nothing beats a beet quinoa salad … except maybe TWO

When I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, my girlfriend Stephanie and her husband Rob had a Cowboy-themed cookout that was part pot-luck … and there was this amazing beet and quinoa salad.

I cornered the maker of the salad (who turned out to be this incredible woman Michaela) and asked for details because I knew I was going to crave this thing. It was the most gorgeous purple color. Savory. Sweet. Hearty. Satisfying. Just … AWESOME.

So I got the low-down from Michaela (but of course I didn’t write any of it down because I was just sure I would remember everything in it).

And I made a really really good beet quinoa salad.

untitled (1 of 1)-7

So good, actually, that I convinced myself that it was a pretty great replica and I made a batch at Abby’s the other night (during our cookfest and recipe-test extravaganza) and was thrilled that her family loved it, too!

beet salad bowl

This is how I made it:

beet salad ing


  • 1 cup quinoa (soaked and then cooked … yields about 1.5 cups cooked quinoa)
  • 1 cup roasted beets (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup raw zucchini (chopped)
  • 3 large scallions (diced)
  • 1 medium crisp apple like a honey crisp or pink lady (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed and finely chopped into a paste
  • juice from one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper to taste


Abby roasted the beets before I got there, so all I had to do was chop them. But to roast your beets, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, peel and rough chop the beets, toss in a little melted coconut oil and arrange them in one layer in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. And roast for about 20-25 minutes (if they are still a bit al dente at that point, let them cook for another 10 minutes … the speed with which they cook really depends on the size pieces you’re roasting). Out of the oven, put the beets in a medium bowl and refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

Pre-cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package and let it chill in the fridge, too, until you’re ready to use it.

Next, chop the zucchini, scallions and apple.

Combine the quinoa, chopped beets, scallions, apple, zucchini, garlic, ginger and pumpkin seeds into a large bowl. Squeeze in juice from one lemon and a tablespoon of olive oil and stir to combine well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 6 servings.

Sounds pretty great, right? And it is!!!

But just to be sure, before I went over to Abby’s, I emailed Michaela to ask her if I had the ingredients right. First off, I wasn’t sure she would remember me. Secondly, I wanted to wow her with my great memory of her excellently good salad.

And I am chagrined. Because when I got home that night I got an email from Michaela … Thankfully, she knew who I was. But I am completely embarrassed to say that I missed about half of the goodness in her salad. Here was her response (in italics):


I didn’t forget you Jeanne! (Whew!)

Great that your’e back and in the groove of things. I kept thinking of you and your lovely husband and wonder how it might be in Montana now at the end of summer. I checked out your blog and I love it !! (YAY, O’MAMAS!!)
Here’s what I did:
  • 1 cup of Red Quinoa
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth. (I used water)
  • steam yellow onion, mushrooms, zucchini in coconut oil (no onion or mushroom or coconut oil … oops)
  • add himalayan salt, provencal herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil) (fresh herbs?  ugh … I’m a space cadet)
  • squeeze ginger and garlic through garlic press
  • roast asparagus with a little olive oil, cut into small bites (of course there was asparagus … now I remember.  so good)
  • mix everything with the steamed quinoa
  • add shredded big raw beat, hacked walnut, apple (sour), dried cranberries, (did you notice the walnut?  I really am embarrassed … )
  • fresh parsley and chives
  • apple cider vinegar and lemon juice
  • a small can of bamboo sprouts (not necessary at all)
  • last you add fresh blueberries, (the fact that I forgot the blueberries is the most embarrassing of all … they were a burst of color and flavor … so good.  I want Michaela to cook for me every night.)
  • sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.
I prepared most of the salad on the day before but added more of freshly steamed onion, zucchini and mushrooms the next day when I added fresh parsley, chives and blueberries.
I flushed the blueberries in boiling hot water and added them at the very end.
All ingredients were organic and I steamed and roasted in very low temperature so it still had a bite to it when it came into the mix.
I think the apple cider vinegar is very important to balance the quinoa in the salad. Add until you like the taste.”

So … yeah … now you have recipes for TWO great beet salads.



PS – I’m going to see if I can convince Michaela to contribute another recipe or two.  She’s INCREDIBLE.

We’re linked up:

Domestic Superhero
This Chick Cooks
The Nourishing Gourmet

fast food: spinach and garlic quinoa

I love it when a plan comes together.

Like when I have things organized enough to have meat thawed or veggies harvested or something soaked and prepared ahead of time so that when it gets to be dinner time I’m not stressing about what to cook and how fast can I get it on the table.

But not every day is like that.

Sometimes.  Not always.  Sometimes, the clock strikes 6:35 pm and I look around and realize that I have about 10 minutes before the kiddos will revolt and I’ve got to work fast to avoid the mayhem.


Those are the days I’m happy we have quinoa in the cupboard.  Eggs in the fridge.  And spinach.  And butter.

Because this isn’t a fancy dish.

But it’s tasty.

And nourishing (quinoa is a digestible complete protein, spinach is packed with phytonutrients and minerals, pastured butter, which is just better for you all around, and farm fresh eggs are … well … farm fresh eggs).

The kiddos like it.

And it’s super easy to whip up in less than 25 minutes.



  • 1 teaspoon pastured butter
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa (rinsed … Ideally, this would actually be soaked and rinsed, but I don’t always have the forethought to have quinoa pre-soaked for dinner)
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 big handful of raw baby spinach
  • sea salt  & black pepper (to taste)


In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter.  Add the garlic and sauté until translucent.  Add the quinoa and coat with the garlic-butter-oil before adding the water.

Bring the water to a rolling boil.  Reduce the heat to simmer and cover for 15-20 minutes (until all the water is evaporated or absorbed by the quinoa … just like rice).

At this point, I use a wooden spatula to clear a spot on the bottom of the saucepan and crack the eggs into the pot and begin stirring immediately.  Cooking the egg in the hot quinoa.  When the egg is cooked through, I add a big handful of spinach and a little salt, stir to combine, remove from the heat and cover for about 2 minutes to wilt the spinach.

A little fresh cracked pepper after it’s on the serving dish, and there you have it.

This also makes a great side dish.  Or the base of a tasty “bowl” that can be topped with all manor of sautéed or grilled veggies, meat, poultry or fish.  Leave out the egg and butter if you’re looking for a Vegan option and just pile high with veggies (like broccolini, snap peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc.)

Fast food at it’s finest 🙂

We’re linked up:

Kelly the Kitchen Kop
This Chick Cooks
The Nourishing Gourmet


Algerian Wedding Quinoa* (aka what to bring to a pot luck when you want to bring something new)

Jeanne here.

I am slightly remiss to admit this … but I don’t like brown rice.

I’ll eat it.

I know it’s better for me.

But I really don’t like it and not sure I can t really pinpoint the why.

Maybe it’s the texture.

Maybe it’s the smell (does brown rice smell different?  I’m not sure).

Anyway … if I find a recipe that I’m curious about that includes brown rice, I will often replace it with quinoa.

We’ve probably talked about this before … but it’s worth repeating:  Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a vegetarian superfood.  It’s an ancient grain.  It’s nutrient dense, contains complete amino acids, is a great source of usable and digestible protein, a source of iron, contains a large dose of fiber and is packed with antioxidants.

And on top of it all, quinoa is versatile enough that it’s great for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

And as I’ve been working my way through Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions, I have come upon more than a few brown rice recipes that are intriguing.  But here’s my dilemma … I often like the sound of her recipes, but find that I have to make adjustments to them to make them tasty for the folks in our house.  So I often take her recipes and make major adjustments (for taste and for ease-of-process).

That’s what happened with this dish … in her book, she offers up a recipe for Algerian Wedding Rice.  It has cardamom.  And I love cardamom.  I love the aromatic middle-eastern scent that transports me to a peaceful place.  That, and in Ayurvedic tradition cardamom is known to promote good digestion, detoxification and is jam-packed with antioxidants and has been used to treat asthma and other bronchial irritations.  It’s pretty awesome.  But in the original version the cardamom is lost under the flavor of the olive oil and the pine nuts and apricots.

So I made some changes and this is what I brought to a potluck last night …

 algerian wedding quinoa

(I brought this dish to a potluck last night, fully intent on getting a photo before we started eating … then I got distracted.  So by the time I got to take a picture, this is what was left.  Seems to me that people enjoyed it …)


  • 1 cup dry quinoa (soaked overnight, and rinsed thoroughly)
  • 1 tablespoon pasture butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds (which is about 10 pods, cracked and separated)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup dried apricots and figs (chopped, and soaked for 30 minutes to an hour in filtered water to rehydrate)
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds (soaked, dried, toasted)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (toasted)
  • 1/4 cup chives (finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons pasture butter


To cook the quinoa, melt tablespoon of butter in an oven-safe saucepan or covered casserole dish.  Add the olive oil (adding the butter to the olive oil raises the spoke point of the oil, making it safer to use in cooking).  Add the cardamom seeds and let sauté for a minute or two to permeate the butter with the aromatic scent of the cardamom.  Then add the quinoa and stir to combine.  Add the water and salt, bring to a rolling boil, then cover, reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes (or until liquid has evaporated … it’s just like cooking rice).  (NOTE:  you could use bone broth instead of water for an even more nutrient-dense dish, but I was cooking for vegetarians and paleos for this meal so I opted for water.)

While the quinoa simmers, preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Chop the rehydrated apricots and figs (you could also use currants or raisins or sour cherries, but I like the mellow-sweetness of the apricots and figs with the cardamom).  Toast the almonds and pine nuts (put the nuts in a dry sauté pan on high heat and watch them carefully … it only takes a minute or two to toast the nuts).   Combine the apricots, figs, almonds, pine nuts and butter in a small bowl.

When the quinoa is done, add the contents of the small bowl, the chives and a dash of salt into the casserole with the quinoa and put in the oven for about 20 minutes to let all the flavors develop.

Makes a great side dish for lamb or steak.  Or, for the veggies in your life, it makes a nourishing and satisfying main dish along with a simple salad.

Serves 4-6 as a main, 6-8 as a side.

We’re linked up:

This Chick Cooks
The Nourishing Gourmet 
Kelly the Kitchen Kop

Putting real food to the test: Lime-Cilantro Quinoa Salad

Abby and I decided that we needed to branch out from our personal cooking ruts.

I mean … as good as Abby’s taquitos are … and they are THAT good … how many times a week can you eat them?.

And  we’ve been excited to realize how many real food bloggers there are (like The Nourishing Gourmet, Kelly the Kitchen Kop, This Chick Cooks, 100 Days of Real Food, to name just a few).

So we’ve decided to challenge ourselves … and the real food recipes we’ve been adding to our personal interest pages.


We’ll be calling it “taste test”, and here’s how it works … we find a real food recipe that looks promising.  Make it (with or without modification … we’ll tell you if we make changes).  Feed our family.  Take a poll (or just see if the littles will eat it and/or want seconds) and tell you how it goes.

And for our first adventure … Lime-Cilantro Quinoa Salad from 100 Days of Real Food

I had a family dinner on Friday that required me to bring a vegetarian salad … one that could be substantial enough for the veggies in attendance to feel like they had a real meal, and light enough for the omnivores who wanted a tasty side dish for their burgers and steak.

quinoa salad

The basic ingredients for the salad:

  • Quinoa – superfood, high protein, totally substantial and nutritious.  (I used organic tricolor quinoa instead of the white that Lisa used.)
  • Dried fruit (I used un-sulfered apricots and dried cranberries)
  • Pine nuts – for an added crunch
  • Cilantro
  • Bell Pepper (I used a red one and a yellow one because I find the green ones a little over-powering … also I doubled the bell pepper because I doubled the recipe, since I was feeding 14 people)

For the dressing Lisa used a combination of:

  • lime juice
  • olive oil
  • Dijon mustard
  • garlic
  • salt

I cut back on the amount of dressing because, well, it just seemed a little excessive for my taste.  But I gotta tell you … SUCCESS!!!  It was a HUGE hit!

The vegetarians LOVED that it was substantial and tasty.  The omnivores went back for seconds.  And the kiddos were excited to find little bits of dried fruit … it was like a treasure hunt for them.  I will definitely make this again and again.

We’re linked up:
Kelly the Kitchen Kop
This Chick Cooks
The Nourishing Gourmet


pantry basics – taco seasoning

We don’t buy a lot of seasoning blends.

It’s less expensive (and really easy) to make them.  It gives us control over how hot or spicy or sweet or savory the blend is.  We can decide how much (if any) salt is in it.  Plus, we get to avoid any MSG or preservatives or additives or any extra whatnots that might be floating around in that packet on the shelf.

So I figure it’s worth one dirty spoon and the minute and a half it takes to pull the spices from the cupboard and open the jars.  Why else do you have all those jars in the cabinet?  I mean … they look nice … but if you don’t use them, they go bad.  So making your own seasoning blends only makes sense.

And Taco Seasoning is a staple.

We use it to season taco meat (beef, chicken, turkey, pork … whatever).

We use it to make “Mexican Rice.”

We use it in something we call “Dirty Quinoa,” (which is a protein rich alternative for tacos if you happen to be vegetarian, or vegan, or just in the mood for a taco that doesn’t have meat in it).

taco seasoning


  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder.
  • 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder.
  • 1 Tablespoon Cumin.
  • 1 Tablespoon Ancho Chili Powder.
  • 2 teaspoons Crushed Red Pepper.


Combine all the ingredients in a small non-reactive jar (perhaps the jar you plan on using for storage?).  Put the top on and shake until ingredients are well-combined.

One and a half tablespoons of this taco seasoning (plus a teaspoon of salt) is enough to season one and a quarter pounds of ground meat or 2 cups of rice/quinoa.  Put the rest in your cupboard to use next week.

– Jeanne

We’re linked up on The Nourishing Gourmet’s Pennywise Platter Thursday.

tabbouleh or not tabbouleh … is that the question?

Jeanne here.

As the days begin to stretch (we still had daylight at nearly 6 pm last night … crazy!) I’ve been dreaming of the garden we’re going to plant this year.

Actually, I’ve been doing more than dreaming.  I’ve been plotting and planning and ordering seeds and getting ready to start the seeds for some of our long-season veggies (like onions … the teacher in my Master Gardener class suggested that onions needed to be started by the this weekend if I hope to get actual onions this year … AAAaack.  I better get on it!).

And all that plotting, planning, ordering, organizing has me salivating over some of our summer’s best harvest, which has me thinking about summer foods that I can make with stuff we grow in the garden.

Like Tabbouleh.

Like tomatoes (I had such good luck with heirloom cherry tomatoes last year … I’m salivating just thinking about it!).

These are Abby's tomatoes.  I borrowed this photo without asking because I look at this photo and begin dreaming of summer.
These are Abby’s tomatoes. I borrowed this photo without asking because I look at this photo and begin dreaming of summer.

And mint (Even if you don’t have a green thumb, mint is a wonderful plant to have in your garden … it’s so dang hardy.  I’ve accidentally tried to kill it and totally failed.  It’s prolific and everywhere now!).

And parsley (I didn’t grow parsley last year … but Abby did … and it was such a perfect addition to this salad).

And onions (I only ever got mini-scallions last year … planted too late, but those baby scallions were perfect in this tabbouleh.  Perfect!).

Is it tabbouleh if you use quinoa instead of bulgar wheat?  Hmmm.

Whether it’s tabbouleh or not … it’s a taste of summer and that makes me happy.



  • ½ c. soaked quinoa
  • 1 c. water
  • 6 or 7 mint leaves (finely chopped)
  • ¾ c. Italian parsley (chopped)
  • 3 or 4 scallions (chopped)
  • 2 medium ripe red tomatoes (chopped)
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 2 tbls. olive oil
  • sea salt, to taste

The night before:

Soak 1/2 cup of quinoa in filtered water and 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar.

The day of:

Rinse the quinoa very well … till the water runs clear.  The soaking will break-down the mineral binding phytates and make the quinoa easier to digest.

In a saucepan, combine ½ c. quinoa with 1 c. of water (and a dash of salt).  Bring to boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook until the water is evaporated (10-15 minutes).  Take off the heat, cover and let rest for 5 minutes.  Fluff the quinoa with a fork.  Just like rice … with a good bit more digestible protein!  (NOTE: Quinoa has about 13g of protein, brown rice has 7.5g, white rice 6.6g).

While you let it cool…

In a medium bowl, combine mint leaves, parsley, scallions and tomatoes.  Add the quinoa.  Add juice from half a lemon (a little more if you want a little more “tang”) and olive oil.  Sprinkle with a little salt, toss with a fork and pop it in the refrigerator for at least an hour… better if you let it rest overnight, but who has that kind of time, right?

It’s sort of a perfect salad for a hot and muggy day … a little protein, a little citrus, a little mint … some spicy scallions …

Served on some pita bread with hummus … but you do what you want.  It’s your salad.

What are you craving these days?

spicy tomato soup with chard and quinoa

A few weeks ago I was soaking some quinoa for soup.

But I didn’t follow it up with a post because I was still wrestling with the recipe.

I knew what I wanted: a protein packed, spicy, chunky, flavorful tomato soup with nourishing dark leafy greens.

You see, I had been thinking about making a tomato-quinoa soup for a while … in part because I don’t love traditional “Campbells-like” thin and runny tomato soup.  I think it’s missing texture … and depth of flavor … and when it’s out of a can, it’s full of BPAs that have leached into the tomatoes.  In addition to all the reports about how BPAs affect hormone levels and might be cancer-causing, a new study from Berkeley shows that it affects thyroid function.  And there’s some preliminary evidence in the same article that shows it can affect brain development in newborns.

In light of this information, we don’t eat canned tomatoes … or much canned anything, these days unless it is fresh out of the garden and into the canning jar ;).

Which brings me to this soup that I’d been dreaming about.

So I went ahead and made my first effort.  And I’ll admit this freely: often times, my first attempt offers me a great opportunity to learn something new.  But this time … I loved the soup.


And so did the Cowboy.

And my niece.

And her boyfriend (fiance, actually … as of about 3 weeks ago!).

And the littles.

But by the time it was clear the recipe was a success, there wasn’t enough soup left to take any photos.

And I wanted to make sure I could recreate the recipe.

And I’m very excited to report that this Saturday, I did it!  And it was JUST as good this second time around!!

serves 6


  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa (soaked) – NOTE: once the quinoa soaks, it expands.  1 cup gets cooked with the soup, the rest (which turns out to be a little more than another cup) gets cooked in a pot on the side to add if you want a thicker, more quinoa-y soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons to make croutons
  • 1 yellow onion (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon cracked red pepper
  • 2 lbs Campari tomatoes (quartered)
  • 4 large Swiss chard leaves (with the large center vein removed and chopped into 1 inch ribbons)
  • 1 quart bone broth (or vegetable broth)
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • 6 thick slices if sourdough bread
  • 1 tablespooon herbs de provence
  • 1/3 cup Manchego cheese (finely shredded)



The Night Before (or early in the morning)

Soak the quinoa.  One and a half cups of quinoa in a class or ceramic container, covered with filtered water (with about an inch more water than quinoa), plus one and a half tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice).  Cover with a clean dish towel, paper towel or cheese cloth and set aside in a warm spot in your kitchen.  NOTE: The quinoa will expand to a little more than 2 cups … only add 1 cup to your soup when the time comes, cook the rest in a saucepan on the side so you can add more to each bowl if you want a thicker soup.)

spicy tomato soup

When you’re ready to start cooking (active cook-time is about 25 minutes)

Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear.  (Not only soaking break down the phytic acid that binds the nutrients to the grain and makes them difficult to digest, but it also eliminates the “bitter taste” that un-soaked quinoa can have.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (this is for the croutons).

Heat a large saucepan on med-high.  Add olive oil and cracked pepper.  Add garlic and onion.  Sauté until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add the tomatoes and let cook down until the tomatoes break down and there’s enough liquid to cover the contents of the pan (about 5 minutes).

Add the bone broth and bring to a boil.

Add 1 cup of the the thoroughly rinsed quinoa.  Simmer for 5 minutes, then cover and lower the heat.  Let it simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes (until the quinoa is thoroughly cooked.  (Use this time to cook the remaining quinoa in a saucepan on the side.  Like rice, quinoa cooks at a ratio of 2:1 … so for example, if there’s a cup of quinoa left, bring 2 cups water and salt to a boil, add the quinoa, lower the heat and cover for 15-20 minutes).

While the soup is simmering, it’s time to make the croutons.

Take the six ½” slices of sourdough bread and brush both sides with olive oil, sprinkle with herbs de provence and salt and pepper.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 5-7 minutes.  Turn them over and let cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Remove from the oven and put them in the bottom of your individual serving bowls.

Back to the soup.   Once the quinoa is tender and cooked through, add the Swiss Chard and let it wilt, stirring it into the broth.

Serve the soup over the croutons. In fact, be sure you don’t skip the croutons … the herbs de Provence and the texture of the crunchy bread really make a difference.

Sprinkle with Manchego cheese shavings (to taste … and you don’t have to use Manchego.  Asiago would also be tasty.  Or Parmesan.), and don’t be embarrassed if you want to lick the bowl … or go back for seconds.

NOTE:  The Cowboy likes to add extra cooked quinoa to his bowl, so I generally make an extra cup of quinoa on the side.  It definitely makes the soup more filling.  I like mine “soupier.”

We’re linked up on This Chick Cooks!