Summer Vegetable Salad with Quinoa and Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

My oh my, I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since I put up my last recipe.  Between wrapping things up for graduation (I finish in 2 weeks!) and lying in pools my own sweat (ew) in my hot apartment, I’ve been seriously lacking in energy lately.  I tend to believe that there are few problems a good helping of nutrition can’t solve…does anyone have any good tips for breaking out of a low-energy slump?  If so, I’d love to hear them.

Because of the recent temperatures and my unfortunate lack of air-conditioning, I’ve been focusing on creating meals that require little, if any, cooking, baking, or boiling.  While this one does not completely fit that mold, it comes pretty close and the leftovers kept me happy for days.  I even ate a few servings for breakfast with a fried egg on top.

This recipe was inspired by a similar one from Whipped.  I changed the ingredients based on what I had in my kitchen and I omitted the mozzarella because…well, I was dealing with the discovery that I now have cellulite on my thighs.  I really recommend taking an extra few minutes to make the pickled cherry tomatoes.  They provide amazing little bursts of flavor and are easy to make.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Quinoa and Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
makes 8 servings
adapted from Whipped

Ingredients
– 1/2 cup quinoa
– 1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
– 1 cup diced zucchini (about 1/2 large)
– 1 ear corn, kernel removed
– 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
– 2 handfuls spinach, roughly chopped
– 1 cup pickled tomatoes (see recipe below)
– 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
– salt, to taste

Start by pickling the cherry tomatoes.  They will need at least an hour for the flavors to come together.

In a large bowl, toss vegetables together.  Drizzle with oil and vinegar and toss again.  Finish with a sprinkle of salt.

Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from Plate to Plate

Ingredients
– 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
– 3/4 cup water
– 4 tsp salt
– 2 tsp sugar
– a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
– 2 garlic cloves, gently crushed
– 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix vinegar, water, salt, and sugar together until salt and sugar are dissolved. Mix the halved tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Pack gently into a glass jar and pour vinegar mixture over until covered.  Replace the lid, give it a few good shakes, and leave it at room temperature for 1-3 hours.

Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

* I shared this link with this week’s Fat Tuesday and Traditional Tuesday.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad (Vegan and Gluten-Free)

Hi everyone!  I hope you all had a lovely Memorial Day weekend.  I apparently caught a case of spring fever, which left me completely unable to do any schoolwork.  I did, however, get a good hike in and hosted a last-minute Memorial Day barbecue at my apartment.  I’m generally intimidated by the idea of “hostessing”.  I feel that my apartment isn’t big enough, clean enough, etc., etc.  And for all the cooking that I like to do, I still get extremely nervous about inviting others to eat at my table.  Maybe that’s because I don’t actually have a real table for people to eat at (I told you my apartment was small).  But this weekend I forced myself to overcome my fears and I invited a few friends over to grill with me and hang out on my patio.  And to accompany the bratwursts and corn on the cob, I made a big quinoa and black bean salad.

Somehow, I knew this was just the thing for a Memorial Day get-together.  It was easy, healthy, and, most importantly, delicious.  I was happy to see that it was almost completely gone by the time my guests left.

The recipe is an amalgamation of a few similar dishes I found around the web (especially this one and this one).  I modified based on what sounded good and what I thought my guests would like.  This would be wonderful to take for picnics and potlucks all summer long.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
makes 6 servings

Ingredients
– 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
– 2 cups water
– 1 can black beans, rinsed
– 1 avocado, diced
– 2 tomatoes, diced
– 1 10 oz. bag frozen corn, thawed
– 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
–  3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
– juice from 1 lime
– 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 1 tsp cumin

Start by cooking your quinoa.  Place rinsed quinoa and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cover the pot for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to sit for another 5 minutes.  If you have time, allow quinoa time to cool before adding other ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix together quinoa, black beans, avocado, tomato, and corn.  You may add the cilantro now as well, if you would like.  Some people dislike the taste of cilantro and so another option is to leave it on the side so that those who want it can sprinkle it on their salad.

Make the dressing.  Mix together the olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, salt, garlic powder, and cumin.  Pour over the salad and stir until well-incorporated.  Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

 * I added this post to this week’s Gluten-Free Wednesday, Wellness Weekend, and Full Plate Thursday.

New Breakfast Food: Quinoa Flakes!

Not that I need any new breakfast foods.  All my favorite meals tend to be breakfast-centric: eggs served all kinds of ways, smoothies, oatmeal…I could probably live on those foods and be perfectly happy.  Which is why I was intrigued when I noticed a few fellow bloggers mentioning quinoa flake breakfast bowls.  In the past, I’ve tried making a breakfast-y version of quinoa with all my usual oatmeal toppings but found the result to be less than stellar.  I wasn’t sure that the flakes would be any different but when I noticed them in the bulk section of my food co-op, I decided to give it a try.

And the verdict is…great!  The quinoa flavor was not overpowering at all and texture was super smooth and creamy.  Add all your favorite toppings; you won’t be disappointed.

There was another first involved in making this recipe: stevia.  Maybe you’ve already tried this natural non-caloric sweetener and you either loved it or hated it.  I was leaning more towards hating it (my mouth knows what’s real sugar and what’s not) but I used a bit in this recipe to sweeten it up and actually enjoyed it.  I think the trick is to use a very small amount (I was just looking for a little bit of extra sweetness).  There was also “real” sugar in my bowl from all the strawberries, which may have also helped.

So what do you think about stevia?  Is it a friend or foe?

Quinoa Flake Breakfast Bowl
serves 1

Ingredients
– 1/3 cup quinoa flakes
– 1 Tbsp chia seeds
– 1 Tbsp flax seeds
– 2 Tbsp shredded coconut
– 1 cup chopped strawberries
– 1 cup coconut or almond milk
– 1/2 tsp vanilla
– 1/4 tsp cinnamon
– stevia, to tase

Put all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.  You may need to add extra milk as the chia seeds absorb liquid.

Goddess Bowl with Tahini-Lemon Dressing

This dish is all about the sauce.  I bookmarked the recipe quite a while ago from the fabulous Oh She Glows website and made it for a quick dinner last week.  Of course, I love recipe substitutions and ended up using quinoa in place of speltberries and mung beans in place of lentils.  But the sauce?  The sauce I didn’t tinker with and I’m glad I didn’t.  I’m not sure it could be improved upon.  It’s healthy and zesty and should complement just about any combination of grains, legumes, and veggies that you choose to use.  This is a great meal for using up the odds and ends in your pantry/fridge…just take my advice and don’t mess with the sauce!  🙂

Goddess Bowl with Tahini-Lemon Dressing
serves 4
adapted from Oh She Glows 

For the bowl:
– 1 cup quinoa, cooked
– 1 cup mung beans, cooked
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 1/2 red onion, chopped
– 1 red bell pepper, chopped
– 1 tomato, chopped
– 3 cups kale, chopped
– salt and pepper, to taste

For the dressing:
– 1/4 cup tahini (I like roasted sesame tahini better than raw)
– 2 garlic cloves
– juice from 1 lemon
– 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (plus a little more if you love the stuff like I do)
–  2 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 tsp sea salt
– 3 Tbsp water, as needed to get a good consistency

1. Make the dressing.  Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.  That’s it!

2. You can make the quinoa and beans ahead of time if you’d like.  Or just start those simmering in separate pots and cook according to package directions.  Start chopping those veggies while you wait.

3. In a large pot, heat the 1 Tbsp olive oil.  Add onion and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add bell pepper and tomato and cook for about another 10 minutes.

4. Stir in the kale and cook until softened.  Now you can add the quinoa, beans and sauce.  Simmer until everything is nice and hot.  Add some extra salt, if desired.

* I added this post to this week’s Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Weekend Gourmet, Real Food 101, Fat Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, and Monday Mania.

Quinoa-Salmon Cakes

Let me tell you how relieved I am to finally be writing this post.  I usually have a list of recipes I want to try and then share with you.  And this week I have been busy trying…and trying…and trying.  Yesterday, there were coconut pancakes that completely flopped.  I made a batch of wonderful potato soup, ate half of it, and then froze the other half to photograph and write my post with.  When I defrosted it, it had the strangest texture I’ve ever seen in a soup. (Can somebody enlighten me about this?  Should potato soup just never be frozen for later?)  I made not one, but two batches of dehydrated kale chips and ate them so promptly that the camera never had a chance.  So you can imagine my relief last night when I made tasty AND photogenic salmon cakes for dinner.

Served with oven fries and sautéed chard.

I’m going to let you in a secret about saving money on the salmon here.  When I was at the fish counter in the grocery store looking over my options, I noticed that the cheapest way to get salmon was in the form of salmon burgers.  I asked about the ingredients (I didn’t want to pay for any “fillers”) and it turns out they were just wild-caught salmon with some herbs and spices.  It was from the exact same fish being sold as steaks and fillets.  I imagine they just use the less perfectly shaped bits to make the burgers.  So if you don’t mind having a little less control over the seasonings included in your patties, you can always look for this option.  Or you could buy canned salmon.

To learn more about safe and environmentally-friendly fish choices, have a look at this quick guide from the Environmental Defense Fund.  It rates fish based on sustainability and levels of mercury or PCBs.

Quinoa-Salmon Patties
makes 6 patties
adapted from the Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen 

Ingredients
– 2 Tbs fresh chives
– 1 large handful cilantro
– zest from 1 lemon
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp cayenne
– 1 lb wild salmon (skinned and de-boned if necessary)
– 1 cup cooked quinoa
– 1-2 Tbs olive oil

1.  In a food processor with an “S” blade, pulse herbs and spices several times until minced.

2. Add salmon and quinoa and pulse together until evenly mixed.  Form into patties and set aside.

3. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Add salmon patties (I could only fit 3 at a time) and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and cooked through.

* This post is part of the Weekend Gourmet Blog Carnival, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Real Food 101, Fat Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Hearth and Soul Hop, Gluten-Free Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Real Food Wednesday, and Monday Mania.

Aloo Gobi (One-Pot Dinner)

I’m a big fan of one-pot meals.  When my dinner starts having too many separate components, I usually fail miserably at getting the timing of one (or all) of them right.  It feels so much easier to throw everything in a pot and call it dinner.  I was originally planning on making a batch of aloo gobi and some quinoa or rice to serve it with but once I had my aloo gobi ingredients simmering away, I couldn’t stop myself from throwing in the quinoa along with everything else.  The end result was a big pot of veggies, grains, and chickpeas that will definitely be just as satisfying as leftovers as it was for lunch today.

The quinoa is definitely not traditional Indian fare, but I included it to add extra substance and nutrition.  Rice would be another good option but you may need to play with the amount of water to get the right consistency.  Enjoy!

One-Pot Aloo Gobi
serves 8

Ingredients
– 1 Tbs coconut oil or butter
– 3 small red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
– 1 small yellow onion, chopped
– 3 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 1/2 Tbs curry powder
– 1 tsp cumin
– 1/8 tsp ground clove
– 3 cups water
– 1 small head cauliflower, chopped
– 1 cup green beans, chopped
– 1 Tbs tomato paste
– 1 cup dry quinoa

1.  Melt butter or coconut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and add onion and potatoes.  Sautee until onions are soft, 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.

2.  Add salt, curry powder, cumin, cloves, and water.  Bring to a boil.

3.  Add remaining ingredients and cook until vegetables are soft and quinoa has soaked up most of the extra water, about 20-30 minutes.