Weeknight Dinner: Buffalo Chicken Hot Quinoa Salad

My dear friend over on her blog posted the other day about her husband’s love for pizza. I was literally beside myself – I had just had a conversation with Mr. Grumpy about how much pizza we’d been eating lately. Her post could not have come at a more perfect time. This was not a complete surprise because our boys happen to be extremely similar. In so many ways. And – big shocker here – they share a deep love for pizza (and one another…). Mr. Grumpy would eat pizza every day if he could – and sometimes, I think he secretly does (I can’t control what he eats for lunch, right?).

Lately, we’ve been ordering a buffalo mac ‘n’ cheese pizza from Barley House, which is dangerously right across the street from our apartment. This pizza is a five-pound gain in a box. Seriously. I don’t know why we order it. Ok… yes I do. A) Barley House is dangerously close; and B) that pizza is dangerously good. I’m talking the most perfect pizza dough topped with ranch dressing, macaroni noodles, cheddar cheese, buffalo chicken and celery. Then they drizzle it with more buffalo sauce and sprinkle on a layer of … more cheese. Hello, I’m avoiding the scale for three weeks after that guilt trip. 

One night, I was trying to be good, and ordered a salad while Mr. Grumpy ordered himself a buffalo chicken pizza. As I was drooling over Mr. Grumpy’s pizza, I decided I would allow myself ONE SLICE of pizza because I was trying to be good but also deserved happiness in my life. While enjoying my one slice of heaven, I looked away from my salad for ONE MINUTE and looked back only to find Mr. Grumpy with a mouth full of lettuce and the largest puppy eyes I’ve ever seen. He had eaten my entire salad. And the rest of the pizza. That’s the night I banned any and all pizza.

So, I needed to find a way to curb Mr. Grumpy’s cheesy, carby cravings while answering MY cravings for all things buffalo. Well, a great substitution for pizza is not eating pizza… I’m serious. You can’t really substitute anything for pizza. Let’s be real here, people. But, you can substitute macaroni noodles with quinoa. Right? Right. So I got to cooking.


Enter Buffalo Chicken Hot Quinoa Salad – not “hot” because it’s spicy, but “hot” because it’s a warm, ooey gooey bowl of buffalo yumminess that will melt in your mouth.

What You’ll Need:

  • 3/4 cup quinoa (I use the mix of red, black and white quinoa because it has a really nice taste but is also very pretty)
  • 1 cup organic, low sodium vegetable stock
  • 1/2 lb thinly sliced chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s buffalo sauce, plus 1/3 cup 
  • 1/3 cup non-fat, plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp non-dairy butter made from olive oil (we use Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 sweet, white onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp organic skim milk
  • 1 tbsp non-fat Ranch dressing
  • 1 cup broccoli slaw (you can buy this in a bag next to the bags of lettuce)
  • 1/3 cup non-fat shredded cheddar cheese 
  • Gorgonzola cheese to sprinkle (not more than 1 tbsp)
  • Salt & pepper to taste 

First, marinate your chicken about an hour prior to cooking. Place your chicken in a medium mixing bowl and pour 1/2 cup of Frank’s buffalo sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir making sure all your chicken is nicely coated. Cover with plastic wrap and let that sit for at LEAST 30 minutes prior to cooking (I did it for an hour).

Next, place your vegetable stock in a medium pan and bring to a rapid boil. Add your quinoa, and reduce your heat to low so the stock simmers. Place the lid on the pan and let that simmer for 12 minutes. Once the 12 minutes is up, remove it from the heat while leaving the lid on. Let that sit for five minutes.

In the meantime, heat 1 tsp non-dairy butter in a small pan over medium heat. Place the onions in the pan, and let that cook – stirring occasionally – for about 6 minutes. Next, add the Greek yogurt, milk and cheese. Stir frequently until a thick cheese sauce is created.

Heat your grill or a skillet pan. Spray with olive oil non-stick cooking spray. Cook your chicken – about 3-4 minutes on each side. Dice into small, bite-size pieces.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the Ranch dressing with the remainder of the buffalo sauce. Add the broccoli slaw and the chicken, and toss.

Combine cooked quinoa, broccoli slaw and chicken, and the cheese sauce into your mixing bowl. Stir until everything is nicely coated. Separate into two small baking dishes, and sprinkle 1/2 tbsp of Gorgonzola cheese over the top (this is optional, but GOOD!). Turn on your broiler. Place your dishes under the broiler on high for 2 minutes, until the cheese softens. And … enjoy your dinner without the guilt trip you’ll give yourself later!!

Also, did you know that Frank’s buffalo sauce has ZERO calories? I saw that on its label today and thought I was FOR SURE hallucinating. I was not. At least I don’t think I was, but I could still be hallucinating on that one. Ah-mah-zing. Thank you Frank. Whomever you are…

What are ways YOU curb your cravings for not-so-good for you food?

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