Quinoa Pilaf with Creamy Cilantro Dressing

Quinoa…you sneaky little seed you.  It took me a long while and many failed attempts to learn how to pronounce you.  Why oh why do you have to be spelled the way you are? There happens to be a quinoa salad we serve at my work and you can’t guess how many people with good intentions just fail miserably when trying to order.  Let me shave off a few moments of utter confusion for you.  It’s pronounced like-a this:


Now you, too, can appear hoity-toity in front of someone who works at a deli.

Despite its strange pronunciation, it’s one of my favorite go-to meal basics.  Quinoa is amazing for so many reasons!

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I like to refer to quinoa as the (sub favorite actor/actress here) of the nutritional world.  Although it is plant based and a seed, it can imitate animal based proteins and play the main role in a meal.  This is due to the fact that quinoa actually has a pretty hefty amount of protein.  It can sub in for rice, pasta, cous cous, you name it.


In my recipe, this delectable south american grain is smothered in a creamy avocado cilantro dressing; the tanginess of the lime and cilantro really mix well with the sweetness of the cranberries.  The red cabbage and sunflower seeds also give each bite a nice crunch.

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I always eat my quinoa on top of a bed of greens.  Nommmmms.  P-to-tha-S: This picture is total deception. I used WAY more dressing when I actually ate my salad….Don’t judge me.

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Quinoa Pilaf with Creamy Cilantro Dressing

For the quinoa:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup diced red cabbage (about 1/4 head of cabbage)
  • 2 carrots

For the dressing:

  • 3 T oil (I used avocado oil but canola or olive would work as well)
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T water
  • 3/4 cup diced fresh cilantro
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 tsp agave syrup (or honey)
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder (I used 1/4 tsp but that’s only because I prefer my food to burn my lips off, adjust according to your own taste)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • salt/pepper to taste
  1. Start by getting the quinoa cooking!  In a large saucepan, combine the dry quinoa with the broth or water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  When quinoa is done, you will see the white germ sprout and you will be able to fluff with a fork.
  2. Cover quinoa and LET SIT for 15 minutes.  This allows the extra moisture to be absorbed so your quinoa doesn’t come up runny. Yucky.
  3. Chop red cabbage into very tiny pieces and shred the carrots using a cheese grater.
  4. Mix with cranberries and sunflower seeds and when quinoa is dry and fluffy enough (wow are we at the groomers now?) combine all dry ingredients, including fresh veggies, together.
  5. For the dressin’ fixens’, combine all ingredients in a food processor.  The cilantro may take a while to ground finely, so be patient and keep whizzing that button around.  If you lack a food processor, it is possible to really finely chop the cilantro and mix all ingredients until combined.  The consistency will be chunky instead of creamy, though.  I have not tried this method but I can imagine the results would be alright.  Food processors are the bees knees, though. Just sayin.’  A vita mix or even nutri bullet would also potentially fill in.

Sometimes, I just have to play Janis. No other reason. Just got to.  This song comes off one of my all time favorite records.  I had this cheap piece-a junk record player and my dad gave me a copy of Cheap Thrills with Janis and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Oh man I played that record over and over and over again.  Janis is one of the main reasons I really starting paying attention to and listening to good music. Music with soul. Music that made me feel really, really good.  Or sad. Whatever, it didn’t matter.  It made me feel something.  And I liked that.  Turtle Blues is a total classic.  Getz plays the piano so smooth and the guitar solo just keeps picken along even as it overpowers everything else happening in the song.  And of course, Janis is just fundamentally badass and her voice…have you ever heard something like that? Me neither.

Turtle Blues by Janis and Big Brother and the Holding Company

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