Christmas Colored Quinoa

It’s been a lot of sweets around here lately and although I love me some sugar, it’s time for something savory.

tomato basil quinoa

This quinoa salad seems a little summery for late December but let’s use red and green to our advantage and say this is a Christmas themed quinoa salad shall we? Even if it’s really just a product of the leftovers from my paninis earlier this week.

This basil has been taunting me, slowly turning brown with each passing day, and yet I didn’t know what to do with it. And these grape tomatoes, although completely out of season, taste surprisingly sweet and shouldn’t be wasted. So I decided to keep with the panini theme in quinoa form. I mixed the grape tomatoes and basil with sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and a big squeeze of lemon for a dish that makes it feel like August in December.

Just a little something healthy in between all the Christmas cookies.

Tomato, Basil Quinoa Salad (vegan, gluten-free)

2 cups dry quinoa

4 cups water

pinch of salt

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, reduced to 1/4 cup

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 cup grape tomatoes

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

1/4 cup basil, cut into ribbons


Cook quinoa according to these directions.

While quinoa is cooking, heat the balsamic vinegar in a saucepan on medium low. Reduce to about half, approximately 7-8 minutes. The vinegar should still be liquid-y, don’t let it get too thick.

Chop tomatoes into bite size pieces and chiffonade the basil (i.e. French for cut into little ribbons).  grape tomatoes

sundried tomatoes and basil

Place quinoa in a bowl with the tomatoes and basil. Mix in balsamic reduction, olive oil, lemon and salt.

quinoa salad

I mixed the basil in when I took these photos but you can also just top with basil at the very end if you prefer.

tomato basil quinoa

I also only used 1 cup dry quinoa in my recipe and found it a little heavy on the vinegar. Hence the quinoa in my photos will seem a bit darker than yours will, use 2 cups quinoa as the recipe states and I think it will be just right.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Vegan Pesto

Back when I was less adventurous in my eating and my cooking I ate a lot of tomato, mozzarella and basil paninis.  Part of it was habit and laziness but the other is that the panini is a comfort food to me.  I love the crispy bread with the warm tomato and the smell of basil. It always takes me back to the apartment I shared with my sister in San Francisco. The kitchen was right off the front door so the minute you walked in you were hit by the unmistakable scent of basil, which was, without fail, always sitting on the counter. Every time I cook with it, it transports me back to that little kitchen in Pac Heights. I just love how food is so powerful in that way.

Now that I eat less bread and cheese, I don’t make quite as many paninis as I once did but over the weekend I had a craving. Unfortunately the Whole Foods near me only carries big tubs of basil which felt like a waste for one or two sandwiches. But I didn’t let that deter me. I figured I’d use a few leaves for paninis and use the rest to make vegan pesto. After a few cheese sandwiches, I didn’t feel the need to add any to the pesto.

I used a mixture of pistachios and cashews for this recipe. My cousin is allergic to both and I know my aunt will ask, so feel free to sub pine nuts, almonds or walnuts. All would be delicious.

I also soaked my pistachios and cashews for a few hours before I processed them but I’m not 100% sure this is necessary.  If you try this recipe without soaking them first, let me know how it turns out.

Vegan Pesto

1/4 cup pistachios

1/4 cup cashews

3 cups tightly packed fresh basil, destemmed

1/4 cup olive oil

Juice of one lemon

1/2 tablespoon garlic

pinch of sugar

Salt, to taste


Soak pistachios and cashews for a few hours if you’d like.

Throw nuts, basil, lemon juice and garlic into a food processor.

Whirl processor while adding a steady stream of olive oil.

Add sugar and salt at very end to taste.

If it’s still too thick, add a bit more olive oil or lemon juice. To be honest, sometimes I just add a few tablespoons of water to loosen it up instead of oil. I don’t love a super oily pesto.

I’m not a huge pasta fan but I’m sure Michael will eat it atop some GF spaghetti. One of my favorite ways to eat pesto is over vegetables. I steam whatever I have in my fridge and then mix in a generous helping of the pesto while the veggies are still piping hot. The pesto thins from the heat and evenly coats the vegetables. Absolutely delicious.