My mother has this nasty habit of opening all the cupboards in the pantry and nagging that I buy things that I don’t need, and they just expire or get forgotten. I always tell her that I always put these ingredients to good use. So one Sunday, after getting an earful from my ever so inquisitive mother hen, I decided to actually make something from all that stuff lying around.

Of course I can’t make some crappy dish, so I decided on Quinoa Paella. I love quinoa, and since I am trying to cut down on the carbs, I decided to replace it with power-packed quinoa.

Quinoa is a grain, like oats or wheat, but instead of turning the carbs to starch, quinoa has jam-packed protein, fiber and even calcium. I like the grainy fluffy texture, much like a chubbier version of couscous. I suggest you make the trade from boring white rice.

Found some leftover italian sausage from a dinner party, so this goes in the stovetop. I opened the freezer and found some frozen peas.. this will go handy as a topper.

I also found a bag of cooked shrimp from S&R which has been frozen for over a quarter. Ok you’re going into the pot.

Make sure to thaw the shrimp out, or use raw shrimp if you want it fresh!  Now for some things to make the paella more authentic… If you’re in a hurry, there are paella seasonings (like this Ora Mix Mo) in the grocery that put the flavor in an instant. if you’d like to go the long route, you need to have some tomato paste. I decided to use a little of both. Up to you how you want your paella to turn out.    I’m so lucky that I still had some saffron threads lying around. If you can buy them, but the real saffron threads. A little definitely goes a long way. I got this small packet at Santi’s and I’ve had it for about a year already. Very handy for arroz caldo, as well.To start: Saute some garlic and red onions. Note that I don’t put the quantity because how you cook should be a reflection of your personal taste. I am in LOVE with garlic and onions, so I really like to pile it on. A good gauge would be 2 tbsp of minced garlic and about half a cup of chopped onions. After the garlic and onions have softened, add the sausage so the flavor comes out early. If you’re using raw shrimp, you can add them here to cook and lend another layer of flavor. After a minute, put 1-2 tbsp of tomato paste in and cook so that the rawness of the paste dissipates. I like a nice deep tomato flavor, so I add a bit extra.

If you want a well-seasoned paella, you can add some of the paella seasoning, but be gentle! It can get salty. Cook thru til mixed well. After a couple of minutes, and the paste and seasoning have been properly cooked, add 2 cups of water, or low sodium stock. You can use vegetable stock or chicken stock and mix well. At the same time, get about 1 cup of quinoa and wash it thoroughly. Prewashing takes out some of the extra starch. Make sure to drain the liquid. Add the quinoa to the pot. The ratio of quinoa to water is about 1:2 so this will be a perfect pot of quinoa. This is the time you can add some saffron to your pot. Letting it soak in the liquid and flavor it just like the spaniards do. The trick to cooking quinoa is to allow it to boil on medium heat, then once it reaches an aggressive boil, lower the heat to a simmer Cover the pot and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes. This is the time the quinoa absorbs all the liquid and flavors.   After 15 minutes, you will see that most of the liquid has evaporated, do a quick stir to redistribute the liquid in time for the toppings. Time to add the peas. I put in about 1/2 a cup. If you want more veggies, you can always add more Make sure to stir it in properly Add the shrimp to the top. I like to make it a pretty pattern for photo purposes, but you can mix it in as well.

Cover the pot again and allow to simmer for 5 more minutes, until the liquid is almost evaporated.

When you open the pot, you should see just a bit of liquid to thicken the paella. This is good to go.

   Voila! My stovetop quinoa paella! It’s really easy and takes about 30 minutes to make. This can serve about four people and is great as a one pot meal because of the shrimps and the sausages. A healthier alternative to a Spanish favorite!

Have you tried quinoa before? Try this, and let me know what you think!