Gluten-Free Quinoa Tabbouleh (Vegan)


It doesn’t matter if I’m with you in the kitchen making quinoa or talking to you through the lens of a computer screen, telling you I’m having a hard time making friends is one of the fastest ways I know to bring back all the emotions of second grade P.E. class. It’s humiliating—kind of like announcing you’re the kid no one wants to sit next to on the bus or that the guy who’s taking you to dinner is only doing it because his mom knows your mom. Over and over again the last few days, when this topic has come up in conversation with acquaintances and friends, I’ve been shocked at how humbled I’ve been to simply state the truth, how much I’ve wanted to color it with less emotion and try to hide the fact that I crave deep relationships. I feel so embarrassed to say it, like I’m asking you to pity me and tell me I’m wonderful and invite me to your dinner party, but I force myself to do it anyway because it’s true and I want to say what’s true, and also, I want to fight the urge to only tell you what I think you’ll think sounds good. I’m too good at that already.

soaking quinoa

Sometimes when Tim and I are cooking together, I’ll ask him how he wants the vegetables chopped, and he’ll say fine and minced, and he’ll ask me how I want the table set, and I’ll think, I wonder what he would want me to say? before I answer him. I don’t always do this, mostly because he’s helped me see how unhelpful it can be, but sometimes I still do because it’s a deep habit, one so ingrained in me that I fall back on it without meaning to.

I grew up what some people might call a people pleaser. I studied what the crowd around me liked and wanted, and I worked very hard to make myself fit their desires. I didn’t get in trouble, I said kind things, I learned to ask you more about your life than I’d say about mine—constantly working to gain your approval, whomever you were, so that you would like me, so that you would say something that would make me feel OK inside.

chopping herbs

In many different types of society, people pleasers hide really well. They’re not the ones parents worry about or the ones dealing with failure—they’re usually, on the outside at least, fully functional, engaging, pleasant people to be around, successful in work and at home and in churches. But the thing is, trying to please everyone else is a mask. Keeping it up isn’t just impossible; it’s exhausting. And sooner or later, you start to see that it’s nuts.

tabbouleh ingredients

Early when Tim and I were dating, we talked about this and about how I’d spent a lot of my life thus far trying to be exactly what I thought people wanted me to be. I didn’t know how to say no without guilt or how to willingly disappoint someone without anxiety, and so I started to ask myself why. Maybe it was because I was afraid of loneliness? Maybe because I liked the illusion of control? But mostly, I think it was this: maybe I was trying to fill my soul with their acceptance.

quinoa with add-ins

I recently finished the book “Grace for the Good Girl,” written by Emily P. Freeman who blogs at Chatting at the Sky. It it, she says this:

Life behind a mask may feel right and may even be fun for a short time. After a while, though, recycled air becomes stale and the effort it takes to continue trying to be someone you aren’t becomes a burden rather than a game. Only in returning home, taking off the mask, and being you again will you find relief.

holding bowl of tabbouleh

The lie of seeking people’s approval is that it will actually satisfy me, that it will actually fill me up. And I am repeatedly, regularly capable of hiding who I really am because I think that will give me what I think I need: your acceptance—even here on this blog when I talk about recipes for cauliflower rice or grass-fed pot roast or raw brownies or sauteed Brussels sprouts. There’s something really, really appealing about feeling well-thought-of or appreciated or valued.

quinoa tabbouleh bowl

And so part of learning, slowly learning, to stop hiding yourself means learning instead to do the opposite: to speak the truth and to be embarrassed and to, when you boast, boast of your weakness (or in the One who has none). Otherwise, it’s a treadmill that never ends and worse, it’s impossible to ever lose sight of yourself enough to do what really does satisfy: to taste and to give real love.

Gluten-Free Tabbouleh with a Twist
Serves approximate 3 to 4 as an entree; 6 to 8 as a side

Speaking of authenticity: this recipe is all Tim (as was the top photo. amazing, right?), who’s made this twice in the last few weeks, that’s how much we’ve loved it.

From Tim: Typically tabbouleh is made with bulgur wheat, mint, parsley, lemon, tomatoes, etc. Raw coconut vinegar was used in place of lemon to add a unique taste that is jam-packed with nutrition and exceeds other vinegars in its nutritional profile. Raw coconut vinegar has enzymes, loads of amino acids, B-vitamins, vitamin C and minerals (lots of potassium!).

1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1 diced red bell pepper
1 diced roma tomato
1 diced small-medium size cucumber
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of raw coconut vinegar (can substitute with juice of a lemon or raw apple cider vinegar)
sea salt to taste
black pepper to taste

Cook cup of quinoa, soaking beforehand if desired, according to package directions (or essentially, it’s 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, about 15 minutes). After cooking quinoa and letting it cool to room temperature, add all other ingredients and toss. Add sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn,, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens,, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World,, Babble,, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.

29 thoughts on “Gluten-Free Quinoa Tabbouleh (Vegan)”

  1. Thank you for posting this. I can really relate to what you are saying. I have struggled with trying to please other people before I take the step to consider what my own opinions and values actually are. In the end, the only opinion that matters is God’s. I appreciate your posting this, it’s a great insight and something worth sharing.

  2. Wow. What a post. I’m sure there are so many others out there that can relate to this topic. I’m a people pleaser myself and am finally realizing this is no way to fully live your life! It is going to be tough to change, but I think being cognizant of it is the first step. Being true to yourself is the only way to true happiness 🙂

    • Hi KimberlyI You’re right: it is so tough to change! I like how you said that being cognizant of the issue is the first step—there is real hope in that thought.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I continue to struggle with this myself, figuring out how much of my daily activities and interactions are determined by what I think others want of me, and how much they’re determined by what I actually want and need. This became so much of my character that it’s still tough for me to say out loud what I really want to do. That identification feels so selfish. But I’m learning that it’s okay to focus on what gives you satisfaction and joy, because ultimately that’s less exhausting than trying to please others. Anyway, I appreciate your taking the time to post this.

    • Abby, I know. What’s tough is that a lot of people-pleasing tendencies are actually really good things when done with good motives. if I choose to put your needs above my own in LOVE, that’s beautiful; but it’s harmful (to you and to me) when I do it to try to make you love me. Freaky honestly. I’m praying I move more and more towards open eyes in this area and that I grow in my ability to let people give to me and to give to them, with a pure heart.

  4. Such courage to write this – how refreshing.
    Please move to Bend, Oregon because you sound awesome! 🙂 We’ve lived here for almost 2 years and making friends is tough. It’s nice to know that we’re not the only ones who struggle…
    + love the idea of quinoa in Taboulleh, thanks!

  5. in the years that i’ve been reading your blog, i never imagined the struggling emotions you had within. your honesty is a revelation & for me, encouraging. so thank you for being honest and for sharing.

    • Thanks, Lan. For a lot of my life, I didn’t realize I had these struggling emotions, either, and I think that’s how a lot of deep things work–we’re doing things for reasons we wouldn’t even articulate but are yet driving us. It’s alarming, and yet at the same time healing, to finally see it.

  6. I don’t even know where to start! First, I’m so thankful for our friendship and want to remind you of the careful, intentional “watering” you’ve done to it. You made it happen! So don’t sell yourself short. 🙂

    Second, I don’t easily make friends and I don’t intuitively know how to take existing friendships deeper, either. There are so many reasons–I don’t take the time to invest in others, I’m an introvert so being by myself or with Brad or with family is just easier on me, and I’m a people-pleaser, too, so hanging out is WORK rather than fun.

    So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to move to your neighborhood and see each other’s dirty kitchens, look into tired eyes that have been crying, visit each other in our ratty sweats, and water each other (and our plants).

    Much love to you, my sweet friend (yes, friend!)!

    • That was one of my favorite comments ever, mostly because it imagines you guys living here. : ) But also – what you said about feeling like hanging out with people is WORK rather than fun–man, that hits it on the head. That is exactly what it’s like.

  7. Really enjoyed your post today! So many truths…! It seems harder and harder to build meaningful & deep friendships.

    Also, just started cooking with quinoa–can’t wait to try this recipe!

    • Thank you, Ali! I know that when I get out there and admit something kind of embarrassing, the recipe gets a little overshadowed, but this is a good one. Every time I look at that bottom photo, I can almost taste the cool, fresh flavors.

  8. I know exactly what you mean about sometimes feeling like you’re hiding behind a mask when you’re just trying to please other people. I think it’s important to pick and choose your battles; sometimes it’s better to be a people pleaser but others, you have to stand up for who you are (even if what you’re about to say isn’t going to be the popular opinion).

    • Kasey, You know, I did a double-take when I read, ‘sometimes it’s better to be a people pleaser,’ but yeah, you’re exactly right: sometimes (actually, a lot of times) pleasing someone else is precisely the right thing to do, maybe out of love, maybe out of wisdom, maybe out of grace/unmerited favor to that someone, maybe for another good reason like the practicality of the situation.

      It’s just that reason behind why I’m doing it does matter. And personally, I have an unfortunate habit of doing it to try to make someone like me, and that’s terrible, most of all because it destroys any authentic communication–depriving me of being known and the other person of being able to know me.

  9. The thing I have been learning about being a people pleaser: you loose authenticity, and therefore you loose the chance to have deep and meaningful friendships. I want those kind of friendships that are vulnerable and therefore so very meaningful.

  10. I can very much identify with a lot of what you said – especially when you mentioned anxiety over disappointing others. I fall into that trap all.the.time. Thank you for your emphasis on honesty. Especially where emotions & pride are concerned, it is far too easy to don the mask.

    • That last sentence is so true, MaryAnn. When emotions and pride get involved, I find myself doing all kinds of things I wish I hadn’t.

  11. Your posts are knocking me upside down lately (in the best way). This message, the metaphors, the stories… really resonates. I’ve grown up in a family of people pleasers, but have come around to the notion that it’s absolutely crazy to live that way. To be at home at the end of the day totally exhausted from living any way other than what you want, it’s nuts. But it’s hard to pull away from it and bring yourself into the light. Slow process I suppose.

    Also I would totally sit next to you on the bus if you shared some tabbouleh. Just sayin’.

    • Laura, You encourage me so much by getting it and by saying so well what is true: it’s hard to pull away from broken thinking and bring yourself into the light. Yes. Thank you so much for leaving this comment.

  12. Of course I had to go back and read the post you were referencing. I loved your honesty in this post. I don’t have a habit of people pleasing, but a good friend of mine does. Over the past 9 years she’s gotten so much better…and probably life circumstances (having 3 kids now) has shifted her into having to set boundaries in her life and thinking long and hard about what she really wants. I can see where this would be hard!

    I also have a quinoa tabbouleh on my site….unlike you, I’ve never made it with traditional mint or parsley just because I’ve never had them on hand. I like to dress mine up with feta cheese and kalamata olives. So good and tasty especially on a hot day. I haven’t made it in awhile so you’ve inspired me! THANKS!!

  13. Ah, I knew we were kindred spirits! It’s like watching myself 20 years ago. I remember saying to one therapist, “It’s like the me I know inside and the “nice” me I show outside don’t match. I need to match.” You are doing great work and thank you for sharing. It does get better… thankfully you have married someone who is supporting your growth, not your weakness.

    • Ha! : ) I want my inside and outside to match, too. I long for authenticity—in people I know but mostly in myself. It’s not natural (isn’t that strange?) but it’s worth pursuing because it’s so much more valuable to be real. And yes! my husband is a true friend indeed.

  14. You just said everything that’s been in my head the last few months. It is mentally draining to please people and want them to like you. That’s how I feel about the people I oversee at work. And that’s probably why I want to so badly fold my cards and look elsewhere. I’m tired of wanting my staff to like me for who I am. I’m tired of being cheerful, nice and taking the time to show people the things I’ve learned along the way only to have these same people turn around and use hurtful remarks. I wanted so badly for people to see how much I cared about their well being, health and their families. I’m tired of having to try so damn hard for appreciation or respect. I’ve concluded it’s better not to want that validation from people. What does it matter at the end of the day? Their loss is your gain!

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