Food West Edition

Scrumptious sides – beyond the tried and true

I was first introduced to quinoa in cooking school some years ago where the chef-instructor described the “not on America’s radar” ancient whole grain seed as the perfect grain. Great hot or chilled, pearly quinoa is in fact the perfect springboard for everything from breakfast and warm side dishes to make ahead salads.

Quinoa comes with a special health bonus. In addition to being a good source of fiber and protein along with some iron, it’s also rich in magnesium. That’s good news because the American Heart Association recently reported magnesium may modestly lower blood pressure in magnesium-deficient individuals with elevated blood pressure — another reason to add tasty quinoa to your pantry.

From classic whole, creamy-white heads to the newer purple and gold florets and bags of chopped cauliflower, reach for this veggie instead of potatoes or rice for a lighter choice. You won’t be disappointed.


Moroccan-Style Quinoa Salad

Makes 5 (1 cup) servings

Rinsing quinoa removes its naturally bitter coating so don’t skip this step. I like to toast the spices to bump up their flavor and add a little exotic fragrance.

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

Stir spices together in a small bowl. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stir in the spices. Toast for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not burn. Immediately remove from heat and pour spices back into the small bowl. Set aside.

1 cup quinoa

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 ¼ cup low sodium vegetable broth

Put quinoa in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Stir and let rest for 5 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer: discard all liquid. Rinse under cold water until water runs clear.

Heat medium saucepan that has a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the oil; swirl to coat pan. Add the quinoa and toast until the grains begin to become fragrant, about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Stir in the broth. Reduce heat to medium and bring to a boil. Cover with the lid, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, or just until tender. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Drain any unabsorbed liquid. Fluff quinoa. Spoon hot quinoa into serving bowl and sprinkle with toasted spice mixture. Fluff and set aside.

1 large lemon

1 lime

While the quinoa cooks and rests, grate generous 1 teaspoon zest from the lemon and a generous ½ zest teaspoon from lime and put into a small bowl. Squeeze fruit, adding 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon lime juice to zest.

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon Crystal Diamond Kosher Salt

Stir pepper and salt into lemon mixture. Set aside.

½ cup chopped red bell pepper

½ cup chopped yellow bell pepper

1/3 cup chopped Persian cucumber

3 tablespoons chopped green onions

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup chopped, unsalted almonds or pistachios (optional)

Add bell peppers, cucumber, onions, parsley and nuts if using to quinoa. Toss gently to combine. Do not stir.  Drizzle with lemon-lime mixture. Toss again. Serve immediately or cool, then refrigerate covered, a few hours until serving time.

Nutritional information per serving: 160 calories; 4g fat; .5g saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 96mg sodium; 26g carbohydrate; 3g fiber; 2g sugars; 5g protein; % Daily Value – 20% Vit. A; 2 % Calcium; 70% Vit. C; 10% Iron 71mg magnesium

Art courtesy of Asphixia
Art courtesy of Asphixia

Cheesy Mashed Cauliflower

Makes 4 (½ – cup servings)

Very mild in flavor, riced cauliflower is the perfect potato stand in when you want a creamy, quick side dish.

1 (16-ounce) bag riced, chopped cauliflower or cauliflower crumbles, about 4 cups

½ teaspoon ground garlic powder

½ teaspoon ground white pepper

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon Crystal Diamond Kosher Salt

1 tablespoon reduced fat tub margarine

½ cup reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon fat-free Greek Yogurt

Pour cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons water. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high until cauliflower is very tender and can easily be pierced with a fork, about 6 minutes.

Let stand covered for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, stir garlic, white pepper, nutmeg and salt together in a small bowl.

Carefully remove plastic wrap. Stir margarine, spices and cheese into hot cauliflower. After the mixture is blended, use a potato masher to mash to desired consistency. Stir in yogurt. (Or, pulse ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth, 1-2 minutes.)

Serve hot.

Art courtesy of FoamA
Art courtesy of FoamA

Tip: No chopped or riced cauliflower in the produce section? Grate cauliflower florets on large side of box grater.

Nutritional information per serving: 100 calories; 6g fat; 2.5g saturated fat; 10 mg cholesterol; 240mg sodium; 7g carbohydrate; 3g fiber; 3g sugars; 6g protein; % Daily Value – 6% Vit. A; 25 % Calcium; 90% Vit. C; 2% Iron

Cooking questions? Email me at 

Copyright 2016 Carla F. Williams All Rights Reserved