Pan Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

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Merry post-Christmas!

You look lovely today, btw.

I could have brought you a cookie recipe but that just seems wrong now. I can’t be bothered to turn on the oven, let alone throw measuring spoons and flour sifting into the mix. Ugh.

For me it was a Christmas filled with warm days, mangoes, pavlova, prosecco mimosas by the pool and lots of ham. Not too shabby.

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Moroccan Roasted Carrot and Eggplant Quinoa Salad

I have a hard time not buying new notebooks. I’ve gone digital with evernote on my phone, in addition to using another basic list-making app, but I still keep handwritten lists in notebooks. I’m probably just addicted to list-making, but I think it’s got something to do with the notebooks, too. There’s something exciting and satisfying about starting a new notebook that’s addictive.

Just yesterday I found myself fondling a neon hardcover number just minutes after forcing myself to put down a red diary in another shop. (I’m still thinking about the neon one.)

My thing for notebooks is not unlike my obsession with all things related to the Tudor dynasty (books, documentaries, movies…) and British history, in general, which is a little weird. And I can’t say no to ice cream, hot sauce or a cheap sundress to save my life. I would call these things siren songs, but I’m pretty sure they’re the most unrebellious and harmless things that someone could be drawn to.

I also can’t ignore a good spice section in a supermarket – I’m constantly compelled to buy new spices or spice blends just in case. (Incorrigible, I know.)

It’s no secret that I love a good grain salad, and I love getting new ideas for them. This one is from Food & Wine – the combination of warm, Moroccan-type spices, roasted vegetables and red quinoa sounded like something I had to make for myself. I added some roasted eggplant into the mix, because I had one loitering around my crisper.

This is a great salad to make for a potluck or to serve a group. You can also make the batch for yourself and get a few weekday lunches out of it.  Add some chickpeas, white beans or cooked chicken to make it a little more substantial.

Roasted Carrot & Eggplant Quinoa Salad
adapted from Food & Wine

Spice mix:
– 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
– 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
– 1 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1 teaspoon ground ginger
– 1 teaspoon ground coriander
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
– salt & freshly ground black pepper

Salad:
– 4 large carrots, thinly sliced lengthwise
– 1 small-medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
– olive oil
– 1/2 cup walnuts
– 1 cup red quinoa
– 2 or 3 large handfuls of mixed salad greens
– 1/4 cup dried cranberries
– 1/4 cup chopped coriander/cilantro

Dressing:
– Olive oil
– 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
– 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
– 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Heat the oven to 400 F/205 C.

In a small bowl, whisk the paprika with the turmeric, cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne and 1 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper. In a large bowl, toss the carrots and eggplant with and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add 1 tablespoon of the spice mix and toss to coat. Spread the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender.

Toast the walnuts in the dry pan over a medium heat until golden. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa with 2 teaspoons of the spice mix and the water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and let cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon of the oil with 1/2 tablespoon of the lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Add the salad greens and toss to coat. Spread the greens on a large platter. In the same bowl, another tablespoons of oil with the remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and the zest, mustard and 1 teaspoon of the spice mix and season with salt. Add the quinoa, walnuts, cranberries, coriander/cilantro and roasted vegetables and toss well. Spoon the quinoa salad on the greens and serve.

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.

Kale and Quinoa Waldorf Salad

Did I just visit the Wikipedia page for the Waldorf salad? Yes, yes I did. What OF IT?

Truth is, I was trawling for fun facts. I LOVE a good random fact – my favorites are historical and very trivial – making them good for nothing except dominating a couple of Jeopardy categories if I’m lucky.

My limited research on the Waldorf salad didn’t unearth much more than the obvious – that the salad was invented at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York around 1896. (By a man named Oscar!)

Useless facts aside, here’s a lightened up version of the famous salad. It still has the signature crunch and sweetness of a Waldorf without the heavy dressing (I used a little Greek yogurt with a Dijon vinaigrette instead of the usual mayo business) and added bonus powerhouse foods like kale and quinoa.

Kale and Quinoa Waldorf Salad (serves 4 as a side)
– 3 cups of kale leaves, de-stemmed and finely shredded
– 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
– 1 small or medium-sized apple (I used a Pink Lady) sliced into bite-sized chunks
– 1 celery rib, finely chopped
– 1/4 cup golden raisins
– 1/4 cup toasted walnuts

Dressing
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
– 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
– salt & pepper

Mix dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or jar and set aside.

Place kale, quinoa, apple, celery and raisins together in a bowl. Pour on dressing a little bit at a time, tossing well to combine. The kale softens a little with the dressing – which is a good thing if using Tuscan kale – so this salad can be dressed for to 2 or 3 hours before serving. Otherwise let it rest in the fridge for 20 minutes and top with toasted walnuts before serving.

Make it a meal with: 1/2 cup more quinoa and 1/2-1 cup of chickpeas
Make it meaty with: grilled or roast chicken and/or bacon

Lunch Today: Chard, Quinoa, Chickpeas and Pomegranate

This was what was in my lunch box today.

It’s another travel-friendly salad that keeps well when made and dressed a few hours in advance – the chard, in particular, really benefits from some marinating.

It’s kind of a bastardized version of tabbouleh – with refreshing parsley and cucumber, and the quinoa standing in for bulgur. I have dreams of topping this salad with crispy, spicy falafel – but alas, it was not in the cards for today. Instead, we have chickpeas and some feta for a salty flourish.

I added toasted coconut flakes because I’m addicted to them. True Life: I’m a toasted coconut flake fiend.  Yup. But here they add a nutty sweetness and a little crispy-crunch factor that works surprisingly well.

And the pomegranate. The pomegranate brings that tart crunch and a sassy pop of pink – it totally makes this salad a babe.

It’s all topped off with a honey lemon dressing that highlights the zesty parsley and salty feta.

Chard, Quinoa, Chickpeas and Pomegranate
(Serves 2)
– 3 cups Swiss chard, cut into thin ribbons
– 1/2 cup chickpeas
– 1/2 cup cooked quinoa*
– 1 small cucumber, pealed and diced
– 1/4 cup chopped parsley
– 1/4 cup crumbled feta
– 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, divided
– 1-2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes, for garnish (optional)

Honey Lemon Dressing
– juice from 1 lemon
– 1 tablespoon honey
– 3 tablespoons oil of your choice
– pinch of salt

Whisk together ingredients in a small bowl or combine ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake well.

Combine the first 6 ingredients and 1 tablespoon of the pomegranate seeds in a bowl. Pour dressing over this and mix well to combine.

Let sit covered in the fridge  for at least 1 hour. Top with remaining pomegranate seeds and toasted coconut to serve.

*Notes:
To cook quinoa: Place 1/2 cup dry, rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan with 1 cup water or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook covered for 10-15 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is puffed. Let stand covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve. Makes 1 cup.