I cook for a crowd nearly every night (10-18 people on any given night constitutes a crowd in my book!) With most of them clamoring for seconds, leftovers aren’t usually part of the picture. But every once in a great while, I sense the need to make enough to ensure leftovers. Such is the case tonight. So it’s Quinoa Pilaf on the menu. A quadruple batch. A quick stir fry of the quinoa and orzo in some butter, olive oil, shallots, and garlic make the house smell like you’re walking the streets of Italy. And the protein in the quinoa with the satisfying, starchy pasta make this dish a wonderful side dish, or it can be served as the main event (especially if you throw a little shrimp or pork into it!)
You might be wondering why the need leftovers… (and you might not be, but this quinoa pilaf is so good, you’ll likely want some for leftovers anyway). Simple. It’s spring break. If you’re a parent, you know how it goes during spring break, fall break, Christmas break and summer break… The kids are SO excited to not have school. The first day, they sleep in, lounge around in their jammies, eat breakfast at noon, and then watch Netflix the rest of the day. They think they died and went to heaven. Day two is similar. By day three, however, things start to change. They’ve binge-watched their favorite shows to the point of saturation. They walk around the house uttering the dreaded, but predictable I’m bored. There’s nothing to do! Parents offer any number of options:
Parent: You can go out and ride your bike.
Parent: You can take the dog for a walk. He needs to go out anyway.
Kid: Uh. No thanks.
Parent: You can walk down to the park.
Parent (getting annoyed): You can clean your room.
Parent (supremely annoyed by now): You can do your laundry, sweep the patio, scrub the toilets… I’ll give you something to do!
Kid: I think I’ll just watch more Netflix.
And that’s what they do. Sit around day after day alternating between Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, and Grey’s Anatomy. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare – watching their kids sit on the couch or on their beds glued to one electronic screen or another. Desperate for a different experience this year, my sister and I racked our brains to come up with an alternative. And as if out of nowhere, I got an email from Carnival Cruise offering a screaming deal on a spring break 5 days cruise! Problem solved! We’d each cram 4 to a room, pack up the kids and head out to sunny California to embark on a fun filled journey of Catalina Island and Ensenada Mexico. The kids can run around the ship doing all kinds of kid activities – mini golf, water slides, kids’ club, scavenger hunts, and eat all the food they can consume. The adults can sit around the pool, gaze at the blue Pacific waters, and drink as many Coronas they can consume. It’s a perfect solution!
Well… almost perfect. Our husbands have burned up their vacation days as quickly as they’ve accrued (that’s my fault!), so they can’t come. Bummer! But everyone’s in agreement – it will be great for the kids! (And for my sister and me!) Now THIS is where the Quinoa Pilaf comes in. I’m not keen on abandoning my hubby for 5 days. And I’m even less keen on leaving him and my sister’s husband to fend for themselves for dinner. It’s certainly not that they can’t handle it. This is my issue. I feel a sense of responsibility to feed everyone – especially our kids and husbands. So the least I can do is to make sure I make enough Quinoa Pilaf to leave them with at least a serving or two of leftovers. And my brother-in-law is the king of leftovers! He can turn any blob of congealed mess that he finds in the back of the fridge into a meal fit for a king! So tonight at the end of the meal I’ll throw the leftover Quinoa Pilaf into a big Tupperware container, my brother-in-law will find it and turn it into something magical (like Quinoa with rotisserie chicken, or fried Quinoa Pilaf patties…). The mixture of tender quinoa, creamy orzo, minced mild shallots, a touch of garlic, and a squeeze of lime in this pilaf will lend itself to almost any form of leftovers imaginable!
Although the spring break cruise won’t be the same without them, and our husbands won’t have us at home to take care of our normal stuff, I suspect a great time will be had by all. The kids will have their days filled with fun, exciting activities. My sister and I will likely be planning our next adventure. Our husbands will likely find sustenance at Cold Beer and Cheeseburgers or Twin Peaks (after the leftovers are gone, of course). But there’s one thing I know with certainty – we’ll all be glad to get back into our normal routines… work, school, and me cooking dinner for a crowd. It’s the glue that binds us all.
- 1 1/2 Cups Dry Quinoa
- 1 Cup Uncooked Orzo
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Large Shallots, Minced
- 2 Cloves garlic, Minced
- 1 Teaspoon Fresh Lime Juice
- 4 Cups chicken broth
- Rinse quinoa with cool water in a fine colander. In a large pot, heat olive oil and butter over medium high heat until foamy. Add shallots and garlic and cook until shallots are soft, approximately 4 minutes. Add quinoa and orzo, stirring until well coated and fragrant, approximately 1 minute.
- Carefully add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and add salt and pepper to taste. Top with chopped parsley if desired.