I’ve never been a huge quinoa fan. Let’s just get that out on the table now. I don’t hate it, but I don’t crave it, I don’t order it, and I don’t cook with it. I like lots of other healthy grains like farro, lentils, and bulgur, but quinoa has a funky texture and, like tofu (which I am also not a big fan of), you need to add a lot of flavor to make it taste good. So when my friend Margie told me that she and her husband ate quinoa every week, Monday through Thursday, I was shocked. But also fascinated (and a little obsessed).
I know this is a blog about stuff to swoon over—don’t be fooled, this story has a fairytale ending—but before quinoa had me in her thrall, I was a disbeliever.
When Margie first told me about her quinoa regimen, I thought she made a different recipe every week. I even started sending her quinoa recipes I came across, but she makes the same one. Every week. Being the kind of person who loves variety so much I don’t even like leftovers, I was curious about why she and her husband Michael committed to this way of eating. I interviewed Margie exclusively for The Swoon Society:
What made you decide to be so structured with your weekday eating?
We structured our weekly meals mainly because my husband had gained 20+ lbs from our cooking and wine drinking every night of the week. He decided the way to combat this problem was to rely on the Catholic method of living…sin and repent!
He thought if he could eat moderately during the week, he could indulge himself on the weekends, and it should all balance out. He also gave up drinking alcohol Mon-Thurs. Once I saw how much easier it was to eat the same thing every night and not have to worry about what I was going to make for dinner every night or make daily trips to the market, I got on board with the process.
Do you ever get sick of eating the same thing 4 days a week?
We eat this dish Mon-Thurs, and have been doing so for several years. Of course we get tired of eating it sometimes. We take a break if our schedule is such that we won’t be home to eat the dish at least three days during the week. When we go on vacation, we don’t watch what we eat. By the end of every trip, we always say we can’t wait to get back to eating quinoa! We never feel overly full when we eat it or go to bed on a full stomach.
Do you ever vary the recipe?
The recipe has evolved over the years, mostly in terms of which vegetables we use. We switch off between the three Trader Joe’s simmer sauces from time to time.
Do you think it has had an impact on weight loss?
For my husband, who has a tendency to overeat, it has been very impactful to structure our diet this way. It’s very easy to see where you are overeating or where to cut calories when your diet is so structured. This method of eating also has a huge impact on time. It’s shocking how much time you have for yourself when you don’t have to cook dinner and clean up afterwards. Evenings become a time to relax or a productive time doing other things. It might even get you to bed earlier, which will have a positive impact on how much sleep you get. Nothing bad comes to those who eat the same thing for dinner every night!
Where did you get the recipe?
The original dish was a brown rice and black bean base. Once quinoa started to become popular, I switched to it and began messing around with the recipe. My goal was to keep it as simple as possible and to have all the ingredients come from Trader Joe’s. Their pre-cut veggie options are convenient and plentiful. But, of course, you can use any veggies you like.
I started telling other friends about Margie’s diet and, invariably, they would become intrigued and ask for the recipe. I thought all the reasons Margie ate this way were valid and, if I was going to write about it for the blog, I should try it myself. My husband was game. I went to Trader Joe’s with my list and made my first batch.
There are many great things about this recipe. One is that everything IS available from Trader Joe’s. I’m used to going to about three different stores to get ingredients I need for the week, so already I was pretty excited. The second great thing is that it’s very quick and easy to prepare. I don’t have a Crock-Pot, so I just put everything in a big pot and cooked it until the veggies were done. The third, and most remarkable thing about this dish, is that it is delicious! My husband and I were both surprised. It does not feel like we are compromising, especially with the addition of avocado, a splash of Tabasco, and occasionally some light sour cream. I actually look forward to eating it each night. And, it has practically no fat! Of course, the avocado adds fat, but as we know, it’s the GOOD fat, so it doesn’t count. This, on top of no cooking and no clean up, makes Margie’s recipe something to definitely swoon over!
We have tried this for two weeks and are going into our third. We talked about adding some grilled shrimp this week. Also, I added garbanzo beans and fresh corn to the mix – it’s wonderfully customizable to what’s fresh at the farmer’s market or easily available at good old Trader Joe’s. Last week I was in Vegas for a convention and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t looking forward to getting back on the quinoa wagon.
I might not give up wine, but I’m definitely incorporating this way of eating into my life on the regular. Both my husband and I feel better and maybe we will also lose some weight. As far as having all that extra time…perfect for blog writing.
Add ingredients into the Crock-Pot in this order (or put into a big pot):
1 cup rinsed quinoa, any color of your choice
2 cups of the broth of your choice
1 28 oz. can organic diced tomatoes, no salt added (I fill the can about half way full with water to rinse it and add that to the pot)
1/2 jar Trader Joe’s Curry Simmer Sauce (refrigerate and save the other half for next week – Trader Joe’s has 2 other flavors of simmer sauce you can try as well.)
1 bag cut butternut squash (I cut the larger pieces in half or quarters so they will cook through)
2 – 3 zucchini squash, slice the long way, then cut in 1/2” slices
1 bag sliced cremini mushrooms
2 handfuls of any leafy green (I like spinach)
1 generous handful of shredded carrots
Cover pot and cook on high for 3.5 hours. You can stir once towards the end, but you don’t have to. (If you are using a regular pot, simmer, covered, until the veggies are cooked through – about 45 minutes.)
When it is finished, add 1 can of drained black beans and a cup of frozen peas for color.
This will feed 2 people, 4 meals. We add a small amount of protein like cooked ground turkey or roasted chicken, sour cream or hummus on top, and avocado.