This healthy side dish combines fluffy quinoa cooked in broth, and tossed with toasted sunflower seeds, fresh cilantro, and roasted asparagus and fennel. It will satisfy your palate with a variety of textures and flavors, and will feed your body and beauty with loads of nutrition (protein, fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and healthy fats, to name a few).
When I think of pilaf, I think of rice pilaf and the little boxes of Rice-a-Roni I used to make in my younger days. When I first set out to create a healthy pilaf, I planned to use brown rice. The downside to using brown rice in a pilaf is that it takes a long time to cook. Much too long for my level of patience at dinner time these days. My goal with most of the recipes I post is to not only make something tasty and nutritious, but also relatively easy and not too time consuming. Dishes that I would make again and again.
Quinoa to the rescue! Quinoa cooks up so much faster than brown rice and results in a fluffy, toothsome, and filling pilaf. You probably know quinoa is a favorite of health-minded individuals everywhere, but just how did it get this superfood reputation anyway?
- It packs a nutrient punch. Each one of those tiny, unassuming, spiral-y pseudo-grains is bursting with micros and macros galore. Most notably, it is unique among other grains because it is considered a complete protein source, thanks to its amino acid content. It also contains higher amounts of healthy monounsaturated fats than most grains. In addition, quinoa contains vitamin E, and is a good source of vitamins and minerals like folate, zinc, phosphorous, copper, and magnesium.
- Quinoa is an antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory food. Preliminary lab studies have shown that daily consumption of quinoa may be associated with decreased inflammation, especially in fat tissue and intestinal lining. This may be due to its high content of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients like phenolic acids and vitamin E. These nutrients also make it an important food for preventing diseases like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
- High fiber content. Most Americans are not consuming enough fiber. Not only can this cause constipation and other digestive issues, it also contributes to the deterioration of long-term health. Quinoa provides an excellent source of fiber, with over 5 grams per cooked cup of quinoa. Adequate fiber intake helps control blood sugar, improves cholesterol levels, reduces blood pressure, and reduces the risk of colon cancer. Increased fiber may also help balance hormones, and decrease PMS symptoms. Studies have shown that eating more fiber can help clear estrogen from the intestines, reducing excess estrogen that can lead to many PMS related issues.
There’s likely many more good reasons to be eating quinoa, but I feel like those 3 big reasons (and the many more reasons-within-the-reasons) are more than enough to convince anyone to plop some quinoa on their plate. I should mention it’s a great gluten-free alternative for those allergic to wheat and other grains. In fact, quinoa isn’t a grain at all, it’s a seed, and is botanically related to beets and spinach (which is why it’s referred to as a pseudo-grain or pseudo-cereal).
Boosting the impressive nutrition of the quinoa even more, in this pilaf you’ll get a small but beneficial dose of fiber, protein, and healthy fats from the sunflower seeds, plenty of vitamins and minerals from the roasted veggies, and burst of color and chlorophyll from the cilantro.
If you’re looking for a healthy side dish that you’ll want to make again and again, look no further than this crunchy, flavorful pilaf. Switch up the roasted veggies and this will be a favorite all year round.
Quinoa Pilaf with Roasted Asparagus and Fennel
Although it looks like a lot of steps, it really isn’t difficult! I was very thorough with my instructions, to help you achieve that perfect fluffy result 🙂
prep time: 15 minutes cook time: 25 minutes
Inspired by this recipe
- 1 cup of rinsed quinoa (I soak mine in a bowl with enough water to cover for several minutes, then rinse very well in a fine mesh strainer)
- 1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- 1 small yello onion, diced
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 lb of fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3 inch pieces
- 1/2 bulb of fennel, sliced thin
- 2 tsp of olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Prep veggies for roasting by tossing them with 1 tsp olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Arrange them on a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and set aside.
- I highly recommend toasting your quinoa. Simply heat a large skillet over medium-low heat, add in the rinsed quinoa and stir around in the pan continuously for about 6-8 minutes. It will start to pop randomly, and smell toasty, which is a good sign it has dried out and is ready. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
- In the same deep skillet, heat 1 tsp of the oil over low-medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent and slightly golden. Season with salt and pepper. Add the broth and quinoa and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover and simmer for about 18-22 minutes. Remember to keep the heat low, so you’re cooking at a low simmer. If it starts looking dry, and isn’t done cooking, add more broth. Give it a good stir about 10 minutes in.
- While the quinoa is cooking, roast your veggies in the preheated oven. The hope here is that everything gets done at the same time! The veggies will take about 15 -20 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the fennel and asparagus.
- When the quinoa has absorbed the liquid, remove from heat and let sit covered for about 5-10 minutes. Remove the roasted veggies from the oven.
- Remove the lid and add the lemon juice to quinoa, fluffing it with a fork. Fold in the fresh cilantro and toasted sunflower seeds. Plate the quinoa, adding a serving of roasted veggies on top. (Or you can fold the veggies in).
Fiber and PMS: http://ashcenter.com/conditions/premenstrual-syndrome-pms/