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Quick and Healthy Recipe: Quinoa Pilaf With Roasted Vegetables

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With the holidays behind us and a fresh new year ahead, many of us are focusing on healthier eating. I did my share of indulging during the holiday season (it is the holidays, after all), and I fell into some bad eating habits last year as well, so for this year and beyond, I set a goal to eliminate the foods and ingredients that I know aren’t good for my health and my body.

I’ve generally always been a healthy eater and grew up eating a lot of fruits and vegetables—eating habits that I have carried with me in to adulthood. Although I do not need to make drastic changes to my diet, there are aspects that could use improvement. For example, I am reducing my sugar and meat consumption. I have replaced soda with sparkling water, am using unrefined sweeteners such as honey, and am no longer eating white bread. I am also cooking two or more meatless meals per week so that when I do eat a meal with animal protein, I can eat higher quality meat that has been raised and slaughtered humanely and fed a proper diet.

Another change I am making to my eating habits is incorporating more whole grains into my diet. Quinoa is one of my new favorite whole grains to eat and it has become a staple in my pantry. Since I am eating more meatless meals, I can still get my protein from eating quinoa, because it is a complete protein source. It is also high in fiber, is naturally gluten-free and is an easily digestible grain and much less filling than whole grain pasta, for example.

Quinoa is an incredibly versatile grain whose delicate nutty flavor adapts well to both sweet or savory recipes so it can be enjoyed both as a hot breakfast cereal or as a side dish, like this recipe for quinoa with roasted vegetables. Roasting vegetables brings out their natural sweetness and concentrates their flavor and the only seasonings you need are salt, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil. As the vegetables roast, their natural sugars caramelize and their flavors intensify. The quinoa can be cooked in either chicken stock, vegetable broth or water, and seasoned lightly with some salt.

Once the roasted vegetables are combined with the quinoa, you have a healthy and delicious pilaf that can be enjoyed either as a side dish or on its own. It is equally flavorful eaten slightly warmed or at room temperature, so it is perfect to pack for a lunch for work or school. I always make a large portion of this pilaf because it keeps for a week covered in the refrigerator, and I can eat it for several days.

If you are trying to incorporate more whole grains and vegetables in your diet, give this quinoa pilaf with roasted vegetables a try. It’s an easy and fuss-free recipe and proof that healthy eating can be incredibly delicious and satisfying.

Quinoa Pilaf With Roasted Vegetables Recipe

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup sliced almonds (optional)
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 cups zucchini, medium dice (2 small zucchini)
  • 3 cups eggplant, trimmed & peeled; medium dice (1 small eggplant)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, left whole
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup quinoa

Directions:

  1. Place oven racks in the middle and bottom third positions. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the sliced almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 2 minutes, or until lightly toasted and fragrant, checking often to make sure they do not burn. Remove the almonds from the oven and allow them to cool completely.
  3. Wash and pat dry all the vegetables. Trim the broccoli florets, discarding stems. Cut the zucchini and eggplant into medium-size diced pieces. Place the broccoli, zucchini, eggplant and cherry tomatoes into a large bowl. Add the salt, pepper and olive oil and using a rubber spatula, toss gently to coat. Transfer the vegetables to a baking sheet and spread out into an even layer. It’s OK if the vegetables touch. Use a second baking sheet if you are making a larger amount of vegetables.
  4. Roast the vegetables until they are golden brown and tender, about 35-45 minutes. Once the vegetables are finished cooking, remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool slightly on the baking sheets while you cook the quinoa.
  5. Bring the chicken broth to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat in a large saucepan. Add in the salt and stir to dissolve. Add in the quinoa and stir. Cover the saucepan and bring the broth back to a gentle simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook the quinoa until all the broth is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes. Once the quinoa is finished cooking, the grains will appear translucent, and the germ “ring” will be visible along the outside of the grain. Remove from the heat and let the quinoa stand for 5 minutes, covered. Uncover the saucepan and fluff the quinoa gently using a fork. Add in the roasted vegetables and toss gently to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the toasted sliced almonds. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Helpful Tips:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa = approx. 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • Cut the vegetables into similar size pieces to ensure even cooking.
  • To make this recipe vegetarian, substitute water or vegetable broth for the chicken broth.
  • Measurements for the vegetables as given above do not need to be exact since the size of vegetables varies widely, as will the size you dice them. It’s always a good idea to roast extra vegetables to use in other ways. Roasted vegetables can be added to sandwiches and wraps, served as a side dish, used as a topping on crostini, or used as a healthy pizza topping.
  • If you cannot find pre-rinsed quinoa, make sure you rinse the quinoa before cooking it. Measure out the amount you will use, place it in a fine mesh strainer and rinse it under cold water, draining well. Proceed with cooking the quinoa as directed.
How do you make sure you and your family are getting the proper nutrition you need?

Flavia Scalzitti is a food blogger based in Houston, Texas. She is originally from Maryland and comes from an Italian family. Flavia grew up around people who used food and cooking as a way to keep their traditions alive, celebrate their Italian culture, express their love for their family, and nourish the people they cooked for with the freshest and best quality ingredients. She is entirely self-taught and is also passionate about baking. In addition to cooking and baking, Flavia enjoys learning about and practicing photography, reading, traveling, practicing yoga, and spending time with her husband, Peter. She blogs at Flavia's Flavors: http://www.flaviasflavors.com

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