Quinoa, Recipes, Sides, Vegetables

Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

How many new foods have you tried because you read about them on a blog? For me, it’s probably been a lot–namely a lot of veggies I didn’t grow up eating and/or didn’t know how to prepare, cheeses, grains, etc. I’ve never really been a picky eater, but reading blogs and cookbooks certainly have revealed gaps in my foodie education. Since I’ve been reading blogs, one of my favorite new foods has been butternut squash. Sure, it’s a pain to cut, but it’s just. so. tasty! And it makes this quinoa–one of my favorite foods ever, btw–an essential dish for your fall cooking season. Period.

Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad | thepajamachef.com

One of my favorite ways to enjoy butternut squash is roasted and tossed in a salad, particularly this quinoa salad. I made this several times last winter and just never got around to sharing it here, so I was so happy when I realized this week that it was finally butternut squash season again! What makes this salad so good is the always delightful pairing of sweet and spicy seasonings, some strong cheese, and some salty meat. Molasses! Lime juice! Feta! Canadian bacon! All the good things, huh?! 🙂

Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad | thepajamachef.com

One of the key flavors here in this nutty salad is the molasses. It does a double duty as a marinade for the roasted squash, and as a dressing for the salad itself. Molasses is totally underrated, but it lends such rich flavor and subtle sweetness to this dish. It’s such a great fall flavor that I want to play with more! In the meantime, enjoy it on this fabulous side dish or light lunch. I can’t wait to make this many more times this fall and winter, and hope you try it out too! 🙂

one year ago: Carnitas
two years ago: Thai Seared Shrimp with Tomato, Basil, & Coconut
three years ago: Apple City Barbecue Sauce

Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
click to print


  • 1 large butternut squash, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups broth [chicken or vegetable, as desired]
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped and soaked in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes then drained and thoroughly dried
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1/2 cup feta, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup canadian bacon, chopped


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and cut a large butternut squash into 1 inch cubes. In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, molasses, chili powder, lime juice, and a generous amount of black pepper. Add cubed butternut squash, then toss to coat. Spread in a single layer on two large rimmed baking sheets, then bake for 30 minutes or until fork-tender.

Meanwhile, cook quinoa in broth according to package directions. Stir in soaked and dried red onion, molasses, lime juice, crumbled feta, and chopped canadian bacon. Fold in cubed butternut squash, then season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!

Time: 45 minutes.

Yield: 4-5 servings.

Linked up with: What’s Cookin’ Wednesday.

Beans, Main Dishes, Recipes, Sauces

Quinoa Black Bean Burritos with Southwest Sauce

We eat a lot of black beans around here–as a simple side with tacos, on salads, with rice. For some reason though, it’s rare that the black beans themselves are the star of the meal. And why not? They are so good and so filling! These Quinoa Black Bean Burritos with Southwest Sauce are the perfect example of that.

Quinoa Black Bean Burritos with Southwest Sauce | thepajamachef.com

I honestly wasn’t expecting much of this meal, but it was so phenomenal that I just had to share. Quinoa and black beans are a natural combination, and when flavored with garlic and taco seasoning, are pretty amazing. I also added some cheese because duh. Cheese. It’s all melty and wonderful. You could certainly add the cheese separately to the burrito, but I kinda liked the gooey factor when it was stirred in with everything else.

Quinoa Black Bean Burritos with Southwest Sauce | thepajamachef.com

As good as the burrito filling is, adding some guacamole and a quick Southwest Sauce makes this burrito. For sure. The sauce’s intriguing ingredients–salsa, mayo, lime juice, maple syrup, and spices–sound a bit off, but trust me. It totally works! This sauce is tangy, sweet, and has a tiny kick–but no real heat. You could spice this up if you wanted though! These Quinoa Black Bean Burritos make a wonderfully easy vegetarian weeknight dinner, and the leftovers last for days. Serve it with a side salad and chips and salsa for a complete meal. My kind of recipe! You can bet this will be part of our regular rotation from now on. Enjoy!

a year ago… Summery Squash & Chicken Lasagna
two years ago… Watermelon Coolers
three years ago… OTT: Brown Sugar Bacon Twists 

Quinoa Black Bean Burritos with Southwest Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
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adapted from Food.com


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed [I used 1/2 cup each red and white quinoa]
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups black beans [or a 15 ounce can], drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons taco seasoning
  • flour tortillas
  • chopped avocados or guacamole [I made a simple guac–1 mashed avocado, lemon juice, cilantro, salt, pepper]

for Southwest Sauce

  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise [I think sour cream or plain yogurt could be substituted too]
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder


Place quinoa and broth in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook at a simmer until all liquid has been absorbed–about 12 to 15 minutes. Then, add black beans, garlic, cheese, and taco seasoning and stir until cheese has melted. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes or until heated through.

Meanwhile, prepare Southwest Sauce. Whisk together salsa, mayonnaise, maple syrup, cumin, lime juice, and chili powder. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. If salsa is chunky, you may want to smooth sauce by pureeing in a blender or food processor.

Serve by spooning quinoa black bean mixture in a large flour tortilla. Top with avocados or guacamole, then roll shut. Drizzle Southwest Sauce on top immediately before serving.

Linked up with Foodie Friday and Weekend Potluck.

Main Dishes, Pork, Quinoa, Recipes, Sides, Vegetables

Pork Chops with Quinoa, Kale, and Blood Orange

I’ll be totally honest: before this spring, I had never tasted a blood orange. Of course I’d heard them hyped up online and in food mags, but for some reason had never had them in real life. Crazy, huh? So I picked up some during the same shopping trip where I found some majorly discounted pork chops nearing their expiration date [no problemo, just throw them in the freezer]. I came home and this dinner promptly appeared on our plates. Cool, huh?

Pork Chops with Quinoa, Kale, and Blood Orange | The Pajama Chef

Well, it wasn’t QUITE that simple. I had to mix some things up and do a little work, but other than that, this dinner was a cinch to throw together. And quite tasty too. So after we devoured it, I quickly wrote down what I did so I could share it here with you!

Pork Chops with Quinoa, Kale, and Blood Orange | The Pajama Chef

I’m not sure what the best part of this dinner was: the sweet, garlicky, vinegary pork chop? The tender sauteed kale? The nutty ‘n citrusy quinoa? I don’t know, but what I do know was that each bite was just so darn good! And it’s pretty fabulous that this dinner comes together in about 30 minutes. You gotta try it! If you don’t get around to til after blood orange season has passed, then try it with regular navel oranges, or grapefruit, or even clementines. The more I think about it, the citrusy freshness was definitely my favorite part. Enjoy! 🙂

Pork Chops with Quinoa, Kale, and Blood Orange [a The Pajama Chef original]
click to print


  • 2 pork chops
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 blood orange: zest all of it, juice half of it, and slice the other half of it
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 bunch kale, washed, dried, stems removed, and chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • salt
  • garlic powder


Place pork chops in a shallow bowl. Whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic, red pepper, and half the blood orange zest. Pour over pork chops and marinate for 10 minutes as you start preparations for the quinoa and walnuts.

Prepare quinoa according to package directions–but instead of just using 1 cup water, use juice of 1/2 the orange and make up the difference with water. Also add the remaining half of the blood orange zest.

Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a small skillet set over medium heat. Cook for 7-8 minutes until fragrant, stirring occasionally. When toasted, chop walnuts.

Now, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add pork chops and marinade to the pan and saute for 4-5 minutes per side until cooked through. [Don’t forget to watch the walnuts!] Remove pork chops from pan to a plate; cover to keep warm.

Add kale to hot skillet, stir to coat with pan juices. Saute until kale is tender, and season with pepper, salt, and garlic powder as desired.

Serve pork chops on top of kale and quinoa, dressing with pan juices, chopped walnuts, and blood orange slices.

Time: 30 minutes.

Yield: 2 servings.

Linked up with: Weekend Potluck.

Quinoa, Recipes, Sides

Sweet-Tart Quinoa Salad

So, sometimes when I don’t take my beloved black bean wraps in my lunch, I like to make big salads on the weekend, filled with veggies and protein and oodles of flavor, that I can dish out throughout the week. At home I love leafy green salads, but for portability and ease, grain-based salads are my BFF. They don’t get soggy or mushy, they have tons of different flavors and textures, and the dressing is already mixed in–no need to juggle a bajillion containers! These same salads are also great for a meatless dinner or a healthy barbecue side dish for practically all the same reasons, but I just tend to eat them more for lunch!

This salad is no different from my normal grain-based salad loves, though technically quinoa isn’t a grain. But in my little world, like most of the rest of the culinary empire, it’s lumped right in. Don’t go lumping this Sweet-Tart Quinoa Salad in with other quinoa salads, though!

This salad pairs the basic Mexi-grain salad components with something new, something fresh. Something sweet–some sweet potato and bell peppers, perhaps?–meets something tart. Not just the Mexi-staple tartness of lime. But the unexpected, refreshing burst of…. Grapefruit. Whaaaaat? What initially started as a scaredy-cat substitution because I realized I was out of limes and needed more liquid to mix into this salad turned into a “oh darn, I should have used more grapefruit juice” during the test tasting stage. Crazy!

See, here’s the deal. You toss together some quinoa, bell peppers, onion, black beans, and sweet potato. They’re great. Pantry staples, healthy, filling, relatively affordable. They’re filling and flavorful on their own, yet adaptable to a pretty wide range of seasonings. Then you add the Mexi-spices and flavors, including cumin, cilantro, red pepper, the typical lime juice, etc. Leave the salad alone here and it would be pretty good. But add some grapefruit juice and take it to the next level. Beyond the tang of lime there’s a familiar yet unexpected tartness. An explosion of yummy flavors that makes each bite enchanting and divine. Sweet-Tart Quinoa Salad is the perfect familiar yet unexpected addition to your next lunch conundrum, meatless meal, or barbecue side dish.

And yes, if you’re wondering… “Sweet-Tart” in the dish’s name was a nod to my all-time favorite childhood candy, SweeTarts, which I would happily munch on all day, everyday if that was a nutritionally sound choice. 🙂

What’s your all-time favorite childhood candy?

Sweet-Tart Quinoa Salad
click to print


  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cumin
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, dry
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped + more for garnish
  • 3/4 cup bell peppers, diced [I used green, yellow, and red]
  • 3/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
  • freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place onion and sweet potato in a large baking dish, then sprinkle with garlic, red pepper, and cumin. Drizzle with olive oil, then use your [clean!] hands to mix everything together. Bake for 20-22 minutes.

While the sweet potato and onion mixture is a-cooking, prepare the quinoa. Boil 1 cup water, then stir in the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cover, cooking for 12 minutes.

Remove quinoa from heat, then stir in cilantro, bell peppers, black beans, lime juice, and grapefruit juice. After everything is combined, cover and set aside.

After sweet potato and onion mixture is ready, add to quinoa, and season with lots of freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!

Time: 25 minutes [10 minutes active].

Yield: 2-3 servings.

Notes: If raw peppers aren’t your thing, you can roast then with the sweet potatoes and onions. Also, feel free to use any combination of citrus juice–orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc. in place of the lime-grapefruit mixture.

Breakfast, Pancakes, Recipes

SRC: Quinoa Pancakes

Another month, another dose of the Secret Recipe Club. 🙂 My favorite Monday of the month, by far. If you’ve missed my other SRC posts, the premise is this: you’re assigned a different member’s blog every month. You visit their blog, choose any recipe you want, then make it and share it on your blog. It’s a great way to find new blogs and expand your repertoire with new recipes, cooking styles, etc. Then, everyone posts about their assigned blog on the same day. It’s so fun–if you have a blog, definitely check it out and consider joining! I highly recommend it.

For March, I was assigned Rachel’s blog, Not Rachael Ray. While perusing her site, there were so many things I wanted to try [that is, when I wasn’t sidetracked by the precious photos of her baby daughter]. I’ll have to come back later when it’s rhubarb season to make this cake. I’m also very intrigued by these pumpkin cheddar muffins–that’s one pumpkin combo that I have not experienced! But for March, I decided that a cozy, comfy breakfast was in order… hence, Quinoa Pancakes.

Nutty and full of protein, these quinoa pancakes are sure to be a yummy (and nutritious) way to start your morning!

I love breakfast, I love quinoa. Why not put the two together? I know it sounds a tad bit strange, but take away your side-dish associations with quinoa and just think of it as the “grain” that it is. And I say “grain” because it is actually is a seed and a relative of spinach and Swiss chard, unlike our modern connotations. Check out this link for more info on this nutritious addition to your new favorite pancake recipe.

These pancakes were nutty and filling–just sweet enough to be satisfying, but not that over the top sweet that a little extra maple syrup and fresh blueberries would be considered overkill. Nope, not at all. Ben and I both loved these pancakes and are sure that you will too! Thanks, Rachel, for the new addition to our breakfast rotation. 🙂

Nutty and full of protein, these quinoa pancakes are sure to be a yummy (and nutritious) way to start your morning!

Quinoa Pancakes

  • Servings: 2
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from Not Rachael Ray

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa or brown rice [approximately 1/3 cup dry cooked in 2/3 cup water]
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the skillet [I used canola oil]
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed, optional [I used about 2 teaspoons because I only have a hand crank grinder and my hand was tired!]


Heat a large skillet over medium heat.

In a large bowl, mix together quinoa, flour, and baking powder. In a measuring cup, measure milk, then add in eggs, butter, and maple syrup. Whisk together, then fold into the quinoa mixture. Stir in flax if using.

Add butter or oil to skillet, then drop batter on skillet. [see yield for size info] Cook on first side for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes, or until bubbles form, then flip and cook until golden brown. Serve with fresh fruit, preserves, and/or more real maple syrup.

Click on over to check out other posts from today’s reveal of the SRC. Have a great day!