Parmesan Quinoa {+ Kaniwa} Zucchini Boats

by brookefiore

From discussions with patients, friends and strangers alike, I’ve come to realize that time is a very common barrier when it comes to making healthy food choices and consuming a balanced diet. After reading one of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s position papers today, I realized this reoccurring conversation was no coincidence. Collectively, time and convenience are one of the most significant influences that detract from and derail individuals when it comes to spending time planning and preparing their meals.



Since we can’t extend the day by a few hours, I think spending time a bit more wisely can make all the difference. One of my favorite solutions to this dilemma is creating a plan followed by keeping a well stocked fridge, freezer and pantry (fresh and frozen fruits and veggies, versatile grains (think Quinoa, Amaranth, Brown Rice), low sodium canned or dried beans – you get the point). The third step is to implement the notion of “cook once, eat twice.” One cup dry quinoa will yield nearly 3 cups once cooked. By cooking once but eating twice (by having the extra quinoa ready-to-go in the fridge) you’ll cut your cooking time in half. Doesn’t that sound nice?



I can’t say it enough. Quinoa preparation is nearly as simple as boiling water, and within 12 to 15 minutes, you have a nice high protein, high fiber foundation or addition to a variety of soups, salads, and entree options (even breakfast!) Twelve minutes for versatility and good nutrition? I’d say that’s 12 minutes worth spending.


Unfortunately, it is unlikely you will ever be able to rely on the gas station or fast food chains to supply you with the nutritious convenience I’m referring to. But as soon as you make healthy choices convenient for you I assure you it becomes easier. And given that cost/economics is the second most common reason fueling our food choices, I bet the recommendations above will help to nip that obstacle in the bud too!


When I spotted Kaniwa in the store, I mistook it for red quinoa. Once home, I chose to read the package a bit closer and discovered it is actually a cousin to Quinoa. This “ancient grain” is technically a seed, slightly smaller than quinoa although it’s cooking technique and yield remain the same. The flavor difference was undetectable but I found the texture to be a bit crunchier.



Parmesan Quinoa {+ Kaniwa} Zucchini Boats

Serves 2-3 {depending on the size of the Zucchini’s used}

Adapted from Dishing Up The Dirt 


2 medium zucchini

2/3 cup cooked quinoa (or kaniwa or a combination of both!)

1 bunch radishes, greens removed

1/2 cup cannellini beans

1 medium shallot, thinly slice

1 clove garlic, minced

5 or 6 basil leaves, sliced into strips

2 tsp olive oil

freshly grated Parmesan cheese for topping, about 1/4 cup

salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 375F. Cook quinoa and/or Kaniwa according to package directions and set aside.

Slice each zucchini in half, lengthwise. Scoop out inside leaving 1/4” shell. I used a metal 1/2 tsp measuring spoon, I bet a melon baller would work too. Discard flesh that has been removed (or perhaps save it for incorporation into another recipe).

In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Once shimmering hot, add garlic and cook one minute. Add shallots and cook for another minute. Thinly slice radishes and add to pan along with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another minute and remove from heat. Toss with quinoa, beans and basil in a medium bowl. Transfer mixture into zucchini boats using a spoon. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until zucchini is fork tender, top each with Parmesan cheese and return to oven until cheese has melted, about 3 minutes.

If you should have any additional quinoa filling, I put mine in a small casserole dish and cooked it alongside the boats.

Please note: The article I am referring to is The Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic (Copyright 2013). You can visit for more information.