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Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls

Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls

Last summer when I was in Vietnam I had an experience we now call the “Mue Ne brie cheese incident” and it changed my diet drastically. Before our travels I was somewhat of a cheese addict, I added it to EVERYTHING, even when the dish probably didn’t need a cheesy addition. But in Asia, cheese or any dairy for that matter are rarely incorporated into dishes, so by the time we reached French-influenced Vietnam I couldn’t wait to chow down on my old friend again. Alas, I should have known by then that cheese really isn’t Asia’s strong suit, and in my opinion, one really shouldn’t consume cheese in 105-degree heat. I did both…and it didn’t end well.

In the end, it was probably for the best. When I returned home I decided to cut out cheese from our weekday meals. Now, I only eat it occasionally and only when the type of meal actually warrants it, like some Mexican meals and of course, pizza. And you know what, I feel better! Now, 90% of the time the meals I make are either Mediterranean or Asian inspired and I’ve been forced to get more creative in the kitchen and build flavor in my meals without the help of cheese.

One of our favorite carry-out meals is chicken shawarma with rice topped with cucumber tomato salad and hummus from Sultan’s Market, so I decided to create a healthier version at home. In the old days, I might have been tempted to add some feta cheese to this recipe, but instead I added some tang with the help of a homemade tzatziki sauce with non-fat Greek yogurt, fresh cucumber, lemon and chopped garlic. The recipe serves two, but is easy to double for a family!


  • ½ cup dry quinoa
  • 1 cup water


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon of curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 wooden skewers


  • 4 tablespoons of hummus (I’m partial to Trader Joe’s red pepper)
  • ½ small cucumber
  • 1 tomato
  • Quarter of a large red onion

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • ½ small cucumber
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a small bowl combine olive oil, lemon juice and all spices and whisk together
  2. Chop chicken breasts into chicken nugget sized pieces and place in quart sized ziplock bag
  3. Pour marinade over chicken breasts in bag and squish together, leave to rest in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight
  4. Dice up all veggies into bite size pieces and set aside
  5. Grate ½ cucumber on a box grater and use a cheese cloth or dishrag to squeeze out all liquid
  6. Mince garlic cloves
  7. Combine shredded cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, yogurt and salt and pepper and mix together
  8. Cook quinoa according to package
  9. Once chicken is marinated thread pieces onto wooden skewers and grill on medium/high heat for about 4 minutes a side
  10. Fill bowls with quinoa, dollop with 2 tablespoons of hummus, chicken breast pieces, and fresh veggies, top everything with tzatziki sauce 
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