whole food ~ well made

Pan-fried quinoa cake on a plate with yogurt sauce and fresh herbs

No Food Waste Quinoa Cakes

Transform leftover kale stems and cooked quinoa into a light meatless meal or appetizer of pan-fried quinoa cakes.

I am a lifetime member of The Clean Plate Club. When you are raised in a big family wasting food is not an option. And I’ve raised my kids the same way.

{Note, I never force them to eat more than they want but encourage them to serve themselves what they think they’ll eat and to take a “no thank you” bite of unfamiliar foods.}

Today, we all now know that food waste is a big–but solvable–problem.

Not only it is a painful reality when 42 million people in our country {13 million of them children} do not have enough food, it’s also expensive to spend good money on food that never gets eaten.

Plus, food waste from households like yours and mine generates enormous greenhouse gas emissions when it ends up in landfills.

Now, these quinoa cakes will not solve world hunger or the climate crisis, but they’re one way to utilize all of the food we buy and cook. Here’s how to make them. {And check out more ideas for creating a zero-waste kitchen.}

Cutting Out Food Waste

The produce drawer is one of the main sources of food loss. {Hello, wilted baby spinach.} So, whenever I’m looking for dinner ideas, I start here.

First, I touch every item, thinking, What needs to be used first? What can I make with those green beans before they turn brown and slimy? {Hello, tempura green beans.} What can I make tonight to use up the half red bell pepper, the once-gorgeous eggplant and last sprig of basil? {Hello, sheet pan ratatouille!}

It is really easy to make changes in our lifestyles to limit–or even eliminate–food waste at home. Just ask my kids!

Another category of produce that can be save are vegetable tops and stems, like carrot and beet tops, broccoli and kale stems.

Since both girls now love a good kale salad, I tear the leaves off lacinato or green kale. I could drop them into the compost. Instead, I save them. Then, I saute them, usually with garlic and use them in a frittata, bean soup or quesadilla.

Whenever I have leftover cooked quinoa, these quinoa cakes are on the dinner menu.

Kale Stem Quinoa Cakes

Kale stems are pretty fibrous. So. I saute them in olive oil, them steam them until they are tender to the bite and finish them off with a clove of garlic and some fine sea salt. Broccoli and chard stems get the same treatment.

These quinoa cakes are incredibly versatile. Made with cooked and cooled quinoa {another leftover or see the Recipe Notes to start a pot now}, they’re bound with eggs, garbanzo bean flour and feta. If you’re not going gluten-free, you can use any flour at all.

Formed into patties and pan-fried, these kale stem and feta quinoa cakes are a light meatless meal or appetizer. You can dress them up by topping them with some smoked salmon, a poached egg or avocado slices.

You can also make them in advance for a to-go lunch, picnic or even camping!

Whatever you do, prepare one of these simple sauces to serve on top:

Yogurt-Tahini Sauce, Dip & Dressing
This is the summer condiment to have on hand for unlimited uses as a dip, dressing or a sauce for anything from grilled meats to vegetables or an impromptu wrap sandwich. It’s not only versatile, but you can play with the flavors with add-ins–a tasty array of ingredients that give it crunch, texture and even more flavor. It also stands on its own just as it is. Try it your way.
Check out this recipe
Yogurt-tahini sauce recipe at
Garlic Scape Pesto
Pesto is one of the very best uses for a bundle of garlic scapes (also known as green garlic). It makes a pungent sauce to use on grilled vegetables, fish or chicken and many other uses. Or, toss it with your favorite pasta, zoodles or baked spaghetti squash. If you have some tender fresh herbs, such as basil or parsley, or a small amount of spinach of Asian greens, blend them up in this pesto. 
Makes 1/2 cup
Check out this recipe
garlic scape pesto overhead
Romesco Sauce
Romesco sauce is a divine accompaniment to a grilled steak as well as all the grilled vegetables and bread you can stuff into a single meal. It depends on two ingredients: smoked paprika (pimenton) and sherry vinegar. This version relies on jarred roasted red peppers and canned fire-roasted tomatoes to make quick work of this sauce, best prepared in advance of grilling the steaks. This recipe is adapted from The New York Times.
Check out this recipe
Grilled flatiron with quick romesco recipe at

No matter what, I think you’ll be mighty impressed with what you can whip up with the food scraps sourced from your own refrigerator.


and become a forager

How are you cutting down on food waste in your kitchen? Let me know in the comments below or tag a photo #lynnesforage on Instagram or Facebook.

Pan-fried quinoa cake on a plate with yogurt sauce and fresh herbs

Kale & Feta Quinoa Cakes

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: quinoa patties
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Author: Lynne Curry

These pan-fried whole grain and vegetable quinoa cakes made from leftovers makes a light main dish or unexpected side dish. Flavored with feta, they are wonderful served with a sauce, such as pesto, Romesco or a simple yogurt sauce. If you do not have leftover quinoa to use, see Recipe Notes.


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for frying
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • About 1 cup chopped kale stems or chopped broccoli stems
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa See Recipe Notes
  • 2 large eggs, beaten pastured
  • 3 tablespoons garbanzo bean flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) crumbled feta or goat cheese


  1. Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and kale stems, season with the salt and pepper, and cook until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water to steam the kale stems and continue cooking until they are tender, about 10 minutes more. Taste for seasoning and allow to cool. (This step can be prepared in advance.)

  2. Combine the cooked and cooled quinoa in a mixing bowl with the egg and flour. Add the prepared kale stems and the feta and combine well.

  3. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Use a portion scoop or your hands to divide the mixture into 1/2-cup portions. Form patties 1 inch thick and 3 inches wide to make 8. (You can prepare these up to 1 day in advance and store in the refrigerator until ready to cook.)

  4. Heat a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. When it shimmers cook 3 or 4 patties at a time. Adjust the heat so that the bottoms turn golden brown, about 4 minutes, then flip them over gently to cook the other side until heated through, about 3 minutes more.

  5. Transfer the cooked cakes back to the baking sheet and keep warm (covered or in a low oven). Wipe out the skillet, add additional oil and repeat with the next batch.

Recipe Notes

If you do not have leftover quinoa to use for these cakes, bring 2 scant cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add 1 cup quinoa with a generous pinch of fine sea salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 12 minutes until the water is absorbed. Turn off the heat, stir and allow the quinoa to steam, covered, for 10 minutes more. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool to room temperature. Or, to speed up the cooling process, spread the cooked quinoa on a sheet pan. Makes about 4 cups.

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