Welcome to The Basil & Cinnamon Sagas! I'm Alexa, and I am a food and travel blogger who loves cooking, baking, eating, and storytelling. Enjoy reading and eating your way through the Sagas found here!

Kale + Chickpea Quinoa & Cheese

Kale + Chickpea Quinoa & Cheese


Summer thunderstorms.

There is a strange sort of duality to summer thunderstorms. On one hand, the thunder is loud and terrifying, the lightning bright and dangerous. Dogs run and hide under tables or blankets or into their kennels. the sky goes from bright sunshine to almost nighttime-darkness in a matter of minutes, and the clouds hang so heavy and dark that it seems they might cave the roof in, might shatter the tops of the trees. Everything is quiet, waiting, balanced on the point of a knife, balanced on a single electron in the air. And then suddenly, the silence becomes raging noise.The rain, when it comes, throws itself down with such force that you can hear little else, with such force that you peer out the window to verify that it is, in fact, still rain, and hasn't made the transition to hail. Everything is gloomy, loud, weighty, substantial. It should be only terrifying, and yet.

And yet, on the other hand, summer thunderstorms hold an odd expectancy, an eagerness, a nostalgia. When it grows dark and the thunder tolls and the lightning bursts in a fiery path across the sky, everything feels primal and significant, each moment ripe with meaning. The everyday weight and distraction of the world and its various pursuits is blocked out. We cannot see the world through the gray murkiness, we cannot hear it over the pounding of the rain against the windows and the rolling crack of thunder in the air around us. We wait for that bright flash of lightning to illuminate the world to us in brief, spatial glimpses.

Summer thunderstorms cut us off from that everyday world of pressures both good and bad, and reveal instead a simple world of fragmented moments, a natural world, a world where all that is required of you is to sit and watch and wait and feel. All that is required of you is your senses, the most primal and basic part of your person. In this way, summer thunderstorms return us to our most instinctual, to our bare core.

And from there, from our very core, we have the opportunity to become refreshed. Once everything else is stripped away and we are left with only our senses and a feeling of anticipation, of electric change in the air, the thoughts and feelings of the deepest part of our mind and heart can rise to the surface and become available. Without the distractions of daily life, we can refocus on ourselves, on our intents. Much in the same way that the thunderstorm unapologetically wipes away the stifling dust and sticky heat of the outdoors and then fades away into the horizon, leaving the bright, sharp scents of fresh rain and wet dirt and crushed grass--scents of new beginnings and growth--so too does the thunderstorm present an opportunity for us to start again, to start something significant. 


There is so much power to thunder and lightning, to pouring rain. They are a completely natural power, unsympathetic to us, something that we have no control over. Yes, in a time and place and people where we'd like to think that we have everything under our control and that we are the highest power, this is terrifying; but it is also grounding. Sometimes we all begin to think that we are invincible, or perhaps superior, convinced of our own greatness. The thunderstorm reminds us that we are important only in the same way that every life is important, vulnerable in the same way that we all are vulnerable.

Surprisingly, while humbling, this realization is not disheartening. In a strange way, it is empowering. Encountering our own vulnerability reminds us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. In seeing our strengths and weaknesses laid bare by the sheer power of the whipping wind and booming thunder, we are able to better understand ourselves, to regard ourselves from a place of honesty and tenacity and true strength and resilience. Returning to that bare, instinctual core, we can determine a foundation from which to build ourselves that is stable and aware. We can develop a foundation that is rooted in our unflinching comprehension of the potential of us as individuals, sharing a common, wild world.


As the sky darkens and the approach of another afternoon summer thunderstorm beckons, I felt that weird anticipation, that odd excitement stir in my chest. I tried to get to the bottom of what that feeling is, of what transformative power thunderstorms elicit; and what better way to reflect on that than through writing?

To be completely honest, I can't think of a good segue from summer thunderstorm musings to Kale + Chickpea Quinoa & Cheese, so we're just going to go ahead and jump into the recipe now (if you have any thoughts on thunderstorms, though, I'd love to hear them!). 

When I was a child, I was odd. Not in general (although I'm sure some could try to make that argument anyway--hi Jake!), but odd in that I didn't like mac and cheese.

I know, I know, I was a monster. I just didn't like that fake yellowy nasty Kraft mac and cheese stuff that looked and felt like plastic oozing it's way down your throat and settling in your gut. Can you blame me? And I thought (oh, naiveté, thou art a fearsome beast), that that was the only type of mac and cheese that existed in the world.

I am pleased to inform you all that time and experience has taught me the wonderful beauty that is mac and cheese, in all its various forms and flavors. While I still run the other way when I see Kraft, that's only because I'm usually running towards a more appetizing form of edible gold (aka, mac and cheese).

Then one day, while I was making quinoa and craving that wedge of parmesan cheese I had just brought home from the store, inspiration struck. If you can have mac (pasta) and cheese, why not quinoa and cheese? Why not slightly healthify (disclaimer: not a real word) and spunk up a classic? A few tweaks here and there, and my first quinoa & cheese recipe was born.

Kale + Chickpea Quinoa & Cheese is easy to make and completely satisfying in the same simple way that mac and cheese is. Bonus: if you decide not to use a whole buttload of cheese (I personally used three buttloads), then this recipe is actually healthy as well. But if you're throwing that bikini bod to the thunderstorm-force winds, then go crazy with that cheese, babe. I certainly did.

xoxo Alexa


Kale + Chickpea Quinoa & Cheese

Makes: 4 servings

Takes: 20 minutes

The Characters:

  • 1 cup white quinoa
  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans cooked chickpeas
  • 10 oz. baby kale
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • Sea salt & ground black pepper
  • Shredded parmesan cheese

The Saga:

  1. Fill a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water. Rinse 1 cup white quinoa and add to the saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork. While quinoa is cooking, start on the kale and chickpeas. 
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. 
  3. Add crushed red pepper flakes and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Rinse chickpeas and add them to the skillet, stirring to incorporate with the red pepper and garlic. Smooth chickpeas to lay flat and on one level, and let cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir chickpeas so that they can cook on their other side for 5 more minutes.
  6. Add kale and cover skillet to let kale wilt. Note: You may have to add half of the kale, wait for it to wilt, and then add the other half in order to fit it all in the skillet.
  7. Add lemon juice, and sea salt and ground black pepper to taste. Stir to mix all ingredients together. Let cook for one more minute.
  8. Remove from heat and mix kale and chickpeas in with the quinoa. 
  9. Shred parmesan cheese over the top of the kale and chickpea quinoa and mix in, allowing to melt. Note: I did not specify an amount for the parmesan because everyone likes different cheesiness levels. Maybe you're going healthier and you just want a sprinkle of cheese on top--that's fine. Or, continue adding cheese and mixing until you get the cheese pull when you take a bite out with a fork, like I did--this is more like macaroni and cheese, only with quinoa. 

Recipe adapted from Andrea Bemis's Butter Beans and Greens recipe from her Dishing Up The Dirt cookbook.


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