Dark Chocolate, Coconut and Almond Granola

Dark Chocolate, Coconut and Almond Granola

This dark chocolate, coconut and almond granola is the BEST granola for snacking! Or, enjoy it with milk or yogurt for a satisfying breakfast. Made with mashed bananas and maple syrup, it’s lower in sugar but still plenty sweet. With chunks of dark chocolate, roughly chopped almonds, quinoa and big clusters, it’s got tons of crunch too!

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Harissa Roasted Butternut, Cauliflower and Chickpea Bowl

Harissa Roasted Butternut, Cauliflower and Chickpea Bowl

If you love sweet and spicy, make this harissa roasted butternut, cauliflower and chickpea bowl immediately! It's really simple to throw together. Just roast fall vegetables and chickpeas in a glaze of harissa paste and pure maple syrup and serve over quinoa with feta, pomegranate and herbs for garnish. A totally nourishing vegetarian meal for winter or fall! 

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Spicy Quinoa and Black Bean Breakfast Tacos + Total Eclipse Weekend Highlights

Spicy Quinoa and Black Bean Breakfast Tacos + Total Eclipse Weekend Highlights

Start your day with a protein packed breakfast! These vegetarian spicy quinoa and black bean tacos make a filling savory breakfast, or enjoy leftovers for lunch or dinner! The spicy mixture takes just minutes, then load up the taco with your favorite fillings - avocado, cilantro, grilled corn and juicy tomatoes! 

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Dukkah Quinoa Bowl with Roasted Cauliflower and Sweet Potatoes

Dukkah Quinoa Bowl with Roasted Cauliflower and Sweet Potatoes

This dukkah bowl y'all. Packed with fiber and flavor, this dukkah quinoa bowl with roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower is so tasty. Top a bowl of quinoa and roasted veggies with an easy homemade almond dukkah. Use the rest in hummus, over veggies or as a crust for chicken or fish. 

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Creamy Carrot Soup with Red Curry

This simple creamy carrot soup with red curry is packed with deep flavor and spice. Enjoy on it's own as an appetizer or garnished with avocado and quinoa for a balanced meal. 

When I was in second grade, I received some devastating news.

I learned I needed glasses.

Yes, I was to be a four eyes, a pretty difficult pill to swallow for the new kid who was already pretty, well, awkward. But don't worry guys, I had a plan. Because rumor had it carrots give you perfect vision. So, I basically went a carrot bender.

As an FYI for anyone thinking of doing the same, apparently no amount of carrots can cure a -10.5 prescription. So while I'm still blind as a bat without my contacts, I can thank carrots for making me the genius I am today (kidding!). Or at least, maybe helping me score a few points higher on my spelling test! That's because carrots are packed with nutrients that nourish the brain.

Most notably, 1 cup of carrots contains over 100% daily needs of vitamin A. The hippocampus, part of the brain that's responsible for creating new brain cells (neurogenesis), is loaded with receptors for vitamin A. There's good evidence that vitamin A plays a big role in neurogenesis, which some think plays a preventative role in depression. Studies have linked lower levels of carotenoids, the precursor to vitamin A, with depression.

Carrots are also a rich source of a compound called luteolin, a flavonoid, which has been shown to prevent age related cognitive decline and inflammation in the brain. The same compound has been studied for anti-cancer benefits as well.

Because vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, it's best to enjoy carrots with fat. Preferably fats that also have mood boosting benefits of their own, like extra virgin olive oil, avocado and coconut milk! This rich and creamy soup uses all three for flavor and creamy, sumptuous texture. Serve it with a scoop of protein and fiber rich quinoa for a well rounded meal.

Creamy Carrot Coconut Soup with Red Curry

Serves: About 6

Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 10 medium carrots, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1 avocado, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • Chopped almonds, toasted
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender, about 4 minutes. Add curry paste and turmeric and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots and tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Add enough water to cover, salt and black pepper, cover and let simmer 15-20 minutes until carrots are tender.
  2. Using an immersion blender, carefully puree soup. Stir in coconut milk and adjust seasoning to taste.
  3. Divide between bowls. Garnish with a scoop of cooked quinoa, avocado slices, almonds, cilantro and a drizzle of olive oil.

More recipes featuring carrots: 

Gluten Free Carrot Pecan Muffins
Gluten Free Carrot Pecan Muffins
Fermented Carrot Pickles
Fermented Carrot Pickles
Chipotle Roasted Carrots with Orange
Chipotle Roasted Carrots with Orange

Asian Tempeh-Quinoa Salad with Wild Greens

Have a tasty, protein packed salad on the table in less than 20 minutes with this Asian tempeh-quinoa salad with wild greens, made with a Eat Smart Gourmet Vegetable Salad Kit as a shortcut!

Convenience food gets a bad rep. But with full lives that seem to pull us in five directions all at once, all of which are far from the kitchen, a little convenience is sometimes what we need!

That's why I'm excited to be partnering with Eat Smart to highlight their new Eat Smart Gourmet Vegetable Salad Kits! These chef inspired salad kits are packed with the most nutritious dark greens like kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts and all the toppings you need to create a tasty gourmet salad. The flavor combinations are innovative and the dressings are really delicious (and this is coming from a HUGE dressing snob!).

Eat Smart Gourmet Vegetable Salad Kits are such a huge timesaver. As is, they make a great side dish. Or if you want to bulk it up to make a main, just add your choice of protein or carb. It doesn't have to be anything time consuming - 90 second brown rice, chopped fruit or roasted sweet potatoes from the deli would be a great way to add carbs, and you could add canned tuna/salmon, a hard boiled egg or even a frozen veggie burger for protein. Plus, because the salads are all made with hearty greens, you can pack and dress your salads the day ahead and they won't wilt. Yay for leftovers!

With all the time you're saving in the kitchen, I encourage you to sit down and slow down and enjoy your meal with family. I don't think I've mentioned it on the blog yet (way to drop the ball, Rach...), but this month is National Nutrition Month, a month-long nutrition education campaign by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. This years theme is "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right." I'm actually pretty excited about it. In all the talk of what to eat, one thing that's lost is how to eat. That's where savoring comes in, the act of mindfully noticing and appreciating the flavors and textures of your food and enjoying the company you're with.

These Eat Right Gourmet Salad Vegetable kits definitely made it easy to savor. As part of this campaign, we were sent a sampler with all seven kits, which we used all week to create delicious, homecooked meals with fresh ingredients. Every night we had dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes, leaving more time to savor our masterpiece!

Asian Tempeh-Quinoa Salad is a protein packed topping for your Eat Smart Salad Kit!

Another one of my timesaving tricks is cooking a batch of some type of protein food to have on hand for quick meals throughout the week. One of my favorites is this Asian inspired tempeh and quinoa salad. It's perfect as a salad topper or as a snack with brown rice crackers. I've even stuffed it into an avocado to serve over greens! I served it over the Wild Greens and Quinoa Salad Kit, which comes with crispy quinoa, feta, almonds, and avocado herb dressing, but it would also work well over any of the others (except maybe the Southwest!).

Be sure to sign up for the Eat Smart eblast for exclusive offers and like them on facebook for more recipe ideas that make healthy easy!


Asian Tempeh-Quinoa Salad with Wild Greens

Serves 2

Makes leftover tempeh-quinoa salad, which could be served over another Eat Smart Gourmet Vegetable Salad Kit or with brown rice crackers and veggies as a snack.

Ingredients

Asian Tempeh-Quinoa Salad:

  • 8 ounces tempeh, crumbled
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Salad:

  • 1 Eat Smart Wild Greens and Quinoa Gourmet Salad Kit
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Place quinoa in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add remaining tempeh-quinoa salad ingredients and pulse until well combined.
  2. In a large salad bowl, pour wild greens out of the bag. Add salad toppings and drizzle with dressing. Toss to combine. Divide salad between 2 bowls. Top with bell pepper, sliced avocado, radish and a scoop of tempeh-quinoa salad.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Endlessly Adaptable Energy Bars

Packed with healthy fats and whole grains, these endlessly adaptable energy bars make a filling grab and go snack or light breakfast! Sweetened with just a hint of maple syrup. 

When have you ever felt truly satiated or nourished from an energy bar? Back when I was in college, I lived off cookie dough flavored Slim Fast bars for breakfast. At the time, I thought of it as a 'healthy' way to have cookie dough for breakfast. My diet food-philic taste buds actually believed they tasted like real cookie dough. They do not. If only I paid attention to how they made my body feel...and how hungry I was before my second class!

I get the convenience of energy bars, I really do. There are even a few brands that taste good and are pretty satisfying - because I know you'll ask, I like Lara BarsKIND bars and Health Warrior Chia Bars.

Mostly, I make my own. It's cheaper, you have control over the ingredients, and it tastes a whole lot better. And you know what? Homemade bars are actually filling! Like, I could eat one of these for breakfast and okay, I would be hungry for a snack by 10 am, but I'm always hungry for a snack then.

As with most of my cooking, I take a 'throw in a bunch of crap I have laying around and hope it comes out' approach. This recipe is endlessly adaptable based on whatever staples you have on hand. It's a great way to use up extra grains, dried fruit and nuts you have on hand.

Endlessly Adaptable Energy Bars

Makes 12

For the pictured recipe, I used quinoa, a mixture of sunflower seeds, walnuts and pecans, honey, and dried plums.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats, old fashioned oats or quick cook steel cut oats (the latter will yield a crunchier, but slightly harder to cut bar)
  • 1 cup quinoa, millet, oats, teff or amaranth
  • 1 cup chopped nuts of choice, or a mixture
  • 1/2 cup chopped unsweetened dried fruit
  • 1/3 cup honey or pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup nut butter of choice
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, olive oil, peanut oil or avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place oats, grains, and nuts in a large skillet on medium heat. Cook, stirring every so often, until they smell toasty. Remove from heat and carefully pour into a large bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, combine honey/syrup, nut butter, oil, vanilla extract and salt in a small pot on medium heat. Cook, stirring to whisk, until melted and well combined. Pour over the oat mixture and stir to combine.
  4. Line a rectangle baking dish with aluminum foil or parchment paper so that some is coming out from the edges. This makes it easier to remove the bars after cooking. Pour the oat mixture in to the baking dish and press down to even out the top. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until browned around the edges. Remove and set aside to cool.
  5. Once at room temperature, place it in the fridge to chill, which makes it easier to cut. Once cold, cut into bars and store in the fridge until ready to eat.

More energy bars: 

Almond Trail Mix Cookies
Almond Trail Mix Cookies
Chocolate Hazelnut Chia Bars
Chocolate Hazelnut Chia Bars
Quinoa Tahini Bar
Quinoa Tahini Bar

How To Make A Mason Jar Salad

Learn how to make a mason jar salad that will stay fresh for five days. Plus recipes for watermelon feta salad, spring quinoa salad with lemon-mint dressing and peach and arugula salad! 

I’m a sucker for cute food packaging. Maybe that’s subconsciously why I married a packaging engineer. Yes, that’s a real job. No, he is not responsible for those impossible plastic containers you need a chainsaw to hack into (a rigid plastic clamshell in case you were wondering).

He’s invented some pretty neat packages. But to me, I think they’re significantly lacking in the cute department. So I’m constantly sending him pictures and ideas, to which he reminds me that a food package should not only be adorable, but also functional. What fun is that?

Enter the mason jar. Now, I can’t claim that I invented it, but it is cute and it is also functional, especially when it comes to packing salads.

The mason jar’s tall, narrow build allows you to build an entire composed salad, dressing and all, without the dreaded wilt. By using a layer of sturdy vegetables to separate delicate greens and dressing, you can create a salad that will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 5 days. As long as you don’t accidentally tip it over, the greens will be fresh and crisp. Sunday food prep anyone?

It's not rocket science, but there are a few things to know. Here's how to compose the perfect mason jar salad, one that's filling, tasty and will last!

STEP 1 // Get your hands on a clean, wide mouthed mason jar. For a main dish salad, look for a quart jar. For a side salad, use a pint jar.

STEP 2 // Spoon 1-3 tablespoons of salad dressing in the bottom of the jar.

STEP 3 // Add any hard, chopped vegetables to the jar. This will act as a barrier for the dressing and greens or other soft, absorbable ingredients. Carrots, radishes, whole cherry tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, snap peas, celery, and cucumbers are all good choices. If I’m using an ingredient that tends to brown, like avocados or sliced apples, I also like to add this to the bottom with an acidic dressing, which prevents it from browning.

STEP 4 // Add any softer, more absorbable vegetables and fruit, like berries, peaches, chopped tomatoes or roasted vegetables. You could also add any salty ingredients, like pickled vegetables or olives here.

STEP 5 // To make a more substantial salad, be sure to include a high fiber, unprocessed carb. Cooked quinoa, whole grain pasta, peas, beans, roasted sweet potato cubes, and brown rice are all nice choices. Layered on top of the vegetables, this will complete the barrier.

STEP 6 // If using nuts or seeds, add them now.

STEP 7 // Top with greens, like chopped kale, arugula, spring greens or romaine. Make sure the greens are tightly packed, which helps keep it fresh by minimizing the circulating air and keeping everything secure.

STEP 8 // Add proteins like cheese, diced cooked chicken, hard boiled egg or cubed tofu/tempeh on top. I add these no more than a day or two in advance.

STEP 9 // Enjoy! To eat your salad, pour out the ingredients on to a plate or bowl. This generally mixes the ingredients pretty well. You could try to eat it out of the mason jar, but it’ll be tricky to get a bite with everything on it.

One other tip: If you’re not using any sturdy vegetables, like in my peach and arugula salad, just pack the dressing separately in a condiment cup or in a snack sized zip top bag on top of your salad.

To get you started on mason jar salads, here are three of my favorite seasonal mason jar salads. The peach and arugula salad isn’t new - I shared it last year so head over to that post for the recipe. With our recent heat wave, all I've been craving are salads topped with chilled seasonal fruit! This peach salad is probably my favorite way to enjoy perfect South Carolina peaches!

Spring Quinoa Salad with Mint-Lemon Dressing

Makes 4

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Salad:

  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup peas, blanched from fresh or defrosted from frozen
  • 2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa, from 2/3 cup dry
  • Spring greens
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta

Instructions

  1. To make the dressing, blend the ingredients together in a blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Divide the dressing between four quart-sized mason jars. Add radishes, peas then quinoa, pressing down to pack lightly. Top with spring greens to the top of the jar. Sprinkle feta over the top and seal.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Makes 6

This mason jar salad is perfect as a snack!

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Salad: 

  • 1 seedless cucumber, chopped
  • Watermelon, cubed
  • Basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta

Instructions

  1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the dressing between six pint-sized mason jars. Top with cucumber, watermelon, basil leaves and feta. Seal and refrigerate until ready to eat.

These salads are perfect for packing in a mason jar: 

Kale Tortilla with Jalapeno-Lime Dressing
Kale Tortilla with Jalapeno-Lime Dressing
Tropical Salad with Spicy Mango Dressing
Tropical Salad with Spicy Mango Dressing
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Ambrosia Apples & Tempeh Bacon
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Ambrosia Apples & Tempeh Bacon

Multigrain Vegan Blueberry Breakfast Bake

This multigrain vegan blueberry breakfast bake has no refined sugar and takes only 10 minutes hands on time to make. It's a great way to use up the random whole grains you have on hand!

Mornings just ain't my thing. Breakfast however, is absolutely my thing, and one of my favorite things at that. I'm always on the lookout for great recipes for make in advance breakfasts that I can simply heat and eat in the morning. When I stumbled upon this recipe from fANNEtastic Food for a vegan quinoa bake that involves simply dumping ingredients in a casserole dish and baking, I knew I hit gold.

The original recipe calls for only quinoa, but I decided to make mine multigrain by using a few different types of whole grains. It adds a interesting texture and helps use up the random bits of leftover grains you might have from buying in bulk. I think you could use basically any intact whole grain that normally cooks in about 15-20 minutes in varying proportions. I used a mixture of quinoa, barley flakes (which are like oats) and kasha because that's what I had, but you could also swap in amaranth, buckwheat groats, freekeh, kaniwa, millet, oats or teff. There's a whole world of whole grains out there and this is the perfect recipe to experiment with them in!

Instead of using apples, I decided to use wild blueberries, one of my favorite brain boosting foods. Last week, I taught a class of elementary age kids at a local private school about how to "eat the rainbow." We talked about the health benefits of the different colors of produce and how blue/purple foods boost brain health and memory. One of the teachers emailed me this week and said a student stopped them in the hallway and said "I ate blue today. I bet my brain is smarter!" Y'all, that cracked me up and seriously made my day!

And you know what, his brain probably is smarter! Blue/purple foods, like blueberries, are a rich source of anthocyanins, a purple pigmented phytochemical in the flavonoid family. Anthocyanins improve memory and prevent age related decline in cognitive function by decreasing inflammation and improving blood flow in the brain. Deep purple wild blueberries, which are available frozen in most grocery stores, are even richer in anthocyanins than conventionally grown, which already pack a hefty dose.

I served this with leftover cashew cream from my paleo pumpkin pancakes, but feel free to use a scoop of plain Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey. This is also great topped with a sprinkle of toasted nuts or served cold with almond or coconut milk.

Vegan Multigrain Blueberry Breakfast Bake

8 servings

This recipe is a great way to use up leftover whole grains. Feel free to use any type that cooks in about 15-20 minutes - teff, amaranth, buckwheat groats, and millet would all work well. Serve warm with Greek yogurt, cashew creme and a drizzle of honey or cold with unsweetened almond or coconut milk. Adapted from fANNEtastic Food

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup barley flakes or rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup kasha or bulgur
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup chia
  • 1/3 cup hemp hearts
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, preferably wild
  • 3 1/2 cups unsweetened almond or coconut milk or organic milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together quinoa, barley flakes, kasha, coconut oil, chia, hemp, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt. Add in blueberries and toss to combine. Stir in milk.
  3. Pour into an oiled baking dish. I used a large cast iron skillet but you could use a rectangular baking dish. Dust the top with more cinnamon. Place in the oven and bake 45 minutes until liquid is absorbed and top is golden.

You might also like:

Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Cashew Creme
Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Cashew Creme
Toasted Coconut Oatmeal with Wild Blueberry Chia Jam
Toasted Coconut Oatmeal with Wild Blueberry Chia Jam
Baked Oatmeal with Raspberries and Bananas
Baked Oatmeal with Raspberries and Bananas

Smoky Chipotle Beet and Quinoa Burgers

Have I found the perfect veggie burger in this smoky chipotle beet and quinoa burger? Quinoa lends a meaty texture, shredded beets give it a beef-like appearance and chipotle chilies add smoke and heat. This hearty burger will have you asking 'where's the beet?' (<--pretty proud of that one)

Indiana Jones had the Holy Grail. Moulder had "the truth." Nemo's dad had Nemo. Me, I'm searching for the perfect veggie burger. And I think I may have found it in this smoky chipotle beet and quinoa burger.

Thanks to Recipe Redux to thank for the inspiration. This month's theme is all about using smoke and spice to flavor dishes. From actual smoking techniques to bold, smoky spices and condiments, it's definitely a trend this year.

This past weekend when I was in Nashville, I had a pretty incredible falafel veggie burger at Pharmacy Burger. It had a great smoky flavor from the spices, something that's often missing from other veggie burgers. That's when I decided to do a burger for this month's challenge. I also wanted to challenge myself to create a veggie burger that was as close to a beef burger as possible.

One of my tricks for getting a ground meat texture in vegetarian dishes is using quinoa, which adds protein as well. Shredded vegetables also add to the texture and keep the burger from drying out. To make it look more like a traditional beef burger, I used beets. Maybe a little too beef like - doesn't it look like beef tartar when you slice into it?

To make it smoky, I used canned chipotles in adobo sauce, an ingredient I always keep on hand to flavor chilies, roast vegetables or sauces. Chipotles are dried jalapenos. You can purchase them canned in the Mexican aisle, packed in adobo, a smoky, spicy sauce made with tomatoes, garlic and vinegar. Since most recipes only need one or two, I store extra in the freezer until ready to use. I used two in this recipe, but if you really like it spicy,try three.

If like me, you prefer foods extra-spicy, get excited because hot foods actually have health benefits. Bring on the sweat napkin!

Spicy foods increase metabolism. I wouldn't, oh I don't know, drown a hot dog and fries in hot sauce in an attempt to undo calories, but heat does have a modest effect. One study found a 10% increase in metabolism for a few hours after eating. Another study found spicy foods increase the amount of brown fat cells, the type of fat that actually burns calories.

Capsaicin, the substance in chilies that lends heat, is also a powerful phytochemical. Although it may burn your mouth, capsaicin is frequently used for pain relief, especially for arthritis pain. In fact, capsaicin cream is frequently used to treat arthritis. The same substance has been found to help lower bad LDL cholesterol and improve blood flow, thereby reducing the risk or heart disease and lowering blood pressure.

For more spicy, smoky creations, check out the link up below. Enjoy!

Smoky Chipotle Beet and Quinoa Burgers

Makes: 8 burgers

For a gluten free version, use a whole grain gluten free bun. If you don't love the flavor of beets, try substituting shredded zucchini or squash, or even using half and half. Instead of quinoa, you could also use brown rice, millet or bulgur.

Ingredients

Burgers:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 lb raw beets, peeled
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 chopped chipotles in adobo, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour, oat flour or other whole grain flour
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Other ingredients: 

  • 8 100% whole grain burger buns, toasted
  • Avocado or guacamole
  • Sliced red onion
  • Lettuce
  • Olive oil or vegan mayo
  • Dijon mustard
  • Pickles (fermented if possible)

Instructions

  1. Bring water and quinoa to a boil on medium heat. Cover and reduce heat to simmer 15-20 minutes until water is absorbed. Keep covered and let sit 5 minutes. Remove cover, fluff with a fork and set aside.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, shred the beets, carrots and onion with the large grates of a cheese grater or in a food processor. Toss the vegetables together in a large bowl. Add cilantro, soy sauce, chipotles, cumin and season with salt and pepper.Taste for seasoning and add more if needed.
  3. Add 4 eggs and combine. Stir in flour and combine until flour is incorporated.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Create 4 balls out of half the vegetable mixture. Drop into the skillet and press to flatten slightly. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes, then flip and cook about 5 minutes more. Remove from skillet and transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining mixture to make a total of 8 patties.
  5. Because it's difficult to cook veggie burgers all the way through without burning, I microwave mine 2-3 minutes to finish cooking and retain the crisp, browned exterior.
  6. Serve on a toasted bun with toppings and condiments as desired.

Mini Chocolate Quinoa Coconut Cupcakes

In the mood for a little chocolatey treat? These gluten free mini chocolate quinoa coconut cupcakes are perfect for snacking! 

One of my favorite parts about my last job working as the outpatient dietitian at a local hospital was getting to work with a lot of people who were very different than me, namely, lots of 60-70 year old men. Being in South Carolina, most had been raised in more rural, agricultural areas. I, on the other hand, grew up in Brooklyn. And of course, I am a 30 year old woman, not a middle aged male. But as a whole, I really enjoyed getting to create working relationships with people who I otherwise wouldn't meet. I found the key to doing that was finding something in common, which as I learned, you can do with anyone.

Of course, sometimes that was easier than with others. I remember one man in particular, who made it pretty clear early on in our appointment that he had absolutely no desire to be told what to eat, especially by "a scrawny little yankee." Gulp. This might be a long hour.

Mini Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes

Mini Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes

Never one to give up, as we discussed his eating habits, I desperately searched for any little thing I could use. When he mentioned he was an avid gardener and spent his summers canning food, I knew I found my in. Although I've killed every plant I've put in the ground and am way too scared of botulism to can my own food, I'm endlessly fascinated by these skills and uber-jealous of those who possess them. So, I enthusiastically told him that.

He squinted, looked me up and down, slowly reformulating his opinion of me and finally, he cracked a smile. I found my in!

Maybe I got a little too far in because for the next thirty minutes, he excitedly shared with me how he was using these skills to prepare for the upcoming apocalypse. Yup, he was a doomsday prepper. In the hour we spent together, I learned which MRE's taste best (apparently, vegetarian ones taste better), the importance of owning a gas mask and finally, the nutritional benefits of milling your own flour.

I took two things away from our conversation. First, as someone who lives in the city, doesn't know how to shoot a gun and refuses to leave her dogs behind, I'm basically screwed in any doomsday scenario.

Second, I realized I was actually kind of intrigued by the idea of grinding my own flour.

I ran back to my office, quickly did some research and found out that yes, there actually is a difference in store-bought and homemade flour. Although the whole grain flour you buy in the store is perfectly nutritious, because antioxidants and perishable oils in whole grains break down soon after milling, the fresher the flour is, the more nutrients it will contain. Since it's near impossible to know how long the flour in the grocery store has been sitting there, making it at home is a great way to ensure freshness.

But, despite my excitement, I realized it wasn't exactly a practical hobby and I quickly forgot about my brief flirtation with being a survivalist.

Then my mom gifted with The Homemade Flour Cookbook (thanks mom!), and my excitement for grain milling was reignited. Suddenly, a grain mill seems as essential as a good kitchen knife. Even better, I learned that many homemade flours can be made with equipment I already have on hand - a coffee grinder, food processor and even a spice grinder can blend lighter flours, like quinoa, amaranth, oats and nuts. My cuisinart has turned out to be a pretty handy. And for those lucky folks with a high powered blender like a vitamix, you can make flour out of just about anything - lentils, beans, and wheat berries are all easily pulverized.

These mini cupcakes are my first foray into quinoa flour, which I made in my food processor. Technically a grain-like seed, quinoa is higher in fat than other whole grains, which can go rancid, so it's a smart one to make fresh. I love the dense texture it gives these cupcakes. These cupcakes are the perfectly little chocolatey bite with just a hint of sweetness. Keep extra in the freezer and microwave a few seconds to warm up.

Mini Chocolate Quinoa Coconut Cupcakes

Makes 24

To make quinoa flour, blend quinoa in a food processor about 5-7 minutes until a powder forms. You can also purchase quinoa flour at most health food stores or order online. I enjoyed these plain, but feel free to top with coconut whipped cream or a little bit of lightly sweetened mascarpone.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup quinoa flour

  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2/3 cup light coconut milk

  • 1 egg

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil

  • 1/2 cup toasted shredded unsweetened coconut

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Set oven to 350 degrees. Spray a mini-muffin tin with olive oil or coconut oil, or line with mini-muffin papers.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together quinoa flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk coconut milk, egg, and vanilla extract. Mix wet into the dry until well combined. Stir in coconut oil. Fold in the coconut and chocolate chips. Divide batter among the muffin tins. Bake 15-18 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Millet and Quinoa Crust Pizza with Pesto, Spinach and Grilled Squash

This gluten free millet and quinoa crust pizza is made with soaked whole grains and topped with pesto, spinach, grilled squash and scallions. 

For me, cooking is more than a chore or the means to produce something yummy to eat - it's a creative expression. Food is art, and not just for experienced restaurant chefs. Combining and layering different flavors, creating new dishes, and reinventing old are all expressions of creativity for the home cook as well. And for me, as someone who has pretty much zero artistic skill, it's my main creative outlet.

It's well established that art affects the brain in positive ways. It improves memory, resilience and mood. Children who engage in arts have been shown to do better in school and have better social skills.

Although the research has been done for more typical forms of art, like music, art and dance, I think cooking would demonstrate similar results. Really, it's such a similar mental process. And it's much more approachable than picking up a paintbrush or signing up for a glassblowing class :) 

I once read the average family has only seven recipes they recycle each week. This makes me sad. I know many people don't get the same kick out of trying new things as I do, but I won't accept eating the same seven dishes over and over again. .

When I try to get clients to step out of the box, we usually start by remaking a favorite dish. They're excited to create something they love in a healthier, but equally satisfying way. 

This pizza is a perfect example. With a crust made from soaked quinoa and millet blended with water, it couldn't be further from a traditional yeast and wheat dough. The crust is thin and crispy around the edges with a tender middle. The grains start to ferment an even sprout a bit, which adds a complex, fermented taste to the dough - kinda like traditional wheat dough!

Millet and Quinoa Crust Pizza with Pesto, Spinach and Grilled Squash

Makes 2 small-medium pizzas, serves 2-4

Adapted from The First Mess

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 3/4 cup quinoa, soaked 24 hours in water
  • 3/4 cup millet, soaked 24 hours in water
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed basil

Topping:

  • Heaping 1/4 cup pesto , homemade or store bought
  • 1 summer squash or zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/2-in slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch small leeks or green onions
  • 1 bunch spinach, chopped
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • Fresh basil to garnish

Instructions

  1. First, prepare the toppings. Heat a grill to medium-high. Spray the squash and leeks/green onions with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill about 3-5 minutes per side until lightly charred and tender.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add spinach and red pepper flakes and cook until wilted. Season lightly with salt and set aside in a bowl.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  4. Rinse grains in a fine-mesh sieve then scrape into food processor. Add water, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt. Blend until you get a thick, pancake batter-like consistency. Add basil and another 2-4 tablespoons water if needed to thin (I added another 3 tablespoons water).
  5. Put two (oiled if not nonstick) cake pans in the oven for 4 minutes to heat. Remove from oven and divide remaining tablespoon of olive oil between the two pans. Place back in the oven to heat the oil 1 minute, without letting it hit it's smoke point. Remove from oven and divide the batter between the two pans, quickly spreading it even with a spatula. Return to the oven and bake 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully flip the crust, and return to oven to bake another 6-8 minutes. Remove crusts from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
  6. When cool enough to handle, spread pesto evenly on the crust. Top with spinach, squash, feta cheese. Place back in the oven to reheat the ingredients if needed, just for a minute or two.

Hippie Salad with Sprouted Grains and Tahini Dressing

Break out the Birkenstocks for this hippie salad! Topped with sprouted amaranth, red cabbage, pumpkin seeds and a creamy lemon-tahini dressing, this is a salad that would make any flower child proud! 

Today, I bring you the most hippie salad I've ever made. In full disclosure, no, Birkenstock is not sponsoring this post.

Mostly raw, vegan, and gluten free, this is the salad any kombucha guzzling, hybrid driving, obsessively recycling, yoga enthusiast would dream of.....I think I just described myself.

Alas, this salad is so flavorful and satisfying with it's citrusy and spicy tahini dressing, fluffy sprouts and crunchy veggies that you'll soon forget all that and just enjoy it.

The idea of this salad prompted my first experiment with DIY sprouted grains. Sprouted grains are a regular at our house in the form of Ezekiel bread, but I had yet to make them myself. I was initially intimidated, but then I realized I've already tackled ricotta, goat cheese, pizza crust, beer and yogurt, so might as well jump head first into the world of sprouting grains!

Why sprout grains in the first place. Essentially, sprouting mimics the process of a seeds germination into a plant. This greatly increases nutrient bioavailability, mainly by breaking down a compound called phytic acid. Soaking and sprouting does this by increasing the activity of phytase, the enzyme that breaks down phytic acid. This is important for anyone who follows a plant based diet as phytic acid binds to minerals that tend to be lacking in a plant based diet, namely zinc, iron, calcium and B vitamins. You can do the same with beans and nuts, which also contain phytic acid.

The process is so simple, I really don't know why I didn't start sprouting earlier. Basically, all you do is soak, rinse, then let it sprout for a few days in a clean mason jar covered with cheesecloth or a sprouting lid. Check out this fantastic how-to article on Nutrition Stripped for more in depth information and a helpful chart on sprouting times. And if you really want to get into it, check out The Everything Sprouted Grains Book.

From a culinary standpoint, sprouted grains are a lot of fun to experiment. They have a lighter, fluffier texture than cooked whole grains, which works well tossed into a salad or in a sandwich. You can also grind the sprouted whole grain into flour and bake with it. Sprouted grains can even be used to make cereal or granola. I just used sprouted quinoa to make my quinoa almond energy bites!

Do be careful though as sprouted grains are at risk for food borne illness. Keep your kitchen and hands clean as well as your sprouting equipment. After sprouting, make sure you store the grains in the fridge and consume within 4 days.

Now, go throw on your Jefferson Airplane vinyl, light some incense, and make this salad!

p.s. Are you in Atlanta this weekend? Come meet me at Pure Barre in the Park, sponsored by the Virginia Highlands Pure Barre. The class is sold out, but I'll be there from 8-11 at my booth and would love it if you could drop by and say hello! We'll be in Piedmont Park across from the Nook. Hope to see you there!

Hippie Salad with Sprouted Grains and Tahini Dressing

Serves 4

Feel free to use any sprouted grain you like, but I chose amaranth, simply because I had a lot on hand and it seemed like a good beginners grain with it's shorter sprouting time. Inspired by Martha Stewart Meatless

Ingredients

  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1/2 small head of red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups sprouted grain, like amaranth, quinoa, millet or wild rice

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2-4 tablespoons water (optional, to thin)
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Set a steamer basket over a medium pot filled with an inch or so of simmering water. Place broccoli florets in the basket, cover, and steam for 5 minutes until tender, but with bite. Set aside to cool.
  2. While the broccoli is cooling, make the dressing. In a medium bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice and zest, oil, garlic, honey and spices. Whisk in water until smooth. Season with sea salt to taste. Set aside.
  3. In a large salad bowl, toss the arugula, red cabbage, red onion and broccoli. Top with pumpkin seeds and sprouted grain. Divide salad among plates, drizzle with dressing and serve.

Smoky Vegan Quinoa Chili

Smoky Vegan Quinoa Chili

Make this smoky vegan quinoa chili as a comforting cold weather meal! It's perfect for tailgating or to make a big batch of for freezing. The quinoa adds great texture the the chili, and the chipotle chiles give it a delicious smokiness. As with all chiles, it tastes better the next day when the flavors get a chance to meld together. 

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Quinoa Tahini Bar

Anyone who has lived with me, worked with me, or just spent the day with me, is well aware of my reliance on snacks.When I come to work each morning, it’s never without the world’s largest lunch box filled to the brim with random containers of food. What can I say, I like to eat. I eat my snacks right on the dot, at 10 am and 3:30 pm. If I go more than 30 minutes past my scheduled snack time, I’m stricken with a major case of hanger (hungry-anger for those of you not familiar with the term).

I like to treat snacks as mini-meals, full of nutritious, whole foods that will satisfy until mealtime. My secret to a filling and nutritious snack? Pair one serving of a high fiber carb food with another serving of a food that contains fat and/or protein. The high fiber carb keeps blood sugar levels stable and the fat/protein keeps you satiated until your next meal.

The easy version – just eat one serving of food from two different food groups.  You'll almost always end up with the right combination.

Some of my favorites:

  • Slices of avocado on ak-mak or wasa crackers drizzled with sriracha (or hot sauce if you forgot to hoard it for the impending sriracha shortage)
  • Tortilla chips topped with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, microwaved for a minute and served with salsa
  • A baggie of unsweetened whole grain cereal, nuts and dried fruit
  • Popcorn drizzled with a little honey or maple syrup and tossed with toasted walnuts, almonds or coconut flakes
  • Sardines (yup!) on rye crackers
  • Plain yogurt mixed with fresh fruit or all-fruitjam
  • Microwaved baked potato chips with yogurt dip
  • Celery sticks spread with cream cheese and chopped black olives (fancy pants ants on a log)
  • Homemade tuna or salmon salad in whole wheat mini-pitas
  • Fresh fruit with peanut or almond butter
  • My favorite snack - leftovers!

Lately, I’ve been really into homemade energy bars, which are generally simple to make and portable. I used to think I hated granola bars because all the store-bought versions I tried were so syrupy sweet.  Since starting to make my own, I've changed my mind. 

The quinoa bars I'm sharing with you today are just lightly sweetened with dried dates, my favorite new sweetener to cook with. Dates impart a rich, caramely flavor, but are a rich source of fiber, iron, potassium, selenium, and vitamin A.

You could boost the nutrition of these bars even more with all sorts of healthy add-ins – cacao powder, maca powder, flax seeds or chia seeds would all work beautifully.

Quinoa Tahini Bar

Makes 10

Adapted from Peru Delights.

Ingredients

  • 12 chopped dates
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup almonds
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ cup cooked quinoa

Instructions

  1. Add first five ingredients to a food processor. Blend until you have a mostly smooth paste. Add the quinoa and blend until just combined.
  2. Scoop paste out of the food processor and into a medium baking dish. Press down with wet hands to spread it out evenly and smooth the top. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Once firmed, cut the bars into rectangles and store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Quinoa and Kale Stuffed Peppers

These stuffed peppers are filled with a vegan mix of quinoa, kale and Middle Eastern spices.

Earlier this year, my husband and I cancelled cable and started streaming shows instead. It was a pretty fantastic decision. Besides saving money, we have the freedom to watch any season of all our favorite shows at any time of the day. If I want to watch seasons 1-7 of 30 Rock, I can. If I want to watch that episode of the X-Files where the parasitic Siamese twin of a circus act can detach from his body and eat other people, I can. And if I feel like watching nothing but documentaries and TED talks for a week, I can do that too. Technology is awesome.

The only thing I miss about cable? The commercials. Err, the good ones at least.

It was just the other day that I finally saw the Bud Light quinoa commercial and I just about fell off my chair laughing.  The look on that guys face as he proudly pronounces “it’s a qween-o” is classic!

Despite the funny name, quinoa isn't as weird as as it sounds. 'KEEN-wah' is an ancient South American grain whose cultivation can be dated back to 3000 BC. It was a staple crop of the Incas, along with potatoes and corn. At one point, they were growing over 250 different varieties, but after the Spanish conquest, quinoa all but disappeared. You see, the Spanish, shocked at the Inca’s ability to put up a good fight, despite the fact that they had no guns or horses, assumed it was quinoa that gave them their strength. Fearful of an Inca coup, they banished its cultivation. Maybe they were on to something! It certainly is a nutrition powerhouse!

Although we eat quinoa as a grain, it’s technically a seed of a plant in the same family as spinach, chard, and beets. Being a seed, it contains more fat and protein than other grains.  Half a cup of quinoa contains 12 grams of protein, making it perfect for meatless meals.  Because quinoa is higher in fat, it's also a rich source of fat soluble vitamins like vitamin E and even contains small amounts of omega 3 fats. It contains a hefty dose of phytonutrients – quercetin,  kaemphferol, vanillic acid, coumaric, two of which (flavonoids quercetin and kaemphferol in case you were wondering) are so concentrated in quinoa, some varieties actually contain more than berries, a food usually touted as the top source of flavonoids.

At first, I wasn’t crazy about quinoa, having only tried it as a pilaf-style side dish. It wasn’t until I traveled to Peru and saw versatile it is that I fell in love. I enjoyed it in rich potato soups, whipped into a soufflé, stuffed into eggplant rolls – it was all delicious! Now we cook quinoa about once a week. Looking to break out of the box of flavored quinoa mix? Here are some of my favorite quinoa uses:

  • Mix cooked quinoa into veggie patties where it adds a meaty texture. My favorite was a black-eyed pea and quinoa cake I made for New Years, but I just pinned this recipe and I have a feeling it might come out on top!
  • If you’re bored of your standard oatmeal, make quinoa porridge for breakfast.  If you’re cooking a dish with quinoa, make a little extra then heat it up in a pot with almond milk and drizzle with honey or pure maple syrup. Garnish with toasted nuts, chopped fresh fruit and cinnamon.
  • Quinoa, with it’s satiating protein and fat and chewy texture, makes it a perfect salad topping.
  • Quinoa is a perfect stand-in for rice in comfort food casseroles. Broccoli and cheddar quinoa casserole? Chicken enchilada quinoa bake? Yes please!
  • My favorite simple, no fail, always satisfying weeknight dinner - sauté veggies in a flavorful sauce and serve over a bed of quinoa. Top with toasted walnuts and feta or goat cheese. Dinner in less than 30 minutes!

Quinoa and Kale Stuffed Peppers

serves 4

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Ingredients

  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 serrano chile, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried currants or golden raisins
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • 1/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 large red, yellow or orange bell peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat, or pop them in the toaster oven for a few minutes, until fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder with the red pepper flakes. Process until powdered then stir in cinnamon.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add onion, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and chile. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Mix in the spices and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the quinoa to the pot. Stir to coat. Pour in 1 1/4 cup water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook about 10-12 minutes. Add kale. Stir and cook until wilted about 2-4 minutes. While the quinoa is cooking, place the currants or raisins in a small bowl with the orange juice and let stand for 15 minutes.
  4. After the quinoa has cooked, stir in the soaked currants or raisins, juice and nuts. Season with salt and black pepper.
  5. Place the pepper halves in a large baking dish. Divide the quinoa mixture between each half, mounding slightly. Pour about 1/2 cup water into the baking dish. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the peppers are tender, 40-50 minutes, and serve.