Tomato Basil Risotto with Prosciutto

Make this recipe for tomato basil risotto with prosciutto and get tips for making a creamy, dreamy Italian risotto! 

I couldn’t be more thrilled for this month’s Recipe Redux theme, recreating a favorite recipe from our travels.

When I went to Italy for the first time with my family back when I was in high school, each of us had a very specific dish that we were determined to discover the best possible version of. If we saw it on the menu, we would always get it, even if was a shared dish for the table, ordered solely for taste testing purposes. For my stepmom, it was spaghetti carbonara, lactose intolerance be damned! For my brother and dad, it was basically anything pork, including suckling pig, which was somewhat traumatic for me as I had just gotten out of my vegetarian phase. And for me, it was risotto.

The winner turned out to be a seafood risotto from Harry’s Bar in Venice. It was creamy and savory and rich and perfect. I must also give honorary mention to a squid ink risotto, also from a restaurant in Venice. It was so tasty the only thing that kept me from spending the rest of the night with a satisfied grin on my face was the fact that my mouth was turned jet black by the squid ink.

I used to make risotto pretty regularly at home until I started watching Top Chef. I feel like every time a chef makes an attempt at risotto, it turns into a miserable fail that gets them sent home! And if the nations top chefs can’t make a decent risotto, I know I sure as heck am failing at it.

So while this risotto may not please the judges on Top Chef, I personally was quite happy with how it turned out. To flavor the dish, I used prosciutto and halved heirloom cherry tomatoes briefly sautéed with fresh basil leaves and extra virgin olive oil. Here’s a few notes on how to make a maybe not Top Chef worthy, but totally passable and tasty risotto:

  • Use Arborio rice or some other type of short grain white rice, which is starchier and creates a creamier risotto. You may be tempted to swap in brown rice or another whole grain, like farro or barley. With the delicate flavors like tomato and basil, I think a whole grain would be overpowering, but for more “fall” or “winter” flavor risottos, brown rice is really tasty! Think chicken and wild mushroom risotto with peas. You’ll just want to double or triple the cooking time and have more stock on hand.
  • Use warm stock. If you add cold stock to the dish, it will cool everything down and slow the cooking process.
  • Don’t over, or under-stir your risotto. Stirring the risotto is necessary – the rice grains rub against each other which creates more starch and a creamy consistency. It also evenly distributes the liquid and prevents the bottom from burning. But there’s no need to stir constantly. You’ll be left with sore biceps and a gluey risotto. I give it a good stir when I add broth, let it simmer for a bit, and then give it another good stir before adding in more broth.
  • Add the vegetables after cooking the risotto. Other than the garlic and onions that flavor the dish, you’ll want to cook your vegetables in a separate pan and stir them into the fully cooked risotto, otherwise the veggies will get mushy and disintegrate.

Tomato Basil Risotto with Prosciutto

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, sliced
  • ½ yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ½ cups Arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 10 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup lightly packed basil leaves plus extra for serving
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat broth to a simmer in a pot on medium heat. Let it continue to simmer, turning down the heat if it starts to boil.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large, pot on medium heat. Add prosciutto and cook until crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in rice and cook until rice smells slightly nutty, about 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in white wine and stir until wine is mostly evaporated. Pour a ladle of hot broth into the rice, stir for a few seconds and let simmer until broth is mostly absorbed. When the risotto starts to look dry, repeat with more broth. Continue with remaining broth until risotto is creamy and tender with a bite (al dente).
  4. As the risotto is cooking, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add tomatoes and basil with a pinch of salt. Cook until tomatoes are tender, but not falling apart, about 5 minutes.
  5. When risotto is creamy and done, stir in tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve garnished with more parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

California Roll Sushi Burrito

If you don't live in a big city, your only chance at enjoying a sushi burrito is making one at home! Learn how to make this easy California roll sushi burrito. 

A few months ago when I went to Virginia/DC for my sister-in-law's bachelorette and to wrap up work on Joyful Eating with Alex and Anne, I had a not so top secret side mission - to get a sushi burrito.

I kept seeing my New York and DC friends posting pictures on instagram with both hands clutching an extra large sushi roll stuffed with all things delicious. Can you say food FOMO? Come on Columbia, can we get with the program and convert one of our million burger joints to a sushi burrito place?

As it got closer to my trip, I googled all the sushi burrito joints in and around DC and plotted them on a map to see if I would be nearby. Unfortunately, I wasn't, but I figured it was worth a special trip. But somehow, when I was there, time slipped away from me and I never had a chance to fulfill my sushi burrito fantasy.

So, I decided to make it at home, which turned out to be a lot easier than I thought. Thanks to this handy video from my friend Lisa at Healthy Nibbles and Bits, I got my wrapping skill down pat. Rather than rehash the details and tips, I'll just point you over there!

For filling, I turned to the classic California roll for inspiration. I found canned crab clawmeat at Trader Joe's, which tasted not quite as good as fresh, steamed crab, but mixed with a little mayo and stuffed into a sushi burrito, I couldn't taste the difference. Just don't use imitation crab, which isn't actually crab but rather a processed stick of starch and random bits of white fish. Blech.

California Roll Sushi Burrito

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup short grain brown rice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 8 ounces crab meat
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 sheets of nori seaweed
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 small avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • Optional, for serving: wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger

Instructions

  1. Place rice in a colander and rinse under cold water, shaking rice from side to side until water runs clear. Place rice in a pot with 2 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer 40-50 minutes until rice is tender and water is absorbed. Uncover and let rice cool 15 minutes. Whisk together vinegar and sugar, drizzle over rice and stir to combine.
  2. While rice is cooking, mix together crab meat, mayo and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Place seaweed shiner side down on the counter or on a bamboo sushi mat. Scoop a quarter of the cooked and seasoned rice over the top. Using wet fingers (keep a bowl of water nearby for dipping your fingers), spread the rice evenly over the top. About 1 inch away from the end of the roll, scoop a quarter of the crab filling. Next to it, lay a few sticks of cucumber, then a line of shredded carrot, a few slices of red pepper, a few slices of avocado. Sprinkle sliced scallion over the top of the fillings.
  4. Check out this video for rolling technique. If you have foil, wrap it up in foil to prevent filling from falling out the bottom (not biggie if you don't!). Serve with soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi, if desired.

Chicken Burrito Brown Rice Bowl Bowl with Homemade Guacamole

This chicken burrito brown rice bowl with easy homemade guacamole is the perfect clean out the fridge meal, made with frozen corn and peppers, salsa, and a little leftover cheese!

Hi guys! Apologies for no new post on Monday. I'm kinda a scatter brain with all the travel I'm doing this month. Also, after 8 hours driving back home from Virginia after being away for over a week, quality time with the hubs > glancing at my to do list.

Anyway, thought it would be fun to share a recap of my week up in Virginia/DC with you all, since I packed a lot of friends, good food and work into the trip. My trip to Virginia was half social/half work. The first weekend was my little brother's finance's bachelorette, then the end of the week, AlexAnne and I were getting together to wrap up work on our Joyful Eating program. Since my dad and stepmom live outside DC, I packed up the pups, hit the road and used that as an excuse to work remotely for the week!

The bachelorette party was an absolute blast! I didn't know any of my future sister-in-law's friends before this trip and I had such a blast getting to know them and hanging out with my SIL more, since we've never been in the same city. We rented a row house in Capitol Hill and there was a ton of fun places to go out nearby. Friday we had really tasty dinner at Smith Commons (lobster fried quinoa for the win...) before going out. Saturday, we attempted to be mature and do a walking tour of DC, but really we just ended up taking dorky pictures with the souvenir vans, waiting in a really long line to pee at Washington Monument then giving up and getting bottles of Cava with strawberries at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Hey, we tried!

Dinner at Smith Commons
Dinner at Smith Commons
Touring DC!
Touring DC!

Before heading to my parents in Virginia, I visited two of my friends to see the new house they bought in DC just a couple days before. We ate breakfast at The Royal, this really cute coffee shop with latin inspired breakfast options. Their egg arepa with avocado and chimichurri was super tasty but super messy - glad my friends don't judge! Afterwards, we walked around their neighborhood and they indulged my love of historic homes by dropping in an open house, where we pretended to be the kind of people who could afford a 1.9 million dollar home (ahem, we can't). Also, stumbled across this clearly haunted stunner - anyone want to invest a few million into my opening a B&B in the city? Anyone??

The rest of the week was pretty packed with work. Was hoping to see a bunch of my friends from home, but I completely lost my voice over the weekend. Wish I could say it was from having too much fun but I had a sore throat from allergies on Friday and it just got worse and worse all weekend! Since we were recording the audio lectures for our online intuitive eating program, I ended up having to cancel a few virtual appointments, which I felt awful about since I've never canceled appointments before, but I needed the voice rest. Still, I managed to squeeze in a visit with one of my two best friends from high school and her curly headed cutie! Can you get over these ringlets??

One Wednesday, Anne, Alex and I launched our 6-week online intuitive eating program, Joyful Eating, Nourished Life then spent Thursday and Friday wrapping up the program. It was so great to see each other in person again versus google hangout. Thursday we worked from my parents house so my dad could play instagram dad and take pictures of us for the website - poor guy was a trooper! Then Thursday we worked from Anne's house in Arlington, stopping for an extended lunch break with a really tough yoga class at Edge Yoga followed by salads at Sweetgreen. If only they would come to Columbia!

After a TOUGH yoga class
After a TOUGH yoga class
Salads at Sweetgreen! Mine was the umami bowl with baked tofu, quinoa, spicy sunflower seeds and more!
Salads at Sweetgreen! Mine was the umami bowl with baked tofu, quinoa, spicy sunflower seeds and more!

As we were going through last edits of our program, I couldn't help but get SO very excited for how wonderful it's turned out! We were able to squeeze in so much information about intuitive/mindful eating, sustainable nutrition strategies and enjoyable fitness in a usable, but not overwhelming way. We're really pumped about the number of signups so far, so if you're hoping to join the first group starting June 20th, be sure to sign up soon because we might actually reach our cap (knock on wood!).

Here's a sneak peek at our photo shoot:

Over the weekend I took it easy since it had been a pretty hectic week. I visited with one of my best friends from high school who was also my roommate for a couple years at Clemson for a walking date. She had just gotten engaged a couple weeks before so it was fun to celebrate! She's one of the absolute kindest people I know so was thrilled to see her so happy! Then for Mother's Day, went out to brunch at Silver Diner with my dad and stepmom. We used to hangout there in high school and get burgers and fries, so I was really impressed that the menu had become so locally focused with a ton of flexitarian options, like my roasted vegetable huevos rancheros.

Now on to the recipe. This burrito bowl was (obviously) inspired by the bowls at Chipotle. People always ask me what food I get when I'm on the road and if there's a Chipotle nearby, it's always a brown rice bowl, usually with their sofritas (tofu) or chicken. But it's such an easy dinner to make at home too. While this one took a bit longer with the marinated meat and homemade guac, it can be super simple. Just top precooked brown rice with canned black beans, salsa, cheese, sautéed frozen peppers or spinach and a dollop of store bought guac. If you know how to prepare plantains, that's also a really delish topping!

Chicken Burrito Brown Rice Bowl Bowl with Homemade Guacamole

Serves 4

Ingredients

Chicken: 

  • 1 lb chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Guacamole:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

Burrito Bowl:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 1-lb bag frozen peppers and onions
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup salsa verde
  • Cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Add chicken and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
  2. When ready to cook, first prepare rice. Bring 2 cups water and 1 cup rice to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to simmer, and cook 40-50 minutes until water is absorbed and rice is tender. Let sit, covered, for 5 minutes, then stir in chopped scallion and fluff with a fork.
  3. Next prepare guacamole. Scoop fresh out of the avocado and into a bowl. Add lime juice, cilantro, and red onion. Add salt and mash with a fork to combine.
  4. Heat grill on medium high. Place chicken cubes on a skewer. Grill about 4 minutes per side until chicken is cooked through.
  5. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a medium skillet. Add corn and cook until corn is lightly charred, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from skillet, wipe clean, and add 2 teaspoons oil to the skillet and heat. Add peppers and cook until tender and lightly charred, about 7-9 minutes. Remove from skillet. Season both with salt and pepper.
  6. Divide rice between bowls. Top with chicken, corn, peppers, a healthy scoop of guacamole. Top with cheddar, cilantro and drizzle with salsa verde.

Vegetarian Brown Rice Congee with Tempeh

For a unique breakfast, try this vegetarian brown rice congee with tempeh, a healthy take on a traditional Asian breakfast. 

First of all, thank you all so very much for all the incredibly kind feedback on yesterdays post on dieting and feminism. Seriously, some of your comments and emails brought me to tears! It was a post very much written from the heart - I actually stayed up till midnight writing it! I was really worried in my sleep deprived state I wouldn't be able to make the statement I was trying to make, so I was happy to hear so many of y'all connected.

Now, on to todays post!

Growing up in Atlanta, one of my favorite weekend treats was going to Canton House on Buford Highway for dim sum. Having moved from New York City, with Chinatown and its plethora of authentic Chinese food, I was so happy to find a place that sold things other than sesame chicken and lo mein. I'd guess we went there twice a month growing up and I still go almost every time I'm back in Atlanta!

Have you ever been to dim sum? It's kind of like Chinese tapas, but instead of ordering off a menu, small plates of food are carted around the restaurant and you simply point at what looks good to order. It's perfect for someone like me who can't make a decision to save her life when faced with a menu. Also, endless dumplings.

Heaven.

There were a few dishes we always ordered. Steamed pork buns for my brother. Rolled rice noodles for me. And always a bowl of congee to share.

Congee is a type of rice porridge served for breakfast in many Asian countries. It's made with rice simmered until it's broken down and soup-like, flavored with just a little bit of pork or chicken and topped with all sorts of yummy things, like green onions and fried shallots. So basic, yet so delicious. My mouth is literally watering right now.

When we went to Vietnam, I was SO excited when I found congee at our hotel breakfast buffet. Like, I flipped out to Scott and basically forced him to get a giant bowl with me. I was heartbroken when I had a bite and realized it was super bland and not at all the congee of my youth. Have you ever had a bite of your favorite hamburger from your favorite childhood restaurant, only to realize they changed the recipe? That was how heartbroken I felt. Literally, every single hotel we stayed at had the same bland congee.

Since then, I've been craving some congee. (P.S. Columbia friends, favorite Chinese restaurant recs? I've found great Korean and Vietnamese, but nothing but Panda Express-style Chinese.). So, I decided to whip some up myself.

This recipe isn't exactly authentic because, you know, I'm white, but it's still packed with flavor and I think, pretty close in flavor profile to the original. Don't skip on the toppings! They pack in the flavor and make a pretty dish!

Vegetarian Brown Rice Congee with Tempeh

Serves 6

Ingredients

Congee:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bag baby spinach, roughly chopped

Tempeh: 

  • 1 tablespoon seasme oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces tempeh, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Fried Shallots:

  • 3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced into rings
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

For serving:

  • Tempeh
  • Fried shallots
  • Sliced green onion
  • Soft or hard boiled egg
  • Sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds, toasted
  • Red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Bring brown rice, ginger, garlic and water to a boil in a large pot. Add salt. Reduce heat to maintain at a steady simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, about 1 and a half hours, until it has a thick, soup-like consistency and the rice is broken down. Add more water if it's starting to look too thick. Stir in spinach and let wilt.
  2. While congee is cooking, make the tempeh. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add tempeh and cook until browned and tender,about 5 minutes. When cooked through, stir in 2 tablespoons of soy sauce to season. Once soy sauce has evaporated, about 1 minute, turn off heat and set aside in a bowl until ready to use.
  3. To make the shallots, toss shallot rings and cornstarch together in a bowl. Heat oil on medium high heat in a small skillet. Add the shallots and fry until golden and tender, flipping halfway, about 2 minutes per side Remove immediately to paper towel lined plate.
  4. Serve congee garnished with tempeh, fried shallots, green onion, a drizzle of sesame oil, egg and red pepper flakes.

Eggs in a Nest

Eggs in a nest, a dish of brown rice sautéed with vegetables and eggs baked in, is SO simple, you won't believe how tasty it is! Meet your new favorite weeknight dinner! 

Every year for Valentine's Day, I give my husband a very special and thoughtful gift - the gift of not having to bother getting me any gifts.

Yep, I'm one of those people who thinks Valentine's Day is kind of silly. I'm not vehemently anti-Valentine's Day, I just rather not get a box of chalky tasting chocolates or go out to dinner at 8:45 because that's the only time we could get a reservation. I much prefer a cozy meal at home with the hubs, my pups and Netflix.

I used to prepare a special meal for Valentine's day. When we first moved into our house (we closed on it a few weeks earlier) I prepared a beef roast with this Madeira wine and tomato jam with crispy potatoes and this super fancy French bistro salad. The meal was pretty incredible, but I think we ate at 10 pm because it took so long and I had to work late that day. So basically my Valentine's Day was spent running around the kitchen as a harried, frazzled mess. Braving the crowds on Valentine's Day was starting to make a lot more sense.

A couple years ago, I gave Scott an even better present for Valentine's Day - food poisoning. I thought I pulled off this incredible meal of mussels in dijon cream sauce with pommes frites (you know, the really thin, crispy kind) followed by the most incredible chili chocolate brownies studded with caramel. It wasn't until the next day when we both didn't feel so hot that I realized we had food poisoning from the mussels.

No more fancy Valentine's Day meals for us.

I now like to keep things simple, making something with sentimental value rather than flare. Things like this egg in a nest, which I used to make all the time when we were semi-long distance dating. As basic as this recipe is, just pan fried veggies and brown rice with eggs baked in, it's soooo crazy good. In fact, I used to use the fact that I was making it to lure my now hubs into driving almost 2 hours from his work just to see me for the night by telling him I was making this dish!

This works best when you use cold or room temperature cooked rice, which gives it a nice, crispy texture and keeps it from getting sticky or mushy in the pan. It also helps it form a nice crust on the bottom, which is kind of the best part. Or maybe it's the runny yolk? Mmmm.

It probably goes without saying, because everything goes well with sriracha, but this is REALLY good with sriracha.

Eggs in a Nest

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 3 ounces spinach, roughly chopped (half a bag)
  • 6 eggs
  • Sriracha and chopped fresh parsley, optional for garnish

Instructions

  1. Bring brown rice and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium pot. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, about 40-50 minutes. Set aside and cool to room temperature, or refrigerate.
  2. Head olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add carrots and sun-dried tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until carrots are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add brown rice and cook until vegetables are tender and rice is starting to get crispy. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Make 6 wells in the rice and crack an egg into each. Cook until whites are starting to set, then transfer to the broiler. Cook until whites are set and eggs are still runny, which should take just a few minutes.

For those of you who actually like to do Valentine's Day like a normal person:

Strawberry Crepes with Cashew Cream
Strawberry Crepes with Cashew Cream
Spaghetti with Roasted Cauliflower and Browned Butter Sauce
Spaghetti with Roasted Cauliflower and Browned Butter Sauce
Cedar Plank Trout with Asian Guacamole
Cedar Plank Trout with Asian Guacamole

Ahi Poke Bowl

Embrace the Hawaiian food trend with this ahi poke bowl, inspired by a trip to the Islands! Try it with tofu for a vegan version! 

When we were in Hawaii this past December, I kid you not, the hubs and I ate ahi poke every single day. We were discussing recently and I think that it might be our new favorite food of all time. I joked that I might rename my blog an ahi poke a day, but seriously, I might.

Almost as soon as I got home, I dreamed of recreating the dish. Luckily I got the chance when Food and Nutrition Magazine's blog said they were on the lookout for Hawaiian recipes and I basically emailed and said "Pick me!! Pick me!!!"

And they did :) So head on over to Stone Soup blog to grab the recipe for my ahi poke bowl!

Bulgogi Tofu Meatball Lettuce Wraps

Bulgogi tofu meatball lettuce wraps are a fun vegetarian take on classic Korean food! 

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Hello from Phoenix! Actually, technically speaking this is hello from 30,000 feet above somewhere in Tennessee. We’re visiting Phoenix to watch our Clemson Tigers play in the college football national championships against Alabama. I’m nervous to write anything about the game because this post will live in internet eternity, so no predictions or trash talk from me! Plus, I don’t want to jinx anything, because you know, how well Clemson plays is totally reliant on what some random 31-year-old nutrition grad says ;)

Instead, let’s talk bulgogi, which I don’t think will have any trickle down effects on the championship game. At least I hope not…

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Bulgogi is a Korean barbecue dish, made from thin strips of beef marinated in a mix of soy, brown sugar, sesame oil, Asian pear and gochujang (aka Korean ketchup). Living in the South, there’s passionate debate over where to find the best barbecue. Is it our local mustard based sauce? (Probably). Or is it the thick, sweet ketchup based sauce? (No). Some think it’s the simple vinegar and chili mixture used in North Carolina. (Maybe). We can all agree it’s not that weird mayo based barbecue sauce those crazy people in Alabama like so much. (Okay, maybe a little bit of trash talk ;) )

I might not be let back into South Carolina on Wednesday, but frankly, I think the debate is rather silly, because Asian barbecue wins hands down. Bulgogi is the perfect example with it’s sweet and spicy, complex blend of flavors. South Korea > South Carolina when it comes to barbecue. I am so sorry guys, but it’s the truth. If any of my Columbia friends are mad at me, go eat dinner at Arirang and then tell me how you feel.

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Now, this dish definitely isn’t traditional, but it’s simplified, fun to eat, and still really really tasty. I found this recipe for bulgogi chicken meatballs on Goop that was calling my name. After more meat eating than normal with our recent travels and the holidays, I decided to take a stab at a vegetarian version (p.s. you can make these vegan too!). I remembered my spicy tofu burger from a few years back and realized it would make the perfect base. I actually think I like using this mix in ‘meatball’ form instead of a burger, because you get more crispy crust.

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I served these as lettuce wraps with brown rice, shredded carrots, cucumber, and kimchi, which I forgot to photograph in the rush to catch the last minutes of daylight. Oh my food bloggers readers, you know the joys of winter! If you have some cilantro or basil on hand, I’d throw out a bowl of it too. You could also swap brown rice noodles, or even quinoa. To make these vegan, use chia eggs - 1 tablespoon ground chia with 3 tablespoons water.

Bulgogi Tofu Meatball Lettuce Wraps

Serves 4

Ingredients

Bulgogi Tofu Meatballs:

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 16 ounces extra-firm tofu, pressed
  • 1/2 cup whole grain panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang or sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt

Glaze: 

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons gochujang
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Lettuce Wraps: 

  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 head butter lettuce
  • 1 cucumber, julienned or spiralized
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • Kimchi, for serving
  • Sriracha, for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a food processed, blend cashews until finely chopped. Add remaining meatball ingredients, blend until combined, scraping down sides as needed.
  3. Spray a baking sheet lightly with oil. Form small golf ball sized meatballs with the tofu mixture. Mix should make about 20. Spray tops lightly with oil. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes until golden, flipping halfway.
  4. While tofu balls are baking, make glaze. Mix soy sauce, brown sugar, gochujang and sesame oil in a small pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes.
  5. Drizzle or brush glaze over meatballs. Mix brown rice with scallions and sesame seeds. Serve with lettuce cups, brown rice, cucumber, carrots and kimchi.

Crispy Kale, Black Rice and Coconut Salad

Crispy kale, black rice and coconut salad is a healthy, fiber packed lunch, perfect for topping with seared tofu or roasted salmon. 

Did you happen to catch that article circulating facebook claiming kale is a "silent killer"? I know. Insert eye-rolling emoji.

When I saw it posted on my feed, I immediately dismissed it because, well, duh. Kale is kale. A few days later, I saw the rebuttal, which of course I clicked on. Gotta love a good science takedown! Basically, the research behind the whole 'kale is toxic' claim is flimsy at best, but more accurately, nonexistent. Read it yourself. How such horrific science was spun in a fairly reputable media source will definitely make you look at nutrition headlines differently.

Rest assured, kale is perfectly nutritious, and while theoretically, any food can be dangerous if consumed in excessive quantities, that's pretty low on my list of concerns. So go ahead, throw some kale leaves in your smoothie, saute it, whip up a big ole' kale salad. You'll be eating one of the most nutrient dense foods out there, and you may even feel happier for it! Thats right, because kale is a Good Mood Food!

Kale certainly has a cultish following among the health conscious and food lovers in general. It can be a bit much, but I must say, the reputation is deserved. Kale tops the charts when it comes to nutrient density. As one of the most nutrient dense foods, kale is rich is brain boosting nutrients!

MAGNESIUM // A deficiency in magnesium has been linked to anxiety, depression, ADHD and fatigue. Unfortunately, almost 70% of Americans don't eat enough magnesium. Magnesiums role in psychiatric conditions isn't well understood, partly because magnesium has so many complex roles in the brain - regulating neuronal function, optimizing thyroid function (an underactive thyroid can cause depression), reducing inflammation, as a precursor to neurotransmitters...I could go on. Or you could go eat some kale, which contains a hefty dose of magnesium and is one of the greens lowest in oxalates, a compound in many green leafy vegetables that can interfere with magnesium absorption.

CALCIUM // Calcium does more than build healthy bones! Calcium plays many roles in the regulation of neurotransmitters and the electrical impulses in our brain. There are many plant based sources of calcium, including leafy greens. A serving contains 9% your daily needs.

VITAMIN A & VITAMIN K // Two of those fabulous fat soluble vitamins we were missing out by following the low fat craze of the 90s. Vitamin A plays a role in creating the enzymes that make neurotransmitters while vitamin K makes fats called sphingolipids that make the structure of our brain. A serving of kale contains 200% daily needs of vitamin A and a whopping 600%+ daily needs for vitamin K.

I'm a huge fan of eating kale in salad form. The sturdy kale leaves won't wilt so you can whip up a kale salad that will last all week, dressed and all. To tenderize the leaves so I don't spend my entire lunch break chewing, I massage the dressing in. It can get a little messy and as much as I love to play with food, it's one task I'm happy to skip.

When I first tried this salad from Super Natural Everyday I fell in love, not just with the salad itself, but the ingenious method for softening kale leaves by roasting them with a flavorful dressing. Straight out of the oven, some of the kale leaves are nicely wilted while others get crispy. Basically, it's a kale chip salad. I know! And although you lose the crispiness with leftovers, it's still pretty fantastic.

To boost the brain power, I served this with salmon roasted in sesame oil, soy sauce and spritzed with a little lemon juice, but feel free to make it vegan with baked cubes of tofu or even extra hemp hearts, which are high in protein. You could also swap the black rice for more readily available brown rice, or other whole grains like farro, quinoa, or bulgur.

Crispy Kale, Black Rice and Coconut Salad

Serves 4-6

Adapted from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson, one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup black rice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Couple pinches cayenne
  • 2 10-ounce bags of chopped kale or two bunches, chopped
  • 3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Instructions

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil with black rice. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 50-60 minutes until rice is tender and water is absorbed.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, sesame, soy sauce, garlic and cayenne.
  3. Spread chopped kale evenly across two large baking sheets. Toss with coconut. Drizzle with about 3/4ths of the dressing. Place in the oven and bake 12-18 minutes until the coconut is golden and the leaves are slightly crispy around the edges. You may need to swap the pans positions in the oven (from upper to lower rack and visa versa) halfway through cooking.
  4. Remove kale from the oven and transfer to a large bowl. Add black rice, remaining dressing and toss to combine. Serve warm. Leftovers can be enjoyed cool or reheated slightly.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Pesto Brown Rice

Y'all. I am exhausted.

I hate to complain, but also, I'm so tired right now, I honestly can't think of anything else to talk about. Not even these incredible stuffed tomatoes that essentially taste like summer in a casserole dish. Well, except for that last sentence. After that, I'm out.

I haven't been staying up late, feeling stressed or working more hours than usual. I just for the life of me can't get a good, restful night of sleep!

Do any of you have a jawbone? I use it to track my workouts and steps, but mostly, I'm fascinated to see how long and how deep I sleep. Every morning, as soon as my alarm goes off, I plug it in so I can see how long and how deep I slept. I call it my sleep porn, because whenever I have an especially good night, I'd let out an deep "ohhhh yeaaaah." These things are exciting when you're 30+.

My husband thinks I'm ridiculous, judging my tiredness off my jawbone and not how I feel. His theory is that I'm getting enough sleep, but moving more at night, causing my jawbone to interpret it as light sleep. He thinks my tiredness is all psychosomatic. Is this kind of the sleep equivalent of when you focus on the scale versus how you feel?

That said, it's probably a good idea that I turn off the computer, do some light yoga, and snuggle up in bed.

Oh, and these stuffed tomatoes are awesome! Do it! Feel free to swap any whole grain you like - quinoa, millet, couscous or farro would all be great! I threw a few pattypan squash in there as well since we had some from our CSA. You could do this with zucchini too, although it might take a little bit longer to bake. Just check it with doneness after 45 minutes by poking it with a fork.

Brown Rice and Pesto Stuffed Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 cup brown rice

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 12 tomatoes

  • 1/4 cup pesto

  • 1/4 cup basil, slivered

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

  • 2 cups jarred tomato sauce

  • 3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Instructions

  1. In a medium pot with a tight fitting lid, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stir, then pour in 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook 40-50 minutes until tender.

  2. While rice is cooking, cut the tops off the tomatoes. Scoop out the insides. Cut a sliver of tomato off the bottom so they stand up straight in the casserole dish.

  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  4. When the water has absorbed and the rice is tender, let sit covered in the pot, off heat, 5 minutes. Remove the lid and let cool slightly, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the pesto, basil and chickpeas. Season with salt and black pepper if needed.

  5. Spread 2 cups tomato sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish. Place tomatoes evenly over the sauce. Divide the rice mixture between the tomatoes, stuffing down into each one. Crumble the goat cheese over each tomato. Bake 35-45 minutes until tomatoes are tender.


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Quinoa Crusted Eggplant and Zucchini
Quinoa Crusted Eggplant and Zucchini
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Chermoula Roasted Eggplant with Bulgur Salad
Chermoula Roasted Eggplant with Bulgur Salad

Fried Black Rice with Bok Choy

Fried black rice with bok choy is a quick, easy and nutritious meal, packed with whole grains and seasonal vegetables.

Last year, I wrote this article for Pure Barre's blog, outlining my strategy for weekend meal prep. You can read it yourself, but here's my basic gameplan:

  1. Cut and roast veggies
  2. Cook a big batch of grains and/or beans
  3. Make a soup, stew, chili, or some other batch meal I can reheat on the days I don't feel like cooking
  4. Prepare a grab and go breakfast
  5. Portion out grab and go snacks

I aim to do at least three of these things each Sunday. It doesn't always happen, but even if I cross just one item off the list, it makes a huge difference in simplifying and streamlining my week. Ever since I got an electric pressure cooker last year, which cooks grains in 15 minutes and beans in 30, there's no excuse not to whip up a batch to last all week.

You'll find a million things to do with a big batch of cooked whole grains. Pour in almond milk, honey and fresh fruit for breakfast. Whip up a grain bowl with leftovers and random bits hanging around the fridge. Toss in olive oil and fresh herbs for a simple side dish. But who am I kidding? 99.9% of the time I make fried rice.

I have endless love for fried rice. From the authentic versions at my favorite restaurants to the uber-greasy Panda Express at the mall version, I love it all!

It couldn't be easier to make homemade fried rice. I rarely follow a recipe, but for the sake of sharing, I wrote down this one today. Basically I saute onion, garlic a seasonal vegetable in oil, usually olive or sesame, add cold cooked brown rice or some other whole grain, then scramble in an egg. It's as easy as that! Just be sure to use cold rice, otherwise it will get mushy.

For this recipe, I used black rice, also called forbidden rice. It's black when raw, and a dark purple-ish color when cooked. It's hue comes from anthocyanins, the same type of antioxidant that gives blueberries, blackberries and other purple fruits & veg their color. Anthocyanins have been shown to protect against diabetes, cancer and heart disease. And actually, black rice has almost as much anthocyanin as blueberries and blackberries! You can purchase it online or at most health food stores and well stocked grocery stores, where it's often sold in bulk.

Fried Black Rice with Bok Choy

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup black rice, cooked then cooled
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb bok choy, chopped
  • Chili flakes (not sure how much because this happened)
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup peanuts, toasted 

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large sided skillet on medium high heat. Add onion, carrots and garlic and saute 5 minutes until translucent. Add bok choy and chili flakes, saute until stems are tender and leaves are wilted. Stir in rice, let sit for a minute to crisp, then toss. Repeat until rice is slightly crispy, about 10 minutes total.
  2. Add scallions and soy sauce and toss to combine. Remove rice to a serving bowl.
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add sesame oil to the empty skillet. Pour in beaten egg. Scramble egg by pushing in sides towards the center until cooked through, then break apart with a spatula. Stir eggs into the rice. Serve garnished with peanuts.

Brown Rice Bowl With Five Spice Tempeh and Garlicky Greens

This brown rice bowl with five spice tempeh, garlicky greens, edamame hummus and pea shoots comes together in less than five minutes when the ingredients are prepped in advance. 

This weekend, I taught two nutrition classes, both focused on making healthy eating easy with meal prep and planning. So naturally, I spent quite a bit of time praising my favorite quick meal - the grain bowl.

Have you hopped on the grain bowl train yet? I wrote an in depth post on it a few months ago, sharing my formula for a perfect grain bowl, but basically it's a hearty salad with whole grains as it's base. Endlessly adaptable, it's a perfect way to use up random leftovers and vegetables hanging around the fridge. It's filling, nutritious, portable, fun to eat...basically it's perfect.

Free idea for any aspiring food bloggers: I think there should be an entire blog devoted to grain bowls. Will someone please do that? If you do, I promise to subscribe and share every post and also love you forever.

I've made a gazillion grain bowls (no exaggeration). Most aren't exactly a recipe, but rather a bunch of random stuff piled on some grains. It's always delicious, but not exactly blog worthy in the looks department. So when I made this picture perfect grain bowl last month, I knew I had to add it to the queue.

With all the ingredients precooked, this took just 5 minutes to throw together. And the prep was hardly intensive either. I cooked brown rice in the pressure cooker (2 minutes hands on time), sauteed baby bok choy and spinach (10 minutes, doing the dishes as it cooked), and baked tempeh (5 minutes hands on). Not too shabby.

A shout out to the star of this dish - the edamame hummus. Big thanks to Eat Well, Embrace Life for the special delivery. I was kind of skeptical, but it actually turned out to be my favorite flavor. If you can't find edamame hummus, simply swap in avocado slices or a drizzle of sesame oil for healthy fat.

Brown Rice Bowl with Five Spice Tempeh and Garlicky Greens

Serves 4

If you can't find edamame hummus, swap in sliced avocado. For a spicier version, use kim chi instead of fermented kraut.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces tempeh
  • 1 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb baby bok choy, sliced
  • 6 ounce bag baby spinach
  • 3 cups cooked and cooled brown rice
  • 1/2 cup edamame hummus
  • 1/2 cup fermented sauerkraut
  • Pea shoots, microgreens or sprouts
  • Chili oil, for serving
  • Fermented soy sauce, for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut tempeh into 16 slices widthwise. Place on a oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle with half the five spice powder, salt and pepper. Flip and season the other side. Spray with olive oil. Place in the oven and bake 15 minutes. Flip, then bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven, set aside and cool.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic, cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add bok choy, saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
  4. Place 3/4 cup brown rice in a bowl. Place 4 slices of tempeh, 1/4th of the vegetables, 2 tablespoons of hummus, 2 tablespoons of sauerkraut, and a handful of pea shoots in piles over the brown rice.
  5. Drizzle with chili oil and soy sauce to serve.

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Build a Perfect Grain Bowl
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Buddha Bowl with Marinated Tofu, Kimchi, and Spinach
Buddha Bowl with Marinated Tofu, Kimchi, and Spinach

Kimchi Fried Rice

Learn about the benefits of fermented food and get the recipe for this kimchi fried brown rice with bacon. 

Kimchi and Bacon Fried Brown Rice

I have a pretty rad stepmom. I credit her with introducing me to some life changing stuff - clothes that aren't oversized horse t-shirts, Meg Ryan movies, and pierced ears. Perhaps most importantly though, she introduced me to authentic Korean food and the amazingness that is kimchi.

If you're new to kimchi, I should probably warn you it's one of those love/hate kinda things. Kimchi is the Korean national dish. It is made by fermenting salted cabbage in a spicy sauce of Korean chili powder, fish sauce, garlic, ginger and other spices. During the fermentation process, bacteria break down sugar and starch, converting it to lactic acid. The process can range from a couple of days to months. If I remember the episode of No Reservations correctly (and given my love of Anthony Bourdain, I probably do), in Korea, kimchi is fermented in clay pots buried underground for up to a year. The result is spicy and sour, with some crisp pieces and others wilty.  I love the extra wilted bits, which my stepmom and I call old kimchi.

If you've never tried kimchi, my description probably isn't selling you on it.

Healthy kimchi fried rice

Would it help if I told you fermentation is, like, really hot right now? Fermented foods were on just about every list of top food trends for 2014. The popularity of the paleo diet has prompted a resurgence of this ancient method of preservation. Once relegated to health food stores, foods like kefir, kombucha and tempeh are now be found in most grocery stores.

I kind of love this trend, not just because kimchi doesn't require a special trip to an Asian market, but because fermented food has some amazing health benefits that more people are getting to experience. Fermented foods are a rich source of probiotics. The bacteria in fermented foods produces vitamin K2, a form of the vitamin that seems to be particularly beneficial for bone health, cardiovascular health and prostate cancer prevention. The fermentation process also increases the concentration of omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins in foods.

Korean Kimchi Fried Brown Rice with Bacon

Other fermented foods to include:

And of course, kimchi! I often eat it by itself as a snack, but it's even better worked into traditional Korean dishes, like kimchi jigae (kimchi stew), kimchijeon (kimchi pancake), mandu (kimchi dumplings), or in this kimchi fried rice.

Kimchi Fried Rice

Serves 4

You can find kimchi at most grocery stores now. I buy mine at Earth Fare or Trader Joes. If you're having a hard time finding it, check an Asian food market. Also, make sure you cook the rice the day before so you can stir fry it cold, otherwise the warm rice will get mushy as it cooks. Adapted from Orangette.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 head of napa cabbage, shredded
  • 2 cups kimchi, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 4 eggs
  • Toasted sesame seeds, for serving
  • Chopped green onions, for serving
  • Sriracha, for serving

Instructions

  1. Place brown rice and 1 1/2 cups of water in a small pot. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 40-50 minutes until water is absorbed. Let sit 5 minutes, then remove lid and fluff. Let cool slightly and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Place the bacon in a large skillet and set to medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is cooked, but not crisp, and fat is rendered. Add the cabbage and cook 4-5 minutes, until lightly browned and wilted, then add kimchi and cook 2 minutes to warm through. Add brown rice and cook, stirring every so often, until crispy, about 5-7 minutes total.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil in a medium skillet. Add the egg and fry until the whites are set and the yolk is runny, flipping for a minute before serving.
  4. Divide the rice between four plates. Top with a fried egg, sesame seeds, green onions and sriracha

Broccoli, Chickpea and Brown Rice Bowl with Mustard-Soy Dressing

Broccoli, Chickpea and Brown Rice Bowl with Mustard-Soy Dressing

Make this easy roasted broccoli, brown rice and chickpea bowl, drizzled with a quick soy-mustard sauce! It's an easy make ahead lunch you can keep in your fridge for a grab and go meal. Perfect way to use up leftover brown rice or roasted veggies. Add more protein with chicken or baked tofu/tempeh! One of my favorite simple meals! 

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Hazelnut and Cremini Loaf

You won't miss the meat in this vegetarian and gluten free hazlenut and cremini loaf, packed with flavor from sauteed veggies, herbs and a rich vegan gravy. 

This vegetarian hazelnut and cremini loaf is the kind of vegetarian comfort food I love! If you like meatloaves, you'll love this version made from grains and nutty hazelnuts. It kinda tastes like Thanksgiving stuffing to me, but in loaf form. If I were you, I might serve this as a vegetarian main on Thanksgiving if you're meatless. 

Hazelnut and Cremini Loaf

Serves 4-6

We served this with blanched green beans tossed with a lemon - dijon dressing sweetened with a bit of honey. Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium to large leeks, white and light green parts sliced
  • 1 tsp thyme, minced
  • 1 tsp rosemary, minced
  • 4 eggs, preferably pastured eggs
  • 1/2 cup organic milk, unsweetened plain soy milk or almond milk
  • 1/2 cup brown rice, boiled and cooled (yields about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Vegan Onion Gravy: 

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large loaf pan with olive oil or line with parchment paper.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan on medium heat. Add the mushrooms, leeks, and garlic. Stir. Add thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring every so often, until the mushrooms have released and reabsorbed their liquid. Remove from heat and let cool about 10 minutes.
  3. Mix eggs, milk, nutmeg, zest, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Stir in brown rice. Stir in the cooked nut and vegetable mixture. Pour this mixture into the loaf pan and bake about 45 minutes.
  4. Once cooked through, remove loaf from the oven and let cool about 10-15 minutes before slicing. Since the loaf is chunky, cut it into thick slices, otherwise it will fall apart.
  5. While loaf is baking, make the gravy. Heat olive oil in a small pot on medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add flour and stir to coat. Cook a couple minutes to take the raw edge off. Add soy sauce and stir to deglaze. Slowly pour in broth while whisking. Continue to whisk away all the clumps. Stir in nutritional yeast. Cook until thickened, 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Crunchy Lentil and Brown Rice Salad with Honey-Citrus Tahini Dressing

Crunchy Lentil and Brown Rice Salad with Honey-Citrus Tahini Dressing

This crunchy lentil and brown rice salad features my absolute favorite salad dressing! The honey-citrus tahini dressing is slightly sweet with a tart lemon kick and creamy texture! Make this salad with any of your favorite crunchy vegetables. This recipe features radish, celery, and red onion. 

Read More