Wish I Was There

Whipping bitterly cold gusts of air against my exposed skin, the wind howled mercilessly, landing a barrage of freezing punches from all directions. Inescapable, unrelenting, this assault makes each step outside feel like a mile away. Winter in New England can be a challenge to cope with on the best of days, and through the eyes of a SAD-sufferer, no day is a good day. Days blur, sloppily, slowly, into one ugly mess of endless slush, ice, and darkness.

Lighting the way through these murky moments is the promise of imminent escape. Having the foresight to book a ticket back to Hawaii while airfare was still reasonable was the smartest impulse buy (not to mention the most expensive) I made all year. Memories of warmth, sun, and genuine happiness fuel a stubborn persistence to keep hanging on just a little while longer. White-knuckling it through the stress of final exams and bleakness of winter’s descent, the day of departure simply can’t come soon enough.

In the meantime, the tastes of Hawaii provide some small comfort, a tiny tropical oasis in the midst of less favorable conditions. Turning back to those incredible macadamia nuts that I had been saving for a rainy day, stashed way back in the depths of the freezer for safe keeping, savory inspiration pulled me away from my standard palate of sweet ingredients.

Seeking something light and bright to contrast with all of the other, heavier comfort foods keeping me afloat, quinoa proved an ideal canvas to paint the colors of Honolulu upon. That concept turned out quite literally, as dried hibiscus blossoms (the official state flower) and red beet juice stained the white grains a dainty shade of dusty rose. Buttery macadamias and a generous splash of coconut milk lend richness to the otherwise lean pilaf, balancing the opposing desires for clean flavors and soothing touches of decadence. Flavored simply with a backdrop of garlic and scallions, the floral infusion is what sets the dish apart. Each bite brings back visions of brilliant blooms, stretching upwards to kiss the cloudless blue sky.

Although it won’t stop me from counting the days until my Hawaiian adventures begin anew, a heaping helping of warm quinoa does help time pass at least a little bit more easily- And certainly much more deliciously.

Yield: Makes 6 – 8 Side Dish Servings

Mahalo Macadamia Quinoa Pilaf

Mahalo Macadamia Quinoa Pilaf

Dried hibiscus blossoms and red beet juice tint cooked quinoa a dainty shade of dusty rose in this Hawaiian-inspired salad. Buttery macadamias and a generous splash of coconut milk lend richness to the otherwise lean pilaf, balancing the opposing desires for clean flavors and soothing touches of decadence.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes


  • 2 1/3 Cups Water
  • 6 Dried Whole Hibiscus Blossoms, or 6 Bags Hibiscus Tea
  • 1 14-Ounce Can (1 3/4 Cups) Full-Fat Coconut Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Red Beet Juice or Puree (Optional, for Color)
  • 1/2 – 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Cups Raw Quinoa
  • 1 Cup Macadamia Nuts, Coarsely Chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
  • 1 Large Sweet Onion, Diced
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Large Scallion, Thinly Sliced


  1. Place the water and hibiscus blossoms or tea bags in a large saucepan over medium heat, and bring the water to a boil. Cover, remove the pot from the stove, and allow the tea to steep for about 30 minutes.
  2. Squeeze out and discard the spent blossoms or tea bags. Return the pot to the stove and introduce the coconut milk, beet juice or puree, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring the liquids to a full boil before adding in
    the quinoa. Cover and turn down the heat to low, keeping the contents of the pot at a gentle simmer. Cook for 16 – 20 minutes, until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Turn off the heat but keep covered for 10 minutes to steam and finish cooking.
  3. Meanwhile, toss the macadamia nuts into a dry skillet over medium heat, and stir constantly until they’re lightly toasted and smelling irresistibly nutty. Quickly transfer to the pot of quinoa to prevent them from burning and lightly wipe out the skillet.
  4. Melt the oil to the skillet before adding in the onion and garlic. Saute, stirring periodically, until golden brown all over. Transfer to the pot of quinoa, along with the pepper and scallion. Mix thoroughly to combine and distribute the nuts and onions evenly throughout the quinoa. Stir in additional salt to taste, if desired.
  5. Serve immediately while still warm, or chill for at least four hours for a refreshing cold salad.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 325Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 306mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 3gSugar: 7gProtein: 5g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.

17 thoughts on “Wish I Was There

  1. Hannah, I feel your cold! I just got in from my half hour walk around the small lake near our house. The internet says it’s 16 and feels like 3, but I managed to work up a good bit of warmth. Only my face was a bit cold and I have to remember to take Kleenex with me next time. Now for a shower, some hot tea and dreams of Hawaii.

    Blessings on your day!


  2. It’s currently 12°f in Kansas City, so tropical, steamy, wonderfully warm weather has been on my mind, too. I can’t help but be jealous that you’re going to Hawaii, and I imagine it will be an absolutely beautiful and relaxing vacation.

    As for the quinoa, I’m totally going to have to try and track down some beet juice–that color is beautiful! Do you think blending steamed beets in a vitamix with a few splashes of water would create a thin enough puree to use as dye?

    1. I think that steamed and blended beets would work perfectly! You’ll only need a small beet with a good dose of water to get strong color, so don’t be afraid to add more liquid and really thin it out. Give it a shot and report back- I want to hear how it goes. :)

  3. Looks delish…no need for Hawaii here, it’s all sunshine and blue skies and sunbathing on the deck with a good book and a GIANT mug of tea to the dulcet tones of chickens procreating…ah the bliss of early summer :). To be honest, early summer is followed by middle summer full of blowflies and wind and heat and more flies and then late summer where everything is dry and brown and crying out for rain and I am just hanging out for that first raindrop and a bit of cool relief but for now I am going to enjoy the heck out of early summer when it is still green, the breeze is lovely and everything is happy…for now…enjoy Hawaii and cheers for the tasty recipe. I am just about to plant some Amaranth, some Chia and some Quinoa so I should get a tablespoon full to make this at the end of the season ;)

  4. Of course you could just use red quinoa, but that wouldn’t have the tropical touch of hibiscus. Macadamia sure makes me think of Hawaii, as does the wooden bowl. I hope you are soon in Hawaii, perhaps greeted with a fragrant plumeria lei. I’m home in the Northwest– it’s not as dark as usual thanks to some sunny days, so no light box necessary this week, but it’s very cold! And meanwhile my husband is off on a business trip to somewhere where it’s sunny and 81– I elected not to come, which was frugal, but I can’t say whether it was smart!

  5. Winter has its consolations, but every so often I can’t help but hanker for the sun too. The colour of the quinoa is phenomenal – I think it might be a Japanese as well as Hawaiian thing. I think the Japanese roll pickled beets around in cooked rice to colour it a lovely light pink!

  6. Amazing. Food is so great that way, we can use it to escape and travel without even leaving home. Thank you for sharing such a unique recipe, I have made a hibiscus tea before and I love the tangy flavour. If I ever come across some hibiscus petals again I’m definitely trying this out

  7. Oh, I love this!!! What an amazing idea and the quinoa turns all red! Love it! I love to cook quinoa, but never “colored” it before, this is great. I love your blog in general – simply beautiful and stunning photography!!

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