Tex-Mex Vegetable Bowls feat. Spicy Quinoa

The best thing about bowls is either their no-frills name or their simplicity to prepare—it’s a toss up. A few ingredients can combine to make a satisfying meal, as long as you follow a few rules. The perfect bowl will have a grain, a protein, a few vegetables, a jock, a rebel and a recluse.

…Wait. That last part was just the script of The Breakfast Club.
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While this is not technically a breakfast bowl, I approve of any and all veggies in the a.m., as per Dr. Robynne Chutkan’s simple 1-2-3 rule for a healthier microbiome and general wellness. (TL;DR: eat one vegetable at lunch, two at lunch, three at dinner.)

This bowl is more than prepared to meet your greens n’ veg needs. It’s got kale and romaine lettuce, onions, peppers, and fresh tomatoes. It’s got fluffy quinoa simmered in taco seasoning spices… That last one isn’t a vegetable, but it’s so delicious it warranted mention.
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The best part is that you can mix in whatever veggies you’ve got in your fridge or cupboard. Sautee fresh or frozen corn in with the peppers, sub your lettuce for spinach, or top with your favourite salsa. You can even make it vegan by omitting the yogurt and/or cheese! Don’t you forget about cheese.

Tex-Mex Vegetable Bowls feat. Spicy Quinoa
Serves 2
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1 cup quinoa, rinsed*
1 tbsp. chili powder**
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. oregano

1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
1 can beans, black or kidney

1-2 hearts of romaine lettuce, rinsed and chopped
1 tomato, diced
1/3 c. Greek yogurt or sour cream

Optional toppings:
Salsa
Jalapeno hot sauce
Cheddar cheese
Green onions
Tortilla chips

1. Rinse your quinoa and put it in a medium saucepan, sprinkling with all of the spices. Turn heat to medium, stirring the quinoa to toast it for about a minute.

2. Add 2 cups water. Cover with a lid and let the quinoa gently simmer for about 30 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork. Taste and add additional salt or chili powder if needed. Set aside.

3. In a medium frying pan, add olive oil over medium heat. Fry garlic until golden. Add onion and stir until soft, about two minutes. Add in the bell pepper and any other veggies, tossing them in now and sauteeng until soft. Add in the beans, stirring until warmed through.

4. Add in the tomato paste, stirring to to distribute with the veggies, until everything is warm and mixed together! Season with salt, pepper, and additional spices from the list above if desired. Remove from heat.

5. Assemble your bowls! Start with a good handful or two of lettuce and greens. Add 1/2 c.  each the quinoa and the spiced tomato/bean mixture, and sprinkle with diced tomato.

6. Top with your extras! This time around, I used Greek yogurt, jalapeno hot sauce, a little extra old cheddar and green onions… (Pro tip: take your Instagram photo first, and then mix everything together for more delicious bites!)

* This will make more cooked quinoa than you need, so get ready to add it to salads, tacos, soups—the possibilities are tasty!

**  You can use a packet of taco seasoning to sub for all of the spices in a pinch. Cook the quinoa with half, and add more after cooking as needed! Just look out for sodium!

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Cashew Coconut Curry with Crispy Tofu

It’s been an anxious week, y’know? The kind where being mindful is interrupted by just being in your skin—a discomfort with existence. When anxiety haunts me for no particular reason, I cling to the familiar—wearing a favourite t-shirt, watching an old reliable movie, or cooking a well-loved dish.

Cooking is an amazing escape. It engages your senses, and you usually need focus and finesse to make it happen. Meal prep is almost active meditation, and this curry adds a layer of velvet to that feeling. It’s spicy, creamy, and warming, especially as August runs head first for September and cooler nights are on their way.

I’ve been cooking this recipe—and variations of it—for years. The original was one of my favourites against the damp in Scotland, and I’ve tweaked it and changed it many times—I even adapted it when I was doing the Whole30. It’s simple, crave-worthy, and always open to interpretation. Sub chicken for tofu, forget the tomato paste and use canned tomatoes, or add other veggies for a finish. Don’t be afraid to branch out and trust your instincts—you’ll be noshing a delicious bowl of comfort in no time. (Legal disclaimer: it will actually take several minutes.)

Cashew Coconut Curry with Crispy Tofu
Adapted from Half-Baked Harvest
Serves 4-6

1 package firm tofu*
2 tbsp. coconut oil

1 can tomato paste (6 oz., 180 ml)
1 can coconut milk (14 oz., 400ml)
3/4 c. roasted cashews
1/2 c. water

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tbsp. dried ginger
2 tbsp. garam masala
2 tbsp. curry powder
1/2-1 tsp. turmeric
Salt (to taste)

2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
2 generous handfuls baby spinach (optional)

For serving:
2 c. cooked brown basmati rice
Naan bread

1. Press tofu by wrapping the drained block in paper towel and setting some heavy books on top for 30 minutes. After this, cut the tofu into 2 cm cubes. Heat 1 tbsp. of coconut oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Spread the tofu in an even layer in the pan, turning when each side is golden brown.  Set tofu pieces aside on paper towel, reserving the skillet.

2. In a blender or food processor, add cashews and cover with coconut milk, running until combined. Then add tomato paste and water, blending until smooth. Set aside.

3. Add the second tablespoon of oil to the skillet from step 1. Sautee onions and garlic until fragrant. Add the spices and stir to toast them, about one minute.

4. Add the coconut cashew blend to the pan, stirring to distribute the spices. Add salt to taste. Raise heat to simmer. Stir in broccoli florets and then reduce heat slightly, allowing them to cook for a 3-5 minutes to desired tenderness.

5. Stir in tofu cubes until evenly coated and warmed through. If adding spinach, stir it in here, cooking until slightly wilted. Remove from heat.

6. Serve with fluffy basmati rice or delicious naan bread! Enjoy!

* If you have a soy allergy or sensitivity, this recipe is also great with paneer or chicken!

Fried Halloumi Salad with Wild Rice, Grapes, and Pine Nuts

Real talk: a slice of fried Halloumi is like a bread-free grilled cheese sandwich. Crispy golden outside, melted, salty, cheesy inside…perfection. For those who don’t know, Halloumi is a brined cheese from Cyprus with a high melting point, making it a dope candidate for the grill of your next summer bbq. (Or for frying and eating right out of the pan… what? Let me live!)

This salad is an adaptation of Allison Day’s Wine Country Salad from Whole Bowls, a cookbook that is so fantastic  I use it on a regular basis and actually follow the recipes! Some of the ingredients here are more pricy (looking at you, pine nuts), so freestyling for the budget is encouraged.

Some great substitution ideas:
• Sub romaine lettuce for whatever greens are on sale and in-season.
• Sub slivered almonds or salted sunflower seeds for pine nuts
• Sub wild rice for brown rice

You can also prepare all of the ingredients ahead of time, and toss this together quickly and easily any night of the week, for yourself, your fam, or any company stopping by.

Fried Halloumi Salad with Wild Rice, Grapes, and Pine Nuts
Serves 4
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For the salad:
4 c. (packed), romaine lettuce
3 green onions, sliced
1 c. wild rice, uncooked
2-3 c. red seedless grapes
1/3 c. pine nuts
250g Halloumi cheese

For the dressing:
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 heaping tbsp. dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse the wild rice and put it in a medium pot filled with water—bring the water to the boil and salt it like you would if you were cooking pasta. Boil, cooking until rice blooms and splits, about 40-50 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. While the rice is cooking, put together the dressing. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and mustard. Add in the garlic, salt, and pepper—taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Set aside.

3. Dry toast the pine nuts by putting them in a small frying pan in a single layer over medium heat. (Pine nuts have a high amount of fat, so toss frequently to keep from burning until they are golden brown!) Remove from heat, save the frying pan.

4. In a large salad bowl add the lettuce, green onion, grapes, pine nuts, and wild rice. Cover with the dressing and toss to coat thoroughly. Divide into 4 bowls.

5. Cut 2 slices of Halloumi about a half-inch thick for each serving. Heat up the small frying pan over medium heat and create a single layer of cheese, flipping when one side is fried and golden. When each side is golden, and all the cheese is fried, top each salad and serve!

Simple Asparagus with Roasted Feta

My mom does an amazing version of this dish where she uses shaved parm instead of feta—but I feel feta is a little more summer-y and fresh.  Either way, it was probably the only reason my sisters and I ever ate asparagus growing up… Cheese could talk me into anything! You could serve me shredded rubber tire-fire nachos with queso on top and I’d be delighted.

This recipe seemed almost too simple to post, and yet it’s stupid to avoid sharing an idea or a flavour combination because of its simplicity. “Blog food,” as I sometimes think of it, stresses me out in its attempts to be so unique that it becomes exhausting.

I also couldn’t go an entire spring season without posting a recipe featuring asparagus, It’s probably a law somewhere.

Simple Asparagus with Roasted Feta 
Serves 2 – 4
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2 bunches asparagus, rinsed
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 – 3/4 c. crumbled feta cheese
Coarse kosher salt, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (You may need more than one sheet, just make sure there’s enough room for the stalks to get roasty.)

2. Clean the asparagus by snapping off the bottom of the stalks, which will break at a natural point. Discard the inedible woody parts that break off.

3. Arrange the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, tossing to coat. Lightly sprinkle with salt.

4. Place in oven and roast for 10-15 minutes or until just starting to brown.* Remove and sprinkle with crumbled feta. Return to oven for 10 minutes until stalks have some crispiness and feta has melted.

*Asparagus stalks can be very thick or very thin—adjust cooking times accordingly!

Brunch Caesar Salad with Sweet Potato and Smoky Toasted Pecans

Fellow eaters of the internet: brunch makes miracles. Through brunch, we are enabled to drink champagne before 11 and get sweet and savoury on the same plate. Brunch makes the impossible possible. What I’m saying is that we need to believe in breakfast salad.  This one would look right at home as a cozy brunch side, nestled in next to some home fries, or even as a balance to a sweet dish like cornmeal waffles.

It’s a mix of kale and romaine (a borrowed combo from Oh She Glows), crispy strips of sweet potato roasted with smoked paprika, and ghee-toasted pecans flavoured with liquid smoke, topped with a crispy, pan-fried sunny side up egg. The melt-y goodness of the yolk with the crunch of the kale and nuts, and the garlic warmth in the dressing is just. so. good.

If you’re not an herbivore bound or by the unforgiving laws of the Whole30, you could double down by adding crispy bacon and maybe some shavings of old cheddar to play with the smokiness of the pecans and sweet potato.

This is an easily-doubled recipe that would also make an amazing lunch or dinner too!

Brunch Caesar Salad with Sweet Potato and Smoky Toasted Pecans
Serves 2 (double at will!)
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4 c. romaine lettuce, chopped
2 c. green kale, chopped
1/3-1/2 c. Caesar dressing of your choice, (I like Oh She Glows’ super easy recipe)
2 eggs

1 medium sweet potato, cut into thin strips
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 c. unsalted pecans
1/2 tbsp. ghee (or butter)
2-4 tsp. liquid smoke (to taste)

2-4 strips bacon (optional)
Old cheddar cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Cut your sweet potato into thin strips or french fry shapes.

2. Toss sweet potato fries with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and smoked paprika, tossing again to coat. Spread out in an even layer on baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until crispy. Remove from oven and set aside.

3. While the potatoes are baking, wash and chop the lettuce and kale, putting it in a large bowl.

4. For the pecans, melt the ghee in a medium fry pan over low heat, whisk in the liquid smoke. Add in the pecans and toss to coat. Turn up heat to medium, stirring until fragrant.  Remove from heat, but keep the pan  on the stove for the eggs.

5. Add the crispy sweet potato strips to the greens mixture, top with the dressing and toss thoroughly. Divide salad among bowls or plates, depending on how many people you’re serving. Garnish with pecans.

6. Add more ghee to the frying pan and crack your eggs, one per person, cooking until the edges of the whites are crispy, and the yolks are still runny. (Put a lid on to cook the yolk more thoroughly.)

7. Carefully lift the eggs out of the pan and serve one over each individual salad. Garnish with bacon and cheese, if adding. Enjoy!

Simple Mexican Shakshuka

Day 15. I’m officially half way through the Whole30 challenge. I’m going strong, and while I’m not missing too many foods, I am missing certain meals… specifically brunch. So rather than mourning the pancakes or waffles I’m not eating right now, I kicked up my breakfast game at home this weekend.

This dish is quick, simple, and it looks fancy if you carry it to the table while it’s all hot and bubbly, like delicious tomato lava. The hardest part of this shakshuka might be all of the chopping prep you have to do, but a few minutes of work will render a fragrant, saucy dish that is comforting and tasty with familiar flavours.

It’s also easy to freestyle and remix. Seriously, this is not a recipe so much as a guideline. Try subbing  crushed tomatoes for diced, substitute half for salsa, top with cheese (let me nosh vicariously), or add more veggies of your choice (corn? black beans? delicious!) into the starting sautee and really make if your own.

Simple Mexican Shakshuka
(Adapted from FoodFaithFitness)
Serves 2-4
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1 tbsp. coconut oil or olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 whole Vidalia onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
4-6 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 to 1 tbsp. taco seasoning (I like this homemade one from Budget Bytes), to taste
3-4 c. crushed tomatoes
1-4 large eggs
Salt and Pepper
Chili flakes
For garnish: green onions, avocados, cilantro, lime, hot sauce, cheese. whatever you want!

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On the stove top, melt coconut oil in a medium ovenproof frying pan. Add garlic and onions, stirring over medium heat until soft and fragrant. Add in bell peppers, stirring until slightly softened, then add the fresh chopped tomatoes.

2. Sprinkle the vegetables with taco seasoning and stir to distribute. Add the crushed tomatoes, stirring, and bring to a gentle simmer. Taste the seasonings and add more salt, pepper, or spices to your taste.

3. Turn off the heat. Making wells in the sauce, crack 1-4 eggs into the tomato mixture making wells to hold them* (see note). 

4. Slide the pan into the oven and bake until mixture is bubbly and eggs are baked, about 10-15 minutes. (You can also cook the eggs stove top by covering the pan with a lid, with a shorter cooking time.)

5. When eggs are baked, remove from oven, spoon into dishes and garnish with your toppings of choice. Enjoy the shakshuka alone, or served with tasty sides like refried beans, rice, or tortillas.

*Note:
 if cooking for one, decide on the number of eggs you want and crack those in. After baking, carefully remove the cooked eggs with half of the tomato mixture into your bowl. Reserve the second half of the mixture for round two! Ta da, delicious leftovers. Just add fresh eggs and bake away—the reheated kind ain’t no fun.

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