Jeweled quinoa, from a mother-daughter cooking duo

Jeweled quinoa
Jeweled quinoa (Courtesy of Leah Packer)

By Eric Schucht

“Because I Said So” is a weekly instructional cooking show by Leah Packer and her mother Rachel Ornstein-Packer.

After the pandemic began, the two started making meals together to pass the time. And University of Maryland student Leah Packer had a revelation: She can’t cook. “I had absolutely no idea what to do in the kitchen,” she said. “Like, literally, I couldn’t do anything. And my mom kept saying, ‘How are you going to survive?’”

So Rachel Ornstein-Packer decided to teach her daughter how to make a proper meal. But it dawned on the two that there could be others Leah’s age who also lack cooking skills.

“Because I Said So” was the result.

Here is a Passover recipe for jeweled quinoa, courtesy of the mother-daughter cooking duo.


Serves 6

  • 1 2-lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (about 3 cups; you can buy this pre-done in the grocery store)
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1½ cups quinoa, rinsed
  • 3 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
  • Zest of one small orange
  • 2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butternut squash, onion and oil and toss till evenly coated.

Spread out in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Roast for 30 minutes, or until soft and cooked and the edges begin to slightly brown.

Remove baking sheet from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart pot, stir together quinoa, broth (or water) and orange zest, and cook according to package instructions.

Add the squash, onion, quinoa, spinach and cranberries to a large mixing bowl, and combine gently. Season with additional salt and pepper if need be. Serve immediately. If making ahead of time, store in refrigerator and reheat.

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