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!

Raspberry Coconut Protein Overnight Oats

Half marathon training is bringing on the change and I only just finished week two!

I haven’t exactly reclaimed my motivation from the dream fatigue I wrote about last week but my determination is back in line after taking it easy in July. With a clear goal ahead, my vision is getting sharper—and one of the things I’m honing in on is nutrition.

It’s key to eat healthfully since my mileage is slowly increasing every week—running on empty (literally) is no longer becoming an option. As a result, I’ve been listening to some podcasts and reading lots about nourishment for distance running. I’ve been trying to keep up with protein, eat more greens, and experiment with “super” foods… Just like the small addition of matcha to these delicious, protein-packed overnight oats—

what a segue!

Raspberry Coconut Protein Overnight Oats
Serves 1
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3/4 c. unsweetened almond milk (or other milk of your choice)*
2 tbsp. vanilla protein powder
1 tsp. matcha powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

1/3 c. steel cut oats
1 tbsp. coconut flour
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1/4 c. unsweetened coconut
1/2 c. raspberries
Hemp seeds or other seeds for topping (optional)
Maple syrup or honey (optional)

1. In a small bowl, whisk together almond milk, protein powder, matcha, and extract (if using). Taste and add maple syrup or honey to adjust to your desired sweetness.

2. Pour the protein’d up almond milk into the container you’re making your overnight oats in. (I’m impartial to the mason jar.)

3. Stir oats, coconut flour, chia seeds, and coconut into the almond milk until evenly distributed. Top with raspberries and sprinkle with hemp seeds.

4. Put into the fridge overnight! In the morning, mash and stir in raspberries! Add in nut butters or other toppings to your heart’s content. Nosh!

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Thoughts On: When the Dream Doesn’t Feel Like the Dream

August 2015, I tore a half marathon training plan from the monthly issue of Runner’s World and stuck it on my bulletin board—just in case. I didn’t see the training plan every single day, but on the ones I noticed it pinned there, another mental note would be scrawled and added to the pile with the others.

At some point, those ‘notes to self’ became IOU’s—which I’m now cashing in. I started training for that half marathon goal last week, using that very same plan. This is the embodiment of my 2017 resolution to take my dreams seriously, and an ambition I’ve held for a few years… But at the moment, I don’t feel energized or excited to be on this road.

Blame it on the hot, humid weather, or food, or sleep, but after some reflection this week, I broke it down to a simple truth: making your dreams come true doesn’t always feel like the dream. When picturing the race in October, I think about finally crossing that finish line—not the hours of running that will come before it, or the weeks of training I’m about to put into finally getting there.

And while many of us embrace that the journey is just as important (if not more so) than the destination, because it’s where the bulk of the transformation and learning happens, there’s an idea that every step towards our lofty ambitions will be made with skipping feet and a singing heart. Maybe there’s even a fear that waning enthusiasm means we aren’t on the right road, or chasing the right dream. This probably (definitely) isn’t true. Working towards your dreams is still work—even if it’s doing something you love. There are going to be days when your feet drag, and your song is silence. That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with not being 100% enthused 100% of the time.

The trick is to recognize that you owe it to yourself to push through to the joy of it all again. You need to understand that this flattened feeling is only a temporary state, and to not take your attention and your intention off of the end goal—the dream. It’s that, or getting ready to write yourself a lot more IOUs…

Thoughts on how to reinvent the road:
• Connect with other people who have the same ambitions
• Give yourself rest days (dreaming downtime)
• Explore detours—find different routes, or other options to the destination (the goal)! There’s more than one way to make it happen.

Kombucha Pt. I: I Dream of SCOBY

Just like spiralized zucchini or unicorn-inspired nosh, kombucha is soooo trendy right now. (Note: unlike unicorns, you will find kombucha in your local grocery store.) However, rather than shelling out $6-$10 bucks for this fermented tea—a great pop substitute with apparent digestive benefits—you can start making kombucha at home and save those bucks for the Yeti Frappuccino or whatever they’re coming out with next.

I’ve been brewing my own kombucha at home for half a year now, which isn’t a ton of time compared to other people… This means I’m sure enough to know what I’m doing, but new enough to be thorough and exacting in my methods. I haven’t quite relaxed when it comes to brew management.

First step: to start making your own kombucha at home, you need a SCOBY—Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Rubbery, jelly, slightly translucent, a SCOBY looks like a huge booger. I personally think they’re so-gross-they’re-cute and like to give them names… Everyone needs a hobby.

The reason you need one of these bacterial boog colonies is because, in short, the living SCOBY will nosh on the sugar and tannins in the tea mixture and turn it into gorgeous, fermented, bubbling goodness.

So how the heck do you get one of ’em?

• Buy them on the internet. Google around, look for sites with good reviews. I have no recs for this
• Find someone you know who makes kombucha and ask them for one of theirs. (Every new batch creates a new SCOBY, so usually habitual brewers have some spares around!)
• GROW ONE! (YAAAAAS. Yep.) 

Kombucha Scoby
Makes 1 Beautiful Booger Baby
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1 bottle of raw, store-bought kombucha (350ml – 470ml)
1 tbsp loose green or black tea
1/2 c. sugar (I use raw demerera)
1L water, filtered
White vinegar (for rinsing containers)

Equipment:
Large, wide-mouthed glass container (I recommend 2L)
Coffee filters
Rubber band
Strainer or loose leaf tea bags
Wooden spoon

1. Make tea. In a large pot on a stovetop, bring the water to a rolling boil. If you’re using unfiltered tap water, I like to add a little extra water in the beginning, and let it boil for a few minutes. I have no idea if this actually helps at ALL, but it makes me feel better. (Note: if using tea bags, add about 4 for the same potency as loose leaf!)

2. Turn off the heat, adding in the tea and stirring in the sugar until dissolved. Steep the tea for at least 30 minutes—you want it S T R O N G.

3. Cool the tea mixture to room temperature. Clean a large glass container (rinse with white vinegar) and then pour in the bottle of store-bought kombucha. Follow this with the tea mixture.

4.  The SCOBY needs to breathe to form, so cover the mouth of the container with coffee filters (or cheesecloth) and an elastic band to allow airflow, while preventing the invasion of dust or insects. Place it a warm, dark place where it won’t be disturbed.

5. In a few days, bubbles should begin to form where the liquid meets the container, and then depending on the warmth and other factors, a thin film should start to form and thicken within 1-4 weeks. When the SCOBY is substantial, at least a few millimetres thick, it’s ready to brew! (So stay tuned for part II.)

Special notes: 

SCOBYS do not like metal, so if you’re ever giving one away to a friend, do so with coffee filters as a lid, or a plastic lid.

When working with making or handling your SCOBY, make sure your hands and your work area are clean. I usually make sure everything is soaked and rinsed with vinegar.

Don’t be afraid! It’s way easier than it looks!

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!

Birthday Cake Smoothie

On my birthday, my mom used to let me eat cake for breakfast.

She’d wake me up and bribe me down to the kitchen with it. CAKE! FOR! BREAKFAST! I’d leave school sugar high and pumped that I’d ditched the oatmeal for once. (Thanks for being cool, mom!)

Even though she doesn’t wake me up on my birthday anymore, the craving for that a.m. cake fix is a time-honoured tradition that I cannot and WILL NOT ignore. (I’m an adult damnit!) This smoothie is my 27-year-old compromise. It combines the YUM of cake mix with healthful ingredients like a l’il protein powder, yogurt, and frozen strawberries, a throwback to all the birthday breakfasts that have come before, covered in summer fruit. (Happy Summer Solstice, y’all!) I know, I know, healthy schmealthy… But a smoothie made with ice cream is just a milkshake, and that’s a different blog post.

Side note: lots of recipes I saw said sprinkles were optional… That is false. Sprinkles are only optional if you hate happiness or have food allergies to dye.

Birthday Cake Smoothie
Serves 1 (Easy to double and share the joy!)
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1/2 c. frozen strawberries
1/2 banana, frozen in chunks
1/2 c. plain or vanilla yogurt (regular or Greek)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 c. white or yellow cake mix, dry*
2 tbsp. vanilla protein powder**
1/3 c. cup almond (or other) milk
Sprinkles(!!!!)

1. Combine milk, yogurt, extract, and frozen fruit in blender until smooth. Add in protein powder and cake mix, blending again, scraping down sides if needed.

2. Add a few extra tablespoons of milk at a time if the consistency needs tweaking to your liking.

3. Top with sprinkles and a dusting of extra cake mix and enjoy! Happy birthday! …Or Wednesday… Or whenever you want this. Mama isn’t here to judge.

*If you’re wondering what to do with extra cake mix, Buzzfeed has lots of suggestions! Alternatively, you can go to your local bulk food store and buy a specific amount just for this! Or make this a bunch more times.

**If you don’t have protein powder just sub this with MORE cake mix!