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Having not made anything new or exciting for the past few Meatless Mondays, I decided to give this quinoa dish from No Take Out a try.

Not being a fan of couscous (issues with the texture), I wasn’t sure how I’d like quinoa. Then, I had two thoughts that convinced me to give it a go – 1) I’ll eat pretty much anything with black beans, avocado, and cilantro; 2) one of my favorite food bloggers adores quinoa and Mare wouldn’t lead me astray. Best of May – Quinoa & Black Beans

  Printable recipe
Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Shopping List

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 medium yellow onions
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 lemon
  • 10 oz. mixed salad greens, preferably organic
  • 1 orange, preferably organic
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • One 15 oz. can black beans
  • 1 cup quinoa

Pantry Items

  • Black pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Dried oregano
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Ground cumin
  • Hot paprika
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt
  • Prep
    • Core, seed and dice the red bell pepper.
    • Peel and dice the onions.
    • Peel and mince 1 clove garlic.
    • Peel and mince 1 of the shallots.
    • Peel and thinly slice the second shallot.
    • Rinse and spin dry the salad. Tear it into large bite-size pieces.
    • Rinse and pat dry the cilantro. Pluck 1/3 cup leaves.
    • Zest half the orange, and mince the zest.
    • Rinse the quinoa, really well.
  • Start Cooking
    • Put 2 tbsps. oil, the bell pepper, the onions and the garlic in the large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir and cook until the onions begin to turn translucent, stirring almost constantly.
    • Add the quinoa, 1 tsp. oregano, scant 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. chili powder, a generous pinch hot paprika and the orange zest. Stir well.
    • Pour in 2 cups water and add a heaping 1/4 tsp. salt. When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook the quinoa for 12 minutes. Remove from the heat. Don’t even look at the quinoa – it needs to plump in peace, for at least 7 minutes.
    • While the quinoa is cooking, make the vinaigrette. Put 1 tbsp. vinegar in a large bowl. Whisk in a large pinch of salt, the sliced shallot and 1/4 cup olive oil. Taste for seasoning.
    • You can finish up the avocado condiment now too. Peel, seed and dice the avocados. Put them in a bowl. Squeeze half a lemon through your fingers over the avocado.
    • Peel the orange right down to the fruit (remove all the white pith). Cut the orange in slices, then dice it and add to the avocados, along with the minced shallot. Toss. Season with 1/4 tsp. cumin and a generous sprinkling of salt and toss again.
    • Mince the cilantro.
    • Drain the black beans. Fold them into the quinoa along with the cilantro. Taste for seasoning.
    • Set the table now, letting the quinoa and black bean mixture cool to warm room temperature.
    • Toss the salad, thoroughly. Divide it among four plates. Top with a generous serving of the quinoa and black beans and a generous portion of the avocado condiment. Garnish each plate with a sprig of cilantro and take them to the table. Dinner is served.

This is so satisfying that we didn’t even have room for dessert. That never happens.

Are there any foods out there who’s texture grosses you out? I want to hear about it. Let’s make this Monday a great one!

You may recall a recent post where I raved about a southwestern pasta dish. Well, get ready for another rave! I whipped up a walnut fruit salad earlier in the week with a fruity pasta from Pappardelle’s Pasta. In case you haven’t noticed, they are my current farmers market obsession.

This salad has loads of flavor and texture without being overly fussy or sweet. If you want to dial the sweetness up a notch, a drizzle of honey would be a nice addition. I cut back on the apple, knowing I would have to eat around those delicious, juicy morsels. It worked out well enough since my partner in crime isn’t enthralled with celery or mandarin oranges. We were reminiscent of children trading snacks in the cafeteria. 😉

Click here for the printable recipe from Pappardelle’s Pasta.

Pasta & Walnut Fruit Salad with Fanciful Fruit Blend

½ lb. Pappardelle’s Fanciful Fruit Blend Pasta
8 oz. non-fat plain yogurt
¼ cup thawed frozen orange juice concentrate
1-15 oz. can drained mandarin oranges
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
1 apple, cored and chopped (* I used 3/4 of a Fuji apple)
1 stalk celery, sliced
½ cup walnut halves

1. Cook pasta in 6-8 quarts of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente (about 8-10 minutes). Drain and set aside.

2. In small bowl, blend yogurt and orange juice concentrate.

3. In large bowl, combine pasta and remaining ingredients.

4. Add yogurt mixture and toss to coat. Cover and chill thoroughly.

Serves 6-8

Copyright © 2010 by Pappardelle’s Pasta Co.

Chicken Toscana Soup

Last week was my turn to host game night which meant I got to toss around menu ideas (one of my favorite hobbies, incidentally). I knew I’d be making an Italian dessert so after contemplating several ideas, I decided to make the entire meal Italiano.

Two of my favorite dishes at Romano’s Macaroni Grill are their chicken Toscana soup and warm spinach salad. The soup is a creamy chicken soup with gnocchi, tomatoes, and spinach which compliments the salad – fresh spinach wilted and tossed with prosciutto, roasted garlic, fresh lemon and extra virgin olive oil then topped with toasted goat cheese – perfectly!

Lucky for me, I was able to find some “copycat” recipes. Thanks, Google and RecipeZaar!

Quick & Light Chicken Toscana Soup Inspired by Macaroni Grill

Serves 8


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil 
  • 2 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 90 ounces low-sodium low-fat chicken broth
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 4 cups cooked chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken from Fresh Market)
  • 16 ounces 1% low-fat milk (I used whole milk)
  • 16 ounces mini gnocchi
  • 10 ounces baby spinach (fresh, half bag)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil (if you only have dried, rub approx. 3/4 tsp. between palms and add when you add the milk)


  1. Cook the onion and garlic in olive oil until transparent (5-10 minutes). Add the chicken broth and bring to boil. Add chicken and tomatoes; bring back to a good simmer for 5 minutes. Add gnocchi; cook for 1 or 2 minutes if mini size, a little longer if larger.
  2. Add milk and heat until steaming. Stir in spinach just long enough to wilt. Ladel into bowls and top with parmesan cheese and fresh basil if you have it.

Warm Spinach Salad

I wilted a ton of fresh spinach in my wok then dressed it in a roasted garlic lemon vinaigrette (recipe below). I toasted several slices of goat cheese (instructions to follow), crisped the prosciutto, and voila!

Roasted Garlic Lemon Vinaigrette Inspired by Macaroni Grill


  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 ounce roasted garlic
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juice of


Place vinegar, honey, salt and roasted garlic in a food processor. Puree until the garlic is chopped very fine. With the food processor still running, add olive oil and lemon juice. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To Toast Goat Cheese:

  • 12 oz. goat cheese
  • 1/2 c. dried bread crumbs
  • 1/2 c. walnuts, ground fine

Slice rounds of the goat cheese with a sharp knife that is placed under hot running water after each slice is made. Pat the rounds so that they are firm, with rounded edges, and about 1/2 inch in thickness. Combine the bread crumbs and ground walnuts. Brush the goat cheese rounds with a bit of the walnut or vegetable oil and coat with the crumb mixture. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes, or until the crust is brown. (Instructions by

I tried baking the goat cheese in the oven, but found that browning it on the stovetop in a small non-stick skillet worked much better. Click here for the chicken Toscana soup recipe and here for the roasted garlic lemon vinaigrette recipe. Buon Appetito! Come back soon for the Italian dessert – 100% made from scratch. You won’t want to miss it!

You may have noticed a salad in the pic I posted yesterday of our Thanksgiving feast (lower left corner). My mom copied this recipe for me from one of her old cookbooks (maybe Southern Living?). I’ve made this salad the past two Christmases and it’s always a hit. Kelly prepared the salad this year and it was delicious as always.



1 pound fresh asparagus

1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained

1 (14-ounce) can hearts of palm, drained and cut into thirds

1 (12 ½- ounce) jar baby carrots, drained *

½ cup pitted black olives

1 cup fresh mushrooms

1 (0.7-ounce) envelope Italian salad dressing mix

1 small head romaine lettuce, separated

1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach

1 avocado, sliced in wedges

Sour Cream Sauce *

1 cup croutons

8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled


          Snap off tough ends of fresh asparagus. Remove scales with knife or vegetable peeler, if desired. Cook asparagus, covered in a small amount of boiling water 6 to 8 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain.

          Place asparagus and next 5 ingredients in a shallow dish. Prepare salad dressing mix according to package directions; pour over vegetables. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours.

          Drain vegetables; reserve marinade. Line a large platter with lettuce. Top with fresh spinach eaves. Arrange marinated vegetables and avocado on spinach. Drizzle the reserved marinade over salad arrangement. Serve with Sour Cream Sauce, croutons, and bacon. Yield: approximately 8 to 10 servings.


Sour Cream Sauce:

1 (8-ounce) carton commercial sour cream

½ cup mayonnaise

¾ tablespoon prepared horseradish

2 teaspoons chopped chives

2 teaspoons grated onion

1 teaspoon lemon juice

¼ teaspoon dry mustard


Combine all ingredients; stir well. Chill. Yield: 1 ½ cups.


* I use fresh baby carrots instead of carrots from a jar. The first year I made this salad, I served it as suggested with the sour cream sauce, bacon, and croutons…it was overkill. The sour cream sauce was left virtually untouched. The bacon, however, was a nice topping.

According to Kelly, this recipe even passed the mother-in-law test, which has secured it’s place on our holiday menu. 🙂 What’s on your menu for Christmas?

"Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity." ~Voltaire

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