Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I love quinoa. I always have a massive glass bulk jar of it on my counter waiting for a cheesy casserole, tangy stir fry or sweet breakfast. I also love eating from a bowl. A huge bowl of warm soup, a bowl of fresh salad, bowls of pasta…yeah, it’s all good in my book. In honor of my two loves, I decided to make a DIY style dinner with a massive bowl of quinoa as the main attraction. Think Chipotle burrito bowl meets Whole Foods lunch buffet.
Cooking shouldn’t be hard. We are all so busy that we’re lucky to get any kind of home-cooked meal on the table. I get it. As the main cook in our house I find that if I don’t have a plan or something started already it’s egg burritos and cereal for dinner (sorry Chet).
When you don’t have time throughout the week to cook, then utilize your weekends. This recipe saved us during the beginning of the week when I really didn’t want to cook. I made almost everything on Sunday night (before The Good Wife and Walking Dead started, of course) then Chet and I ate like kings for the next few days. Use your weekend time and use your fridge, no more excuses.
Not only is ‘easy’ a good meal quality, but so is ‘customizable.’ Everyone has their thing that they hate. Onions (mine), mushrooms, olives, tomatoes, cilantro (also mine), vegetables of any kind…For your picky guests, family members, roommates or friends, this recipe calls for a no-touch, everything separate style of eating.
I remember as a kid I used to HATE when my food touched! Especially when the green beans touched anything else. I swear those things had fingers.
My toppings of choice: roasted butternut squash, diced cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, roasted chickpeas and a dollop of avocado cream sauce. As if this could get any better, here are a few other toppings you could try:
- black beans
- roasted bell peppers
- fresh avocado
- fried or poached egg
- feta cheese
- sautéed broccoli
- sautéed onions (I guess…)
- roasted garlic
- fried tofu
- your meat of choice
Be sure no matter what you do, you top it with some kind of sauce or creamy additive. You could do something simple like sour cream with fresh herbs or something more zesty like a sesame ginger dressing. I trust you to figure it out for yourself.
Butternut squash! I love this stuff. I’m not sure if this is true, but I was told growing up that the more vibrantly colored the vegetable the more nutrients it has, and the more nutrients it has, the quicker you grow and the quicker you grow, the sooner you’re able to do fun adult things…and now I am a short adult who just wants to be a kid, which makes sense because I ate a lot of mashed potatoes as a kid.
Lesson learned: mashed potatoes are okay, but they probably shouldn’t be the only vegetable you eat. Also, roasted butternut squash kind of tastes like roasted potatoes, so there’s that.
Something I’ve learned recently about cooking quinoa: never cook it in just water. Since quinoa absorbs all the liquid it’s in while it cooks, it takes on the flavor of what it’s cooked in. So why wouldn’t you flavor the crap out of it?!
At least cook it in some kind of stock (chicken, vegetable, beef) to give it flavor. Another option is to brown a mixture of spices in a pan with olive oil, toss your rinsed quinoa in it briefly, then add it to boiling water. Your quinoa will soak up every spice you throw at it so start throwing!
If you’re running low on bowls, use mugs…then go to a thrift store and buy more bowls. You should never run out of bowls.
What to Bring to the Store
I’m all about the bulk section. The less packaging that covers my food, the happier I am. However, you have to be prepared with reusable bags, otherwise you’re not really saving anything. For this recipe, you’ll need to bring the following reusables with you to the store:
- a reusable bulk bag for the quinoa
- 1-2 reusable produce bags for your various produce (no need to bag your squash or avocado since you won’t eat the skins)
- reusable bulk spice bag (or use a plastic baggy from your previous trips) for your dried oregano and any other spice you need
Leave 2-3 reusable grocery bags in your car at all times so you’re never without one!
Waste Meter – 5 out of 5!
I’m giving this recipe a 5 because nothing needs to be thrown away and only a few things go into your recycling bin. The majority of your waste is compost and compost is good! Here’s what to recycle: yogurt carton and aluminum lid, plastic tomato container, stock carton (or bouillon wrappers) and the garbanzo bean can. Compost: squash, tomato, basil, avocado and garlic scraps. Garbage? Not here!
- 2 cups quinoa
- 2 chicken bouillon cubes, or 4 cups of chicken stock (can be substituted for vegetable stock)
- 1 butternut squash, cubed
- 1 can of garbanzo beans
- 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, diced
- 4 basil leaves
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 avocado, ripe
- 4 ounces greek yogurt, plain
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water (or stock) to a boil in a large pot on high heat. Once the water boils, toss in the 2 bouillon cubes and stir until they dissolve. Quickly rinse your quinoa under cold water, then add to the boiling water. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
- While your oven preheats, peel the butternut squash, cut off the ends, cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut into 1 inch cubes and place in a roast pan. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. Pour into a roast pan and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper. Place the garbanzo beans and squash in the oven and roast for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.
- Dice the tomatoes and set aside.
- Add all of the avocado yogurt sauce ingredients to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Place in the fridge until everything else has finished cooking.
- Place the squash, garbanzo beans, quinoa and tomatoes into separate bowls with spoons for serving. Dish up as much as you want and top with avocado yogurt sauce and torn basil leaves.