Spring vegetable quinoa pilaf


The other day we hit our local farmers market to load up on all the amazing goodness that’s been growing. Spring has sprung and we’re seeing our first green veggies of the season. From asparagus to green beans, I had a hard time holding back while loading my bags. This recipe makes a great light lunch or a dinner side with grilled chicken or pork chops. And using quinoa instead of rice creates a really hearty and healthy pilaf that’s seriously delicious.


1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups water

1/3 cup raw slivered almonds

1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 cups rough-chopped spring vegetables

1/2 tablespoon butter

1 lemon, juiced

1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard

1 clove garlic, chopped




Select your favorite spring veggies for creating the pilaf. I had farm fresh asparagus, green beans, and zucchini, which pair perfectly together for this pilaf. If you’ve never cooked with quinoa before, have no fear — it’s easier than you think.

spring veg

Place the water in a small sauce pan and bring it to a simmer. Liberally salt the water and then add the quinoa. Let it simmer uncovered while you prep the rest of the pilaf.
making quinoa

Preheat your oven to 350˚F and place the almonds on a sheet pan. Drizzle with a bit of vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Give the nuts a bit of a stir to evenly coat and then pop in the oven. They’ll be nice and toasty in no time, so set the timer for 5-minutes, which ensures you won’t forget about them.

toasting almonds

Make the dressing for the pilaf by adding the chopped garlic to a sauté pan along with the butter. Once the garlic is sizzling, and slightly browned, turn off the heat and whisk in the mustard and lemon juice.



Take out the almonds, they’re done!

toasted almonds

Now rough chop your spring veggies and steam until cooked al dente.

chopped veg

By this time the quinoa is ready, so give a quick fluff and turn off the heat.

cooked quinoa

Toss everything together and gently stir to incorporate the dressing. Season to taste and the dig in!


Not a fan of asparagus, green beans, or zucchini? What about fresh spring fava beans, artichokes, or baby spinach? For an extra kick of flavor, top with chopped scallion and a sprinkling of torn basil leaves. I couldn’t resist drizzling our finished pilaf with a bit more lemon and freshly cracked black pepper.


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Hot roasted butternut squash and quinoa salad (with blue cheese)

I just love quinoa – and I’m a big fan of butternut squash. Quinoa is easy to cook (really) and so healthy for you. Not only is it packed with protein, it’s also low in cholesterol, carbohydrates, and has hardly any calories. With a nutty, crisp flavor, it’s great as a side or main dish. And, butternut squash isn’t anything to complain about either. Full of antioxidants and also low in calories, butternut squash can be enjoyed savory or sweet.

This was our winner from last week’s dinners, and I enjoyed the leftovers cold the next day for lunch. Even if you’ve never cooked quinoa before, you’ll have success with this dish – really, it’s that easy.

And, hey. Not a fan of blue cheese? Leave it out – or crumble some feta or shred on some Parmesan.


1 butternut squash, skin and seeds removed then diced

1 small onion chopped

1 big clove garlic chopped

1 t olive oil

1/4 c water

Dash of salt and pepper

4 c fresh spinach leaves

1/4 c crumbled blue cheese

Cooked quinoa (don’t worry, I’ll tell you how to make it later)

How to make it

Start by cutting off the skin from the butternut squash and then cutting in half. Scoop out the seeds and then chunk the squash into 1-inch pieces.

Go ahead and crank your oven to 400 F and dig out your biggest non-stick-but-safe-for-the-oven sauté pan. 12-inches is a good size, and if you don’t have a non-stick, you can use a regular one – things might just stick a bit.

Slice and dice the onion and garlic and add to the butternut squash along with a couple of good dashes of salt and pepper and the water and olive oil. Give things a stir and then toss into the hot oven.

Now get 2-cups of water boiling with a dash of salt. Once things are simmering away, add 1-cup quinoa, turn down the heat, and cover things up for about 10-minutes or so. Check back every once in a while to make sure your quinoa isn’t burning at the bottom or to add more water if things look dry. Give things a stir and then taste for doneness. You should end up with lots of itty-bitty swirls that are nice and tender and fluff with a fork.

Turn the heat off under the quinoa and leave covered. Give your butternut squash a stir and keep on roasting for another 20-minutes or so.

While the squash is finishing up, wash and dry your fresh spinach and add to a nice sized mixing bowl.

Give your butternut squash a doneness test after about 30-minutes of roasting by poking a chunk with a fork. If it goes in easy, you’re ready to go. Pull the squash out of the oven and dump in your quinoa. Give things a gently toss and return to the oven for another 5-minutes to toast up the quinoa.

Mix the hot butternut squash and quinoa with the spinach and then top with the blue cheese. You can also add another drizzle of olive oil and add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Tasty AND healthy!

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Black bean quinoa veggie burgers

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The other day we went to In-N-Out and figured the babe would be in bliss over the amazing tastiness. I mean if we love the stuff, she should too, right? Yes, burgers slathered with cheese and that extra special tasty savory sauce is one of my favorite unhealthy indulgences, which doesn’t happen very often. We figured it was time. It was time to introduce the wee tot to In-N-Out.

The minute we walked in she was dazzled with the shiny redness of the place and we amazingly found a booth. The hubs ordered the food and we happily (impatiently) awaited the double-doubles – single for the babe.

She wanted absolutely nothing to do with any of it. After delicately tasting a fry, a couple more, and touching her tongue to the burger, she was done with the place. And, when I say done, I mean wailing-in-the-highchair done.

I figured I could at least attempt to create a burger she might like and had my sights set on some sort of veggie burger. I know she likes quinoa and black beans (sometimes) so decided to attempt a combo.

Black bean quinoa veggie burgers.

Stuff to make them

1 green onion chopped

1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa

1 15-ounce can of beans

1/4 cup crumbled saltine crackers or breadcrumbs

2 Tablespoons flour

1 egg

1 Tablespoon salsa

1/4 cup cubed cheddar cheese – or Monterrey jack would be tasty, too

What to do

Start by adding the quinoa and rinsed and drained black beans to a bowl. Give them a light toss to get them ready for ingredients to come.

Go ahead and crack an egg over the mix and stir until the egg is incorporated. You can also add the salsa and chopped green onion.

The day I concocted these goodies, I didn’t have any plain breadcrumbs, but did have an abundance of saltine crackers. So, I crumbled some up and they worked just fine. This is the time to add the flour, too.

Cube up some of your cheese and add it to your veggie burger mix. Let everything sit and glue together for about five minutes or so.

While you’re waiting, you can heat up a large sauté pan over medium heat with a layer of veggie oil. The burger mix is enough to create four really big burgers or six nicely sized mini-burgers. Spoon mix, gently pat together into whatever shape you want by two to three inches thick.

Place those burgers in your hot pan and let sizzle for about two minutes without touching them. This helps create a crusty seer on one side, making those buggers easier to flip.

After you’ve flipped, you can get your burger buns ready however you like. I cut big buns into smaller buns for my wee tot to enjoy her black bean quinoa veggie burgers. Once those burgers have cooked another two to three minutes, you can flip and let them cook a couple of minutes more on each side.

Serve your veggie burgers with some homemade fries or your favorite potato or tortilla chips.


*These black bean quinoa veggie burgers were a big hit with the babe – sans the bun, though. She even enjoyed them cold for lunch dipped in ketchup (although I think she just really got into the whole dipping-something-into-ketchup thing)!

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Nut-free granola bars

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

My wee tot isn’t excited about eating anything. She likes cheese and grapes. And then she doesn’t like cheese or grapes and only eats pasta. Then she turns her nose up at pasta and only wants oranges. This makes packing a little lunch challenging when we hit the preschool. Add to that the kiddy-school being nut-free (and meat-free) and I’ve got a challenge figuring out what to make for the babe.

I’ve discovered that the tot likes raisins, and she will tolerate toasted o-shaped cereal (you know, Cheerios), and oats have good healthy protein – AND, you know how I love the wonders and taste of quinoa, which is uber-packed with protein, so I set my sights on concocting some sort of granola bar with all those lovely items.

Now if you are looking for a super-sweet gooey granola bar, this isn’t for you. If you want a crisp and light granola bar, then these are perfect. You can also add and change to create the best granola bar for your family. My daughter couldn’t get enough of these, and she enjoyed them all last week at school. This means, unlike grapes, cheese, pasta, and peas, these granola bars lasted the test of time, which makes them a winner!

What you need

2 cups Cheerios

3 cups oats

1 cup cooked and toasted quinoa (don’t freak out, I’ll explain what I’m talking about in a moment)

1/2 cup raisins

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons honey

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 small pear (or apple) peeled and chopped fine

9 by 12 inch sheet pan


What you do

Start by boiling up your quinoa. Follow the directions on the package for making 1 cup of cooked quinoa. It only takes a couple of minutes and then you’re ready for the next step.

Once your quinoa is cooked through, evenly spread it on a lightly greased sheet pan and place it under the broiler. Don’t go away – keep an eye on those little buggers. Within a minute or so, you can use a spatula to gently turn and move about the quinoa so it is evenly toasted. Once your quinoa is a golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool. You can also set that oven to 350 Fahrenheit so it’s ready to go when you are.

In a big bowl, add the Cheerios, oats, flour, cinnamon, salt, and brown sugar. Mix everything up so there aren’t any big chunks. Go ahead and mix in the toasted quinoa, too.

Now you can add the oil, honey, egg, and vanilla. Really mix those ingredients together and then add the raisins. If your kids aren’t big on raisins, you can add any dried fruit they are into, like cranberries, chopped apricots, pineapple, prunes…..

I also happened to have a nice small pear ready to be eaten, so peeled it, chopped into a small dice, and added to the mix. A small apple would work great, too!

Remember that sheet pan you used to toast the quinoa? Get that back out, coat with oil, and then press your granola mix evenly about the pan.

Toss those granola bars in the oven and let cook for about 30 minutes. If the top is just starting to brown, they are ready to take out. If you want them to be a bit more toasty, let them cook an additional 10 to 15-minutes.

Use a knife, or pizza cutter, to cut the bars while they are warm and in the pan. If you don’t cut them now, you’ll have a big 9 by 12-inch granola bar on your hands.

I attempted to let the bars cool before eating, but the wee tot was ready to taste test. We all enjoyed several bars before I was able to get them into a nice sealed container to save for later.



Quinoa banana bread

quinoa banana bread

I had a couple brown and squishy bananas hanging around that really needed something done with them. I also happen to have a wee tot hanging about who isn’t excited about eating most meat proteins and quickly growing a bit tired of cheese and beans. So, I figured making quinoa banana bread was a great solution!

Quinoa is an odd little grain that turns from a small round ball into a spiraling curl no bigger than a pea. Along with a nutty flavor, quinoa is packed with protein – a healthy 22 grams per cup. For finicky eaters already feeding on solids that don’t find chicken or tofu enticing, creating a meal that provides nourishment and is enjoyable can be accomplished through introducing quinoa into recipes.

This quinoa banana bread recipe creates a moist and tender bread that isn’t too sweet allowing the banana and quinoa flavors to shine through. You might notice that instead of butter, the recipe calls for oil. That’s because I enjoy my banana bread with a good layer of soft butter. Using oil in the bread instead of butter helps me to feel less guilty when indulging in a thick slice!


I cup cooked quinoa (follow package directions)

3 mushy bananas

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

dash of salt

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups flour


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the cooled cooked quinoa in a mixing bowl and stir together with bananas. Get the kids to help smashing and mushing the bananas, which encourages their fine-motor skills and is just plain fun!

Add the cinnamon, vanilla, salt, yogurt, oil, sugar and egg and continue mixing.

In a separate bowl, mix together the baking soda, baking powder, and flour. Add to the wet ingredients 1/2 cup at a time until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Grease a loaf pan and pour in the batter. Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 1 hour.

Remove the bread from the oven and let rest for as long as you can wait before cutting a slice. Cover with butter and enjoy the tasty flavor that also provides a healthy dose of protein. For even extra protein, spread the bread with peanut or almond butter, which is irresistible to kids (and most adults).