Mexican Quinoa

by Shawnda on April 25, 2012

in Cinco de Mayo,Holiday Favorites,Lighter & Healthier,Mexican & TexMex,Pasta, Rice, and Grains,Sides

Mexican Quinoa

We are great big fans of Mexican food. It’s a shame that traditional Tex-Mex is not very figure friendly. Things are fried in lard and served wrapped in other things that were fried in lard. But it’s delicious :)

In an attempt to lighten up Mexican night at home, I usually target the sides. Because trying to healthify queso is just… wrong :) Pinto beans take a whirl in the food processor for homemade refried beans. And we swap the rice side dish for quinoa.

Quinoa is a grain that we’ve incorporated more and more into our menus over the last year. It’s higher in protein and fiber than rice and makes a healthier alternative – and it tastes a lot like brown rice.

On Mexican night, we mix a generous batch of pico de gallo and lime juice into cooked (and cooled) quinoa. It can be served warm but it really shines as a cold dish. The flavors are fresher and brighter and the veggies offer a cold, crisp contrast to the quinoa – it’s the perfect summer side dish when TexMex is on the menu.

Mexican Quinoa

Tomatoes, lime, red onion and quinoa make a fresher, lighter side dish for taco night.


  • 2 cups quinoa, uncooked
  • 4 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 4 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeno or serrano, seeded and diced
  • Juice of 1-2 limes (to taste)
  • Small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  1. Cook quinoa in chicken broth, according to package directions.
  2. Place quinoa in a shallow dish and spread out, covering with damp paper towels and refrigerate until cold, about an hour. (This step is optional, but recommended)
  3. Toss cold quinoa with the juice of 1 lime, onion, tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste and add additional lime juice if desired.
  4. Serve cold and store leftovers in an airtight bowl.


Yields: 8 generous side servings

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 2 hours

Nutritional Information
Calories: 195.0 | Fat: 3.5g | Fiber 11.7g | Protein 8.1g | Carbs 31.7
Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 4



Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Ranch Dressing

We have previously discussed my obsession love for homemade ranch dressing. Or straight-off-the-shelf-in-a-squeeze-bottle ranch dressing. And I know you guys love it, too – it’s consistently in the top 10 recipes visited here.

And if you like the spicy, smokey flavors of chipotle peppers, you’re going to love this version, too.

We’ve been keeping a jar of Chipotle Ranch Dressing in the fridge lately, instead of the regular ranch or my absolute favorite – Chuy’s-inspired creamy jalapeno.

The spicy, smokey flavors transform a boring grilled chicken salad into a reason to actually crave salad. Because I just don’t do that normally. We use it instead of mayo or mustard on our Texican burgers. And the cool, spicy sauce makes a rockstar dipper for sweet potato fries.

We bake our sweet potato fries in a spice mix. I don’t like to coat them with anything else and have gotten pretty good results (read: not floppy fries) using the method below. But a naked sweet potato fry will never, ever be crispy like a white potato fry. A fact I’ll happily accept as long as there’s a bowl of chipotle ranch nearby.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Ranch Dressing

Ranch dressing infused with smokey, spicy chipotle peppers is the perfect dipper for baked sweet potato fries.


  • For the chipotle ranch dressing:
  • 3/4 cup mayo (low fat is fine)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream (low fat is fine, I replace half or all with fat-free Greek yogurt)
  • 2-3 canned chipotle peppers with 1 Tbsp sauce
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 small bunch of chives
  • Small handful of cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk (optional)
  • For the sweet potato fries:
  • 3-4 Tbsp oil (coconut recommended)
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes (2 medium, no longer than ~5-6 inches long)
  • 1 tsp ancho chile powder (substitute regular chile powder if you can
  • 2 tsp chile powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper


  1. To make the dressing, place all dressing ingredients except the buttermilk in a blender.
  2. Blend for 10 seconds. Check consistency and blend in buttermilk if desired (less buttermilk for dipping, more for dressing).
  3. Store in an air-tight jar in the fridge for a week or more.
  4. To make the fries, coat a baking sheet with 3 Tbsp of oil, adding the last Tbsp if necessary. (I like the flavor of coconut oil with sweet potato fries).
  5. Preheat the oven and baking sheet to 450. (This is a little over the smoking point of moist cooking oils, including coconut. You want enough to nicely coat the baking sheet, not pool - this will keep it from smoking too much.)
  6. Peel and slice the sweet potatoes into 1/4-inch sticks (no longer than ~5 inches long).
  7. In a large zipper bag, mix the dry spices together.
  8. Add the sweet potato fries, zip close, and shake to coat the fries evenly.
  9. Carefully put the fries onto the baking sheet and bake for ~20 minutes, flipping halfway through - this is easier to do by shaking the pan if you place the fries parallel to the long side of the pan, a couple of back-and-forth shakes and you're done.
  10. Turn on the broiler for the last 1-2 minutes, just until the tips of the fries begin to turn black. Don't walk away - they can burn in no time.
  11. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate in a single layer until ready to serve.


Yields: ~4 servings of fries and ~2 cups of dressing

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 35 minutes



I woke up today with a jumbo-sized carb hangover. And you might have, too. Unless you were born with willpower. And then, well, I’m totally jealous.

Last night, barely 30 minutes after I crammed the last load of dishes into the dishwasher and swore off cooking forever, I was in the kitchen, toasting pine nuts and whipping up dressing so we could have a light lunch at home before heading out. Today is a travel day for us. 6 hours in the car with a cranky toddler on our way to Thanksgiving #2. Now who’s jealous :)

Kale with Pine Nuts and garlic Vinaigrette

Our favorite little pizza place has a house vinaigrette that is for the garlic lover. Not liker. Lover. It’s not the salad dressing you order on a date. Unless your date is completely awesome and orders it for himself. And then you can go for it! It’s great on most salads, from the “plain romaine” that Jason prefers, to the mixed baby greens that Locatelli’s serves. But for the last month, I’ve been in love with the simple combination of Kale, pine nuts, and Parmesan, thank to Nancy.

The garlic flavor in the dressing will only intensify overnight. I try to make it ahead of time when I can but it’s not necessary.

Kale with Pine Nuts and Garlic Vinaigrette

Kale, parmesan, and pine nuts topped with a tangy vinaigrette that's perfect for the garlic lover.


  • For the vinaigrette:
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan (~1 oz)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • For the salad:
  • 1 bunch Kale, rinsed and dried
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • Parmesan, shaved (for garnish)


  1. Add lemon juice, white wine vinegar, a pinch of salt, and black pepper to your blender and turn on, streaming in the oil slowly.
  2. Turn off the blender and add the garlic and cheese. Blend another 10-15 seconds.
  3. Heat a dry non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add the pine nuts.
  4. Toast for 4-5 minutes, stirring once or twice until sides are golden brown.
  5. Coarsely chop kale and add to a large bowl.
  6. Lightly toss with a few tablespoons of dressing and garnish with toasted pine nuts and shaved parmesan.


Yields: 4 servings

Source: Dressing Inspired by Locatelli's Pizza, Salad by A Communal Table

Estimated time: 20 minutes



Korean Beef Tacos with Cucumber Slaw

How often do you use your crockpot? A while back, mine actually broke. The safety glass in the lid exploded into eleventy billion perfect little squares that scattered across the kitchen and pantry floor. And none of us were wearing shoes.

I wasn’t that sad. Aside from pulled pork and french dip sandwiches, it saw little action. I didn’t really miss it at first. A covered dutch oven and a 275 degree-oven produces the same fall-apart, amazingly tender meats as a crockpot. But I couldn’t leave to run errands with the oven on. And heating up the oven for 6-8 hours seems less energy-efficient. So I begrudgingly replaced it a couple of weeks ago.

These tacos were one of the first things I made in the new crockpot (which is digital! And programmable! And has a tiny hole in the lid for a digital thermometer!). I saw them on My Life as a Mrs last week – she combined Joelen’s Korean beef short rib recipe with Jaden’s pickled cucumbers to make a taco so flavorful, it gives my beloved smoked brisket taco a run for its money. For real.

The meat is cooked in a mixture of soy, brown sugar, garlic, fresh ginger – and the sriracha I added for extra heat. 3 hours into it, if you’re home, your house will smell amazing! Because I used quite a bit less brown sugar than the original recipe called for and I added extra water that the original recipe didn’t call for, I reduced some of the liquid in a sauce pan while I was shredding the cooked beef. This concentrated the flavors and made a thicker glaze that nicely coated the beef. Certainly not required if you’re in a hurry. But totally worth it if you’ve got time.

We served the tacos topped with a cucumber slaw, bean sprouts, cilantro, additional sriracha, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.The cucumber slaw adds a cool, tangy, fresh crunch to the tacos. They’re also loaded with water so I took the extra step of salting them to pull out some of the excess moisture since I was making the slaw ahead of time.

Tina noted that short ribs were quite pricey in her area and used back ribs instead. I have successfully used chuck roast (which is what I use for french dip sandwiches). As for the leftovers? If you get tired of tacos, tuck the leftovers and a couple of mango slices inside a spring roll wrapper.

Korean Beef Spring Rolls with Mango

Crockpot Korean Beef Tacos with Cucumber Slaw

Tacos filled with sweet, tender Korean-style beef and tangy cucumber slaw.


  • For the Korean beef:
  • ~5 lbs beef short ribs (can also use chuck roast or back ribs)
  • 1 bottle (10 oz) low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tbsp ginger, grated
  • 6 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha
  • 1 cup water (optional)
  • For the Cucumber Slaw:
  • 1 cucumber (seedless recommended)
  • Thinly sliced red onion rounds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • For the tacos:
  • 16 small wheat tortillas
  • cilantro
  • bean sprouts
  • Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • sriracha


  1. To make the cucumber slaw, slice the cucumber very thinly and sprinkle with salt. Place in a colander and let sit for up to an hour over a bowl or in the sink.
  2. Shake additional water from the colander or pat with paper towels.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and toss with red onions, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Refrigerate until ready to use (leftovers get less and less crunchy as they sit but it can be made ahead, just pour off any accumulated liquid and toss with an additional 1-2 tsp vinegar to taste, if necessary).
  4. To make the Korean beef for the tacos, spray your slow cooker crock with non-stick cooking spray and add the ribs.
  5. Whisk soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar with the garlic, ginger, sriracha, and oils.
  6. Pour over the ribs in the crockpot. (I thought the liquid level looked a little low so I added ~ 1 1/2 cups of water.)
  7. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  8. (optional) Remove 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and skim the fat from the top. Pour the liquid into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer while separating the meat from the bones. Reduce the liquid by about half and pour over the shredded meat.
  9. To assemble, serve the shredded meat on warmed tortillas topped a spoon of cucumber slaw, cilantro, bean sprouts, sriracha and a dollop of yogurt.


Yields: 8 servings

Adapted from What's Cookin' Chicago and Steamy Kitchen via My Life as a Mrs.

Estimated time: 9 hours