Quinoa Salad

I feel like quinoa popped up overnight.  One minute I’ve never heard of it, the next it’s all over the internet.  I have grown very fond of quinoa and it is now a regular part of my diet.  It is known as an ancient grain and isn’t considered one of the “bad grains” I’ve written about earlier.  Quinoa has twice the fiber and protein of brown rice or any other grain.  It also has a nearly perfect blend of amino acids which helps keep stabilized blood sugar, etcetera, etcetera. I’m probably boring and not as qualified as the rest of the internet, so do your own googling!

This is one summer salad that is so easy to make and it’s light, healthy, and delicious!  The ingredients are easily interchangeable so the flavor profiles are endless.  It also packs well so it’s great on a picnic or the next day at work or school.

I used a tri-color quinoa of red, black, and white, but using simple white quinoa is just as tasty.  I love that quinoa is easily made on the stovetop or a rice cooker, with water or vegetable stock.  It is a great rice substitute and it goes well with so much.  I have given approximate portions of what I used, but this is the type of recipe that doesn’t need exactness, you just put a little bit of what you like and a lot of what you love.

Quinoa Salad

serves 2-3

2C cooked quinoa

1.5C cooked black beans

1 mango

1/2 bell pepper

2 scallions

zest from 1 lemon

3T lemon juice

5-6T olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

First, cook the quinoa if you haven’t already.  This would be a good time to make the dressing.  Simply combine the oil, lemon juice and zest, with the salt and pepper in a small food processor to combine.  Then, chop all the fruits and veggies of your choice.

Once the quinoa has cooled to room temperature, combine it with the black beans in a large serving bowl.

Toss the veggies and fruits in.

Look at the lemony yellow dressing.  It’s BEAUTIFUL!

Pour it over the salad and toss thoroughly to combine.

Rest for at least an hour to let the dressing soak into the quinoa and serve chilled or at room temperature.

 

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Stir Fry

I apologize for the delay.  I’m changing my posting days to Mondays.  And also, my husband and I were recently leading 150 youth at camp.

There’s this game my husband and I play at various times.  One main time is when we’re about to go out of town.  It’s called: Use only the ingredients on hand and make it work!  This often leads to culinary genius!  But a lot of times it leads to stir fry.  We love Asian flavors, and we can basically whip up stir fry any day of the week at our house.  I always keep rice, sesame seeds, and various Asian spices and oils in the pantry, and there’s always some teriyaki and soy sauce in the fridge – though lately I’ve switched to Braggs Liquid Aminos which is much healthier than soy sauce, and I pleasantly have not noticed the difference.  No complaints here!  The beautiful thing about stir fry is that the veggies you include can be whatever you’d like, so use whatever you have.

Stir Fry

serves 2

2C rice, cooked and chilled I used brown rice

1 egg, optional

1C broccoli

1C mushrooms

1 small zucchini

1/2 bell pepper

1/2 onion

1T of butter or margarine or sesame oil

2T Bragg’s or low sodium soy sauce

1-2T sesame seeds

I’m not gonna lie.  I don’t remember if I read this somewhere, heard it on a cooking show, or if I straight up asked the hibachi chef one day, but I found out that Japanese hibachi grill restaurants make fried rice with cooked, chilled rice.  It apparently cooks better, takes on the flavor better, and doesn’t become mushy in this state.  So I cooked my rice the night before – gasp – in a rice cooker.  Hey, I’m human, too.  I chilled the rice in a covered container in the fridge over night.

Then, everything is pretty simple.  Chop all your veggies in about bite size portions.  I like to switch up the shapes, so diced onion, pulled apart stems of broccoli, matchstick zucchini, chopped carrots, sliced mushrooms, etc.

Once all the vegetables are prepared, I heated my wok with a small bit of sesame oil inside.  Cooking in order of the hibachi restaurant, I started by scrambling the egg,

then added the rest of the sesame oil (or butter if you choose) and the chilled rice on top.

Once the rice begins to cook, add the Bragg’s or soy sauce to taste.

Once it was cooked through, I set aside the rice mixture

and cooked the vegetables, starting with the thicker, or longer cooking ones first.  I sautéed the garlic and onions together, then added the broccoli.  If you’re using carrots or mini corn this would be a great time to throw it in.  I added a bit more sauce as the liquid was either cooking in or evaporating.  (Look at the steam!)

Next zucchini, and peppers, and whatever else you’d like.

Once all the vegetables are cooked through, add the rice back in and a little more sauce if you’d like.

Stir well.

Top with sesame seed and serve.  I actually have genuine wooden chopsticks that I received as a souvenir after my mom had a trip to China.  Thanks, Mom!!!

Peach Pancakes – Protein Style

We love breakfast at our house!  Even breakfast for dinner!  (Though some tired hours this means a bowl of cereal, but anyways…)  We also are working on our fitness so I’ve been trying to figure out how to sneak protein into everything!  I’ve made protein pancakes before – even vegan versions, but I decided to whip these up since eggs and Greek yogurt are notorious for their high protein.  They turned out pretty delicious!!!  And at about 100 calories, 13 carbs, and 12g protein each, you can indulge in several and not feel guilty!

I wanted to research, or as my husband calls it Google, what fruit naturally had high protein it.  Second to only the avocado was the peach!  I love peaches!  The house I grew up in had a peach tree in the backyard.  Many years were spent eating fresh, juicy peaches and canning them for the pantry and for friends.  Other years were spent trying to build squirrel deterrents and peach protectants because the little creatures would take one bite of the barely ripe peaches and hurl them to the ground.  But the squirrels never figured out if one peach wasn’t ripe then the rest weren’t either because there would always be a minimum of 20 peaches on the ground each with a bite missing.  At about 3g of protein per peach, I knew these would be the perfect addition to my protein pancakes.

Peach Protein Pancakes

makes 10 cakes

½C oats

½C milk of your choice, I used almond milk

3 scoops vanilla protein powder

1C Greek yogurt, I like Fage Total 0% fat version

3 egg whites

3 peaches or nectarines

3T maple syrup

½t vanilla

1 pinch sea salt

First I pulsed the oats in a small food processor to make an oat flour. I wanted the nutrition of the oats but not oat texture.  These could also be made low carb if you eliminate the oatmeal and milk, but you make have to play with the portions of egg whites to get the right consistency.

Then I added the oats, protein powder, salt, and yogurt to a mixing bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  It should be a medium consistency, not too soupy.

Cut the peaches into thin slices.

Once your pan or skillet is preheated, you’re ready to prepare the cakes.

Nestle the peach slices into each cake, pushing them slightly into the batter so some covers the side of each slice.  If the slices are just placed on top, they’ll fall off on the flip side.

When the edges are thinned and cooked, the pancake is ready to flip – about 3 minutes on my 375 degree skillet.  They’ll take about 3 more minutes on the other side, or until it is equally golden on the other side.  Though it is tempting to keep checking them, with every lift, the peaches will loosen, so it is best to leave them a few minutes, then they will be finished.

They’re ready to eat alone, or with butter and syrup if you’re feeling brave!  I actually ate some cold on the way to a 5K yesterday.  The moisture from the fruit was enough that they didn’t even need syrup!

Baked Falafel

Oh, falafel. I could sing its praises for a long time. It is tasty, vegetarian and often times vegan, portable, and really easy to make! I fell in love with falafel when I lived in Israel, since it is the primary fast food in the Middle East – move over, McDonald’s. Falafel is traditionally deep fried and accompanied by hummus and tahina sauce. In Israel, it is served in a pita pocket, making it an easily transportable, quick lunch.

If you plan on frying the falafel (which is easily done on the stovetop with olive oil) it is better to use dry chickpeas and soak them for 2 hours, up to overnight. Canned chickpeas are too soft and tend to fall apart during the frying process. Since this recipe is baking the falafel, either canned or soaked chickpeas may be used.

I have tried several different falafel recipes, but I found one from a fellow foodie who spent some time in Israel, and I thought her recipe was so close to authentic! I made a few changes, and came up with this healthy version of the tasty falafel.

Baked Falafel

adapted from theshiksa.com

makes 12 falafel discs, serves 3-4

1C chickpeas, rinsed

1 small onion

1/2C spinach leaves

1/2C parsley leaves

3 garlic cloves

1T flour (I used spelt to keep these gluten free)

1t salt

1t cumin

1/2t ground coriander

1 pinch of cayenne

1 pinch of ground cardamom

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2t baking powder (to help them rise with the lack of gluten)

For falafel sandwiches:

Pitas

Hummus

Tahina Sauce

Chopped tomato

Spinach or lettuce

Chopped cucumber

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Assemble all falafel ingredients in a food processor.  Parsley:

Spinach & spices:

Baking Soda:

Roughly chopped onion:

Flour:

And Chickpeas:

Pulse until a course meal is formed. I personally don’t like my falafel to be the texture of baby food.

I used a cookie dough scooper -which to you might be a melon baller- to form the falafels on a baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and bake 15 minutes on the other side. Due to the baking nature, the falafels will only be crispy on the sides that touch the pan. Though you could probably bake them and maintain a round shape, I chose to smash them and make them discs for ease.

Serve them hot with either hummus or tahina or both, or in a pita as a sandwich.  I slathered my pita with hummus (see my recipe link above), stuffed it with falafel, spinach, tomato, and tahina sauce (recipe also above.)  Or they’re delicious on their own, served with a traditional Israeli Salad.  Yum!!

Here’s a picture that I took in Israel of a postcard.  The recipe is pretty close!

Johnny Marzetti

Sometimes you just need some comfort food. It was my birthday a few weeks ago and I was thinking a lot about my family. Growing up, this recipe was a favorite of mine, served up by my Polish grandmother. She is one of my heroes. She survived both the Great Depression & World War II as a slave in Germany, her love story with my Grampa is Oscar worthy, she taught herself English by reading magazines, and raised four great children, the oldest of whom was my dad. Whenever I visited she would always pull me up in her lap, tell me how beautiful I was, and give me a dollar or two (which was a lot to her) so I could have my own spending money. So, yes this meal is pretty basic, but when you’ve got all that history in some food, it makes it that much more special.

This is Johnny Marzetti. It began during World War II at a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, where my grandparents lived after the war. I suppose it was an easy, relatively affordable way to feed people so I easily see how my grandmother picked up on it with six mouths to feed. From what I’ve read online, Johnny Marzetti is traditionally baked and made with red sauce, but I made this one on the stove top like Grandma did. She made both red & white sauce versions, but this time I decided to tackle the white sauce. Though Grandma never used recipes or had anything written down, my uncle told me what he could remember, and I added a few adaptations of my own to make this rendition a bit healthier.  I’ll let you know when I conquer the red sauce.

Johnny Marzetti
Serves 6-8

12oz elbow macaroni
12oz ground soy crumbles or ground beef
1 yellow onion
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
2C milk
1C grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Salt & pepper to taste
1T olive oil, if using soy crumbles
Parsley for garnish, optional

So my grandmother’s way was to use Kraft macaroni & she included the cheesy powder in her recipe. Not that you can knock anyone’s grandmother’s cooking (was that even English?!) but I really try to cook with whole foods that are as natural as possible, so cheese powder was out for me. But, I glanced over the Kraft box and besides crazy stuff, it was mostly milk based, so I figured, why not actually add milk to the recipe?

So I set the macaroni to boil

while I chopped the onion.

Since I didn’t have to cook any meat, I mostly browned the onion and heated the soy crumbles. Since soy doesn’t have the grease that meat does, I added the olive oil to help keep everything from sticking to the pan. If you use ground beef, cook it with the onions. Once browned, drain the grease off before adding the other ingredients.

Cook the macaroni only for about 5 minutes, drain and rinse the starch off

then add it to the meat mixture.

Add the cream of mushroom soup and stir well.


Stir in the milk, salt, and pepper, and simmer for 10 minutes.

After simmering, add the Parmesan cheese and stir until it’s melted in.

Serve immediately, garnishing with Parmesan and parsley.

Comfort food at its finest. If you add a sunset, it makes it that much more perfect.

Black Bean Soup

A couple of years ago, I was so intimidated by the thought of homemade soup.  I had no clue what I could possibly make the base out of and how to get everything diced so fine and perfectly and the list went on.  I started making black bean soup about a year ago, and that’s a miracle because my husband is not a soup lover – yet, he really, really likes this!  I learned it doesn’t have to be like canned soup.  That’s basically the beauty of homemade soup.  It can have whatever vegetables and spices you have on hand, and be whatever texture or thickness you want.

This week is a bigger win because when I opened my pantry to make the soup, I had run out of my most crucial ingredient: vegetable stock.  After giving up the soup making idea for a nanosecond, I realized I’ll just have to get creative.  And it turns out my soup recipe got even better!

You’ll need:

1T olive oil

1 can of black beans – I used the spicy organic 365 Wholefoods brand

8oz of tomato sauce

3/4 bell pepper, chopped

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

1/2 zucchini, chopped

3/4 Cup of carrots, chopped

1/2 jalapeño, diced

1-3 cloves of garlic

handful of cilantro, chopped

salt & pepper to taste

This version turned out way spicier than any black bean soup I’ve made before.  It was mild tasting at first, but then once it lingered on the taste buds a few moments, the spiciness raged.  My husband was delighted!  If you don’t want it as spicy, use regular black beans and remove the seeds from the jalapeño or omit the jalapeño all together.  However, the jalapeño, salt and pepper are really the only seasonings in this soup, so I do recommend it.

After washing and chopping all the produce, heat the oil in a soup pot or dutch oven on medium to high heat.  Add the onion and saute until it is fragrant and slightly translucent.  Add the garlic and saute for a few more moments before adding the carrots.

Then the bell pepper.

And the jalapeño.

After everything has sauteed, add the tomato sauce.  If you want a less intense tomato flavor, only use half the amount of sauce.  But, since we’re not using vegetable stock in this soup, this is the main component to the soup base.  You don’t want it too watery.

Add enough water to thin out the tomato sauce.  I added 1/2 cup at a time until it was a thin, soupy consistency.  Add the black beans, zucchini, salt, and pepper, and simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes.  After about twenty minutes, it had become very thick, so I added more water at that point.

When it’s almost finished, add the cilantro and simmer for 5-10 more minutes.

And there you have it! Spicy black bean soup.  I think it’s my hispanic roots (the ones in my heart, not my bloodline) that make me want to automatically pair black beans with cilantro, but I knew this soup needed a cooling agent of some sort, so cilantro was a nice touch.

After it had cooled a bit, I jarred and refrigerated the soup to take for lunch the next day.  Just as delicious on the second day!