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1 Bag of Red Quinoa, 5 Dinners

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Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples every which way.

Today: It's time to develop a deeper, more nuanced relationship with quinoa -- watch Melina Hammer turn one batch into 5 extraordinary dinners. 

By now most of us know what quinoa is -- and that there are a million ways to enjoy this nutrient-packed food. While there is certainly nothing wrong with the typical routine of throwing something together and dumping it on top of a bowl of quinoa (plenty of delicious and low-maintenance meals have been made in this fashion), I like to explore the more nuanced recipes that make cooking and eating it more fun. Red quinoa is slightly earthier and more flavorful than white, and has become a tried-and-true staple in my home. Here are 5 ways to make it one in yours. 

Quinoa with Mint- and Parsley-Dressed Carrots, Olives, Toasted Sunflower Seeds, and Sumac
Place a serving of cooked quinoa into a bowl and, in little clusters, add your favorite olives, toasted sunflower seeds, and carrots (diced and dressed in a mixture of chopped mint, parsley, olive oil, and lemon juice). Finish the bowl with a sprinkle of sumac. The savoriness of the olives, the brightness of the mint, carrots, and lemon, and the nuttiness of both the quinoa and the sunflower seeds make the dish really pop -- a wonderful and easy way to eat on any day.

Cashew Milk Red Quinoa Porridge with Spice, Fruit, and Maple 
Using this method, I make my own cashew milk, sweetened with maple syrup, and a little nutmeg -- but this recipe works with any non-dairy milk, store-bought or homemade. Cook the quinoa with the cashew milk as you would with water; once it's simmering, stir it every few minutes and add a tiny bit of water to free any quinoa stuck to the bottom of the pot. Once the tiny seeds are almost done cooking, add a small handful of frozen berries, and mix to combine. (If you have fresh berries, add them at the end, along with the banana slices.) Spoon the quinoa with the fruit into bowls, and add a little more nutmeg, a shake or two of cinnamon, and just enough maple syrup for a sweetness. This is incredibly soothing and a perfect way to start (or end!) your day off right. 

Celery, Pea, and Shallot Quinoa Salad
Cut the shallots into halves or quarters, and place them in a cast iron skillet, cooking over medium heat until they are browned and translucent. Slice the celery, blanch and shock the peas (frozen is fine, too), then add them both to a large bowl with the quinoa. Add the shallots once they have cooled to room temperature. Drizzle the mixture with olive oil and lemon juice, season with flakes of grey salt, and crack some pepper over the whole thing. If you seek a little extra butteriness, toasted pine nuts will do the trick. 

Crispy Shrimp & Red Quinoa Patties
I love lentil and other non-meat patties, so I thought a version made with red quinoa and sweet cooked shrimp would be equally great. They are so good that they don't last long -- and though I'm always sorry to see them go, making a new batch is (thankfully) a quick and simple affair. 

Lemony Red Quinoa Tabbouleh
Combine cooked quinoa and a few handfuls of chopped fresh parsley. Add half of a finely diced tomato, when in season; a few spoonfuls of freshly squeezed lemon juice; and a little bit of good olive oil. Season lightly with sea salt -- to your taste -- and grill up some whole-grain pita to go alongside. For crunch, toast almond slivers and scatter them on top of the tabbouleh. It's simple, really -- and pretty sublime.

Crispy Shrimp & Red Quinoa Patties

Makes nine 3-inch patties

1 1/2 cups red quinoa, cooked and cooled to room temperature 
9 to 12 shrimp, peeled, deveined, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces, and cooked
2 to 3 tablespoons coarse bread crumbs
3 tablespoons flax meal
1 small red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 jalapeño, minced
3 tablespoons eggs (free-range if possible)
tablespoons Greek yogurt, plus 1/2 cup for topping
1 red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons harissa paste 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Melina Hammer

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Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Quinoa, Weeknight Cooking, Halfway To Dinner