Apple Bacon Quinoa Bowls with Red Apple Balsamic 

Quinoa Bowls are my ultimate go-to dinner for just about any situation. They present a great opportunity to use up leftovers from the fridge or pantry. Plus, they are highly customizable which makes Quinoa Bowls a major crowd pleaser.

For those who are not familiar, quinoa is an ancient grain (ok, technically it’s a seed) that has become wildly popular over the last few years. But don’t let its pretentious reputation put you off. Quinoa is accessible and, in my opinion, should be a pantry staple. It packs in a solid 8 grams of protein per cup of cooked quinoa and is a complete protein. The texture falls somewhere between white and brown rice. I find that white quinoa is easier to make than rice because the grains become translucent when fully cooked. 

Simmering the quinoa in chicken stock helps build a flavorful base for your bowls and the options for toppings are endless! In addition, *hint hint* it makes a great healthy and savory breakfast bowl – try topping with a fried egg served over easy.

Here is the recipe for my favorite variation:

 

Apple Bacon Quinoa Bowls

Serves 4

1 ½ cups uncooked quinoa (pre-rinsed is preferable)

3 cups low sodium chicken stock

1 lg white onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

8oz  baby spinach

8oz mushrooms, sliced

4 slices thick-cup bacon

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tart, crunchy apple, roughly chopped

4 oz goat cheese crumbles

Handful of pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds)

Red Apple Balsamic Vinegar

 

Bring 3 cups chicken stock to a boil over medium-high heat. In the meantime, rinse your quinoa in cold water if it is not pre-rinsed.

When the stock comes to a boil, add quinoa, ¼ of the chopped onion, and minced garlic. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes. When the center of the quinoa is translucent, it’s done. Most of the liquid should absorb into the grains.

While the quinoa is cooking, fry the bacon on the stovetop over medium-high heat. When cooked, place on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess fat and set aside. When cool, chop roughly. 

If you are feeling indulgent, reserve a small amount of the bacon fat to cook with the onions and mushrooms. Otherwise, drizzle just enough oil to coat a medium sized frying pan. Add the remaining chopped onion and cook until it starts to brown. Then add mushrooms and sauté until most of the moisture evaporates and set aside.

Once everything is cooked, you can either assemble the bowls yourself or set up the toppings in a bar and allow everyone to make their own! Either way, I highly recommend finishing with a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar. I like to use the Red Apple Balsamic or Vermont Maple Balsamic for this variation but go crazy with it! The creamy goat cheese and crunchy pepitas offer great texture and extra flavor. So much yum! What other toppings would you add to a quinoa bowl? Let me know in the comments!