Vegetarianism 2.0… Week One (Tuscan Winter Vegetable Quinoa)

TUSCAN WINTER VEGETABLE QUINOA THREE

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 TWO

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.

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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.

TUSCAN WINTER VEGETABLE QUINOA 1

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,

C

 

Tuscan Winter Vegetable Quinoa

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

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

Steps:

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.

Enjoy!

A Sunday List

1. The past three days have been nice, sunny, and 40+ degrees. My skin, mental sanity, and soul have rejoiced in the extra Vitamin D/warm air they have been receiving. But my friend told me that the next few weeks are going to be like this…

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So not awesome.

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But tulips were on sale this week at Wegman’s! So it can be snowpocalypse outside, but I can still enjoy some springtime.

 

2. Speaking of spring, Spring Break is approximately 2 weeks away, which means in 14 days I will be curled up on the sofa with The Cat, watching daytime game shows, and eating my mother’s cooking… I’m very excited.

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So is The Cat… right.

 

3. During our weekly shopping trip, E and I found ourselves in the bakery section of Wegman’s. And we found this.

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So we did this.

DOUGHNUTS

The one on the left is cinnamon crumb and the one on the right is maple-bacon.

Please excuse the bites… I was going to start driving back to our houses, but I couldn’t help but sneak a couple dinosaur-sized bites before I had to drive and E had them to herself.

 

4. I learned how to make printable recipes this week!! So check out the recipe tab on the header and you can print your favorite recipes out (instead of having to print out my 15-page posts).

 

5. A lot of you have been commenting on this picture I posted a couple of weeks ago.

QUINOA

Vegetable Thai Quinoa Salad… so crunchy, so sweet, so fresh, so yum. I was going to post the recipe in a few weeks, but I got impatient and will share it now (hooray)!

VALENTINE QUINOA

Check out the handy dandy printable at the bottom for the full recipe!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Sunday!

C

 

Vegetable Thai Quinoa Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:
¾ cup uncooked quinoa (no red or black quinoa please!)
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded carrot
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
½ cup chopped scallions
½ cup roasted cashews halves
1 cup edamame (optional)
¼ cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon grated ginger
Juice of ½ a lime

Steps:
1. Cook quinoa to package directions.
Basically: rinse quinoa in fine mesh strainer. 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. Cook for 15 minutes or until the liquid is all absorbed and the quinoa is tender.
2. Remove cooked quinoa from heat, fluff with a fork, and let cooked quinoa cool while assembling the dressing.
3. In a microwave safe bowl, heat peanut butter and honey for 30 seconds until melted. Stir to combine.
4. Add soy sauce, vinegars, olive oil, grated ginger, and lime juice to peanut-butter honey mixture. Stir to combine. Add water to thin if you would like.
5. In a large bowl, dump in quinoa and half the dressing. Assess if the quinoa is too dry and add more dressing if need be.
6. Add cabbage, bell pepper, cilatro, scallions, cashews, and edamame. Mix thoroughly.
7. Garnish with some extra cashews, cilantro, and lots of lime wedges.

C vs. The Quinoa

 VALENTINE QUINOA

Happy 5 days until Valentine’s Day! Can you believe it? I can’t… I haven’t even started baking yet. With the semester in full swing, I needed a weekend that I could stay home and organize my life.

Thesis papers and data: backed up and ready for this week’s meetings

Class notes: all organized and ready to be looked over for my exams

Apartment: clean, laundry done, home life in relative balance

But the most important thing I did this weekend was dinner prep. With crazy weeks ahead, I wanted to make sure I did not have to worry about meals. So I roasted mushrooms…

MUSHROOM

And broccoli…

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All ready to be tossed into lunches and dinners this week.

I have also been recipe testing vegetarian dinners. Like this amazing bowl of awesomeness.

QUINOA

Vegetable Thai Quinoa Salad… probably the best (and most outgoing) thing I’ve made in a while.

The reason I am jumping out of my comfort zone is that in less than one month, I will be embarking on a meat-free Lenten experience… I did the same thing last year, with both success and failure. Since I decided to go vegetarian a week into Lent, I did not plan very well. Which meant that I ate quiche for 8 days straight and probably doubled my cholesterol level… not awesome. So I am being organized and testing recipes ahead of time so I can have a game plan – I promise I’ll share this fabulous recipe soon!

This whole vegetarian recipe testing experience has been interesting. I have been purchasing items that I have never really purchased before – like quinoa. Quinoa is a fabulous grain because it is a complete protein (it has all nine essential amino acids) and is gluten-free. It a perfect vegetarian dinner option. I have never had much success cooking it, so it is one of those foods I never really purchased or even thought about using.

But this weekend, I decided that I was going to get up my courage and buy quinoa and make this salad. With my sister in tow for our weekly Wegman’s shopping trip, I gathered up all my ingredients for my quinoa salad.

Since I did not want to waste money on buying something I might not eat, I decided to purchase one cup of quinoa from the bulk grains section of Wegman’s. It was a wonderfully interesting experience, which left me wondering why I skipped past the bulk grain section every shopping trip. After measuring, weighing, and tying up the bag holding my quinoa, I placed it in my shopping cart and The Sister and I continued on grocery shopping.

Everything was going well until, at the checkout line, E grabbed the bag of quinoa and found that a HUGE hole was in the side. Quinoa flooded out like a geyser and I was freaking while E just laughed and told me to grab another bag. As I wrapped up the quinoa again, I saw that there was quinoa all over the floor of the checkout lane. I was embarrassed and told the cashier that I had spilt my quinoa everywhere (the floor, in the crate of clementines, absolutely everywhere) and that I needed to clean it up. Thank goodness she was not upset and said that it was fine. I was not fine. The quinoa was driving me crazy… first I lacked confidence cooking it and now I couldn’t even purchase it without a mishap. E, being a more calm and relaxed person, continued to chuckle at my distress throughout the check out, as we loaded the car, and as we drove home. C: 0, Quinoa: 1

Despite the slightly mortifying experience procuring the quinoa, cooking it and making the salad was a breeze. So in the end, I cured my fear of quinoa and was able to make a delicious, healthy vegetarian dinner option. And that’s all that matters.

 

Happy Monday, kiddos.

C