How to Cook Quinoa (plus a favorite breakfast recipe)

A few friends have asked me recently, “What do I do with quinoa?!” Even quinoa’s name is intimidating, right? (It’s pronounced “keen-wah,” if you’re wondering) But, in reality, it’s not that difficult to make and is well worth the effort.

Quinoa is a good source of protein; one cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein. This makes it a great substitute for pasta, as well as a good supplement to help other more expensive proteins (like meat) stretch further.

how to cook quinoa, plus an easy breakfast recipe

The most important thing to know about cooking quinoa is that you need to rinse it before cooking it in order to remove the natural and bitter-flavored coating, saponin. It tastes much better if you rinse first!

So, rinse it and then cook it similarly to how you’d make rice:

  • Add 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water into a saucepan.
  • Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook about 10-15 minutes until all water is absorbed.
  • When quinoa is done cooking, it looks soft and translucent with the outer ring of the grain separated.

The options are nearly endless for quinoa — you can use this as a side to your favorite meat, a topping for salads, or just add some olive oil and parmesan as a healthier (and more filling) pasta substitute.

One of our favorite quinoa recipes is quinoa-oatmeal, inspired by a Trader Joe’s frozen breakfast option. Their version is frozen in single servings with maple syrup mixed in. You could freeze your version in muffin tins and then transfer them to a ziploc bag. But, we go through a lot in one week, so I just mix up a big batch at the beginning of the week and eat it a few mornings throughout.  To make this:

  • Cook up one batch of quinoa as above.
  • Cook a double batch of Irish steel cut oats according to package directions (For our package, that means 8 cups water and 2 cups of steel cut oats. About 5 minutes after the water and oats start boiling, the oats will thicken. Turn down the heat and simmer uncovered for about 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s your desired consistency.)
  • Mix the cooked quinoa and oats together. Top with maple syrup, brown sugar, or whatever other favorite oatmeal toppings. Enjoy!

What are your favorite easy and healthy breakfast options?


Grill Gifts for Dad

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Father’s Day happens to perfectly coincide with grilling season.  What dad doesn’t love grilled meat? If you’re still looking for a Father’s Day gift (or aren’t sure what to make for dinner!), mix up some of these grill rubs.  For dads, just package it up, maybe add a gourmet sauce or some new grill tools and you have a gift he’s sure to love.

“Hugh’s Dry Rub Recipe” (from here):

  • 1 Tbsp & 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp and 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp. and 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp and 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme

BBQ Spice Rub (from here):

  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • < 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Italian Rub Recipe:

  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dry basil
  • 3 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. salt (sea salt or kosher salt are best)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
For best results, apply each rub to meat 20 minutes before cooking.
For more ideas, you can also check out my list of great gifts for dads on a bare-bones budget.

Chocolate Fondue

I can’t believe I haven’t shared my chocolate fondue recipe yet! Chocolate + Strawberries = my all-time favorite combo.  So good. And, with this easy fondue recipe, you can enjoy chocolate-dipped strawberries, bananas, graham crackers, rice krispie treats, and more for a fraction of the cost of eating at a fondue restaurant. This is my favorite at-home date night and a perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day… or President’s Day… or Labor Day… or Tuesday…

The recipe is from Fondue and Hot Dips, although we’ve tweaked it a tiny bit. As far as the chocolate chips, I don’t think you can go wrong. My sister prefers to use a mixture of milk chocolate chips and bittersweet chocolate chips (both Ghirardelli brand); we usually opt for the less expensive Tollhouse semi-sweet chips. I think both are delicious. Both favorites. (Name that comedian!)

chocolate fondue recipe

Chocolate Fondue:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 2/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 3 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. dark rum or other liqueur, optional (we don’t normally add this)

Heat the whipping cream in a sauce pan over medium heat, stirring often, until it starts to bubble around the edge. (Watch this carefully, so you don’t scald the cream.)

Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate chips until smooth.  Add vanilla (and liqueur, if desired). Transfer mixture to a fondue pot and keep warm over low heat while you dip.

We usually make the full recipe and serve it over the course of a few nights. In the fondue pot, it heats up easily and is just as delicious the next night. When I’ve microwaved the chocolate to reheat it, it tends to get grainy.


You can check out my other Valentine’s Day ideas here. And, if you’re interested in other types of fondue, be sure to check out my recipes for meat fondue and cheese fondue.  Happy dipping!

White Wine Chicken

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy cooking from America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks. Not only do they test every possible aspect of a recipe to make it as delicious as possible, but they also explain anything and everything you’d ever want to know about cooking. For the first couple years I was cooking on my own, I always followed recipes to a tee, but as I’ve used these cookbooks more, I’ve gotten more comfortable experimenting in the kitchen and adapting recipes to serve my family’s tastes and to use what we have on hand.

One of our favorite recipes that has resulted from my experimentation is white wine chicken. It’s based off the red wine sauce from America’s Test Kitchen’s The Best 30-Minute Recipe, but (obviously) I’ve changed it a bit.

simple recipes

White Wine Chicken:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces and chilled
  • Thyme

Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and sauté with olive oil in a skillet.

Once the chicken is cooked through, transfer it to a plate and cover it loosely with foil.  (This helps the crust on the outside of the chicken from getting soggy and keeps it warm while you make the sauce.)

Add 1/4 tsp salt and the minced onion and garlic to the skillet. Sauté over medium-high heat until the onion softens (about 2 minutes).

Stir in the wine, 1 1/4 cups of broth, and brown sugar, scraping any browned bits off the skillet to mix in with the sauce.

Simmer the sauce for about 5 minutes, until it measures about 1 cup.

Whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 1/4 cup of broth, then whisk them into the sauce.  Add any juices that have accumulated on the plate where the chicken has been resting. Let the sauce simmer for about 2 minutes more, until the sauce has thickened.

Here’s the best part – Reduce the heat to low and add the cold butter, 1 Tbsp. at a time.  This makes the sauce especially smooth and delicious.

Season to taste with salt, pepper, and thyme and pour over the cooked chicken to serve. We like to eat this with rice and broccoli.


If you’re wondering, yes, this recipe really does only take 30 minutes to make! Another of my favorite recipes from the same cookbook is Teriyaki Chicken.


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Spinach Salad Dressing

recipe for spinach

We’ve been enjoying this spinach salad dressing this week. It took under 5 minutes to make and even the girls are eating spinach with this yummy dressing!

The recipe is originally from here, but I halved it and decreased the amount of sugar.  This amount made enough for 2 bags of spinach.

Spinach Salad Dressing:

  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • about 3 Tbsp. of chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • shake of salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and drizzle over fresh spinach.  I like to serve it with chunks of apple, but it’d be good with raisins, craisins, and/or bleu cheese too.

Do you have any good salad dressing recipes?


I’m linking up to: Hey Mommy Chocolate Milk.

Unbaked Cookies

unbaked cookies

These chocolate-oatmeal unbaked cookies are a must-have part of Christmas for me. I used to make them with my mom and sister every year and I’m pretty sure the recipe was originally my great-grandma’s.  So, even though I wasn’t feeling as much like baking as I’d planned, I made sure to make these cookies this week.

These are a great recipe to make with kids – Beach Girl was able to help with every step of the process. (Beach Baby just grabbed handfuls mouthfuls of dough at every opportunity.) I will warn you, though, rolling them is messy. It took quite a few deep breaths on my part as cookie dough covered our dining room table, chairs, and floor, but I’m so glad we did it and Beach Girl had a blast.

unbaked cookies

Here’s the recipe:

Unbaked Cookies

  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 sticks butter
  • 6 cups quick oats
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • Powdered sugar
Combine sugar, milk, cocoa powder, and butter in a large pot. Bring to a boil, stirring often.
Add 6 cups of quick oats and stir.
Allow to cool several hours. Then, add 1 Tablespoon vanilla.
Roll into balls and cover with powdered sugar.

One of my favorite things about these cookies is that they actually get better with time. They’re pretty good the day you make them, but the next day, they are out of this world. Perfect for a gift or to bring to a Christmas party!

Last year, Beach Dad took them to work and everyone thought he’d gotten them at a bakery. This year, his coworkers aren’t so lucky; he said he wanted to keep them all for himself haha!

What is your must-have Christmas food? Oddly enough, I think our family’s traditional foods are turning out to be crockpot BBQ chicken for Christmas Eve dinner and homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning.

Chocolate Chocolate Cookies

Double the chocolate means double the delicious.  They’re (obviously) best right out of the oven when they’re all warm and gooey.  Yum…

chocolate chocolate cookies

I found the recipe on Pinterest, but it originally comes from Annie’s Eats.

These cookies are oversized and the recipe makes about 12.

Double Chocolate Cookies:

  • 2 sticks cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2  1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cube the butter and combine it with the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat them together for 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed.

Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

Mix in the cocoa powder thoroughly.

Add the flour, salt, and baking powder and mix on low speed until just barely incorporated.

Fold in the chocolate chips by hand. Then, knead the dough by hand to make sure the ingredients are well-combined.

Divide the dough into 12 equal parts and roll each portion into a ball. Flatten each ball slightly into a disc.

Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake 16-20 minutes at 350 degrees.


I was tempted to skip kneading the dough by hand and to just let my Kitchen Aide do the work, but it really does make a difference in the texture of the cookies and, trust me, these cookies are worth the extra effort.


I linked up to: five days five ways, sundae scoop, & at the picket fence.