Quinoa and Roasted Cherry Tomato Salad | With Lemon Vinaigrette and Toasted Sunflower Seeds

For those of you who participated in Virtual Vegan Potluck this past Saturday, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. The scope of recipes that was brought to the table was remarkable, as was the care and expertise with which each dish was presented. I was really inspired by how creative – and in many cases, outright gourmet – the dishes were, flying in the face of any negative stereotype of ‘vegan potluck food’ one might hold. Vegan bloggers are clearly a talented lot! If you’re interested in checking out the potluck from the beginning, you can do so here.

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I also was super impressed by how smoothly the potlcuk came together – although I’m sure Annie at An Unrefined Vegan and Somer at Vedged Out, who coordinate the event, would disagree; just a guess, but rounding up 160+ bloggers from around the world and figuring out the logistics of getting them to post in unison must be a bit of migraine headache. I admire her dedication to making the whole thing happen!

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My sweet tooth was given full expression with the Salted Triple Chocolate Brownies I made for the potluck. Maybe the best thing about vegan baking is that you can sneak spoonfuls of the batter without risking salmonella poisoning, something I fully took advantage of while I was making my brownies. By the time I’d finished photographing and then sampling the final product, I felt like I’d definitely reached my sugar quota for the week, maybe even the month! Whenever that happens – and it certainly wasn’t the first time – I feel the need to ‘undo the damage’ wrought by the demonic baked good in question via a super healthy concoction of some sort.

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… Which is where this salad comes into the picture. Being a quinoa salad, it’s inherently nutritious – but with the bold flavours of marinated artichoke hearts, sweet balsamic-roasted cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, lemon zest and crunchy radishes and toasted sunflower seeds, it’s anything but rabbit food! It makes a satisfying lunch on its own, and is also great as a side dish – but maybe the best way to enjoy this salad – and I only discovered this with the leftovers – is to bundle it up in a wrap and eat it that way. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – bread of any description always takes things to the next level!

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Recipe: Quinoa and Roasted Cherry Tomato Salad | With Lemon Vinaigrette and Toasted Sunflower Seeds

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

For the dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 medium lemon (zest your lemon first and set the zest aside; you’ll need it for the salad)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the salad

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 25 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 6 medium basil leaves, chiffonaded
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped marinated artichoke hearts
  • 4 radishes, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup plain sunflower seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Roast cherry Tomatoes

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  3. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. Place in oven for 20 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and collapsed (tomatoes will leak a lot of juice while roasting – it’s OK)
  5. Rem0ve from oven and set aside to cool.

Cook quinoa

  1. While tomatoes are roasting, combine rinsed quinoa and 1 1/2 cups of water in a medium saucepan.
  2. Cover and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and let quinoa cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

Prepare Lemon Vinaigrette

  1. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, coriander and salt in a small bowl and whisk everything until thoroughly combined. 
  2. Set aside until needed.

Toast Sunflower Seeds

  1. Place sunflower seeds in a small skillet over medium heat.
  2. Tossing continuously, toast seeds until just golden brown (this will only take a couple minutes – be careful, they burn easily!).
  3. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Assemble Salad

  1. Place cooled quinoa, shallots, artichokes, radishes, basil, lemon zest and toasted sunflower seeds in a large salad bowl and toss to combine.
  2. Gently fold in roasted tomatoes and juices from roasting pan.
  3. Drizzle lemon vinaigrette into bowl toss until everything is combined.
  4. Serve, topping each portion with freshly ground black pepper. Eat!

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Review: Anita’s Organic Mill Breakfast Boost

I came across this package of Anita’s Organic Mill Breakfast Boost several weeks ago (in the grocery aisle at London Drugs) when we were still living in the Okanagan. Somehow I didn’t get around to opening the package until this week, but it’s actually apropos that I’m writing this review now as we’ve since moved to the Fraser Valley – where Anita’s Organic Mill is also located. I’m always on the lookout for healthy products that are made in British Columbia and happily, this one meets both criteria.

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Anita’s works with organic farmers in BC and the Prairies and carries a wide assortment of flours, whole grains, cereals, legumes and dried fruits – all of which are Certified Organic and Kosher. Their Breakfast Boost is available in three varieties: Ancients Grains, Hemp & Chia and Nut & Seed. I bought the Ancient Grains flavour, which is made up of a blend of spelt and kamut flakes, raisins, whole almonds, dried cranberries (the real kind, not ‘Craisins’), flax, quinoa flakes and a touch of cinnamon. Talk about superfoods a go-go!

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I’ve been eating Breakfast Boost sprinkled atop Corn Flakes and almond milk, and it’s really injected new life into my morning cereal regiment! It doesn’t contain any added sugar, but the the raisins and dried cranberries alone provide the perfect amount of sweetness. I’m impressed by how satisfied I feel after eating just a 1/4 cup or so of Breakfast Boost in the morning; even by lunch time I’m still feeling full, which is very unusual for me (typically I have to eat every 2-3 hours). Breakfast Boost would also be great on top yogurt or cottage cheese for a protein-rich breakfast or snack – or even as an addition to homemade granola.

For more information on Anita’s Organic Mill products, and for recipes, head over to their website.

Curried Quinoa, Black Bean and Pineapple Stuffed Bell Peppers

After last week’s ‘mystery illness,’ which left me exhausted, sans appetite and in full-fledged pity party mode for several days, I’m finally getting around to posting this recipe, which I managed to cook and photograph before the symptoms appeared. It’s a delicious dish and one I’ve made a few times now – so don’t go thinking it was the cause of my nausea or anything along those lines, haha 😉 The problem was I was feeling so distinctly (and very uncharacteristically) grossed out by food that I couldn’t even bear to write about it. It was rough few days.

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The starting point for this dish comes from a recipe on the fantastic Veggie Belly website, which uses Thai curry paste to flavour fried rice. After I tried the original recipe I thought to swap out the rice for quinoa, add black beans for additional protein, some pineapple for a little sweetness, and a bit of coconut milk just because it pairs so well with curry. Then I thought to throw the whole lot in some bell peppers, which make perfect edible receptacles. That’s how this recipe evolved – I suppose it bears little resemblance to the original apart from the Thai curry paste, but there you have it!

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The concept of stuffed peppers is hardly new, but something must have been in the air last week because not one but two other quinoa and black bean stuffed pepper recipes appeared in my WordPress reader just as I was preparing my own version! I can’t recall the source of the first recipe, which is too bad because it looked really good, but the second appeared on one of my favourite blogs – Love & Green Juice – and can be found here. Larissa’s version has more of a Mexican vibe, which goes to show you can put pretty much any spin on a stuffed pepper!

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This recipe can easily be doubled and makes great leftovers. I like keeping my leftover peppers wrapped individually in aluminum foil (they can also be frozen this way), then throughout the week I throw them in a 350F oven for 20 minutes or so until hot. They also make a great portable meal – bring them with you in a ceramic or glass container and reheat in a microwave for a healthy and filling snack or lunch 🙂

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Recipe: Curried Quinoa, Black Bean and Pineapple Stuffed Bell Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3/4 cup water (to cook quinoa)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus a bit more to grease casserole dish)
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup cooked black beans
  • 1/2 cup pineapple, diced
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cilantro, chopped (plus a bit more for garnish)
  • 2 tablespoons yellow or green curry paste
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons Bragg’s All Purpose Seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons of sambal olek

Method:

Prepare quinoa: In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Let cook for 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Place in fridge to cool.

Blanche peppers: Remove tops from peppers and scoop out inner seeds. Fill a large saucepan or stock pot with water (enough to cover 4 bell peppers) and bring to a gentle boil. Add peppers and blanche just until tender crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside until needed.

Prepare quinoa filling: In a medium bowl whisk together coconut milk, green curry paste, Bragg’s and sambal olek. Set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and zucchini and saute until tender. Add garlic and ginger and saute just until garlic begins to brown. Fold in black beans and pineapple. Remove quinoa from fridge and add to skillet. Add coconut milk mixture and gently stir until everything is combined. Fold in cilantro. Remove skillet from heat.

Finish peppers: Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a casserole dish (the one I used is about 9″ in diameter and 5″ deep) with olive oil and set aside. Fill each bell pepper with quinoa mixture and stand upright in casserole dish. Cover casserole dish and place in oven for 15 minutes or until peppers are hot all the way through.

Remove from oven and serve, topping each pepper with chopped cilantro and freshly ground black pepper. Eat!

Red Quinoa, Roasted Beet and Pink Grapefruit Salad | With Hazelnuts and Balsamic Reduction

The Okanagan has been hit with numerous dumps of snow already this Winter – many more than the norm, or so I’ve been told. Over night at least 6 inches of the stuff came down – probably the most we’ve seen fall in one go – and I spent an hour this morning shovelling the RV pad like a champ – huffing and puffing onerously the whole time as I haven’t done any physical activity in months (apart from opening and closing the fridge door). Fortunately the snow was light and fluffy – not the cardiac arrest-inducing, wet and heavy kind – otherwise I’m sure I would have thrown in the towel (shovel?) half way through.

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There is only one Bobcat on site at the trailer part to keep the roads clear when it snows, and the last few weeks it’s been hard pressed to keep up with the demand. I witnessed a dramatic scene this morning as I sat gazing out the window while I drank my morning coffee – one brave sole had endeavoured forth in his golf cart before the roads had been cleared and found himself spinning his tires right in front of our RV. I froze for a moment, wondering if I should ask him if he needed a push, but moments later he managed to back up a few feet and accelerate forward with renewed vigour and was on his way once more.

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After being worked over by the snow shovel this morning I wish I’d kept some of this salad in reserve for lunch today – I actually made it over the weekend and it came together so perfectly we were seduced into eating it in one go. My boyfriend the omnivore even loved it, particularly the quinoa and beet components – he’s all into “super foods” now after watching a show on KCTS9 about the benefits of eating a mostly plant-based diet. Of course I’ve been telling him this stuff since we met but he actually believes me now that he’s heard it from a third party on public television 😉

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On top of looking pretty (I still can’t get over how amazing the intense pink of the grapefruit looks alongside the beets and the quinoa), this salad does everything a good salad should: tastes great, keeps you full for hours, and is super healthy to boot. Everyone already nows that quinoa is good for you, and red quinoa is no exception – it offers the same nutritional benefits as the white variety, but has a richer, more nutty flavour. Beets are high in folates and B-complex vitamins, and grapefruit is a great source of fibre, as well as anti-oxidants vitamin-A and vitamin-C. I added a handful of hazelnuts for some extra crunch, and shallots and fresh dill give a bright, fresh flavour to the salad. The syrupy, tart-yet-sweet balsamic reduction – drizzled on top before serving – is delicious, especially in combination with the earthy flavours of the quinoa and beets. This salad a great option if you’re looking to get your eating habits back on track after the holidays (who isn’t) – without feeling like you’re depriving yourself of the good stuff 🙂

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Recipe: Red Quinoa, Roasted Beet and Pink Grapefruit Salad | With Hazelnuts and Balsamic Reduction

Makes 2 meal-size salads

Ingredients:

For salad:

  • 1 small golden beet
  • 1 small red beet
  • 1/2 cup red quinoa
  • 3/4 cup water (to cook quinoa)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts (I kept them whole but you can chop them if that’s your preference)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
  • 1/2 small red grapefruit, cut into 1/2″ sections
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For balsamic reduction:

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or your choice of vegan sweetener)

Method:

Prepare roasted beets: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut beets in half and wrap each half in aluminum foil. Place wrapped halves on a baking sheet and transfer to oven. Roast for 30 minutes, or until beets are tender. Remove from oven, carefully open each aluminum package and set aside to cool. While beets are roasting, prepare quinoa.

Prepare quinoa: In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Let cook for 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool.

Prepare balsamic reduction: In a small saucepan, combine balsamic vinegar and honey (or vegan sweetener) and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often, or until liquid forms a syrupy consistency. Remove from heat and set aside.

Finish salad: Once beets are cool enough to handle, peel away skin. Cut beets into 1/2″ cubes and place in a medium salad bowl. Add cooled quinoa, shallots, hazelnuts, grapefruit and dill. Gently toss to combine. Add olive oil to bowl and toss again. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve, topping each portion with a drizzle of balsamic reduction. Eat!

Moroccan Eggplant and Chickpea Stew | Served on Whole Wheat Couscous

Over the last few days a massive to-do has been made by the media about Black Friday. Traditionally we don’t do Black Friday here in Canada – December 26 is our designated day to work ourselves into shopping hysterics – but this year lots of Canadian retailers seem to be jumping on the bandwagon and offering crazy bargains to discourage people from taking off to the States by the busload to spend their money there. While I’m definitely not averse to the odd shopping expedition – although interestingly, moving to a more rural area and living around less commerce has noticeably reduced my urge to spend – it still boggles my mind that anyone would lineup for hours – or even camp out for DAYS – in order to get first crack at some item or another. There have even been well-publicized incidents of people being fatally crushed by stampedes of frenzied shoppers. Pretty insane, IMO.

This morning on the CBC I heard someone discuss Black Friday as a return to our primordial selves – as a reflection of our need to acquire stuff in volumes as a hard-wired response to our traditional roles as hunters and gatherers. Maybe that’s a very tiny bit true. I’d say it has a lot more to do with people going to extremes to compensate for a spiritual void 0r lack of meaning in their lives. I’m certainly not immune to this tendency; I’ve fallen into this consumerist trap at various points in my life.

At any rate, rather than hitting the mall in search of something I likely don’t need, today I’m content to consume something of my own making – a Moroccan eggplant and chickpea stew! – which makes me feel far more fulfilled and like I’ve done something productive with my time!

A couple weeks ago I got to thinking about eggplant after my dear friend Katherine in the UK emailed me with an amazing suggestion. Rather than doing what I normally do with eggplant and roasting it in the oven, she recommends turning on your gas stove and doing the following: ‘using tongs of course, stick the eggplant straight on the hob, over the burning naked flame. Char it until it looks incinerated… past the point of no return… black, black and charred, the skin falling off. Then, once you can touch it, scrape out the insides and use in sauces, salads or anything’. According to Katherine this method imbues the eggplant with a wonderful smokey flavour – without of a single drop of added fat. Immediately after receiving her email I started to think about creating a recipe that would allow me to experiment with this technique.

Finally I settled on the idea of a stew. I absolutely love Moroccan spices and thought that in a tomato-y sauce they’d be a good compliment to the the smokey flavour of the eggplant, without overpowering it. I added in some chickpeas and a sprinkle of feta on top for protein, and couscous (which I haven’t eaten in ages and was starting to miss) provides a nice fluffy bed for the stew.

Isn’t it crazy how eggplant is so spongy and tasteless is its raw state, yet when roasted it takes on such a deliciously complex flavour? Talk about a dual personality! So readers, what are your favourite eggplant recipes? Do you prefer using the oven to roast it, or have you tried the stove top method? Now that I’ve tried the latter, I see homemade baba ganoush in my near future!

Recipe: Moroccan Eggplant and Chickpea Stew | Served on Whole Wheat Couscous

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup whole wheat couscous (or use quinoa as a gluten-free option), uncooked
  • 1 cup water (to cook couscous)
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 pods star anise
  •  398ml can diced tomatoes, preferably organic
  • 1 cup cook chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste, preferably organic
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • A few wedges of lemon
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Prepare eggplant: If you have a gas stove, roast your eggplant on your stove top, using tongs to turn periodically, until skin in black and flesh of eggplant is soft all the way through. If you’ve never done this before there’s a good tutorial here.

Alternately, you can also oven roast your eggplant. To do so, preheat your oven to 400F. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise, then cut each half into thirds. Place eggplant segments skin side down in a single layer in a casserole dish and brush with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Place in oven for 25 minutes or until eggplant is soft and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Once your eggplant is cool enough to handle, remove skin and cut it into smallish pieces (if you have oven roasted your eggplant you can leave skin on). Set aside until needed.

Finish stew: In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft. Add ginger and garlic and saute just until garlic is golden brown. Add all spices expect bay leaf and star anise and stir until combined with other ingredients. Add chickpeas and eggplant and stir until coated with spice mixture. Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar and water. Add bay leaf and star anise and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for at least 15 minutes but preferably a bit longer, as this will allow the flavours to develop. Taste and adjust flavour with salt if necessary. Remove from heat. Remove star anise pods and bay leaf before serving.

Prepare couscous: While stew is simmering, bring one cup of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes then remove cover and fluff with a fork.

Serve stew over a few scoops of couscous (or quinoa, if using). Top each portion with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of crumbled feta, if using. Eat!