Hating Cauliflower Rice Made Me Learn to Love Quinoa

Who knew a little disappointment could taste so good?!

Food Network Kitchen’s quinoa bowl with chicken and avocado cream sauce as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Stephen Johnson, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

When you grow up having a twin sister, you get used to doing things as a pair. I wanted to play soccer, so we played soccer. Nicole wanted to join Girl Scouts, so I did, too. High school — we went to the same one, same thing for college. People on the outside looking in might find this codependency baffling, but to us that’s just the way things go.

So, when my sister made the decision not so long ago to cut carbs and sugar completely out of her diet, I knew I had to do it too! No man left behind — especially one who voluntarily gives up pasta.

Now, before you start feeling too sorry for me, I have to be honest with you — I was super excited to embark on this dietary journey together. Like most people, I had tried my fair share of diets alone in the past, and despite a really strong start, I often gave up a few weeks later. So, I saw this opportunity not only as a great way to have a built-in accountability partner, but also as the perfect excuse to start making recipes I had always wanted to try, but got spooked away from because they used ingredients I wasn’t used to.

On the very top of my must-make list was Cauliflower Rice. For years, I had heard absolutely everyone — even Oprah — rave about this super simple, yet tasty dish. Food Network’s very own Katie Lee even calls it “a staple” at her weekend dinner table. So, you better believe that I was beyond ready to put a Baricevic spin on it. I was so sure I would love it that I even went ahead and bought six (yes, you read that correctly) bags of frozen cauliflower florets without even trying a recipe first because in my very own words I was “100% certain we were going to be eating it every day.”

And then the unthinkable happened. My sister and I each sat down at our kitchen table with an overflowing bowl full of cauliflower rice and I absolutely HATED it.

I was shocked, I was sad, but beyond anything else, I was so disappointed. After years and years of wanting and waiting, this certainly wasn’t the outcome I had expected. Even more baffling? My sister — who had refused to even look at steamed cauliflower up until that very moment — actually enjoyed it.

Despite all the flavorful mix-ins we had added in, like chopped onion, parsley, lemon and Parmesan cheese, I found the dish to be extremely bland. And worst of all, I was starving an hour later. Suffice to say I drowned my sorrows in more than one glass of chocolate milk that night. But there is a silver lining. Though my experience with cauliflower rice didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped, I didn’t give up and continued to cook my way down my list of must-try low-carb recipes. After some other misfires with farro and bulgur, I finally made it to quinoa. And the rest is history.

While I had found cauliflower rice to be flavorless, I found quinoa to be fluffy, crunchy, creamy and nutty all rolled into one. It was also the perfect base for some of my other favorite ingredients including shredded chicken, roasted corn and buttery avocado. Plus, it could also be used to make a variety of other better-for-you dishes including pizza crust, stuffed peppers and soup.

Not only are Nicole and I still on our diet, we both eat quinoa about twice a week now. How’s that for a happy and unexpected ending?!

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