Feeding the Family: One-Pot Weeknight Meal to Welcome Spring

I have a few things to confess up front. I don't like quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) much; it tastes bitter to me. I prefer brown rice, though I know quinoa packs a protein punch. Also, I'm not a big fan of kale. I eat it a lot during winter, since I know it's good for me and it has a long growing season in Minnesota. But to me, plain kale smells like a cow. I know these are heresies that could get me kicked out of the local foodie club, but I wanted to be up front about my prejudices since the following recipe managed to kick them to the curb.

I found the recipe for One Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf at Food 52. It was linked to on one of my favorite food blogs, Tipsy Baker, whose author lives in California and, among other things, raises cows, chickens, and goats at home. She's a locavore and a committed food Do-It Herself-er, writing about her efforts to make clotted cream, cheese, and prosciutto from scratch, among other things. Yogurt is probably the outside limit of things I make at home, so when she posts easy recipe that's also delicious by her standards, as she did in this post, I don't hesitate to check it out, even if the two main ingredients are not favorites.

Meyer lemonsMeyer lemonsThis recipe didn't disappoint; in fact, it delighted. It was fast and easy to put together on a weeknight. The softness of the quinoa and goat cheese contrasted with the crunch of the kale and the pine nuts. The tart, distinctive taste and fragrance of Meyer lemon brightened all elements. The dish felt like a breath of spring. It's been a long winter, and Minnesota still has more than a month until the frost date, so we're not necessarily done with snow. But like the recent warm, sunny, clear days, this dish gave me hope that winter will be done soon.

Since it's April, I wasn't able to get local kale, and of course the Meyer lemon and quinoa weren't local either. But all of the ingredients were organic from my Eastside Food Coop, and the Driftless Organic sunflower oil and goat cheese were from Wisconsin. I think this recipe would be very adaptable to different kinds of cheese -- Shepherd's Hope from Shepherd's Way would be very good. I plan to try a melt-y cheese, too, like Pastureland Gouda, and a hard cheese, like Sartori Reserve's parmesan.

Full disclosure: my husband and I loved this dish, but my five and seven-year-old sons did not. Given how skeptical I was before I tried it, though, I don't blame them (much). I'm going to make it periodically and offer it to them again though. This recipe is a keeper, and I bet I can make kale and quinoa converts out of them yet.

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One Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf

(serves 2 to 4)


2 cups water

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup quinoa

1 bunch lacinato kale, washed, stemmed, leaves and stems chopped into 1" lengths

1 Meyer lemon, zested and juiced

2 scallions, minced

1 tablespoon Driftless Organics sunflower oil

3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 


  1. Bring water to a boil in a covered pot. Add salt, then quinoa, cover, and lower heat to simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Top with chopped kale and re-cover. Simmer another 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to steam for 5 more minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, take a large serving bowl and combine half of the lemon juice (reserving the other half), all of the lemon zest, scallions, sunflower oil, pine nuts, and goat cheese.
  4. Check the quinoa and kale when the cooking time has completed. The water should have absorbed, and the quinoa will be tender but firm, and the kale tender and bright green. If the quinoa still has a hard white center, you can steam a bit longer (adding more water if needed). When the quinoa and kale are done, fluff the pilaf, and tip it into the waiting bowl with the remaining ingredients. Toss to combine, seasoning with salt and pepper, and the remaining lemon juice if needed. Delicious served warm or cold.


Kristin Boldon is a frequent contributor for Simple, Good and Tasty, who also writes for the Eastside Food Cooperative's newsletter on health and wellness, and for her own blog Girl Detective. Her last post for us was "Hazel's Northeast: Welcome to the Neighborhood!"