Protein-Rich Pomegranate Quinoa Salad

I recently made this dish for a Holiday potluck get-together at my house. The deep red of the pomegranate is accented so beautifully against the green of the avocado and cucumber. And hey, they’re Christmas colors! (No reason not to sneak festivity in anywhere that you can, right?)

At first, I wasn’t thrilled with the taste. Am I supposed to be saying that on my blog? I think I am supposed to be trying to convince you that it is delicious.

Well, honesty is my policy – and I wouldn’t put this up if I didn’t think it had potential. This all being said – I added a few things to the original recipe and people seemed to really enjoy the taste! (This could be due to the fact that I was pacing around shamefully in the early evening repeating “Is it good? I think I need to add something to it. I think that is what I need to do.” So I stopped whining and did something.)

ALSO – my dear friend Grace recommended Cavender’s greek seasoning as a possible successful addition to the salad. It could make it, or totally break it. Cavender’s is pretty salty. I’m actually not sure if this dish is supposed to be sweet or something else. If any of you are brave enough to tackle it and come up with a new flavor combination – holla.

Protein-Rich Pomegranate Quinoa Salad

Makes 6 to 8 servings

•3/4 cup quinoa (preferably black – I used tan)

•fresh pomegranate arils/seeds from 1 whole pomegranate

•one 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

•1/2 cup diced, seeded English cucumber

•1 avocado, diced

•2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses

•1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

•1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

•1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

•3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

•salt and freshly ground black pepper

 Set the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly under cool running water.  Place in a medium saucepan with 1-1/2 cups of cold water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently until grains are tender, most of the water has been absorbed, and the quinoa has sent out little white curlicue tendrils, about 15 to 20 minutes, give or take.  Drain any remaining water and set in a wide, shallow bowl to cool completely – otherwise, everything will be a mushy mess.

Stir in the pomegranate seeds, black beans, cucumber, and avocado.  In a medium bowl, whisk the molasses, vinegars, lemon juice and olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper (I can’t stress this enough. Salt and pepper really help this dish).  Pour over the salad and stir well to coat evenly.  Sprinkle generously with additional salt to taste.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate and bring to room temperature before serving.  May be made two or three days ahead.  (For best results, add the avocado just before serving.)




Lite Pumpkin Chickpea Curry & Chocolate Gingerbread Smoothie

Anyone will tell you that I go a little nuts around the Holidays. I know what you’re thinking: the Christmas gift panic, general anxiety, overwhelm with school, fear of stocking coal, and other severe clinical Holiday disorders.

But nay. Not that kind of nuts.

I really get into Christmas. (And Thanksgiving. [And Halloween.])

It didn’t really occur to me until this year living with my roommates that some people just don’t function at the high degree of Holiday enthusiasm as I do. And that is a-okay. For most, Christmas carols can be annoying as all get-out, a Christmas party is a synonym for bloating, and in December, all the little elves seem to be stealing money from your wallet instead of replacing it.

These things do not resonate with me. I have Vince Guaraldi on repeat, bought $1 stockings at Goodwill for our household, and have been making giant 3-d paper snowflakes out of red and green paper.

Granted, I am conscious of the new paradigm of Consumer Christmas (note: $1 Goodwill stockings). My family and I prioritize on spending time together rather than spending a lot of money on one another. Correspondingly, I celebrate Christmas through food – making and sharing it with others, and emphasizing ingredients like pumpkin, ginger, peppermint, chocolate, and chai.

This time of year makes me crave warm, spicy things (and this time of month makes me crave chocolate things. Badly.) Of course, this recipe was the only thing on my mind yesterday at the grocery store.

I’ve also been on the hunt for the perfect gingerbread smoothie recipe – thick, chewable, nourishing, sweet, and spicy. The Healthy Foodie’s recipe seemed to fit the bill. My interpretation probably would have been better with the white bean addition (genius!), but I’m (moderately) happy with my finished product. (Moderately) happy enough to share with you!

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Lite Pumpkin Chickpea Curry

(‘Litely’ Adapted from An Edible Mosaic – Serves 4-5)

•2 tablespoon olive oil

•1/2 medium-large onion, diced

•1 medium carrots, thinly sliced

•1/4 teaspoon salt

•1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas

•6 asparagus spears, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

•6-7 large cauliflower florets, chopped into bite-sized pieces

•3 large cloves garlic, minced

•1/2 block of tofu, chopped into 1/2 inch squares

•1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated

•2 teaspoon curry powder

•2 teaspoon turmeric

•1 teaspoon ground coriander

•1/2 teaspoon black pepper

•1 teaspoon cinnamon

•1 bay leaf

•1 vegetable flavored soft bouillon cube

•1 cup pumpkin puree

•1/2 tsp Thai Kitchen red curry paste

•1 1/2 cups water

•1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained

•1/4 cup Lite coconut milk

•red pepper flakes, if desired

•Fresh lemon wedges (optional; for serving)

•Fresh parsley or cilantro leaves (optional; for garnish)

(Note: I’m a weirdo who uses all the veggies I can that are in my fridge. If you’d like to stick to more curry-traditional veggies, link back to the original recipe for ideas.)

Place carrots, snap peas, asparagus and cauliflower in a large pot over a steamer and steam at high heat  for 5-10 minutes or until they’re cooked.

In the meantime, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; add the onion and salt and sauté until the onion is starting to soften, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the tofu, garlic, and ginger and cook 2 minutes; add 1 tsp curry powder, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and bay leaf and cook 1 minute more.

Drain your steaming pot, remove steamer, replace vegetables and add in the contents of your saucepan. Add the bouillon cube, pumpkin, red curry paste and water and bring up to a boil.  Add the remaining 1 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp black pepper and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Cover the pot (leaving the lid ajar), and turn heat down to simmer and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Add the chickpeas and cook 3 minutes, then add the coconut milk and cook 2 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as desired.

Serve with fresh lemon wedges to squeeze on top, garnished with fresh parsley or cilantro, if desired. (I made mine reaallly spicy with red pepper flakes and garnished with sprouts, of course)

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Chocolate Gingerbread Smoothie

(Makes 1 serving)

•1 frozen banana

•1 – 1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk

•1 scoop chocolate, sugar-free vegan protein powder

•1/2 tsp maple agave

•1/2 tsp fresh, grated ginger

•1/4 tsp vanilla extract

•1 tsp cinnamon

•1/4 tsp allspice

•1/4 tsp cloves

•1 tbsp slivered almonds, if desired (for crunch)

•1 tbsp flaxseed meal, if desired

•Gingersnap cookie or flaked cereal, for garnish

Mix all ingredients together with a blender. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Serve with crumbled gingersnap or flaked cereal on top, for garnish.
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These two recipes, although severely altered, have satisfied my Christmas taste buds. Last evening was a different story. I was determined to make something chocolate with my newly-purchased cocoa powder, but without applesauce, coconut oil, or vegan margarine, I was pretty much at a loss. I ended up using leftover lightly-salted rice cakes, crumbling them up, and making a banana-cocoa-peppermint-everything concoction that was then mixed in. Laid out on a baking pan and left in the freezer for a couple hours, they were pretty deerrrn good. Like chocolate peppermint rice krispie treats. I used way too much peppermint extract, but overall, not a disaster. Maybe I will try them again and formulate a recipe.
And now, yoga. My eyes need a break from this computer screen. And the sun just came shining into my windows!
Leave your favorite Holiday smoothies in a comment. I just found this precious article this morning: 5 Holiday Smoothie Recipes

Cinnamon-Spicy Fall Vegetables with Red Lentils

When buying food on a budget, I tend to stray from buying foods that are too recipe-specific. This forces me to be extra creative in combining familiar ingredients for the meals I concoct on the spot.

On particular days where I’m missing that PERFECT ingredient in my pantry, this can be definitely disappointing to my taste buds. On other days – new combinations result in pure artistry.

I’d say today was one of those days.

With a fridge freshly stocked to sustain me for the last week and a half of this semester, I felt almost overjoyed at the amount of vegetables I had purchased. I purposefully chose veggies that reminded me of fall cuisine – as well as a bouquet of colors, textures, and flavors. I was ready to get choppin’ when I realized this would be my first recipe share – and to tell you the truth, it kinda psyched me out. I was constantly having to bring myself back to that moment, rather than follow the seductive thoughts of camera angles, measurements, fonts, and phrasing. (And having to press repeat on “All I Want For Christmas is You.”)

I gave it my best shot. Here’s what I got for you: gourmet college girl grub.

Cinnamon-Spicy Fall Vegetables with Red Lentils

Serves 4-5

•1 cup butternut squash, chopped

•1 carrot (about 3/4 cup chopped)

•1/4 zucchini, sliced

•1/4 summer squash, sliced

•6 asparagus spears, chopped into 1 inch pieces

•1/8 rutabaga (about 1/2 cup sliced thinly into pieces)

•1/2 small beet (1/2 cup sliced thinly into pieces)

•4 large cauliflower florets, chopped

•1/3 sweet potato (1 cup chopped)

•bunch of kale (4-5 leaves)

•1/4 white onion

•3 cloves garlic, minced

•2-3 tablespoons olive oil (or grapeseed oil)

•1 1/2 – 2 cups red lentils, *pre-cooked

•balsamic vinegar

•allspice, cinnamon, parsley, paprika, salt & pepper

(*I’ve realized this is a synonym for “I didn’t feel like spelling this process out for you.” to foodies.

I’ve fallen subject to euphemism!)

Start by gathering your vegetables and chopping them into small pieces. With this many vegetables, it’s okay to work with awkward amounts (1/8, 1/3, 1/4). You’ll waste less food and create more consistency. (I decided to nix the parsnips – they tend to take over, don’t they?)

Fill a large pot with an inch or two of water and place it over high heat. Using a steamer, cook your vegetables (omitting the garlic and onion) until you can pierce the sweet potato or rutabaga with a fork. This usually takes around ten-fifteen minutes.

In the meantime, place a large pan with two-three tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and stir-fry for a minute or two. Then, add the onion and cook until translucent. I like to add a little salt when I add the onions to carmelize them. One of my roommates bought some pink Himalayan salt I’ve been playing with lately.

Now, you can add your pre-cooked red lentils to the pan. I seldom measure out my spices – but toss in a pinch or two each of allspice, cinnamon, parsley, and pepper. Don’t be shy with the paprika. It’s magic red dust.

As soon as your steamed vegetables are easily pierce-able, transfer them to the pan with the lentils. This is where a bigger pan comes in handy. Drizzle a generous amount of balsamic vinegar over the mix – a few tablespoons should do the trick. Add another pinch of allspice, parsley, paprika, and pepper to coat the vegetables. Taste it – if you like it sweeter, add more cinnamon. If you like things spicy, add red pepper flakes like I did.

There’s really nothing more comforting than this smell. It is such a gorgeous combination of sweet and smoky! Reminds me of Moroccan dishes with the cinnamon.


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Allowing myself some stillness after bopping around the kitchen all afternoon, I sat and indulged in the fragrances and warmth of this meal. It’s so important to spend a minute with your food before you dig in, no matter how hungry you are – not to mention staying present and having intention during the cooking process. It infuses your food with love and elicits a much more beneficial effect on your digestion than a meal made in a hurry/distressed state of mind.

Allow yourself the time to experience each bite in a new way. Each new crunch, sweetness, spice, and flavor – Revel in the gift that is food, and be grateful for the ability to sustain your life with good nutrition!

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My newest tattoo – this raspberry – represents the spiritual meaning of “plenty.” If you’re cooking for one, experiment with using smaller amounts – this avoids the awkward leftover, and forces you to make more conscious decisions. Determine what “plenty” means to you – and cook in a way that brings joy to not only your tummy, but your spirit as well.

Looking forward to more recipes. Nom-aste!