Tag Archives: quinoa

Jar Lunch: Pesto Quinoa Salad with Smoked Mozzarella

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

I tried to keep it simple this week. Translation: we are still without an oven. Time has been scarce, so I even went for store-bought pesto, although homemade pesto would make this recipe all the more delicious. You could omit the smoked mozzarella to lighten this up a bit, but I’m pretty sure you deserve a little smoked mozzarella. Levi took one bite of this and said, “Is that smoked mozzarella!?!” at which point I knew this one was a keeper.

Pesto Quinoa Salad with Smoked Mozzarella
Makes ten 1-1/3 cup servings

5 cups cooked quinoa
1 bunch asparagus
1 cup pesto, homemade or store-bought
½ cup mayonnaise (light or regular)
1 (10 ounce) package grape tomatoes
1 (12 ounce) package frozen baby lima beans, thawed
1 (13.75 ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
8 ounces smoked fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes

For quinoa cooking instructions, this method works great (and 1.5 recipes worth makes a bit more than 5 cups). You can make the quinoa the night before and chill overnight in the fridge. Otherwise, spread the quinoa on a baking sheet to allow it to cool faster.

Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus spears. Cut the spears into 1″ strips and steam for about 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water and spread on a baking sheet to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pesto and mayonnaise. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, and toss until combined and evenly coated.

Please add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr pool for this or any other jar lunches you make!

See our other Jar Lunches here.


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green curry quinoa bowls

What’s for dinner? We’re trying to keep you up to date with our food post $5 project.

Adapted from our current library book, Cook 1.0.

Simple dinner, and we successfully subbed quinoa for jasmine rice. We are trying so hard to be healthy. This was quite delicious. A little on the fatty side for how we’re trying to eat, but I’ll get to tweaking it.


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day thirty!

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $3.68 today, January 31, 2011.


steel cut oatmeal $0.10
2 tablespoons raisins $0.08
small handful toasted pecans $0.19
2 teaspoons brown sugar $0.02


day-old everything bagel $0.50
3 tablespoons light cream cheese w/ scallions $0.24
carrots $0.16


spicy stuffed pepper $1.56

coleslaw $0.33


banana $0.25
grapefruit $0.25

total $3.68

I didn’t exactly plan to go out with the most colorful dinner possible, but somehow tonight’s dinner turned out extra snazzy, don’t you think? It’s like Funfetti, but made out of real food that is good for you. The stuffed peppers had a real kick to go along with that colorful display. Levi actually got to eat two portions and then asked if he could eat some leftover filling I baked into a ramekin for breakfast. I’m a little concerned he’s going to grow a couple inches while he’s sleeping tonight.

Wow, last day! I have to admit, I am kind of burned out on calculating the cost of everything. I won’t miss that at all. There are so many things I am going to miss. We are busy coming up with ways to incorporate this stuff into our daily life going forward, and figuring out how to continue sharing some of it with y’all. And in the coming week we plan to post some reflections and calculations and maybe even an interview with Levi.

xo Krista


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day twenty-one

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.02 yesterday, January 22, 2011.


large multi-grain waffle $0.31
1/4 cup blueberry sauce (freebie – made with blueberries rescued from the bottom of the freezer)

1/6 honeydew melon $0.33


leftover peanut satay sandwich (minus the egg we added before) $0.74


butternut black bean chili $0.91

quinoa skillet bread $0.34


1/3 cup soy milk (with coffee) $0.09
organic lowfat plain yogurt $0.40
tablespoon of honey $0.06
1 ounce piece of leek & morel cheese $0.44
2 ounces grape tomatoes $0.04

total $4.02

Whoa, do I ever have a new favorite food blog. I already made Jess request her book from the library. I’ve had some recipes bookmarked from 101 Cookbooks for awhile. I’m not sure if I ever ended up making any. Today we randomly made two recipes (one Jess found when we were in search of multigrain waffles, another came highly recommended by a friend). Both were home runs.

I followed the Multigrain Waffles recipe almost exactly. The only substitution I made was canola oil in place of melted butter. I know, I know, butter is magical. We are trying really hard to not eat too much animal fat. Canola oil is a tiny bit cheaper than butter purchased on sale – about 2 cents per tablespoon.

These waffles were terrific – light and fluffy with a little crunch from the poppy seeds. If I hadn’t made them I would have guessed they were about half white flour, but there wasn’t even any wheat flour at all. It features barley, oat, and rye flour, all cheap when bought in bulk. If you’re looking to add more whole grains to your repertoire, this is a great start. We got 8 large (whole waffle maker sized) waffles from the recipe, making them 31 cents per giant waffle. I made extra and our freezer is now stocked.

And then we made the quinoa skillet bread. Oh lord. I can’t properly express to you how much we loved this recipe. It took all the restraint we had not to just sit and eat the entire pan of it for dinner. We would have gladly all eaten another piece for dessert. We may never eat cornbread again in this house. It could never be as creamy and custardy.

Modifications: if I were making this for a dinner party, I’d go all out and pour that cup of heavy cream in the middle. I am sure it is amazing. Again, we are trying really hard not to eat too much animal fat. I love me some cream. But I was having a hard time justifying it on this project of healthy food on a budget. So I looked into substituting light coconut milk.

1 cup heavy cream = 88 grams fat
1 cup coconut milk = 57 grams fat
1 cup Trader Joe’s light coconut milk = 15 grams fat

Now, I doubt light coconut milk would set up in the middle the way the cream is intended to in the recipe. I mixed it in. I would pretend I made an educated decision to do that, but I really just didn’t read the recipe all the way through before starting. I also used coconut oil in place of butter and non-dairy milk. I think the coconut really added a great flavor. Jess says it is hard to imagine the full fat dairy version is any better. I would have to guess that 70 more grams of fat would have to add something amazing, but this version works for us.

Here’s the nutrition info based on dividing into 9 servings with our modifications. The original version has about 80 more calories and 8 more grams of fat per piece. Oh, and I was a little surprised that despite using coconut milk and oil it was only 34 cents per piece.

– The honeydew melon was a produce happy hour find. Our local store has a deal every Tuesday. It actually lasts 3 hours, of course during peak dinner shopping time.

– The leek & morel cheese was from the mark-down cheese bin we have become very familiar with and also served as an excuse for me to feed it to Levi and then tell him he was eating mushrooms after he liked it.

– The chili was a recipe I made up, intended to use up some leftover butternut squash. It also had zucchini, carrot, onion, and hominy. Oh, and ancho chiles.


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day sixteen

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.73 yesterday, January 17, 2011.


grapefruit $0.25
whole grain toast with 1/3 an avocado $0.44


2 large organic carrots $0.16
4 butternut stuffed shells with tomato porcini sauce $1.28


1 cup dal palak $0.93
1 cup cooked quinoa $0.36
1/2 cup green beans with olive oil, ginger, and garlic $0.17


Theo Marshmallow Big Daddy (free trivia prize)


6 ounces stovetop espresso $0.57
1/3 cup “coconut milk beverage” $0.07
Gala apple $0.50

total $4.73

“Avocado toast: simply the best breakfast ever?” asks the kitchn. The answer is yes. The only way this could be better is some freshly baked bread.

I won’t bore you with the cost analysis of the dal palak recipe. It’s a bunch of affordable ingredients combined to make a large quantity of food. We actually ended up with more than 9 one-cup servings. And it was pretty darned delicious.

COFFEE. So, we bought an assortment of coffee beans at various prices. And then I calculated the weight of our most common method of making coffee lately, the stovetop espresso maker. We usually make a generous serving in the 4-cup capacity Bialetti for one person, which is actually a tiny serving of really strong coffee. I get teased at work about my tiny coffee cup on a regular basis. This can only get worse with Starbucks’ introduction of the trenta. Anyway, I calculated the weight of the beans going into the Bialetti, and it was seven-eighths of an ounce.

The cheapest coffee we buy at the grocery store is $6.99/lb. The organic coffee beans we buy at the co-op are $10.39 and $11.20 a pound. So for what we drink as one serving of stovetop espresso that works out to:

61 cents at $11.20/lb
57 cents at $10.39/lb
39 cents at $6.99/lb

Wow, we were both a little surprised it was that much. Okay, that is super cheap in real life. We are skipping out on $5 soy lattes. But in terms of our $5 a day budget, 61 cents is 12% of our budget. Even at it’s cheapest, it is 8 % of the food budget! I think we were expecting more like 30 cents.

I’m a little torn. On the one hand, we are usually that much under budget and could probably still calculate coffee into the budget without changing much. On the other hand, I want us to try to spend more of our budget on food and some days eat more. Even though I’ve been saying I would calculate coffee into the budget, I’m not sure it’s the best idea.

So for today it is added into the budget, but I’m leaning toward coffee not being part of our $5 per day in food. We have already given up take-out and the coffee shop entirely. We have cut back significantly on sugar. And I’m currently working the 11pm to 9am shift, so I’m not about to go cold turkey on that one homemade coffee I have per day. I do want to continue to calculate the cost of some specific homemade coffee drinks, and especially the per serving cost on toddy, or cold brewed coffee.

Oh, and chocolate. You will know what tremendous will power we’ve been demonstrating when I tell you we have quite the stockpile of Theo chocolates each of us won in trivia contests on the Theo Facebook page. Levi asked sweetly if we could finally have some chocolate, and it was 100% free so I gave in. Even though those amazing little confections are each worth more than half our entire food budget for the day, they were free to us. So if you’re not doing it already, follow your favorite food companies and restaurants on Facebook. Find out about discounts, get coupons, or just win free stuff!

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day eleven

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $2.79 yesterday, January 12, 2011.

Whoa, $2.79? I promise I doubled checked our calculations.


bruleed steel cut oats with 1/3 a banana $0.22


whole wheat bagel $0.42
3 tablespoons hummus $0.18
2 large organic carrots, $0.19


1 cup cooked organic quinoa $0.36
2/3 cup serving African pineapple peanut stew $0.60


8 ounces plain yogurt with blackberry jam $0.50
banana $0.25
6 ounces stove top espresso with 1/3 cup frothed soy milk $0.07 (still using free coffee beans)

total $2.79

I guess the theme for the day is cheap but healthy protein sources. I’m sure you’ve already heard all about the magical superfood quinoa. I was excited to calculate the cost per serving. Our co-op has a few different organic options, and the cheapest is organic white quinoa for $3.35/lb. A cup of dry quinoa weighed in at 6 ounces, so the cost per dry cup was $1.26. And after cooking we measured the yield of one dry cup to be 3-1/2 cooked. I was kind of amazed to find the price of a cup cooked organic quinoa is only 36 cents. And in case you were wondering, it has 9 grams of protein.

I’ve also added our recipe for 6 cent a tablespoon hummus, complete with cost breakdown and nutrition information. Enjoy!

Oh, and the African pineapple peanut stew recipe, recommended by our dear friend Jen, is pretty killer, too. We used organic kale grown in our backyard, which saved us a couple bucks on this recipe. We got four 2/3 cup servings out of one recipe.


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