What do you do when you over-zealously buy too many ingredients for fajitas when your parents come into town, and as a result your refrigerator is full of leftovers?
You toss the vegetables into a bowl with fluffy quinoa and fresh lettuce to compensate for the overabundance of chips and salsa you ate the day before.
That’s how this Vegetarian Fajita Quinoa Bowl came to be.
Weekends with my parents have taken on a lovely rhythm. After we got married, Kevin and I lived in the same city as my parents for about a year. Every other week we’d go to their place for dinner. We’d share a gargantuan bag of generic brand tortellini drizzled in vodka sauce and an infant-sized loaf of French bread. We’d open the monster bottle of Rex Goliath Cabernet and chat over the 2 dozen glasses it provided (joking – kind of). We now fully claim credit for my dad liking red wine.
Then we took my parents to a local Tex Mex place for fajitas, and the game was forever changed. Now our nights together are filled with beds of sauteed, steaming onions and bell peppers topped with succulent grilled chicken and beef. Mexican rice and fluffy refried beans. Creamy guacamole, chunky salsa, and iceberg lettuce that will go untouched by everyone but my mom.
Now that we live in different cities, when we’re together we make it a point to feast like reyes (that’s kings in Spanish. Gracias, Google Translate).
They came down to Austin a few weekends ago for a lovely visit, and we fajita’d all Saturday evening. The sangria flowed freely while we sat on the back porch in our $15 plastic Adirondack chairs from Lowe’s. We watched the dogs play, talked about Kevin’s new job, discussed Texas A&M’s chances in the 2015 football season, and drank more sangria. In true American fashion, we overbought ingredients and were left with an abundance of fixins’ for fajitas.
After my sweet parents headed back home, my body was begging me for something light and healthy. Enter quinoa.
Believe it or not, I only recently embraced quinoa, after a friend who adheres to a vegetarian diet ranked it as one of the top ingredients in her recipe repertoire. Years ago, I tried making it in college, before I learned to accurately boil water. It came out in a mushy, grainy mess. But no more. Now, quinoa is on my list of go-to-feel-good-about-what-I-just-put-in-my-body ingredients.
Start with a fluffy bed of quinoa, topped with fresh strips of romaine lettuce. Next, whatever vegetables you can find… For me, it was thinly sliced red and green bell pepper, crunchy radishes, and a tomato black bean salsa with spicy red onion that had served as a dip on fajita night. Drizzle with your favorite salsa, and top with crumbly cotija cheese. To make this dish vegan, just nix the cheese.
I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this dish. So many raw vegetables came together to create a joyous celebration of tastiness and healthiness in my mouth. Over the past few weeks, this or some rendition of it has become a staple for my at-work lunch. Light enough to not make me hate myself, filling enough to keep me from devouring the bowl of candy at the Receptionst’s desk.
Thank you, quinoa and fajita fixings. May your marriage be long, happy, and prosperous.