This is probably my most favorite quick and easy go-to meal! I usually make this 3 times a month with different variations. Why do I love it so much? Because all the ingredients can be tucked away in the pantry and freezer/refrigerator for those emergency days when you need something easy, haven’t been able to make it to the store or you have leftover veggies or meat that you need to use up.
This meal can be tailored to hundreds of different combinations. Depending on what’s going on in my life I modify the recipe to meet my nutritional needs…. or cravings! During times of stress I add in a few extra key ingredients which I talked about in my stress article. But today I’m going to share with you the simple version as a template. We will continue to work off of this recipe changing up the combinations to keep it exciting!
If you aren’t familiar with quinoa (pronounced like this) it is a pseudo-grain or false grain. This is because it is often referred to as a grain since it is used in the exact same way as a grain is used in cooking, but it is actually a seed and in a completely different botanical family than the grains. Quinoa is a perfect substitution for rice and loaded with nutrition! It’s also a complete protein, containing all of the essential amino acids. This makes quinoa just as high of a quality protein as meat, fish or eggs. So if you don’t feel like adding meat into this recipe, it is still a hardy meal…. that’s budget friendly too!
If you do want to add an extra protein, I love using a pre-cooked turkey kielbasa. Kielbasa is a polish sausage. Since it is often found pre-cooked, it’s easy to slice it up and add it into the pot just to heat through. I make sure I find one with a really fresh expiration date, so I can keep it in the refrigerator for a few weeks, ready to go for when I make this recipe. I usually only use half and throw the other half in the freezer for another time.
Pesto is the secret ingredient that makes this recipe loved by everyone who tries it…. even non-veggie lovers! Pesto is a raw, healthy sauce that usually consists of garlic, basil, and nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, etc), which is blended with olive oil and often times parmigiano cheese… but you can get it without the cheese. It’s easy to make yourself or you can find it in the refrigerated deli section of most grocery stores. Pesto adds a lot of zip and flavor, making it taste like a gourmet meal…. but we’ll keep it our secret that it takes no time at all to throw together! Yes, I use the word throw because that’s basically what you are doing, throwing all the ingredient into one pot and out comes a delicious, nutritious meal!
Easy Quinoa Dinner
This dinner comes together in a snap and is perfect for when you don’t have fresh ingredients on hand or you just need something healthy, but easy. The pesto gives this recipe the wow factor and leaves the family asking for more…. while still getting their veggies!
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 3-4 inch piece kombu (1/2 a stick) optional, no taste -sea vegetable for extra nutrition
- 1 ⅓ cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen mixed veggies (like cauliflower, carrots, etc) or use fresh – any combo you wish
- 1 package pre-cooked Turkey Kielbasa or Spicy Turkey Andouille Sausages (6-12 ounces), sliced, (I like Wellshire brand) or use leftover cooked chicken or a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken (optional)
- Pesto to taste (about ½ cup) – any flavor you wish (basil, roasted red pepper, sun dried tomato, etc)
- A few big handfuls of spinach, kale or chard – seems like a lot, but it wilts down (optional)
- Garlic salt, to taste (optional, I like Mama Garlic by Frontier)
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
- Take out veggies from the freezer if using frozen and let them sit on the counter to start thawing.
- Add broth with a piece of kombu to a large stock pot, cover and bring to a boil.
- Rinse your quinoa (if it is not pre-rinsed already) under cool water with a fine-mesh strainer. I buy Ancient Harvest which is already triple rinsed.
- Add quinoa to the broth, cover and bring back to a boil then turn down to a simmer (low-heat) for 20–30 minutes, until no longer crunchy, all liquid is absorbed and it is light and fluffy. No need to stir while it is cooking.
- Once all the liquid is absorbed, stir in frozen veggies, cooked meat and pesto (except leafy greens) and turn up to medium-heat stirring occasionally until veggies are thawed and completely heated through.
- Add salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste.
- If you are adding a leafy green (like spinach or kale) add it now and stir into the quinoa and veggies until wilted, but still bright green. Serve and enjoy!
This is great hot or cold for lunch the next day.
Phase 1 Friendly using dairy-free pesto
If your quinoa seems to be sticking to the bottom of the pan your simmering heat is too high, so turn it down a bit. Once you add the pesto and veggies it helps the quinoa to release from the bottom if this happens.
Freezes great too!
Omit meat for a vegetarian option and use dairy-free peso for a vegan option.
Change up the flavor of the pesto (basil, roasted red pepper, sun dried tomato, etc) or types of veggies or protein to keep it exciting!
Number of servings (yield): 4-6