Friday, November 16, 2012

Recipe: Warm Kale and Quinoa Salad

Kale and Quinoa Salad, is one of my go to and easier recipes that we enjoy.  I will say up front that I'm no professional food blogger so don't expect this. :) Which happens to be one of my favorite vegan recipe blogs.

If you're not familiar with quinoa, it's a seed that is cooked just like white rice. It has a nuttier taste than rice, and can be seasoned savory or sweet once cooked.  It can be used just like rice, in casseroles, in soups, etc.  Not only is it a whole grain like brown rice, it provides lots of nutrients and is found to have all essential amino acids which is super helpful to non-meat eaters. 

Warm Kale and Quinoa Salad
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cup water or stock
1 bunch of Kale, stems removed and chopped (about 4+ cups chopped)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup of stock
3/4 can of beans (I usually use black beans but white would be great too.)
1 medium/large tomato or 1 to 1 1/2 cups of cherry tomatoes, diced
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
cumin, to taste
chili powder, to taste

*I never really measure anything so all these measurements are estimates. Sometimes I add more or less of particular items.

First, I sauté the chopped onions and garlic in a large sauté pan with sides and a lid. Once soft (about 5 minutes) I throw in all the kale along with about 1/2 cup of vegetable stock, stir, cover and let sit for about 25-30 minutes. Until the kale is soft.  I stir often adding some salt and peper half way through.  

Once kale is simmering, I add the quinoa and 1 1/2 cups of vegetable stock into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Quinoa sort of "pops" open while cooking. the seeds become translucent and there are "rings" from the seeds that break off. It's very difficult to describe, but if you've made it or while you're making it, you will understand. 

Once kale is soft, I add the beans and chopped tomatoes to the skillet, stir, and add the spices.  I probably end up using a minimum of 1 Tbsp for both the cumin and chili powder. I add more later once we are about it eat if I desire.

I then add the quinoa when it is finished cooking in its separate pot. Once all ingredients are in the large skillet, I stir well, let all the ingredients warm up together, and add more spices to my taste preference.

The night I made this dish, I paired it with an oven baked sweet potato topped with margarine and cinnamon sugar. 

This is a recipe I made up and proud of how tasty it was. Next time I want to saute some mushrooms with the onions to add even more veggies and flavors. Yum! 

Cooking vegan makes me have to think a lot more about how I create balanced meals. I have to think most about protein. Are we getting enough? What is the source? Etc. We don't want to be "junk food vegans" eating lots of carbs and processed frozen vegetarian meals.  So for each recipe I post, I'll break down for you where we are getting specific nutrients that usually are lacking in those who do not eat animal products. 

Recipe breakdown:
Protein- beans, quinoa
Starch/Carb- sweet potato, quinoa
Veggies- kale, onion, garlic, tomatoes, sweet potato
Fiber- beans, quinoa, all the veggies
Calcium- kale, beans
Iron- kale, beans

For all my meat eating friends, this would be a great dish to have on the side of chicken or fish.  I make a lot when I cook it.  It's great reheated as left overs or stuffing into acorn squashes or peppers. Give it a try! :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pantry Must-haves

To be honest, grocery shopping has gotten easier and harder. Easier because I used to stand in the meat section for 30+ minutes trying to find the best deal on meat for the price that wasn't going to kill us and that I could figure out how to cook. Veggies are just so much easier to me because they are versatile and I hardly have to worry about food borne illnesses.  Harder because I'm constantly reading labels and forcing myself to expand in my cooking skills of foods to add variety and new tastes. I've used a lot of "new" ingredients to me such as lentils, flax seeds, and beets.

Someone at church the other day asked if we eat grass. Soooooo, with that, I wanted to share with you a list of food items that are always in our home. The things we actually eat. And no...grass, leaves, and acorns are not on there. As soon as we get low or out of these items they go on my list to buy next time at the store. These items help us to make lots of kinds of foods and are the bases to all of our recipes.  We do also have lots of 'sometimes' or 'splurge' items. Cereals, chocolate chips, cinnamon almonds, avocados, and chocolate soy milk are just some examples. Splurge and sometimes because as you can see most of them aren't the best for us :).

Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Pasta
Brown Rice
Whole Wheat Flour
Yellow Corn Meal
Flax Seeds

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Canola Oil

Soy Milk
Vegetable Stock
Orange Juice
Non-dairy coffee creamer

Dried Beans
Canned Beans

Spaghetti sauce
Canned diced tomatoes
Seasonal Produce (varies)- currently, we tend to eat a lot of winter squashes, sweet potatoes, onions, leafy greens, broccoli, radishes, peppers, beets, carrots, and many other fall/winter produce.

Peanut Butter
Granola Bars
Chips and Salsa
Soy sauce
Local honey (technically not vegan, but we're not trying to save the animals or anything :) )
Coffee and tea
Nutella (definitely not vegan, but we just can't let it go!)
Lots of spices

I'm sure most vegans have more elaborate pantry items and really expensive cool ingredients, but well, we just aren't that classy. We like to keep it simple with a rice, bean, and veggie bowl for dinner.

Our grocery bill is the same as before the lifestyle change because the extra cost we use to spend on meat, cheese, and yogurt now goes to pay for non-dairy milks, higher quality grains, and if we buy organic produce.  Probably the biggest change in our budget is our eating out bill.  We are lucky if we eat out once a week whether it be lunch or dinner. It's just too difficult. So I like to think we are saving money.

Next time I'll share with you what I do with these items and some of our favorite recipes. :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

'Tis Hunting Season

Happy rainy Monday! Just wanted to give all of you a snippet into what it is like to live with hunting dogs. Squirrels, skunks, and moths.....their all over it. :)

They are a mess. During the day, they have "squirrel watch."  They take turns perched on our bed looking out our window that over looks the yard.  They intensely watch for squirrels or anything to dare enter our back yard. Then they are ALL OVER IT! The house will be peaceful then out of nowhere they both come barreling down the hall barking ferociously at an innocent animal.

Tennessee is a big hunting state. Other owners with dogs like our actually take them hunting this time of season.  They usually start training to learn how to hunt around 2 years old so we might look into it come next fall/winter. Because ours already think they are professionals.

So if there is a giant famine in this country, I don't think we will be going hungry. Squirrel stew...mmmm.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Early Birthday Surprise

This is weekend was the perfect blend of fun and relaxation. It was the exact combo I needed after a week of ups and downs with my physical health. In and out of bed almost everyday, exhaustion, head aches, body aches....yuck! 

Andrew surprised me a while back with tickets to one of my favorite artists, Ingrid Michaelson. He even made arrangements for one of my best friends to travel all the way from Nashville to see it with me! 

The picture doesn't do justice for how close we were. We were only 6 rows back from the stage! Needless to say, my husband did a great job surprising me with this gift for my birthday. 

And a grateful "thank you" to Brittany for venturing over to Knoxville for less than 24 hours to encourage me! God has given me the best of friends. 

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