Parfait, Salad, Stir-Fry, Too: 1 Pot of Quinoa, 3 Meals for You!
Are you beyond busy? We bet we know the answer—and we’re here today to take the stress of meal planning off your plate! One large pot of quinoa (takes about 20 minutes to prepare, and you mostly ignore it while it cooks) will provide you with the foundation for at least three meals: a quick and easy breakfast, a satisfying lunch for work, and a kid-friendly dinner. Quinoa has a mild, nutty flavor and tastes great warm or cold, plus it’s packed with filling fiber and protein.
Here are three fast and yummy recipes we love (full recipes below):
First, make your pot of quinoa:
1: Measure out the quinoa and pick through it to remove pebbles and small debris.
2: Pour your quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and run cold water over it until the water is clear, swishing it around and rubbing it a little to remove any residual bitter coating.
3: Briefly toast the quinoa in a small sauce pot, and then add water and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let it simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit an additional 5 minutes—no peeking. When ready, remove the lid and gently fluff with a fork.
Meal #1: Breakfast Parfaits!
Oatmeal shouldn’t have a monopoly on the whole-grain component of your morning meal. Layer quinoa with yogurt and any fruit, seeds, and nuts or nut butter you have on hand. For a touch of sweetness, use a dab of honey, agave, maple syrup, or jam.
We know weekday mornings can be a blur, but, if you have time, encourage your kiddo to build his own parfait. The process helps him develop fine motor skills, vocabulary, and confidence—not a bad way to start his day!
Breakfast is served! If you made your quinoa the night before, assembling your parfaits shouldn’t take more than a few minutes tops. Use the time you’ve saved to sit down and eat with your child—eating a healthy breakfast will help you function at your peak, too.
Meal #2: Salads in a Jar!
Quinoa can turn a simple salad into a meal that feels hearty without being heavy—just add veggies, dressing, and your favorite toppings, such as cheese, beans, tuna, leftover chicken or steak, olives, seeds, or fresh herbs. Pack your salad in a mason jar to make a quick and efficient brown-bag lunch for work. Bringing lunch from home is a great way to eat better while also saving $$$.
When building your salad in a jar, always start with the dressing on the bottom, away from the greens to keep them fresh. Then layer in your additional ingredients, starting with the heaviest ones at the bottom and lighter ingredients at the top. When you’re ready to eat, simply shake and serve!
Meal #3: Stir-Fried Quinoa!
Substituting quinoa turns classic “fried rice” into a nutritional powerhouse. This kid-friendly dish is also a great way to make veggies (finely chopped and flavored with soy sauce and sesame oil) more approachable.
In our centers, we embrace family-style eating—encouraging children to serve themselves teaches them important social skills (passing items, sharing, being patient, saying “please” and “thank you”) and how to listen to their own hunger cues. Allowing them to get in on the serving action can also inspire them to try new foods. There will likely be some spills, but also a lot of smiles.
Serve this quinoa stir fry with crunchy, toasty toppings like peanuts and sesame seeds, and crisp, fresh veggies. It makes a delicious stand-alone dinner or a tasty side dish for baked chicken, pork chops, or steak.
QUINOA 3 WAYS
MAKING THE QUINOA
Serves: 4–6 for 3 meals
Total time: 5 minutes prep/15 minutes on stove/5 minutes to sit
- 4 cups white or red quinoa (yields approximately 11–12 cups)
- Olive oil and salt (optional)
- 8 cups water
- Quinoa has a natural coating called saponin that can cause a bitter taste when it’s cooked. Luckily, all you need to do is rinse it off right before you cook it. Pour your quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and run cold water over it until the water run-off is clear (about a minute should do it), swish it around, and rub it a little to remove any residual saponin. If you don’t have a strainer, put the quinoa and water in a pot, swirl it around and rub it a bit, pour the water off slowly, and then repeat the process at least once.
- Let the quinoa fully drain and give it a good shake.
- Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium-high, then add the rinsed quinoa and toast it, stirring, for a minute or two. Toasting quinoa isn’t necessary, but it does enhance both flavor and texture.
- Add the water and a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover your pot, and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit another 5 minutes with the lid on—no peeking! When the time is up, you can remove the lid and check to see that all the water is gone and curly spirals (the germ) have separated from the seeds. If there’s still liquid in the pot, simply return the pot to the stove and cook on low heat until all the water is absorbed. When done, gently fluff the quinoa with a fork.
MEAL #1: BREAKFAST PARFAITS
Total time: 5 minutes to build
- 2 cups yogurt
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 2 cups chopped fruit, such as berries, bananas, mangos, etc.
- 6 tablespoons honey
- 4–6 teaspoons nut butter (optional)
- Chopped nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Dried coconut
- For a pretty presentation, fill small, clear-glass jars with a 1/4 cup of yogurt each. Top with 1/4 cup of quinoa, and then 1/4 cup of chopped fruit. If you use larger jars, keep repeating the layers until the jar is almost full, making sure the topmost layer is fruit.
- Top the fruit with a tablespoon of honey, a teaspoon of nut butter, and a sprinkling of chopped nuts, seeds, and coconut. Enjoy!
MEAL #2: LAYERED LUNCH SALADS
Total time: 10 minutes to build
For the vinaigrette:
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- 2 teaspoons grainy or Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- Big pinches of salt and pepper
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the salad:
- 1 (15-ounce can) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup carrots, shredded
- 1/2 cup feta-cheese crumbles
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 2 cups shredded kale or spinach
- 1/2 cup scallions
- 1/2 cup mixed herbs (basil, chives, parsley, cilantro)
- Start by making the vinaigrette. First put the vinegar, mustard, honey, shallot, lemon juice, and salt and pepper in a mason jar and stir to combine. Second, add the olive oil, put a lid on the jar, and give it a shake.
- Get your layering on! When preparing a salad to be eaten later, you always want to start with the vinaigrette on the bottom (away from the greens to keep them fresh), followed by your heavier ingredients first, with lighter ingredients near the top of the jar. For our salads, start by pouring 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette into each jar.
- Begin building the bulk of your salad in this order: 1/4 cup of chickpeas, 1/4 cup of shredded carrots, 2 tablespoons of feta cheese, 1/2 cup of quinoa, 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup of greens, 2 tablespoons of scallions, and 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs.
- Put lids on the jars and keep in the refrigerator until lunch.
- To eat, remove the lid and either toss everything together in the jar if you have room, or shake the jar with the lid on and then pour the salad into a bowl.
MEAL #3: STIR-FRIED QUINOA DINNER
Total time: 10 minutes prep/15 minutes cooking
- 2–3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup minced carrots
- 1 cup chopped sweet red pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
- 4 cups cooked quinoa
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Chicken, shrimp, lean beef, pork, tofu, edamame, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, pineapple, etc. (optional)
- In a large skillet or wok, warm 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-high until it shimmers and moves like water. Add the beaten eggs and swirl them around the pan round to create a thick pancake.
- Once the eggs have set, remove the pan from the heat and flip the eggs out onto a cutting board to cool. When ready, cut into thin strips and set aside.
- Add the second tablespoon of oil to the same skillet or wok and heat on high. If you’re including meat or tofu, add it now—if you’re adding meat, cook it all the way through; if you’re adding tofu, cook it until it’s browned, and then remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and then add the scallions, carrots, red pepper, and any other veggies desired. Fry for 2 minutes, stirring often.
- Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another minute, stirring often.
- Add the meat or tofu back to the pan along with the quinoa, soy sauce, and sesame oil, and fry for 4 minutes, stirring often until the quinoa begins to brown.
- Mix in the frozen peas and egg strips, and cook for another 4 minutes.
- Place the pan on the table and let children serve themselves family-style. If the pan is still too hot, you can transfer the stir fry to a large serving bowl. Garnish with peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, and sliced fresh veggies like cucumbers and sweet peppers.