Quick Quinoa, Beans and Salsa

Biggest Bro created a long running dinner favorite in my household which consisted of brown rice, black beans, salsa & cottage cheese.  (This is incredibly fast and easy if you use leftover rice and canned beans.)  Both my fellas always liked this but when that dang doctor told Mr. Bigg Sis not to eat dairy anymore, this one fell off the radar.  (Actually we are very grateful to that doc because Mr. Bigg Sis is much healthier since we ditched the dairy…, but it DID get in the way of some of our fast favorite dishes!)

Now the Sis Sisters usually just replace, substitute, re-vamp and redundify ;-), but none of the vegan cheeses we have tried with this concoction brought the same level of enthusiasm… until now that is.  So I’m going to share one of those annoying recipes that gives you ingredients, but no amounts.  I am usually not irritating…. Okay, Little Sis reads this and I could be very irritating when we were children…. Okay, maybe not just then…. can we just move on from the irritating thing now?

I am giving you only ingredients because this is a “put out the ingredients and let each family member put together their own perfect combo” recipe.  I know my 15 year old loves this concept, and only requires a reminder that there does need to be a reasonable amount of veggies in his bowl.  I love it because it is a little easier for both clean up and preparation.

At any rate, Quinoa takes about 15 minutes to cook once the water boils, and in that time the rest of the ingredients were prepared and then – oh yum!

Ingredients:

1) Cook quinoa according to package directions

2) Kale sauteed in olive oil, garlic and cumin seed
Get your clean kale greens ready (I used about 3 big handfulls)
Heat about 2 tsp of oil
Add a minced or pressed clove of garlic and 1/2 – 1 tsp cumin seed
Once garlic and cumin seeds are fragrant, add kale and stir
After kale looks darker green and shiny, add about 1/4 cup water and place cover on pan
to steam
Turn off heat

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3) Offer vegan parmesan
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
Blitz these ingredients in the blender – don’t go too long or you will create seed butter!

4) Drain and rinse can of black beans (or kidney beans – or whatever beans you have)
Heat the beans up a little so they don’t cool everything else down.

5) Open containers of salsa 😉

Mix!

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We will be having this again… So easy and perfect on a busy night when you don’t want to spend much time cooking.

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Cool Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish (DF)

 photo IMG_0726.jpgI have cucumbers coming out of my ears – and no Big Brothers, I did not eat a seed. I can only assume that our relatively cool Maryland summer has delayed the usual onset of powdery mildew (which has now arrived and I’m combatting according to Big Sis’ suggestion) long enough for my cucumber plants to go bananas, so to speak. I’ve regularly been harvesting not just 1 or 2, but anywhere from 6 to 16 (yes, I said 16) delicious cukes from my 4 cucumber plants. What variety is doing so well in my not very well tended garden? I have no idea. Seed mixups are a real bummer. I digress.

In order to take advantage of my cuke bounty, we’ve been experimenting with some things, and I’ll share more of them over the next few weeks before it snows and puts an end to this whole summer bounty thing. Today, while it is relatively hot, I’ll share a lovely cooling use for all those wonderful cukes.

If you’ve been playing along for a while, you already know how I feel about Deborah Madison. In addition to my Deborah Madison cooking bible, I have a slimmer volume dedicated only to soups, because I really like soup. In this beautifully produced and photographed cookbook, there are a few cool soups perfect for beastly weather. Last night I was inspired by her Cool Cucumber Soup, although as usual I was compelled to make some changes. At any rate we had an 85% approval rating (meaning Picky Pants initially enjoyed it and changed her mind later). So, for all you cucumber lovers, or just those of you who like the sound of an easy cooling meal made from the most abundant veggie out there right now…

Cool Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish (DF) adapted (and made larger and milder) from Deborah Madison’s version in Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen(serves 4)

Soup

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  • 2 pounds cucumbers
  • 1 1/2 c cashew cream (here, from our lovely friend Annie) or yogurt or sour cream
  • 3/4 c herbs (I used dill, basil, and parsley to great effect
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • zest and juice of 1 1/2 lemons

Relish

  • 1 pound cucumbers
  • 2 T chopped scallions
  • 1 T dill
  • 2 T chopped basil and parsley
  • 2 t olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

Peel and seed the cucumbers – dice 1/3 of them (or one pound) and set aside for the relish. While I often recommend skipping peeling and such, in this case I peeled to remove the bitterness sometimes in the skins. Coarsely chop remaining cukes and place in blender with the rest of the ingredients for the soup. Blitz until smooth. Place in fridge to chill. Yes, that’s it. No, I’m not joking.

Just before serving, combine ingredients for relish in bowl and stir. Done. No muss, no fuss, no cucumbers wasted. Delish. Happy super late summer!

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Nutshroom Neatballs (GF,DF): Endless Possibilities

I’ve shared with you my serious leaning toward the burger as a warm, satisfying handheld meal.  My experiments in veggie burgering are many and I’ve enjoyed every one; however, there are only so many warm satisfying handheld meals one can consume in a single week (this is what I’ve inferred from my crew, mind you, not my own opinion).  Far be it from me, however, to simply leave the flavors of my beloved veggie burgers behind.  What better way to get the flavor I’m looking for and make it LOOK like I was inventing a whole new meal just for my little one’s picky little palate than to make veggie burger neatballs?  How awesome am I? And neatballs? Small, yummy, cute, warm.  What picky pantser could possibly resist?

IMG_0223This meal has some of my favorite qualities. Delicious, easy to make, easy to double or triple for freezing, perfect leftovers, and super flexible. Being a competent and happy cook often has more to do with re-imaging something you already know how to do than with learning how to make something new every night – who has time for that? So, we make do. And sometimes that making do, that little twist, that sneaky trick, turns out to be quite delightful, like Nutshroom Neatballs. Continue reading

Power Tabbouleh – and yes, it’s GF

Don’t know about you all, but here in Mid Maryland the weather is SPECTACULAR.  It feels like fall – the great part of fall when the humidity drops, the temps are still in the low 80s and the sky is bright blue and features fluffy white clouds.  Whoever loaned us their weather, I thank you and regret to inform you that we would like to keep it, thank you very much. I almost don’t care that the infant tomatoes that were emerging post deer invasion have also been eaten.  Shame on me for going out of town for 36 hours.  Apparently creating a urine barrier as deterrent is a daily requirement.

While the deer (or the squirrels, I don’t even care any more who the perp is anymore) were eating my tomatoes, we took a short trip to my hometown, Silver Spring, MD.  Mr. Little Sis had some work to tend to there over the weekend and we tagged along so we could do a little “get to know your Mom” touring. We returned thoroughly exhausted, in part from incredibly awesome park experiences, but mostly because the folks on the other side of our locked adjoining room door were reunioning with their family and a lot of bourbon until 4 in the morning.  I digress…

Our superb park experiences over the weekend inspired me to take the kids a little farther afield for some adventures today.  After swim class we played tag, restaurant (with robbers and everything, my children like exciting dining), and fed a whole mess of turtles in the quarry.  We found some bugs (and fed them to the fish – sorry bugs), watched some geese and played on some great playground equipment.  After leaving there and scoring a whole slew of deals on perennials at the hardware store, we all returned home pretty wiped out.  I decided it was time to give a summer standard from my past a go. Tired hungry kids are sometimes the most willing to try new foods.

IMG_9539Standard tabbouleh has tons of parsley (which is great for you in a variety of ways and covers a multitude of garlic breath sins), bulgur, tomatoes, garlic and some kind of acid mixed with olive oil.  Well… I hain’t got no maters, I say almost weeping.  Well, okay I have one that I plucked early before the real invasion began.  It was just coming ripe on the windowsill.  In honor of Mr. Bigg Sis and all those for whom gluten is verboten, I decided to make good use of the leftover quinoa in the fridge. Following Deborah Madison‘s lead (which is always a good idea), I combined green lentils and chickpeas to power that salad up even more.  Plenty of protein, fiber, and tons o’ flavor.  Yep, power tabbouleh.

Power Tabbouleh – adapted from Deborah Madison’s Bulgur and Green Lentil Salad with Chickpeas in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

  • 2 c chopped fresh parsleyIMG_9553
  • 2 c cooked quinoa (or whatever grain you have on hand)
  • 1 1/2 c cooked French lentils (I’m sure brown would be fine too, but I do like the green here)
  • 1 c cooked or canned garbanzo beans (drain and rinse if canned)
  • zest of two lemons
  • 2 cloves garlic, made very small however you like
  • 4 scallions or spring onions, chopped small, including some green
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 6-8 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 t paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

IMG_9543Looks like a lot of ingredients, but this was so ridiculously easy – one of those times where having some leftover cooked grains in the fridge makes dinner a snap.  I cooked my lentils specifically for this meal as I didn’t have any in the fridge.  I cooked two cups of French lentils in boiling water with a bit of salt and a bay leaf.  I can’t recommend this bay leaf maneuver enough – made the beans so flavorful and delish.  I had way more than I needed for the salad, but I knew my little lentil fan (Miss Picky Pants – you go figure that out) would want some plain.

IMG_9544While the lentils cooked I did all of my chopping and combined all of the cold solid ingredients.  I drained the lentils and let them cool for about half an hour. You could absolutely make this warm, but I was going for room temp or cooler. When I was done assembling a green salad and making dressing, I added the lentils to the other ingredients, combined the lemon juice, oil and paprika and poured it on.  Tossed everything to mix.  Salted and peppered to taste.  Lovely. Then I chopped my sole tomato and added it.  The added tomato was nice, but honestly, unnecessary (blasphemy). This salad knocked my socks off and is super flexible.  What do you like in your tabbouleh? As for me, beans are where it’s at.

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SOTW: Slow Cooker Tomato Soup

What could be better on a chilly day than a hot bowl of tomato soup?  I have an answer to that – on a chilly day, the only thing better than a hot bowl of tomato soup is a hot bowl of tomato soup that is waiting for you, nearly complete, when you walk in the door with two pool-soaked “freezing cold” six year old swimmers.

I should confess that as a child I was never a tomato soup eater – the ever present Campbell’s soup can didn’t do a thing for me, but Mr. Little Sis was a huge fan.  I was always happy to simply eat the grilled cheese that usually accompanied a great bowl of tomato soup.  As my love affair with the tomato became a permanent state, however, I’ve given this simple dish another chance.  In the past I found that creamy versions usually were my preference, but in more recent days, I’ve avoided creamy soup.  What to do?

I was confident someone on the vast internet had conquered the creamy tomato soup with no cream conundrum, and lo and behold, I was correct.  I stumbled onto a recipe that uses beans to thicken, fortify, and give soup some body.  Being the me that I am, I took the recipe to heart and promptly began changing it to meet my increasingly particular standards. 😉  The result was a creamy and flavorful soup that was warming to the toes, each bite full of tomato goodness.  Smoked paprika evokes roasted goodness and smoky warmth.  So flavorful, and so perfectly simple. Continue reading

SOTW: Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

While it is sunny and lovely today, we’ve just come through a long spell of cold, colder, and then (my personal fave) cold and wet.  My soup pot has taken up permanent residence on the stove.  There is, simply put, nothing better than soup on a cold day.  Warms the belly and soothes a grouchy spirit (at least it does mine).  So we’ve been having soup as often as I think I can get away with it.  We have one soup detractor in the bunch – yes, the same detractor that I site for most other food groups, but the rest of us really do enjoy a hot bowl of yum.

IMG_8711This particular soup was so delicious, and so simple, that I am declaring it the Soup Of The Week so that I can share it with you with the appropriate verbal fanfare.  The  broth is so warm and comforting and the wild rice adds so much texture and nuttiness that I may just have to make another batch.  I’d thought I’d made enough to freeze some, but the soup’s popularity defeated that plan. Continue reading

Throw Some Sauce on What You’ve Got

It’s all in the sauce Sister!  I mean where would pasta, rice, noodles and life be without it?  Having sauce on hand is a great tool when you need a quick meal.

Here are 2 that I have come to depend on.

Pesto is not just to zip up some pasta!  Not if you add nuts and veggies to the mix.  That, my friends is a zipped up meal that takes very little time.  Pesto is not cheap, but be aware that you don’t need nearly as much pesto for a pound of pasta as you would tomato sauce.  Pesto packs a punch!  You only need about 4 – 6 ounces of pesto to a pound of pasta, and although that’s likely to cost you about $4-6, … it is still cheaper than eating out – and better for you, and you might even have some leftovers.  And it’s quick!  Did I mention quick?  Back to the quick part, which is a BIG factor in the choice to eat out, isn’t it?

(Before the quick part – if you have some fresh basil, you can make a batch of pesto and freeze it.  Even better you can make Little Sis’ Sunflower seed pesto which is cheaper than using pine nuts and parmesan – and is totally plant-based and even is she wasn’t my sister, I’d tell you it is truly yummy.)

So cook your pound of pasta (preferably whole wheat, but maybe that’s a baby step you will take a little further down the road)

When it’s done – drain, add your pesto and then add or offer the following:

We don’t eat at the windowsill, but there is nice light there!

a choice of nuts: I recommend walnuts or cashews… but hey – you can add whatever you want 😉

a choice of vegetable: (fresh or frozen that you’ve heated up): I recommend frozen green beans or peas since we’re talking speed, but if you want to add sauteed peppers or greens, or zucchini… you can add whatever you, or your peeps want!

If you don’t add to the whole mix then everyone can choose what and how much they want.  My son doesn’t like the walnuts in the pasta but he eats them on the side which works for me.

So if you use frozen veggies like I did on this particularly crowded evening full of schoolwork, TaeKwonDo and baseball, this takes about as long as it takes to cook the pasta.  It made me happy, and when Momma is happy, everybody is happy!

And now for the second sauce…and last recipe that I will share from Meals That Heal Inflammation, because certainly this wonderful book should be purchased!! (Actually, the book is FULL of very interesting information about food and inflammation with recipes at the end.  I highly recommend it.)

This is a Pad Thai sauce that uses almonds instead of peanut, and got my son to eat raw zucchini.

Wait – did you miss that?  This sauce gets my son to eat raw zucchini. This boy does not like zuchhini, but he digs the sauce Baby!

Raw Pad Thai Sauce (Meals that Heal Inflammation, p. 306.)
2 Tbsp. (30ml) tahini
2 Tbsp. (30ml) almond butter (use peanut butter if you don’t have almond)
1 Tbsp. (15ml) lemon or lime juice
2 Tbsp (30ml) wheat-free tamari (I used Bragg’s liquid aminos – you could also use soy sauce, maybe a little less though and taste)
1 Tbsp (15ml) raw honey (I used un-raw? honey)
1/4 tsp. (1ml) garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) ginger root, grated

Difficult instructions: Mix all that there stuff together.  I do it in a 4 cup measuring cup with a fork.

I usually double or triple this recipe.  It is quite thick but it thins out when you put it over raw vegetables or raw vegetable and rice or raw vegetables and noodles.  I used my mandoline to make long thin noodles out of zucchini which could also just be cut.  I also used grated carrot and red cabbage (very fast and easy in a food processor if you have one).  You could also use green onion, cauliflower or broccoli, bean sprouts, peppers or romaine.  Adding rice or noodles beefs it up a little. And of course you could add some leftover chopped meat if you like.  Whatever you have is the key because one evening when you get home, you’ve got what you’ve got, and the choice is throw some sauce on what you’ve got or go out to eat.

Throw some sauce on what you’ve got
To make what you’ve got hot-ter
It’s meant to be, just mix and see
A smiling son or daughter

Sauce on hand at your command
For a bowl full of vitality
Be sauce-y sisters be sauce-y
Go sauce-y brothers – Go Sauce-y!

Sorry.  I need my 11 year old looking over my shoulder to edit my silliness, but he’s cleaning the guinea pig cage, so you’re stuck with my extra sauce 🙂

PS – here are a few other sauces to try:
Easiest/Fastest tomato sauce ever
Fabu Asian Peanut Sauce
Basil Avocado Cream
This is a fast mac & cheese sauce that can be frozen and used on other things… or for fast mac & cheese!

Please share links to your favorite go to sauces that will keep in the frig or freezer for nights when you’ve just to throw some sauce on what you’ve got!

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