Vegetarianism 2.0… Week One (Tuscan Winter Vegetable Quinoa)


Like I discussed in an earlier blog post, I decided to go vegetarian for Lent. Whose first day coincided with Meatless Monday and the third day of National Nutrition Month. Basically, it was an epic day (and week) of veggie goodness.

And this week was not as much as a disaster as I thought it was going to be. I ended up eating basically the same thing for dinner each night (something that I vowed not to do) but it worked with the “cleaning out the fridge” mentality that goes along with the business of the week before Spring Break.

But boy was I glad to eat this for four days straight…


Tuscan Winter Vegetable Quinoa…

It is beautiful, simple to make, gluten-free, and full of wonderful healthy things that help you stay healthy and focused as this endless winter goes on and on.

This dish really highlights all the food customs I learned during my time abroad in Florence. Tuscan kale and sweet potatoes are in season where I am (which also means that they’re cheap!) and provide lots of color and good nutrition to the dish.


And nothing says winter more than dried cranberries!

Quinoa and white beans provide a basic backdrop that lets everything shine and a lemon vinaigrette brightens the dish and keeps everything fresh.


All in all, I shall be making this dinner, vegetarian or not, all the time. It’s perfection.

It was a good first week! Now I’m home and I actually will be eating different things each night. Stay tuned for lots of pictures of Mama-made meals!


Tell me kiddos – are you going vegetarian for Lent? Or are you just a vegetarian? Let me know if you have any favorite meat-free offerings – I would love to try them!

Your veggie lovin’, Italy missin’ friend,



Tuscan Winter Vegetable Quinoa

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


½ cup pearled quinoa

1 cup water

½ to 1 bunch of Tuscan kale (depending how much you like kale)

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

1-15oz can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of lemon zest

⅓ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup chopped parsley

Juice of ½ a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Lemon Vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Cook quinoa to package directions.

Basically: rinse quinoa in fine mesh strainer (those grains are tiny!). Bring 1½ cups of water, vegetable stock, or chicken stock to a boil in a medium pot and add quinoa. Bring back to a boil, cover, and reduce to simmer. Just like rice (why did I struggle with this?)! Cook for 15 minutes or until the liquid is all absorbed and the quinoa is tender.

2. Sautee sweet potatoes in 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until potatoes are soft and golden brown, about 5 minutes.

3. Add kale to sweet potatoes and continue to cook until kale is wilted, 2-3 minutes.

4. Add in garlic, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (optional).

5. When the quinoa is cooked, place into a large bowl and add the vinaigrette.

6. Add kale-sweet potato mixture, cannellini beans, dried cranberries, and parsley to the dressed quinoa. Stir to combine.


Super Bowl Sweets and Treats

Happy Monday, kiddos! I can’t believe that it is actually February 3rd… the year is just flying by! Yesterday, apart from being Groundhog Day, was a celebration that provides a little excitement (and a chance to throw a party) between New Year’s and Valentine’s Day – the Super Bowl! Congratulations to the Seahawks and their fans… it was a great game and a well-deserved win!

But I do have a confession to make… I don’t get football. When my dad tries to explain passing yards, rushing yards, etc. etc., my eyes glaze over and I just nod and hope he doesn’t realize that I am spacing out. Sorry to all you football fans out there, but football makes no sense. For me, the Super Bowl is a great excuse to get together with family and friends, eat some amazing food, have a couple of drinks, and debate if the commercials were better last year or not… and maybe watch a little bit of the game.

Like last year, some of us from our graduate class got together at our friends’ house for a potluck party. I decided to bring a couple different things to cover all my bases.


The Kid-Friendly

One of my wonderful friends, J, has a delightful 18 month-old son who has literally grown up alongside our journey through graduate school. He is absolute perfection and I wanted to make sure I had a treat that he could enjoy. I made these awesome cookies I talked about a couple of weeks ago.


Nothing says football food than a dessert you can grab quickly and devour while cheering on your favorite team (or running around being chased by a pretend “monster” in your footie pj’s!). Our friend’s 18 month old son loved them… the rest of the 20-somethings loved them too!


The Healthy

I wanted to bring something that was relatively healthy (since we are nutrition graduate students), so I decided to make an avocado- black bean- pomegranate pico de gallo recipe I found online. I tweaked it slightly by adding an additional avocado and substituting parsley for cilantro.


 Look how pretty all the ingredients are together.

I found that this was a good alternative to traditional pico de gallo and guacamole because it had similar elements to the originals but had a seasonal (and healthy, anti-oxidant filled) pomegranate twist.


The Gluten-Free

One of our friends, L, is gluten-free and I wanted to make a dessert that she could enjoy during the Super Bowl. So I adapted a recent (and already beloved) recipe The Sister found on Pinterest to make it gluten-free.


 This is what I brought!

This is Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark by food blogger Mary Ellen and be warned – it is addictive. It is the perfect balance of salty and sweet, of crunchy and smooth. And one simple swap makes this the perfect treat for everyone.


The pretzels. Swap the regular ones for a gluten-free version and you are golden.


Just make sure they are the small twists (they break better)!


Beautiful, delicious, and gluten-free. What could be better?


I hope everyone had a fabulous Super Bowl Sunday full of food, fun, and friends!

Your football-confused, pretzel bark addicted friend,