…oh-so-EASY!