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Saffron Quinoa with Almonds and Currants

Serves 6


    There’s one flower you may already have in your pantry. The thin red threads we know as saffron are the stigmas pulled from the centre of the saffron crocus. Saffron brings bright colour and subtle earthy and slightly grassy floral flavours to dishes and is frequently used in rice dishes of all kinds—from biryani to paella and risotto. Here, saffron is used with cinnamon, cloves, and orange to lend flavour and colour to quinoa along with a classic combination of almonds and currants.


    The sunshine spice

    Saffron contains phytochemicals including crocin, picrocrocin, and safranal, which are thought to be responsible for its medicinal actions. Saffron has been studied in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and may help improve symptoms. Studies have shown that taking saffron is effective in mild to moderate depression, which has earned it the name of “sunshine spice.” Taking saffron in large quantities is not recommended, as it may be toxic at higher doses.


    Saffron Quinoa with Almonds and Currants


      • 1/3 cup (80 mL) blanched, slivered almonds
      • 1/3 cup (80 mL) just boiled water + additional 1 cup (250 mL) water
      • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) saffron threads
      • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
      • 3/4 cup (180 mL) chopped shallot
      • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
      • 1/2 cup (125 mL) grated carrot
      • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground cloves
      • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) cinnamon
      • 1/3 cup (80 mL) white quinoa, rinsed and drained
      • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
      • 1/4 cup (60 mL) currants
      • 1 tsp (5 mL) orange zest


      Per serving:

      • calories83
      • protein2 g
      • total fat5 g
        • sat. fat1 g
      • total carbohydrates8 g
        • sugars1 g
        • fibre1 g
      • sodium205 mg



      In dry saucepan, lightly toast slivered almonds until golden brown, stirring frequently. Pour onto plate to cool and set aside.


      In kettle, heat water to 170 F (76 C), using green tea setting. In small bowl, pour 1/3 cup (80 mL) over saffron threads to make a saffron tea. If your kettle doesn’t have a temperature setting, allow a just-boiled kettle to stand for 5 minutes to cool the water slightly. Allow saffron to infuse for 10 minutes while you prepare remaining ingredients.


      In medium saucepan, add olive oil and gently sauté shallots and garlic on medium heat until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add carrot, cloves, and cinnamon, and stir to combine. Add rinsed and drained quinoa to pot and stir for a few minutes to incorporate. Add salt, 1 cup (250 mL) water, and saffron tea; turn up heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until holes appear in the surface of quinoa. Add almonds and currants in a single layer over quinoa; cover and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until white endosperm of quinoa emerges. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for a further 5 minutes.


      When ready to serve, add orange zest, fluff with fork, stir gently to combine all ingredients, and serve on large, flat platter.



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      Going Pro

      Going Pro

      You might think of protein as something you mainly get from a meal and, therefore, not a component of dessert. But, if you’re going to opt for dessert from time to time, why not consider working in ingredients that go big on this important macronutrient? It’s easier (and more delicious) than you may think! Protein is an essential part of every cell in your body and plays a starring role in bone, muscle, and skin health. So, certainly, you want to make sure you’re eating enough. And it’s best to spread protein intake throughout the day, since your body needs a continual supply. This is why it can be a great idea to try to include protein in your desserts. When protein is provided in sufficient amounts in a dessert, it may help you feel more satiated and help temper blood sugar swings. Plus, in many cases, that protein comes in a package of other nutritional benefits. For instance, if you’re eating a dessert made with protein-packed Greek yogurt, you’re not just getting protein; you’re getting all the yogurt’s bone-benefitting calcium and immune-boosting probiotics, too. Adding nuts to your dessert doesn’t just provide plant-based protein, but it also provides heart-healthy fats. Yes, desserts need not be just empty calories. Ready for a treat? These protein-filled desserts with a healthy twist are dietitian-approved—and delicious.