Fajita Bowls with Cauliflower Rice {Vegan}

vegan fajita cauli rice bowl

Because of my constant need to be independent and divergent in some way I almost always choose vegetable fajitas on a standard Mexican restaurant menu. Unless I’m at a fancy taco place. Then I just eat the fancy tacos and shut the hell up.

Anyway, those veggie fajitas usually come with a pan of sizzling spiced bell peppers and onions – plus an entire plate’s worth of add-ons like guac, salsa, iceberg lettuce and a stack of warm tortillas. I’m given lots of freedom to put together my own combinations or just dig in to a pile of vegetables with tons of guacamole. Writing my own rules. Just the way I like it.

And if I find myself at Chipotle…I opt for a burrito bowl and customize the crap out of it.

Here we find ourselves somewhere in the middle with some cauliflower rice thrown in for all those fake rice enthusiasts out there. I love regular rice and especially chewy, nutty brown rice, but sometimes I find myself with a whole head of cauliflower for the fourth week in a row and I’ve gotta mix it up. Plus it’s super light and fluffy and paleo-friendly.

Let’s make cauliflower rice fajita bowls!

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Summer Lentil Salad

lentil summer salad #voraciousvander

What’s your favorite way to spend a lazy day?

On a rainy Sunday are you inclined to a.) curl up on the chaise lounge with a good book b.) scribble in your journal for an hour or two c.) have a movie marathon d.) bake something that fills the house with a crazy-good smell of butter and sugar and spice (?)

I’m not very inventive when it comes to the lazy Sunday. I’m all about tackling a TV series or two. I mean, this is really the only way to watch Homeland, in my opinion. Downton after Downton episode? Oooh yes please.

Catfish? Ugh, I might be addicted in a this-makes-me-nervous-and-I-can’t-stop-watching kinda way.

I also enjoy copious amounts of cookies and tea with my embarrassing entertainment  choices. And maybe a lunch that involves a baguette, at least two types of cheese and some sort of pesto.

I love when I can fully enjoy being lazy. Not feeling like I should be doing anything else besides hanging out on the couch with my man.

This Monday, I’m starting the first full-time office job I’ve had in a long while. Of course, I’m a little nervous. I’m concerned about what to wear, wondering what my co-workers will be like, and just plain eager to get that first day behind me.

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Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa, Cheddar and Corn

I have long history of picking out ugly eye glasses for myself.

Lots of people have bad eyesight, but I have terrible taste to match.

My first pair at age 10 was a very unfortunate purple and black marbled number. There was a cat-eyed pair that looked straight-up ridiculous and there’s my current pair that are too large on my abnormally small head. They’re so big that they slipped off my face at an airport drop-off area, scratching the entire left lens on the pavement.

If you want to see me at my most uncoordinated watch me either a.) try to play a team sport or b.) wrangle my luggage while blindly groping for my glasses on the ground in front of a taxi line. That’s real life.

Needless to say, I pretty much just wear contacts all the time.

But it’s time for a new pair. And despite all evidence to the contrary, I’ve convinced myself that this’ll be the time when I get it right. I will love my glasses and they’ll love my small face and we’ll look stylish and smart together. Forever.

How will she relate regrettable eyewear choices to quinoa stuffed red peppers? I hear you thinking, slightly annoyed.

Well! as it turns out, I never seem to have a share-worthy stuffed pepper for you. And the truth is I really enjoy a stuffed vegetable. It’s a purposeful container – like an ice cream cone…but not. (Edible cups = saving the world!)

But this time, I’m getting it right. This time I’m getting a wearable pair of glasses and making a photograph-worthy stuffed pepper. Getting. things. done. Vegetables and quinoa and cheese baked in a vegetable. Check it.

Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa and Corn (serves 2)
– 1 red pepper (or color of your choice), sliced in half
– olive oil
– 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
– 1/2 cup corn kernels ( you can use fresh, removed from the cob or frozen and thawed)
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– 1/2 teaspoon paprika
– 2 green onions, thinly sliced
– 1/4 cup chopped cilantro/coriander
– 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese, plus more for sprinkling
– 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
– salt & pepper

Give it a protein boost: Add a 1/2 cup of cooked chick peas, white beans or black beans into the quinoa mix.

Make it meaty: Add some small browned cubes of chorizo into the quinoa mix.

To cook quinoa: Rinse 1/2 cup of quinoa in a mesh colander. Place 1/2 cup quinoa and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, covered. Remove from heat and let stand (covered) for 5-10 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and serve.

Heat oven to 400 F/205 C.

Place the red pepper halves open side down on an oiled baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, flip and bake another 5 minutes until just tender.

In the meantime, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over a medium high heat. Add corn, cumin, paprika and season with a little salt and pepper and stir to combine. Cook, stirring only once or twice, for 5 minutes, until the corn to get golden in places.

Mix together cooked quinoa, corn, green onions, cilantro, sunflower seeds and cheddar. Spoon this mixture into the cooked red peppers until they are full. Sprinkle with a little more cheddar and bake for about 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the filling with heated through.

Cajun Spiced Farro and Cauliflower Pilaf

Birthday cake…this is not. This is more like a fridge clean out -slash- way of using up some odds and ends of leftovers situation. Cooked black beans, one corn cob, half a head of cauliflower and some shredded kale – all tied together with my guiltiest spice-blend pleasure: Cajun seasoning.

This wasn’t a well thought-out dish, but it’s a perfect example of my no-wasting, often experimental lunchtime cooking.

Have you heard about this whole “ricing” of cauliflower thing? I think its main selling point is as a low-carb/low-cal substitute for rice. My regular diet is neither of those things, but I was curious – so I took to the food processor.

The idea is to get your cauliflower chopped up so finely (but not too finely) that it becomes rice-like in texture. Then you use it like you would rice – as a bed for a stir-fry or in a pilaf like this one here. I would recommend applying some heat to the chopped cauliflower along with a little olive oil and seasoning, otherwise it’s straight up dry and bland.

Since I had some farro lying around, I added it for some chewy good-for-you grain-ness. But you could leave it out altogether or swap it for quinoa, barley, wheat berries or brown rice.

This pilaf is a total texture party with a great kick to it. It’s perfect as a side for some grilled salmon, chicken or beef. Or, just serve up a bowl with a poached egg on top and some lashings of hot sauce for a good time.

In related news, I’m thinking about changing my middle name to “put an egg on top”. It’s my favorite remedy to magically turn a salad or side into a meal. Poof!

I would also really like to name a pet Oprah, but we can talk about that another time.

Cajun Spiced Farro and Cauliflower Pilaf
– 1/2 cup dry farro (you will have leftover)
– 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning, divided
– olive oil
– 1 shallot, finely chopped
– 1/3 cup diced red pepper
– 1/3 cup corn kernels either fresh or frozen and thawed
– 2 cups “riced” cauliflower
– 1/3 cup cooked black beans
– 2 cups of kale, shredded or finely chopped
– salt, to taste
– a handful of cilantro chopped, to serve
– fresh lime, to serve

To cook Cajun farro: place 1/2 cup farro, 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 15 minutes until the grains are tender and chewy. Allow to sit covered for 5 minutes and fluff with a fork. Set aside. Can be made without Cajun seasoning

To rice cauliflower: roughly chop a half a head of cauliflower and place in the food processor. Pulse until the cauliflower is chopped into small pieces the size of rice.

In a large pan with high sides, heat a splash of olive oil over a medium high heat, add shallot and cook, stirring for 2 minutes until softened.

Add red pepper and corn kernels and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, until the corn is browned in parts.

Add remaining seasoning and riced cauliflower and cook for 2 minutes, stirring until the cauliflower has softened.

Reduce heat to medium and stir in black beans and kale and cook covered until kale is wilted – about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup farro. Season with salt as needed.

Top with cilantro and a spritz of lime. Serve warm, cold or at room temperature. Keeps for a few days in the fridge.

Grilled Corn Salsa

The other day I was on the phone with my Mom and mentioned we bought some shrimp for dinner at the seafood market. She replied in her best Americanified Paul Hogan impression, “are you makin ‘em on the BARBEEE?!”

None of my family have made the journey Down Under yet, so besides what I tell them, Crocodile Dundee, Men at Work and Shark Week are what their impressions of this country are based on. No biggie.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a barbeque to throw shrimp or anything else onto. We happen to have the tiniest balcony ever affixed to an apartment – so we won’t be making anything on the barbee until we get a place that can fit one. As soon as we do, I will be happy to perpetuate the stereotype.

Luckily! caramelizing corn kernels in a skillet with olive oil, salt, pepper and smoked paprika takes the flavor of this salsa to a new sweet/smokey/addictive level. Try it! It’s way better than boiling the corn and a tad easier than firing up the grill.

Grilled Corn Salsa
Makes 2 1/2 cups
– 3 ears of corn, kernels removed from cobs or 2 cups of frozen corn, thawed
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
– salt and pepper
– 1 small red onion finely diced
– 1 fresh jalapeno, deseeded and finely chopped
– 1/4 chopped coriander
– juice of half a lime

Over a medium high heat, heat olive oil in  large pan or skillet. Add corn, paprika, salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring only once or twice for 5-7 minutes until the corn is golden. Take off heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes

Combine corn, onion, jalapeno, coriander and lime juice in a bowl and toss to combine. Serve with enchiladas, tacos, eggs, rice, etc.