Citrus Quinoa Salad

As fall begins, I always start thinking about the holidays.  One of my favorite childhood memories is going to my Grandmother’s house for Christmas.  We called her “Mama Tease”, a name my older sister came up with before she could really talk.  Mama Tease had flaming red hair and lived her entire life in a small town in Georgia.  She was an amazing lady who to my knowledge never had anything bad to say about anyone.  She also happened to be an amazing cook.  In addition to cakes, cookies and pies, one thing that she always had in her home for the holidays was ambrosia.  Now, she made a spiced up version with coconut for the adults, but for us kids I am pretty sure it was oranges and sugar and not much else.  To this day, I associate eating oranges without getting sticky hands as pure luxury.

Today I thought I would share a quinoa salad that I have been toying with for a while.  I got the idea from a rice salad in clean eating magazine last spring.  After some tweaking, I am happy with the results.  Give it a try now and if you enjoy it don’t forget to try it again in a few months when citrus is at its peak.

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Citrus Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled to room temperature

1/3 cup Orange and Herb Dressing (see below)

½ cup orange slices, halved and peeled with membranes removed

¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, diced

½ red onion, diced

2 ounces pecans, toasted and chopped

Fresh baby spinach, optional

Directions

1.       Combine quinoa, dressing, oranges, parsley pepper and onion in a large bowl.  Toss.  Top with pecans and serve.  Serve over a bed of fresh baby spinach if desired.

Orange Herb Dressing

Ingredients

2 T fresh squeezed orange juice

2 T while balsamic vinegar

2 T olive oil – best quality

1 T Dijon Mustard

1 tsp cumin

½ tsp oregano

1 tsp orange zest

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

Directions

In a small bowl or blender combine all ingredients.  Dressing will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks.

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By the way, did you know that evidence suggests that pecans can help to lower your bad cholesterol levels?  Like olive oil they have the powerful combination of beta-sitosterol and oleic acid.  According to Clean Eating Mag, you should be especially liberal with them on your husband’s meals because they may help to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.  You can eat a delicious meal and get healthier all at once!

Tomato Feta Quinoa Pilaf

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Ah, October is almost here.  It’s one of my favorite months of the year.  Football season is in full swing (Go Gators!) and the air is finally beginning to cool off.  (Ok, not yet here in Arizona but I am optimistic it will happen very soon!)  Of course as a mom, October is always fun because of Halloween.  My boys are into Star Wars this year which could not please my husband any more.

This year, there is another reason October is special for me.  This website just passed its six month birthday the middle of last month, and I must say that as I am reflecting on its success I am genuinely humbled.  What started as a little more than a way for me to share a few recipes has grown to reach thousands of visitors a day.  Who knew so many people were interested in cooking quinoa?  As I have been reflecting on what has worked and what hasn’t, I am making plans for the next year.  One thing I am going to be doing is starting to add many more recipes to this website.  One of my problems has been that I cook in my head most of the time and have been really bad about writing recipes down as I go.  Obviously this has to change!  I am also going to expand into a few new topics – all related to healthy eating – and share more of my adventures in the kitchen.  Lastly, I have plans to dust out my camera and start taking pictures of what I am cooking.  EDIT  - Yeah, I actually did this one….see below!

For those of you who have stopped by and left comments I want to, from the bottom of my heart, say thank you!  Your support has been a blessing that I could not have expected.

Now, for the first of many new quinoa recipes to com, I have a Tomato Feta Quinoa Pilaf.  Don’t let the long ingredient list scare you, it is really a very simple dish that is easy to make.  I used fresh herbs chopped with my herb grinder,  but if you do not have them on hand you can always use dried.  The inspiration came from a couscous pilaf I saw in Cooking Light, but of course I have spiced things up a bit.  If spicy isn’t your thing, you can cut back on the garlic and skip the cayenne.  And, if you are a vegan just skip the feta and you still have a great dish on your hands.

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Tomato Feta Quinoa Pilaf

Ingredients

1 T olive oil

¼ cup finely chopped shallots

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup quinoa

1 ½ cups broth – vegetable or chicken

1/8 tsp salt

¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 T fresh parsley

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

¾ cup grape tomatoes, quartered

1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled (if Eating Clean use low fat) alternately, make it vegan by adding 1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast in with the quinoa to cook

1 T chopped basil

1 T lemon juice

Directions

 

1.      Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add oil to pan and when warm add in the shallots.  Cook for two minutes and add garlic.  Cook until fragrant, around 30 seconds.  Add rinsed quinoa and sauté for two minutes.  Add broth, salt and cayenne pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and allow to simmer for 15 to 18 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat and allow to sit covered for five minutes.

2.      Stir in parsley, thyme, basil, lemon juice, tomatoes and feta.  Enjoy!

This recipe also works well the next day turned into a cold salad.  I like to use my favorite balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  Yum!