Creamy Avocado Quinoa

On Tuesday, I had grand plans to head to the gym after work. I packed my bag the night before and left it right by the door. All that preparing was great, especially when I walked right past the bag on my way out the door that morning. Since my husband and I work together, we take turns driving and Tuesdays are my day. After battling typical New Jersey traffic in the rain, we arrived at the gym, and I was anxious to get inside and hopefully score a treadmill. I went to reach for my gym bag… and there was nothing there. I had driven past our house in rush hour traffic for nothing.

So we turned right around, drove home, and suited up for a run in the rain. It turned out to only be a light drizzle, but I was nervous since it was already 6:45p and dark. Thankfully the weather has been unseasonably warm, so I wore a white t-shirt and as much reflective gear I could find, and squeezed in 4 miles.  Rain and dark can’t keep me from running – this Goofy Challenge isn’t going to run itself in January!

While the whole wasting time driving to the gym and then driving back home kind of bummed me out, the run itself was a nice boost, as was our dinner. We’ve had about a cup of quinoa sitting in our pantry for who knows how long, so I decided to finally use it. My husband isn’t a big fan of the grain, but I figured mixing it with some of his favorite ingredients would make it better. I think it also helped that there was a jalapeno in it, making it nice and spicy while he had his foot in an ice bath.

This entire meal can be ready in the time it takes for the quinoa to cook (about 10-20 minutes), so it’s perfect for a weeknight. I also think this would be really great in a burrito. But, you can do what I did and just throw it in a bowl and go to town. It’s an odd green color, but I promise it tastes delicious.

Creamy Avocado Quinoa
– Serves 2 –

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 Spanish onion, sliced
1 jalapeno, diced (more or less depending on your preferred spice level)
1 cup black beans
1 avocado
1/4 cup cilantro
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp oil 

1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil with the quinoa, and let simmer for about 10-20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile,  heat the oil in a skillet and satuee the onions over medium-high heat, about five minutes. Add jalapeno and beans, cooking for an additional 5 minutes.
3. In a food processor or  blender, combine avocado, garlic, and cilantro. Pulse until smooth and creamy.
4. Add the cooked quinoa to the skillet, being sure to mix fully, and allow to cook for an additional minute or two.
5. Remove from heat and add the avocado sauce, stirring to combine. 

Chunky Eggplant Quinoa

I love eggplant. It’s one of those vegetables that’s so versatile, and really hearty. Growing up, aside from having eggplant parmigana, I didn’t realize how many possibilities there are. So, I decided to just throw a few things in a pan and hope for the best. Instead of having it over pasta, I thought using quinoa instead would be a nice change of pace. We have tortellini at least once a week, and I don’t want to over do it with the pasta.

This recipe definitely has a slow cooking, involved taste. But it’s actually quite easy! We actually had a little leftover and added it to our typical tortellini dinner later in the week, and it was great. I could definitely see some additions to the stew such as mushrooms, peas, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Chunky Eggplant Quinoa
– Serves 3 –

1 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced into large chunks
1 can (15.5 oz) diced tomatoes (preferably with herb seasoning)
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 cup quinoa
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
*red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine vinegars in medium bowl, add diced eggplant and make sure they’re fully coated. Place on greased baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes.
3. While the eggplant is cooking,  heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion and garlic, sauté about 5 minutes, until onion is translucent and garlic is starting to brown.
4. Add tomatoes, and simmer for 5 minutes on medium heat.
5. Cook quinoa according to package
6. Add the cooked eggplant to the tomato, onion, and garlic, and cook for an additional 5 minutes, making sure everything is combined.
7. Serve the eggplant mixture over the quinoa, and top with some red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese.

Spicy Quinoa Salad

Promising myself two legitimate dinners in the kitchen this week, I went for a Spicy Quinoa Salad and paired it with just some chicken breast we had hanging out in the freezer. I’m trying to use as much of any perishable items I can, which is why I decided to pair this with just some plain ole chicken.

I actually had a hard time spotting Quinoa at the grocery store on Sunday. I found Bob’s Red Mill right away in the organic section, but it was $8! I know, I know, that’s not much. But for a grain I’d never had before and wasn’t sure what else I’d be using it with, I just couldn’t plunk that down. We also try to stay under $75 a week, and I knew we wouldn’t if I grabbed it. I headed over to the rice and pasta aisle, and spent a solid 5 minutes staring at all the different rice trying to find it. Turns out I had my back to where it was, and after almost giving up, I found a nice box for $3.50! Sure, it wasn’t whole wheat or organic, but sometimes you just have to cut corners.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I struggle with cutting onions. Over the summer I had the great idea of using my swimming goggles to help combat the tears, and it works. I thought it was about time I shared a little treat with my readers. So here’s a picture of me from my Macbook in the kitchen (I bring it with me to read off recipes), post run and gleefully holding a red onion and a knife while sporting my goggles. Laugh away!

The recipe was super easy, and quick, which in these final packing days has been much appreciated. Trying to finish up packing and cleaning, doing homework, and trying to finally get back to running has jam-packed my week. I was able to tackle 2 miles on Monday night, and another 3 Tuesday. It’s definitely on it’s way to recovery, and feels a lot better than it did when I tried to start running last time. I’m really hoping I can be smart about this one. At this point, I’m not concerned about PRing the Disney Half Marathon, rather I just want to be able to finish the 13.1 pain-free. I’ll set my sights on a PR for the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon in April.

This was my last “real” dinner in this kitchen. In retrospect, I’ve really come into my own here. I started off making burritos and stir-fry, and really blossomed to making intricate desserts, scrumptious dinners, and just having a lot of fun. I’ve also given my fiancé plenty of opportunity to work on his camera skills (thanks babe)! Aside from making my work BFF/bridesmaid a sweet birthday treat on Thursday night which I’ll be sure to post about, next week’s food blogs will be from a new kitchen. How exciting!

I didn’t have any good pictures for the recipe, so head over to Serious Eats for a picture, which is where I got this glorious recipe!

Spicy Quinoa Salad
– Serves 4-6 –

1 cup quinoa
Kosher salt
2 cups diced cucumber (about 2 medium)
2 cups finely diced tomatoes (about 2 medium)
1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers (to taste), seeded if desired and finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely minced (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 avocado, sliced, for garnish

1. In a large bowl, cover the quinoa with cold water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Drain in a strainer and rinse until the water runs clear, then transfer to a medium saucepan. Cover with 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste (1 teaspoon or so), reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes until the grain becomes slightly translucent. Drain off excess water, cover the pot with a dish towel, replace the lid, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
2. In the meantime, combine the cucumber, tomato, cilantro, and olive oil in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, combine the onion, lime juice, and vinegar. Allow to sit while the quinoa finishes cooking.
3. Combine the vegetables and toss to coat, then stir in the quinoa. Season to taste with salt, oil, and/or more lime juic, and serve immediately with sliced avocado.