Gluten Free Quinoa and Rice Summer Salad

I offered to make a side dish for my friend Lauren’s bbq, and I did not want to make a tradition potato, pasta or egg salad. Quite frankly, I do not like egg salad nor am I a big fan of traditional potato salad (too much mayonnaise). I’m always experimenting in the kitchen, and after deciding I wanted to make a rice and quinoa salad (I made a cumin scented quinoa and black rice salad for my graduation party that turned out great) I made up this recipe. I knew I wanted something light and tasty. Using rice as the main ingredient is a nice departure from the traditional bbq salads, and much lighter too.
Summer is the perfect time for a cool salad. This one is simple to prepare and the ingredients give it a refreshing, cooling and satisfying taste. The flavors mix very nicely together to give this dish great flavor. Often times many summer salads are loaded with mayonnaise and this one is not, also making it a much healthier choice.
2 cups brown rice
2 cups quinoa
1 cup cherries, pitted and sliced
1 medium cucumber, diced
 cup walnuts
3 Tablespoons Lime Juice
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
½ cup chopped parsley
2 teaspoons onion powder
salt (optional) and pepper to taste
1.     The quinoa and rice can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. Cook, separately, according to the package directions. To give a little extra flavor use vegetable stock in place of water to cook the quinoa, or use half water and half stock.
2.     Rinse cherries and remove stems. Cut around the pit into slices.
3.     In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, walnuts, rice and quinoa. Mix well.
4.     Add in the parsley, onion powder and paper (and salt if using).
5.     Add in the lime and lemon juices, one tablespoon at a time and mix well in between each one.
6.     Add cherries in last, right before serving or else it could turn the dish red from the juices.
7.     Serve chilled or at room temperature.
I also think adding mint – or replacing the parsley with it – would also make a delicious dish. Next time I am going to try it this way!
Before the Cherries were added

Cumin Scented Black Rice and Quinoa

This past weekend I had my graduation party. We spent some time planning out the menu – pasta salad, Ceaser Salad, Goat Cheese and Spinach Salad, Shredded Carrot with Scallions and Peas over Mixed Greens , Italian Sausage with onions and peppers, hamburgers, hot dogs, fruit salad, and a cake. We needed another starchy side dish, and neither of us being big fans of potato salad (too much mayonnaise for my taste), I remembered a dish I had at my friend Lauren’s house at a recent dinner party. It was delicious, I remember loving the side dish she made, quinoa with brown rice cumin and vegetables. I adapted her recipe a bit, as the original one calls for black rice, and I added more garlic and brown rice, in addition to the black rice.

It was a hit at the party and it tasted even better the day after! I’m not sure why but my guess is that the spices and flavors had more time to infuse into the rice and quinoa.

The recipe below serves 8 but I personally think it is enough for at least 10 or 12 people as a side dish. It can be served either cold or warm. I think it would taste great with tomatoes, avocados or cucumbers added to it, or maybe even sweet potato or butternut squash in the winter time, served warm.

Recipe Adapted from Bon Apetit


  • 1/2 cup short-grain black rice
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 2 cups water or vegetable/chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (or chives)
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cook brown rice and black rice separately. Black rice turns the water purple, and if cooked with the brown rice will also turn it purple.
1. Bring brown rice and 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until water is absorbed and rice is tender, 25-30 minutes.  Do the same with the black rice.
2. Meanwhile, combine quinoa, bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 cups chicken broth (gives it more flavor) in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain; return quinoa to hot saucepan. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.
3.Discard bay leaf, fluff quinoa with a fork, and transfer to a large bowl.
4. While the quinoa and rice are  cooking, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
5. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes.
6. Add garlic and cumin and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
7. Add to quinoa.
8. Then add rice and mix well.
9. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons oil (optional, I started with one and didn’t add the second tablespoon), fresh lemon juice, cilantro, parsley, and basil.
10. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut avocado into wedges.
11. Serve salad cold or warm. Serve with lemon on the side, optional.

Gluten Free Black Rice with Sweet Potatoes

At the store last week I noticed, for the first time, black rice. I can honestly say I’ve never seen this before and it struck me as such an unusual thing. But, after doing a little research I learned so much about this versatile and HEALTHY rice. I was so intrigued by what I learned about black rice…

Black Rice, also known as forbidden rice is considered to be both food and medicine in China. It is black in color and turns deep purple when cooked because it is rich in antioxidants. It contains 18 different amino acids, iron, zinc, copper, carotene and many other important vitamins. In China, black rice is claimed to be good for the kidney, stomach and liver (these claims have not been verified), as well as provide many health benefits – prevention of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and heart attacks. I am sure this grain will become very popular soon in the US; it’ll be the next ”big thing” in the near future. We went from white rice to brown rice and now to black rice? It could happen.

I was so fascinated by all I had just read and I started searching for recipes, and found so many that looked interesting! Next weekend for my graduation party I plan on making Cumin-Scented Quinoa and Black Rice or Black Rice Salad with Ginger Dressing. Tonight I decided on Black Rice with Sweet Potatoes.

Black rice has a mild but distinct flavor. I found it to be somewhat nutty and sweet at the same time, and slightly chewier than brown rice, but very tasty.
Basic rule for cooking black rice, 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice.

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 3/4 cups Chinese Black Rice
  • 1.5 cups Water
  • 3/4 teaspoon Salt (optional)
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup Scallions, (1 bunch)
  • 1 tablespoon Fresh Ginger, Peeled & Minced (or ginger powder if you realize you forgot to buy fresh ginger)
  • 1 Sweet Potato, Large (12-14 oz), diced


  1. Rinse rice under cold water before cooking.
  2. In a sauce pan, bring rice, water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook rice, covered  until tender and most of the water is absorbed (about 35 minutes).
  3. Let rice stand, covered, off the heat for 10 minutes.
  4. While the rice is cooking, heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Saute scallions, ginger, and sweet potato, stirring until well coated (about 2 minutes). Reduce heat to medium/medium-low and add the rest of the salt (if using, I omit salt, always) and pepper to taste.
  5. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the potato is tender, about 12 minutes.
  6. Add the rice and toss gently to combine

Gluten Free Puffed Rice Tabouli

I haven’t had tabouli in years! I was so excited when I came across this recipe from Nature’s Path.

This salad is perfect for summer (or winter or spring or fall :), it’s so refreshing. It combines classic tabbouleh ingredients but substitutes puffed brown rice for traditional bulgur or couscous. Red cabbage isn’t a traditional ingredient in tabouli its adds a little crunch and color to the salad.


  • 3 cups Red Cabbage, finely chopped
  • 3 cups unsweetened Rice Puffs*
  • 1 1/2 cups Fresh Mint Leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup Parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 tablespoons Lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon Yellow Mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt, or to taste
  • Zest of 1 lemon
*be sure to use the unsweetened variety. 


  1. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, puffed rice cereal, mint, and parsley.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and lemon zest.
  3. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat.
  4. Add more lemon juice if needed.

*be sure to use the unsweetened variety of puffed rice cereal.

Garden Vegetable Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

So what is spaghetti squash and what does it taste like? Well, first off, don’t be fooled; it doesn’t taste anything like spaghetti. It tastes more like a mild, lighter flavored squash. The texture is not like spaghetti either; it is much ‘’stringier’’. But it makes a great substitute in almost every dish you would use spaghetti. It’s so easy to cook and you can virtually add anything to it – Parmesan and garlic, marinara, pesto, sauté it with vegetables, cumin and coriander  – you name it and you can do it.
Spaghetti squash is very inexpensive and easy to prepare. (The hardest part is cutting the squash in half.)
I’ve seen it in the grocery store year round, but it is in its peak season from early fall through winter.
1 spaghetti Squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 whole medium onion, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup carrots
1 ½ cups broccoli
1 ½ cups cauliflower
2 cups pasta or marinara sauce
1-2 tablespoons basil or parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
Black pepper to taste
½ cup mozzarella cheese
½ cup ricotta cheese
½ cups parmesan cheese
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash:
1.     Cut in half lengthwise.
2.     Scrape out the seeds and pulp (just like you would when carving a pumpkin)
3.     Prick holes in the spaghetti squash, using a fork or knife
4.     Bake: Face up (skin down) 30-40 minutes at 375F or Microwave: 8-10 minutes*
5.     Let cool a few minutes before separating the strands.
6.     Use a fork to separate the squash strands. The fork should very easily separate the squash strands. If there is any resistance, put back in the microwave another 1-2 minutes, or oven until it’s easy to fork through.
* I microwave it because it’s faster and easier.
Sauté the garlic and onions in olive oil for 2-3 minutes first, then add carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini, and cauliflower. Cook 3-4 minutes. Add in basil, oregano, and pepper. Cook another 1-2 minutes.
You can switch up the vegetables however you’d like; red, green or yellow peppers, different kinds of mushrooms, whatever you like!
In the bottom of a casserole dish spread pasta or marinara sauce. Layer spaghetti squashes from one half of the squash. Sprinkle a little less than half the cheese over the vegetables. Next, layer with all the vegetables. Next add the other half of the spaghetti squash. Then layer with pasta or marinara sauce. Top with the remaining cheese.
Update: Start with spaghetti squash on the bottom, it’s easy to serve.
Bake at 350F uncovered for 3-405 minutes; or until cheese is completely melted and starts to bubble. Let stand for a while before you cut into it. I’d say 5-8 minutes.
This time I made half with cheese and half without (I prefer with cheese). I also topped it off with a little cheddar cheese I had leftover from the other night, and it tasted just as good; it had an extra little kick to it from the cheddar.
It’s hard to cut into nice square pieces, as it breaks apart. But as long as you aren’t too concerned with its presentation and how it looks, then you’ll be all set.

Spinach-Quinoa Salad with Cherries and Almonds

I think this is one of the best dishes I have ever made!!
The sweetness of the craisins mixed with the tartness of the lemon juice and yogurt combined with the pungent flavor of the garlic is just amazing, it’s like an explosion of flavors in my mouth!
Not only is it delicious, it looks beautiful too. If you want to impress guests at your next dinner party or are going to picnic or pot luck, this is without a doubt the best dish to make.
I can not take credit for coming up with this recipe. I found the original recipe in Vegetarian Times, but I did tweak it just a bit and my recipe is the one below.
¼ cup sliced almonds
1 ½ cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
3 cups water or vegetable stock
2 cups spinach leaves
2 cups chopped dried cherries or craisins (or fresh cherries, pitted and halved, when in season)
½ cup chopped snow peas
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
 ½ cup red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juce
1 ½ – 2 teaspoons garlic, depending on your love of garlic
15 ounces edamame or canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained (optional, I prefer edamame)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread almonds on a baking sheet and toast 7-8 minutes, shaking pan occasionally, until golden brown. Cool.
2. Bring 3 cups water – or vegetable stock to add a little more flavor (not that you need it) – to a boil in a pot over medium high heat. Sir in quinoa. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed.
3. Remove from heat and cool.
4. Lay 5 or 6 spinach leaves flat on top of one another on a cutting board. Roll tightly into a cylinder and then slice into slivers. Repeat with the remaining spinach.
5. Whisk together yogurt, olive oil, lime juice and garlic in a small bowl.
6. In a separate bowl toss together the quinoa, almonds, spinach, pea pods, craisins, cucumber, red onion and chickpeas or edamame if using these.
7. Pour dressing over vegetable and quinoa salad, and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. I never use salt when I cook but in this dish I did add a dash of salt and a few dashes of pepper.
8. Chill for 30 minutes to allow all the flavors to fully develop, then serve.
It can easily be tweaked to your own liking. I always like to make a little extra dressing and keep it on the side for leftovers. The dish does not get soggy in the fridge over night, but do not add extra dressing and let it sit over night, it will get soggy. This is why I make extra and add it as I eat it.

Quinoa with sauteed Apples and Almonds

One of my best friends introduced me to quinoa last year, and I absolutely love it! Quinoa contains more protien (16g, some varieties have more) than any other grain and is a great source of fiber (7g per serving)- which I need as part of my high fiber diet. It is also high in magnesium and iron, and is 100% gulten-free. Quinoa is light and easy to digest. It’s not heavy like many other grains and can be used in a variety of dishes. My favorite is this recipe from Cooking Light, which I’ve altered just a little to better satisfy my love of cinnamon and apples. This recipe makes 4 servings (1 cup per serving).

– 1 cup quinoa
– 2 teaspoons olive oil
– 3/4 cup chopped onion
– 3/4 cup finelly diced carrots
– 1 garlic clove, minced
– 1 cup chicken broth (vegetarian version: vegetable broth)
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnaom
– 2 cups diced unpeeled apples
– 1/4 cup slivered almonds
– 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

This recipe required me to rinse the quinoa in a fine sieve, in a large bowl and rub the grains together for 30 seconds before cooking. I always skip this step…

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a saucepan over med-high heat. Add onion, carrot and garlic. Sautee for 5 minutes or until the onion is tender and carrots begin to brown.
Stir in broth, water, quinoa and cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a forl.

While the quinoa is simmering, in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, heat 1 teaspoon oil. Add the apple and sautee for 7 minutes, until apple begins to brown. Add apple, almonds and pepper to quinoa and toss to combine. Serve warm.

This is also great cold over spinach salads!

The original recipe calls for 2 cups of vegetable broth, but I used half chicken broth and half water. In my recipe I also added 1/4 teaspoon more cinnamon, 1/2 more apples and 1 tablespoon extra almonds and I think it tasted better this way than the first time I made the original recipe.