Quinoa Minestrone

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You know that saying, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired”–that perfectly explains how I feel right now. I don’t know why I’m always so surprised when I get sick at the beginning of each fall. It happens every year when the weather begins to change, lasts for at least a week, and makes me absolutely crazy. Thankfully, because of my sweet husband, my wonderful coworkers (who forced me to stay home from work), and gigantic bowls of soup, I’m finally on the mend!

The biggest bummer all week occurred last night: I was supposed to go to a concert with my mom, but still felt too sick to go. I was so upset that I lounged on my couch and watched Love Actually for the five-millionth time while drowning my sorrows in Quinoa Minestrone soup and homemade almond butter. Not together, though–that would just be gross.
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Homemade Chocolate Bars with Almonds (Raw and Sugar-Free)

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You can’t see me right now, but I’m doing a happy dance….

That’s right, it’s Friday and life is good. To make things even better, I’m eating a homemade chocolate bar. Yep, for breakfast. But it’s Friday so it’s OK. Besides, I really needed this chocolate.

This past week has been nuts. Between school, work, getting sick and completely losing my voice for two whole days, and everything else that just so happened to occur all in the same week, I haven’t had any time to really relax–or to eat dessert, which is just a crime.

Then a miraculous thing happened yesterday: while I was typing up a paper between classes, a knock came at the front door and I could hear a “plop” as something was dropped to the ground. Could it be?! My long-awaited package had arrived! I was so happy that I burst through the door, grabbed my package, and hurried inside to tear it open and marvel at my new goodies….
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Broccoli Quinoa Stir Fry and Quinoa Sushi Wraps

For today’s post I thought I would give you two amazingly easy and delicious Asian-inspired quinoa recipes for the price of one :)

When I shared my Quinoa Tabbouleh recipe last week, I realized that I haven’t shared many quinoa recipes on this site. I eat quinoa all the time, but I’ve just neglected to share the love. So today I thought I would do just that and put the spotlight on quinoa by sharing not one, but two more simple quinoa dishes that are in constant rotation at my house.

Between school and work, I’ve hardly had any time lately to devote to my beloved kitchen experiments. One of my all-time favorite pastimes is to go into the kitchen and just play with ingredients or recipes to come up with something that knocks my socks off. But, at the end of the long days, my brain is completely fried and I find that I don’t have the time or energy to play around or put together a big, elaborate meal. That’s when my gigantic batches of pre-prepared quinoa come in handy. Both of the dishes below were made using quinoa that had been cooked over the weekend (when I’m able to devote extra time to preparing food for the week). Quinoa is just a sure-fire, go-to ingredient for me because I know that I can do almost anything with it and it will be delicious. And for these recipes, aside from the little bit of chopping that’s involved, there’s practically no effort required, and I know that my meals will be ready within 20 minutes–awesome.

Lately it seems that these have been my requirements: yummy, fast, and easy. If a recipe doesn’t fit all three requirements, then I don’t even bother. Fortunately, both of these recipes meet my standards!

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Broccoli Quinoa Stir-Fry (serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 Tbs. coconut oil or sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/3 cup red onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 cup carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onion
  • 2 Tbs. Tamari soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1-2 Tbs. sesame seeds (optional)
Directions:
  1. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over Medium heat. Sauté the garlic, ginger, and red onion until fragrant and the onion begins to turn translucent (approximately 5 minutes).
  2. Add the broccoli, carrots, and red bell pepper and stir frequently. Sauté until the veggies have turned a more vibrant color and have softened a bit (approx. 5 minutes), then add the quinoa and stir well.
  3. Sauté just until the quinoa has heated through and then remove the pan from the heat. Add the green onion, soy sauce, and optional sesame seeds to the pan and stir well.
  4. Serve and enjoy!
This dish made for a nice, warm dinner and I used the leftovers the next day by making veggie wraps for lunch: I spooned some of the mixture into large leaves of Romaine lettuce (collard greens, butter lettuce leaves, and nori wraps will work, too).
 

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Quinoa Sushi Wraps (Serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 Tbs. brown rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. filtered water
  • 2 drops liquid stevia
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 seedless cucumber, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced into thin strips
  • a couple large lettuce leaves
  • 2 nori sheets
  • optional add-ins: sprouts, sesame seeds, and any other veggies you may have lying around
  • Tamari soy sauce for dipping

Directions:

  1. Prepare all of your ingredients so that they’ll be handy when you need them.
  2. In a bowl, combine the brown rice vinegar, water, and sea salt. Add the quinoa and stir until the quinoa is completely coated with the liquid.
  3. Lay a nori sheet shiny-side down on a flat surface (or, better yet, on a rolling sheet). Spread the quinoa in a thin layer across 2/3 of the nori sheet closest to you (leaving a strip of nori on the end furthest from you).
  4. Lay the lettuce flat on top of the quinoa and top with a horizontal strip of veggies down the center of the lettuce. Feel free to add whatever ingredients you like at this point, but be sure not to overfill the wrap or you won’t be able to seal it!
  5. This is when a rolling sheet comes in handy: Gently lift the edge of the wrap closest to you and begin to turn inward and tightly roll toward the opposite end. To seal the wrap, moisten the opposite end and press tightly.
  6. Using a very sharp knife, slice the roll in half (to make larger wraps like in the picture above) or into smaller, individual pieces (like traditional sushi).
  7. Repeat with the second nori wrap and veggies. Serve with dipping sauce (Tamari is my favorite) and enjoy!

Acorn Squash Soup topped with Roasted Seeds

Today is the first official day of Fall!

Nevermind that the high for today in Dallas is 97 degrees–I’m celebrating fall anyway (I’m such a rebel) :)

And what better way to celebrate fall than with a big bowl of warm and comforting winter squash soup topped with roasted seeds.

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I hadn’t intended to make soup–it can be such a process and soup usually doesn’t sound appetizing when it’s still a gazillion degrees outside. But then my step-son and I started getting the sniffles, which turned into a full-blown crummy sick-like feeling. No bueno. I was surprised at first that we were getting sick so early in the season, but then I remembered that we both spend our days at elementary schools and it instantly made sense. Fortunately, the hubs is still well, so he’s been caring for us and pestering us less than usual :)

Despite feeling crummy, I always have enough energy to go to Whole Foods. That’s my sanctuary–my happy place. When I arrived yesterday afternoon, I was greeted with the pleasing sight of pumpkins and gourds galore!

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At the mere sight of these pumpkins, I turned into a giddy little kid and instantly felt better!

20120922-073831.jpg With a skip in my step, I strolled around looking at the beautiful bounty. Then, when I walked inside, there were tables upon tables of pie pumpkins and winter squashes! I couldn’t resist–I bought a pumpkin and an acorn squash and decided that a nice, smooth squash soup would be the best medicine for my aching throat. I quickly bought the rest of my soup ingredients and hurried home.

Aside from the chopping, there’s not much effort required in making this soup. And since the recipe makes such a large amount of soup, you can gorge on soup now and freeze some for later (when it’s actually chilly outside).

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Since nothing goes to waste in my kitchen, I decided to roast the acorn squash seeds, too. With the soup on the stove and the seeds roasting in my oven, the smells of fall wafted through my house and I couldn’t help but feel better. Before long, I was curled up on the couch with my slippers on and sipping from a big bowl of soup…bliss.

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Acorn Squash Soup
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 1 large acorn squash, seeded, peeled, and cut into chunks
  • 1 Tbs. coconut oil (olive oil or vegetable broth would work, too)
  • 1 small or ½ large sweet onion, chopped
  • ½-1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into chunks
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 cups vegetable broth (or filtered water)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • ¼ tsp. allspice
  • ⅛ tsp. (or a couple shakes) cayenne pepper (optional)
  • ~~For the roasted acorn squash seeds:
  • seeds from acorn squash, rinsed and patted dry
  • ½ Tbs. melted coconut oil
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
Instructions
  1. It can be difficult to prepare the acorn squash because of its ridges so here are some helpful tips: Slice the top off of the squash and lay it flat on your cutting board–it will be upside down with the bottom tip pointing upward. Slice the squash in half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. **Be sure to reserve the seeds for later! Next, lay the squash halves flat on your cutting board (cut side down) and slice the squash into long strips along the innermost ridges (my hubs said they looked like cantaloupe slices). Then, use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from the slices. Finally, chop the slices into chunks.
  2. Prepare the rest of the veggies so that everything is ready when you need it.
  3. Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan or stock pot over Medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and saute until they’ve become fragrant and soft, stirring often (approx. 5 minutes).
  4. Add the salt and pepper and stir well. Lower the heat to Medium-Low and add the celery, carrots and acorn squash. Stir well to make sure everything is coated with the oil and allow the veggies to saute until they’ve softened (approx. 5-10 min.s). I covered the pot with a lid when I wasn’t stirring to hurry the process along.
  5. When the veggies have softened a bit, add the vegetable broth, stir well, and cover with a lid to allow the soup to simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  6. When the veggies have cooked through, pour the soup into a food processor or blender and mix until smooth. **You may have to do this in batches depending on the size and strength of your f.p./blender.
  7. Pour the soup back into the saucepan/pot and turn the heat down to Low. Add the almond milk, allspice, and cayenne pepper and stir well.
  8. To prepare the roasted seeds: Heat the oven to 275 degrees F. Rinse the seeds well and pat dry with a towel. Add the seeds, melted coconut oil, and salt to a bowl and mix well. Cover a pan with parchment paper, spread the seeds out evenly on the parchment and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until beginning to brown. **You can do this step after adding the broth to the soup.
  9. To serve: Scoop 1-2 cups of soup into bowls, top with a couple Tbs. of roasted seeds and a shake of pepper, and serve!
  10. Enjoy!

~I’ve submitted this recipe to Healthy Vegan Friday, Gluten Free Fridays, Foodie Friday, and Wellness Weekend

Caramel Apple Chia Pudding

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I’m so excited!! I feel like a little kid on Christmas Eve….

I have a package in the mail that contains some extra-special ingredients I’ve been wanting to buy for a while. You see, both of the ingredients I purchased are a wee bit expensive, but they’re ingredients I’ll use often so I wanted to buy them in bulk in order to save some money in the long run. Unfortunately, that means I had to pay more now, which I wasn’t able to justify until recently.

So, what are these extra-special ingredients, you may ask?

That, my friends, is a secret :) I will give you a hint, though: they’re dessert ingredients. My favorite!! Expect to see some really delicious desserts in the near future…

The reason I finally caved and bought my pricey treats is because I’ve been seriously craving sweets lately. I’ve been feeling much better ever since I cut out refined starches and all forms of sugar (including foods containing natural sugars like fruit) from my diet (you can read more about why here). This change has actually gone more smoothly than I thought. I crave sweets, but then I’ve always craved sweets, so that’s nothing new. The couple of times that I have slipped up–once was at a restaurant and I had forgotten to check all the ingredients–I felt bloated and generally icky immediately afterward, signaling to me that I’m doing the right thing.

Since I’ve been craving sweets and tomorrow is the first official day of fall, a sugar-free dessert that boasts some quintessential fall flavors sounded like it would hit the spot. Enter my Caramel Apple Chia Pudding.

Cheers!

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Full disclosure here: I first made this dessert more than a week ago when I was still eating fruit, which is why there are apples in the picture. This dessert is awesome with the chopped up apples, cinnamon, and caramel drizzled on top, but I’ve made it twice now in the past week excluding only the apples and it’s still absolutely delicious! I also decided to have this one morning when I was craving something really decadent for breakfast :) Whenever I’m able to eat fruit again, I’ll add the apples back on, but for right now, this was just what I needed!

Caramel Apple Chia Pudding
Author: 
Serves: 1-2
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 Tbs. almond butter
  • 1 Tbs. lucuma powder
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. powdered stevia
  • pinch of sea salt
  • Optional Toppings: cinnamon, chopped apple, dairy-free caramel topping (2 tsp. almond butter, 1-2 tsp. lucuma powder, 1 Tbs. almond milk, ⅛ tsp. vanilla extract, pinch of salt, and 5 drops of liquid stevia mixed together in a small bowl until thick)
Instructions
  1. Mix all of the ingredients (except for the chia seeds) in a blender or food processor.
  2. Place the chia seeds in a bowl and pour the almond milk mixture on top. Stir well and place into the fridge for at least 2 hours, making sure to stir occasionally.
  3. Top with chopped apples, drizzle with the dairy-free caramel sauce, and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  4. Enjoy!

Once again, this caramel drizzle is based on Lou’s Quick “Nut Cream” Sauce–love this stuff!

*I’ve submitted this recipe to Healthy Vegan Friday