Brighten flavors of quinoa with cranberries and spinach

Sometimes I get into a "side dish slump." Gone is my creativity concerning what to serve with simple roasted chicken, baked fish or pork chops. I feel like I turn to the same old thing again and again.

So I've been mixing it up and spreading my wings with new recipes. Quinoa is a new favorite. Plain and prepared with water, it is unimpressive.

But its simple flavors pair with just about anything you can think of.

It's easy to cook quinoa in vegetable broth and add enormous flavor. Or you can saute an onion and a couple cloves of garlic and then cook the quinoa with chicken broth. Lemon juice and zest pump up the flavor, as does any dried fruit tossed in at the end of cooking. Today I added sweet potato and bejeweled my pilaf with dried cranberries and wilted baby spinach. The result is beautiful and healthy.

The nutritional analysis reports this simple side dish is very low in saturated fat and has no cholesterol. In addition, it's high in dietary fiber, very high in magnesium, very high in phosphorus, very high in vitamin A and high in vitamin C. Rating a nutritional "A," this recipe is a virtual superfood! Now that's a side dish! Enjoy.

• Alicia Ross is the co-author of "Desperation Dinners!." Contact her at Kitchen Scoop, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, or send email to Or visit the Kitchen Scoop website at

weet Potato and Quinoa Pilaf

3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

2 cups diced fresh peeled sweet potatoes

½ cup dried cranberries or cherries

1 cup quinoa

1 cup fresh baby spinach, stems removed and medium packed

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Add the sweet potatoes, cranberries and quinoa and stir to mix well. Cover and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until quinoa and sweet potatoes are tender. Drain excess liquid if mixture is soupy.

Stir in spinach and cover. Lightly steam (with remaining steam from cooked quinoa mixture) for 5 minutes, or just until spinach wilts. Serve immediately. Leftovers keep for up to 2 days, covered in refrigerator.

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 servings (2/3 cup serving)

Approximate values per serving (per 2/3 cup): 201 calories, 2 g fat (trace saturated), no cholesterol, 6 g protein, 40 g carbohydrates, 5 g dietary fiber, 230 mg sodium, 454 mg potassium.

- Alicia Ross

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Pilaf

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