Monday, March 2, 2015

Quinoa & Blackened Tilapia Bowl

We all want to eat healthier, but it's hard, right? So many "healthy" recipes are full of ingredients you've never heard of, and you want a meal the family will still eat. So how do you do it?

Often the answer comes down to swapping out traditional ingredients for healthier alternatives.

Mexican food is a favorite, but it's often not particularly healthy. But with a few modifications it can be. That is the idea behind the quinoa and blackened tilapia bowl. It's truthfully a cross between blackened tilapia (a favorite dish in our family) and a Mexican bowl, swapping out the rice for the healthier quinoa.

If you're not familiar with quinoa, it's a type of seed that has minimal flavor in and of itself (similar to rice), and is kind of spongy in texture. Sometimes it tastes kind of nutty, but mostly it's rather bland. Thankfully it easily takes on the flavors that surround it, and it's incredibly filling. I can only eat a small amount before I'm stuffed. Why eat it anyway? It's high in protein and fiber, which makes it a healthier alternative to many types of rice.

This meal really has four parts: the blackened tilapia (which requires a rub), the quinoa prep, a lighter version of guacamole, and bowl assembly.

2-4 tilapia fillets
1 cup quinoa (uncooked)
2 cups chicken broth
1 can corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tomato, diced
¼ cup cilantro

Rub Ingredients
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp of cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Light Guacamole Ingredients
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup Greek yogurt
1 large avocado
1 garlic clove
1 chipotle pepper
1½ Tbsp lime juice (or one squeezed lime)
½ jalapeno, seeded and diced
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prepare the quinoa by rinsing 1 cup of uncooked quinoa in a strainer. Place the quinoa in a saucepan with  2 cups chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and cook covered for 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand for five minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the quinoa. This will make 3 cups cooked quinoa.
  2. Next, prepare the light guacamole by combining all the guacamole ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the tilapia rub by combining the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well. Sprinkle the rub over each piece of tilapia and lightly press. Cook the tilapia in a pan over medium heat for 3-5 minutes on each side. You can also cover the fish which can help lock in some moisture.
  4. Prepare the bowls by placing quinoa on the bottom. Add the beans, corn, tomato and cilantro. Lay a tilapia filet on top and add the light guacamole as desired.
The dish is an interesting combination of textures, spices and heat. The quinoa takes on the flavors of the bowl ingredients. The blackened tilapia can be rather spicy so the cool guacamole creates a nice balance. It's definitely a healthy dish that's packed with flavor and color. 

One thing to be careful of is to not overload the bowl with quinoa. It is deceptively filling. It seems so small, like it couldn't possibly fill you up, but it will. Let the other ingredients and flavors take the dominant role.
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