Anti-Inflammatory & Immune Boosting Quinoa Pilaf!

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This healthy plant-based dish has it ALL: protein, greens, immune boosting mushrooms, anti-inflammatory spices and flavor! When I was younger I used to love buying those packets of quick cooking couscous that came with little flavor packets (you know what I’m talking about). It’s something I’ve been wanting to try to recreate for a while but with a healthy spin.

It’s no secret that mushrooms are incredibly good for our immune systems, you’ll find them now in everything from coffee, to supplements to protein powders. Shitake and maitake mushrooms have been scientifically shown to have the highest immune boosting properties but sometimes they can be hard to find. For this recipe any mushroom will do - just depends on your palate and preference. I used them in two different forms in this dish - both sauteed with shallots in the quinoa mixture and also on top crisped up in the oven for added texture.

Another amazing ingredient in this dish is the spice, turmeric which is an incredibly powerful anti-inflammatory. Curcumin is an active compound found in turmeric which has been shown to be helpful for reducing systemic inflammation. Turmeric has long been used in traditional Chinese and Indian (Ayurvedic) medicine to help treat and keep symptoms for various type of inflammatory diseases at bay. I love to sneak in spices like Turmeric or Cinnamon to my meals which both enhance the flavor of a dish but also have added cellular benefits. Small additions like cooking your quinoa with turmeric or poaching your egg in turmeric are such an easy ways to give your dinner guests, your kids, your family or your self something healthful without a lot extra time, thought or money spent on fancy supplements. Make small, easy changes one step at a time.

Okay let’s get to making this thing…

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1 cup quinoa (I used white here so that the turmeric color would shine through)

  • 1 lb mushrooms - I used baby bellas here

  • 5 large kale leaves or 3 Cups of Kale (with the stalks cut out)

  • 1 shallot

  • 2-3 tablespoons avocado oil

  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil to dress it

  • 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric (you could also shave fresh turmeric root in if you have it)

  • salt & pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE:

Cook quinoa per package instructions, typically 1 : 2 ratio of quinoa to liquid. Here I cooked 1 cup quinoa in 2 cups of water and to the water I added the tablespoon of turmeric. Bring to a boil for 1 min then let simmer on low for approx 15 mins covered.

While the quinoa is cooking finely dice your shallot and thinly slice all of your mushrooms. Next take a handful (approx 1/2 cup) mushrooms, toss them lightly in avocado oil and season them with salt and pepper and then spread them onto a baking sheet and bake them on 400 degrees for approx 5-10 mins until they are brown and crispy. Keep checking in on them so that they don’t burn.

While the quinoa finishes cooking and your mushrooms are in the oven begin to sautee your shallots over medium heat in a little bit of avocado oil for 1-2 mins and then add the rest of your mushrooms into the pan and let those cook down together. While the mushrooms and shallot are cooking, cut the hard stalks out of your kale so that you are just using the leafy parts. Then finely chop your kale or chiffonade it and add it to the mushroom and shallot mixture. Cook mushrooms and kale together for approx 2 mins, until the kale just begins to wilt but not too long because you want it to retain some texture.

Once everything is cooked, fluff your quinoa with a fork and add it to a bowl - to the bowl begin folding in the mushroom, shallot and kale mixture and add a tablespoon of good olive oil and season as needed with extra salt and pepper. Lastly, top the bowl with the crispy mushrooms from the oven and voila! You could also add some more color and flavor to the dish by topping it with an herb garnish like chopped chives or parsley. Great creative!