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As we move more deeply into winter, we tend to crave comfort foods like mac n’ cheese, pizza and hot chocolate. But in the colder months, it’s essential that we continue to treat our bodies well and boost our immune systems through real, whole foods. To me, food is medicine and the right foods can help us maintain optimal energy levels, heal from illness and lift our moods. But this doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to bland, boring meals. You can eat healthy and still enjoy deliciously satisfying dishes… like this Vegetarian Quinoa Paella!

My Quinoa Paella is a nutrient-dense, all-in-one vegetarian meal full of protein, vegetables, and seasonings. Since this dish does not include any meat or shellfish, I enhance the flavor profile with vegetarian sources of fat, homemade vegetable stock and aromatic spices, such as saffron, smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne, and fresh thyme leaves. It also features quinoa, which is a complete protein that contains fewer carbs than other grains. As an added bonus, it’s more filling and nutritious than rice.

Quinoa in a bowl

If you are trying a vegetarian diet for the first time (or cutting back on meat) this makes a hearty “Meatless Monday” meal or anytime dinner. Since the recipe serves 6 as a main course and 10 as a side, it’s also a great go-to for easy entertaining. It’s a crowd-pleasing, comforting meal that’s perfect for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.  And if you want to use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock, go ahead!  It will only make this dish taste even better.

4 Dried Spice Secrets:

  1. If you can’t remember how long your dried spices have been sitting in your cupboard it might be time for a pantry clean out.
  2. Spices have a shelf life of about 2-3 years. However, storage and quality have a lot to do with how well they taste over time.
  3. The worst place to store spices is near the stove or any heat source—which is usually where they end up. Instead, find a cabinet away from the stove to store spices (and oils).
  4. Opt for organic and high-quality spices, like Penzey’s or Simply Organic, as often as you can.


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Quinoa Paella

Vegetarian Quinoa Paella

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  • Author: Andrea Sprague


This hearty Paella makes a satisfying main dish if you are vegetarian, or a great side dish to accompany whatever you are making.


  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, small dice (about 1 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ¾ cups quinoa, rinsed
  • ¼ tsp. saffron, crushed
  • 1 ½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ¾ tsp. ground cumin
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, small dice
  • 1 14-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • ¾ cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 can artichoke hearts in water, drained and cut into quarters


  1. Place olive oil in a large, deep non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and sauté for one minute or until soft and translucent, stirring frequently. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the quinoa, saffron, paprika, cumin and cayenne, and stir to toast the quinoa and spices for 1 minute.
  4. Add the thyme, salt, couple turns of ground pepper, tomatoes, bell pepper, beans and stock, stirring to combine. Turn heat up to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add zucchini to the pot, return cover and cook 15 more minutes.
  6. Remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork to check for doneness. It’s cooked when the quinoa is tender throughout and yellow in color. If the quinoa isn’t done, but the liquid has evaporated, add another ½ cup stock, cover and simmer for a few more minutes.
  7. Once the quinoa is done, remove the lid and continue cooking, uncovered, for another 5 minutes or until the zucchini has softened.
  8. Stir in the peas and artichoke hearts. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.


  • Reheating: If the paella has become too solid and dry, add ¼ cup stock while heating and gently stirring.

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