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If  you’re looking for a side dish that is beautiful, healthy and truly bursting with the flavors of spring for your Sunday buffet, this is it! Skinny Quinoa and Cauliflower Rice with Asparagus, Peas and Herbs.

Though often referred to as an ancient “grain” prized by the Incas, Quinoa is not a grain like wheat, rice, or barley at all, but the seed of a plant more closely related to green leafy veggies like spinach, beets and chard. Containing all 9 essential amino acids that form a “complete” protein, it also provides extraordinary phytonutrients that are known to help combat everything from heart disease and cancer to migraine headaches and menopausal symptoms. (Not admitting I’m having the latter, just saying, like unicorns, I know they exist..)

And by combining Quinoa (225 calories a cooked cup) with super nutritious but super low calorie cauliflower that’s shredded to mimic rice (only 28 calories a cup), as well as asparagus and protein packed peas (7 grams of protein a cup) you add even more anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds and meat-like nutrition to this dish while cutting the calorie count in half!

And this is a dish that is SO skinny that you can pile 2 heaping cups of it on a plate, add a few extra large shrimp or prawns and have a complete and super filling meal for under 400 calories!

So spring forward to your weight loss goals with this skinny dish that every body at your table will be grateful for!


This recipe, born of a big family Easter Buffet, serves 10-12 easily. Cut it in half in you have a small family or are single. Either way, you’ll be shocked at how few left-overs are left the next day! With an organic poached egg on top, it’s a shockingly satisfying breakfast!

2 c quinoa

3 c water

1 head cauliflower, chopped

1 t salt, divided (half for quinoa, half for cauliflower)

1/2 c minced herbs (I use a mix of dill, mint, cilantro and parsley)

zest and juice of one large or 2 small lemons

1 bunch asparagus, ends snapped and cut into 2 inch pieces, tips kept separately

2 T chicken broth

1-2 T minced garlic (matter of taste, add more or less)

2 c frozen peas (Pull from the freezer and let thaw a bit before you start cooking.)

1-2 c grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced (Salt and pepper them before adding to the dish.)

1/2 c green onions, chopped (optional)

1/4 c grated Parmigiano reggiano (the good stuff) or crumbled Feta (optional)

Sprinkle of pine nuts (optional)

Rinse 2 c Quinoa well in a fine sieve.  (Don’t skip this step. Quinoa has natural insect repellents, called saponins, that will taste really bitter if not rinsed off.)

Toss it into a non stick frying pan (preferably one with a lid) and add 3 c water and 1/2 t salt. Bring to a big boil, reduce heat to low, cover tightly and cook for 15-17 minutes. Remove lid and check.  If there’s still dampness at the bottom of the pan, leave the lid off and continue to heat a few minutes until all moisture evaporates.

While Quinoa is cooking, prepare Cauliflower Rice.

Fit food processor with the grating disc and chop cauliflower into pieces small enough to to fit into feeding tube. Process, put in a microwave safe bowl, sprinkle with 1/2 t of salt (DO NOT ADD WATER), and cover with a plate and microwave on high for 6-8 minutes.

(For a video on how to make my Cauliflower Rice and Magic Wild Rice, see my new show on Everyday Health here.)

Mix cooked Quinoa and Cauliflower Rice in a large serving dish and toss with the 1/2 cup of minced herbs and the lemon zest.

Rinse pan, return to medium heat and spray with cooking oil. Toss in the chopped asparagus stalks (not the tips), 2 T broth (or water and a bit of salt) and cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes until stalks are bright green and almost tender.

Add asparagus tips and 1-2 T garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add peas and cook until warmed but not mushy..about 2 minutes more.

Squeeze lemon juice over all and stir again.

Add to quinoa and cauliflower rice and toss. Top with fresh grape or cherry tomatoes and 1/4 c Parmesan or Feta, you can even add a sprinkle of pine nuts if you like!


This can be served as a warm side dish or a cold salad.

OR, you can add shrimp or prawns to it to make it a picnic salad or a buffet entree!

(If you do add shrimp, bump up the dill! The shrimp love the dill!)

Marinate shrimp, shells cut but on, in a big splash of white wine, a bit of olive oil, minced garlic, herbs, green onions, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Grill or just do in the same pan you made the asparagus in..about 3 minutes a side…

You can peel or leave it for guests to do on their own…. Either way, DEEEE-lish!!!

(Note for Kosher Cookers: Even though shrimp is always off limits for your feasts, Quinoa was declared Kosher for Passover a few years ago and seems to have been embraced by most rabbis. Still, a new controversy brews…and only you can decide if you want to chance it. As a very liberal Jewish house, we wing it here, and hope God appreciates that we’re trying to be proper where we can… 🙂


About Lisa McRee

After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! The Skinny is the inside story on how she did it, and how you can, too!
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  1. Elie says:

    Lisa, this looks fabulous, i cannot wait to try it out!

    • Lisa McRee says:

      Thanks! Have to tell you..loved it so much and we ate it so fast that I made it again with small shrimp as a cold salad for Easter brunch. (Hoping no one finds the bit I hid in the fridge for my mid morning snack tomorrow! Shhhh…:)

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