We devoured this spring salad

Is it a salad? I don’t really know. It is more like one of my standard mash-ups of yummy ingredients. A bit like the Ranch Salad. A bit of a variation on the Avocado Tartare from Food & Wine that I posted a few weeks ago.

And as usual, I wanted something easy, quick and healthy. This met all of those requirements.

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Ingredients (serves two):

  • One large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • One firm but ripe avocado
  • One large red shallot
  • A few fronds of curly kale
  • A heaping handful of spinach
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Two meyer lemons
  • A tablespoon and a half of dijon mustard
  • A few sprigs of curly parsley
  • A few drops of sriracha
  • A teaspoon of Worcestershire 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter/olive oil for cooking

Chop the chicken into 1″ cubes and salt and pepper all sides. In a pan, heat up (over medium to high heat) a pat of butter and a dollop of olive oil. When hot, add the chicken and cook until opaque and almost cooked through (about 135degrees). While the chicken is cooking, prepare the onion and kale by thinly slicing the shallot and removing the stems from the kale and chopping into tiny bits. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add a bit more oil and turn the pan to medium heat, and throw the thinly sliced red shallot and cook until starting to crisp. Add the kale and a dash more of the olive oil. Cook, turning often, until the kale is soft. While the kale is cooking, chop the spinach into smallish pieces (about 1/2″) and prepare the sauce. Juice two meyer lemons into your serving bowl. Add the chopped parsley, dijon, srirracha, Worcestershire, salt and pepper and whisk until blended. Add the chicken back to the pan with the tomatoes and cook until the chicken is at 160 degrees. Pour the hot chicken, kale and onion (and all of the juices) into the sauce and add the spinach raw. I always add the avocado last as I hate when it starts to turn brown. So now cube your avocado and add it to the bowl. Mix all of the ingredients gently until the sauce covers everything.

We scarfed this down. It was SOOO good. From start to finish it took less than 30 minutes and probably could be sped up if I used two pans (to cook the onions/kale and chicken separately). 

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Grilled pork tenderloin with Thai-ish green sauce and charred red cabbage

You guys. YOU GUYS! This experiment? Totally worth it. I knew I wanted the charred red cabbage. But I wasn’t sure with what to pair it. It was just hubs and myself so I knew I wanted meat but I had had steak the night before (and hubs had had salmon) and we have been tiring of chicken. So we decided on pork tenderloin. When I went to the store to pick some up, there was the most succulent looking basil hitting me in the face as I walked in. And the mint in the garden is a bit out of control. So I figured why not doing something similar to my chopped chicken, Thai style. Do I stuff it like this recipe? Or make it more like a chimichurri sauce? Or chop up the pork similar to the chicken and mix it all in there together, like this? I decided on something sort of in the middle of all of that. Grill the lime and ginger rubbed pork tenderloin and then make a basil-mint-lime-ginger pesto. And holy cow. It was juicy and flavorful and really delicious.

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Ingredients:

The pork

  • pork tenderloin
  • salt/pepper
  • lime zest
  • ginger
  • thai chili oil
  • grapeseed oil

The pesto

  • 1 cup of basil leaves
  • 1 cup of mint leaves
  • 2 inches off a knob of ginger
  • zest of two limes
  • juice of one lime
  • half of red shallot
  • a few drops of thai chili oil
  • 1 teaspoon of finely chopped jalapeno
  • 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil

The cabbage

  • red cabbage
  • balsamic vinaigrette of your choice

When I told Hubs what we were having for dinner, he went outside to get the grill ready. He came inside and said, “okay, we have 20 minutes worth of gas!” so I made this dinner in a MAJOR hurry.  After patting the pork dry, I quickly rubbed on a bit of salt and pepper, a few drops of the chili oil, about a teaspoon of grapeseed oil, the lime zest and ground ginger (using my plane grater). I actually wore a disposable glove for this one because, not only did I have to move quickly, but I had other things going on at the same time and wouldn’t have time to deal with chili on my hands (avoiding my eyes, the kids, etc). Put it on a cutting board and then cut the red cabbage, after having removed the outer layer, into wedges (leaving the core intact), sidling them up beside the pork. Hubs is a master vinaigrette maker and I don’t really know what goes into his (oil, balsamic, salt, pepper, mustard, and sometimes plain yogurt I think…but I asked him to leave out the yogurt on this since it would be on the grill) but really, any vinaigrette would be okay here. I brushed it on one side telling Hubs that that side should go on the grill first.

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Out he went and I got to making the pesto.\

After washing and drying the basil and mint, I threw all of the ingredients into the cuisinart. I pulsed them, using a spatula to pull the displaced pesto back into the mix often, until it was pureed. I tasted as I went adding a dash more of chili oil or jalapeno if it needed more spice or ginger if it needed punch. At one point I considered putting in a bit of plain yogurt to smooth it out a bit…but I’m glad I didn’t. It REALLY didn’t need it.

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Hubs is a master griller so can tell when things are ready by touch. I need an instaread thermometer. With the cabbage, he grilled it until the first side began to wilt and char. He then doused the other side with the vinaigrette and flipped them so that the other side would char…about 10 minutes for the first side (depending on how hot your grill gets)? The pork and the cabbage will take almost the same amount of time to cook so they were a good match. When he taken all of the cabbage and the pork off of the grill, I went out with my jug o’ pesto and doused the entire thing on while it was still toasty.

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This wasn’t just beautiful to look at. It was GOOOOOOOD. Hubs likes his meat a bit more cooked so he took the ends. I like my pork pink in the middle (AS IT SHOULD BE!) so I took the center pieces. Both of us were happy.  The cabbage was caramelized on the outside with some crunch and the interior was a perfect mix of bitter and sweet. The grilling really mellows the flavor and the vinaigrette ups the flavor throughout.

My dad, who was delayed on his flight to visit us last night and didn’t land until 12:30am (5 and a half hours later…) had the last remaining piece when he arrived and, even cold, he was talking about it when he woke up this morning. A hit for sure!

Juiciest turkey burgers with white sauce and pureed cauliflower “buns”

I got a bee in my bonnet to cook up some of my, IMHO, delicious turkey burgers. This would have been the first time I would do it without starch so it was going to take some modification. First off, I needed a “bun”. Of course one could eat a turkey burger with a knife and a fork…but really? Isn’t that just a big, flattened meatball?

So the bun. I’ve made “bread” from left-over “pizza dough” before so I thought I would go with a variation of that. Because I wasn’t using any panko in the burgers (which usually is how I keep them moist), I decided to try something new. Mushrooms. MUSHROOMS! It was a genius idea, I must say. These were fantastic. As I was cooking up the burgers, I had a strong urge to make tzatziki. Alas, when I pulled out the big ol’ tub of yogurt, moldy and almost empty. YUCK! So when I dug into the fridge I came up with a winning combo of flavors for a tasty white sauce (I’m not sure how else to term it) that took only 2 minutes to make.

Ingredients:

The turkey

  • Package of ground turkey thigh meat
  • Half large red shallot
  • One cup of dry porcini mushrooms
  • Fresh oregano
  • Fresh parsley
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground flax seed
  • Two tablespoons of sumac, separated
  • Salt and pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • One pat of butter, chopped

The bun

  • One head of cauliflower
  • Two large eggs
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground flax
  • One cup of feta cheese

The white sauce

  • Two heaping tablespoons of cream cheese
  • Two heaping tablespoons of feta cheese
  • A few sprigs of parsley
  • One teaspoon of sumac
  • 1/4 cup of white or rosé wine
  • Five cherry tomatoes chopped

 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and put a silpat on a large cookie sheet. Cut the florets off of the cauliflower and puree in a cuisinart. Move the cauliflower to a mixing bowl. Add a sprinkle of chia seeds and about two tablespoons of ground flax. Mix in the feta and the eggs and mix until evenly coated. Spread the cauliflower mixture onto the silpat and make sure all points are of even thickness…about 1/2″ thick. If it isn’t even, the thinner parts will burn.  Put it in the oven for about 30 minutes. (Note: I had made demarcations similar to bread for sandwiches to make it easier to cut later…this was not smart. I should have let it cook as a whole and then used a circular cookie cutter to make round, bun like shapes…they didn’t “fit” the burgers very well.)

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Put the dry mushrooms into the cuisinart and pulse until they are finely chopped (think 1/4″ pieces). Add enough hot water to cover the mushrooms and let them sit in that water until everything else for the turkey burgers is completed. In a mixing bowl (I used the same bowl as the cauliflower mix, just quickly rinsed) put the ground turkey, salt and pepper, a sprinkling of chia seeds (about a teaspoon), two tablespoons of flax seed, the chopped oregano and parsley, two tablespoons of sumac, a few healthy shakes of Worcestershire sauce, the finely chopped shallot and the pat of butter (chopped).

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When the mushrooms seem saturated, put then in a strainer over the sink and push them until the extra water is pushed out.

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When drained, add to meat and mix gently by hand.

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Form into patties and set aside until you are ready to cook them.

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(I made an itty bitty one for my daughter to try. Next time I would do a bunch of these and throw them in the freezer for an easy dinner for the kids)

Make sure you are checking on the “buns”. When the top is browning (like below), take them out. They get “harder” when they cool. Don’t forget to turn them a few times if you have a fickle oven like myself. 

Image(This would be a good time to cut them into the circular shapes…which is what I would have done, had I been smarter)

Either while the turkey burgers are cooking or now, you can make the sauce. Couldn’t be easier. Grab a fork and a microwavable cereal bowl. Fork in a few dollops of cream cheese, a healthy shake of feta, a teaspoon of sumac and a few sprigs of chopped parsley and mix them with a fork. Pop them into the microwave for 15 seconds. Add a splash of wine (more if you like it thinner, less if you want to keep it thick) and the chopped cherry tomatoes (and their juices), mash with the fork and then pop back in the microwave for another 15 seconds. Stir it up and a bit, et voila! 

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Cook the burger either on the grill or in a saute pan as you would any burger. I cook these on a bit lower heat (low-medium) turning when the first side is browned and then, when the second side is browning, I test the temp with an instaread thermometer, taking them off the heat when they hit 160.

For my veg last night I simply steamed a large batch of broccolini . The picture below doesn’t do justice to the how absolutely DELICIOUS this was. I think this would have been better with a round “bun”…or with some fresh spinach with the burger. But really flavorful and juicy.

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Bad ass kale and mushroom quiche

The next few recipes are going to be a bit out of order as I promised that I would get this recipe up today, even though it was queued for later this week.

Recently I’ve found that I have been searching for the veg portion of the meal before figuring out what the “rest of it” will look like. I pick the green veg and then the meat/base/accompanying vegetables. In this morning’s Goop (Yes, I read it. Shush, you!), she interviews an owner of a vegan restaurant in Philly and this quote really spoke to me:

Don’t think of veggies as afterthoughts and side dishes. Put extra effort into them and let them shine!

^^^ This. This is where my brain is these days. Focus on the veg, make them delicious and then add in some other awesomeness to help make it whole.

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When at the grocers yesterday (still filling the fridge up after a week away) I saw some gorgeous kale. I knew we needed to use up some of the eggs and feta in the fridge so a quiche was devised. I never really follow the proportions they insist upon in quiche recipes…so again I foraged off on my own. I also picked up some sliced, fresh mushrooms to lose a step. And as this was mostly a meal for our au pair and myself, I allowed it to be extra cheesy as hubs doesn’t do “cheesy” (his loss. right?!).

Ingredients:

  • Dinosaur kale (I used one and a half handfuls)
  • Two cups of sliced porcini mushrooms
  • Eight medium eggs
  • One vidalia onion
  • One medium shallot
  • One cup of feta
  • Half cup of cheddar
  • Half stick of butter, separated
  • Olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • Two roma tomatoes
  • Flax seed
  • Cooking spray
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Handful of basil
  • Parm, to finish

This comes together pretty quickly for as many ingredients as there are. And the above feeds three. This would be an excellent “side dish” if paired with something meaty. Or it could also take on epic status with the inclusion of some sun dried tomato chicken sausage.

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Preheat the oven to 375. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of butter chopped into fourths over medium heat in a sauté pan. I actually like a bit of a thinner pan for this type of cooking. My favorite sauté pan is also my cheapest. It browns the butter super quickly and heats the oil fast, as well.

Chop the vidalia into a medium small chop. A chunkier chop would work well here, too, if you want a bit more tooth in your onion. When the butter is starting to brown, add in the vidalia and have it sop up all of that buttery, browned deliciousness.

While that softens, start on the kale. I like dinosaur kale because it is so easy to remove the stalk by pulling on the greens in the opposite direction from the bottom of the stalk (obviously, rinse and pat dry the kale before you do this). When you have stripped all of your kale, roll it up like a chiffonade and cut it across the grain so that it is in thin strips.

ImageAs soon as the vidalia is getting a bit more translucent, add in the mushrooms, one more tablespoon of butter (quartered) and cook until all are tender and slightly browned. I also salt and pepper my mushrooms at this point. A splash of wine (any wine, really…last night we were drinking rosé) right about now does WONDERS to the complexity of the flavor, too.  Next time I make this, I am going to use a bit more wine than I did last night. 

I used the time the mushrooms were cooking to crack and beat my eggs. Most recipes would call for about four eggs in this. I used eight or nine (I lost track) medium sized eggs. As I wasn’t using any milk to “lift” the eggs, and it was going to be main and only dinner, I wanted to add a bit of heft. I whisked them until incorporated then beat in a bit more salt and pepper and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes and dumped in the two cheeses. 

ImageNow that the mushrooms were soft, I piled the kale on top of the mushrooms. I grabbed my madonlin and sliced thinly the shallot, sprinkling it on the kale. The kale will cook down now…but it will cook down a bit more quickly with another splash of wine. Incorporate the mushrooms, kale and onions once the kale’s green is brightening. Let that cook over low to medium heat until the kale is soft. 

Meanwhile, make the space on your mandolin a bit wider and slice your tomatoes into 1/6″ slices. Spray some cooking spray on the inside of your glass pan (I used a Pyrex casserole dish as I needed more than just a slice).  Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with ground flax seed and parmesan (to make a bit of a strach-less, healthy crust).

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Once the kale/mushroom combo seems well cooked, stir it again so that it is well mixed and then pour it into the pyrex dish. I had to move things around a bit because the mushrooms were heavy on one side and the kale on the other.

Pour the egg and cheese mixture on so that it evenly coats the veggies. And then layer the tomatoes across the top. Put it in the oven, uncovered for 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through.

The tomatoes on top give it some needed sweetness, the cheddar the bite, the pepper the heat and the feta some added salt…and they all work well with the savory-ness of the dish. If I did it again, I would then put some chopped parsley/ground flax and parm on the top to add a little crunch to the top and broil it for a few seconds at the end.

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Overstuffed Yellow Squash Boats and Sauteed Red Wine Kale

I went all veg last night. I don’t do this THAT often (though I know I should) because, without any starches, M and I often don’t get full without a protein. I combated no protein with a tiny bit of farro. And I think it was a success. I was satiated and enjoyed the meal. And the girls LOVED it.

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As I often do, I took what I had and interpretted another recipe to make it fit my fridge. Last night I made yellow squash boats stuffed with mushrooms, spinach and goat cheese (topped with toasted pine nuts, balsamic glaze and a bit of sriracha). I also made kale sauteed with red wine and yellow onion.

Squash Boats

  • 1 large squash per person
  • package of frozen spinach
  • two cups of dried mushrooms, chopped finely
  • finely sliced shallot
  • red pepper flakes
  • thyme
  • salt/pepper
  • goat cheese (frozen)

Kale

  • 1 large bag of kale, washed, torn into 1 inch pieces and rid of tough stems
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • butter
  • 1 small lemon

I made the kale first as I wanted it to sit in its juices for as long as possible. After washing and trimming the kale to rid it of the stems, I tore any large leaves into small, bit size pieces. I put them into a bowl lined with a kitchen towel and let them drain while I chopped and cooked the yellow onion.

P actually helped with most of this portion of the meal. He loved “showering” and tearing the kale and stirring the onions cooked over medium heat. He has also started to have the dexterity to grind the salt and pepper over the food so I let him do that over the onions as they started to become translucent.

Once cooked, I piled in the kale and, over medium/high heat, wilted it until to became bright green. As there was so much kale in my saute pan, I had to turn the kale often and use a large pan lid to weigh down the leaves to keep them all in. As soon as the kale was bright green, I poured in the cup of red wine left over from a few nights previous and turned the heat to low and let all of that yumminess simmer. It was also at this time that I added 1 tablespoon of butter, cut into smaller pieces, and squirted it with the juice of a small lemon. This really added a depth to the flavor. Once this was all melded together, I poured the mixture and ALL of the juice into a large bowl to sit and absorb.

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I put some water into my electric kettle and let it boil while I dried out the pan with a paper towel. I chopped the dry mushrooms into 1/4 inch pieces and rinsed them in my mesh colander  When the water was boiling, I put the mushrooms in the pan and poured the hot water over them, letting them absorb the moisture. Once they were well soaked, I put them back in the mesh colander and let them drain over the sink. This last part used no heat…just reduced the number of bowls I’d have to clean later 🙂

At this time I preheated the oven to 350. The spinach was next. I popped a box of frozen chopped spinach into the pan and, after pouring a bit of hot water from the kettle over it, let the spinach defrost, stirring often and breaking it apart slowly. Once heated, I poured the spinach and its juices over the mushrooms that were still in the sink in the mesh colander. Those sat and dripped while I prepared the squash.

ImageI trimmed the ends off of the squash and cut them in half. After removing with a spoon the seeded center and setting that portion aside, I sliced a thin portion off of the bottom so that they would sit flat.

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On the hulled squash boats I added salt and pepper, a sprinkling of dry thyme and a tiny bit of finely chopped red pepper flakes. The other flavors are so subtle on this dish that it definitely needed that zing…so don’t exclude the red pepper flakes. I then sprayed it with smart balance cooking spray…but this was mostly for convenience as it was right in front of me and my olive oil was across the room. Lazy, yo.

Back at the saute pan, I toasted a handful of pine nuts and set them aside. I put a teaspoon of olive oil in the pan, heated it up and tossed in the shallot and the squash innards, letting them cook over medium high heat. I pressed the remaining liquid out of the spinach and mushrooms and then added them to the mix. I had the goat cheese in the freezer to make even distribution into the filling easier. I crumbled about three tablespoons of goat cheese onto the filling and stirred it in. Add sriracha sauce to taste at this point. I don’t like my food too hot so I just did a tiny bit and then let the others heat their food up at the end as they wished.

On a silpat lined cookie sheet, I placed the empty boats and then overstuffed them with the filling.

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I squeezed a bit of balsamic glaze over the top and put them in the oven for 30-35 minutes, turning once during cooking to allow for even temperature in my horrible stove. Test for doneness with a sharp knife. When it goes into the skin of the squash easily, it is ready.

While the squash is cooking, I used 1/2 a cup of the Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro and 1 cup of chicken stock and simmered that on the stove, after bringing it to a boil, for 10 minutes. Once cooked to chewiness, I added back in the kale  mixture to heat for serving.

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Serve the kale with a slotted spoon and portion two squash boats per person. Top the squash boats with toasted pine nuts, a bit more of the goat cheese and a drizzle of balsamic glaze and/or sriracha and you have yourself a delicious and incredibly healthy meal.

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Basil Pork with Squash Rounds, Red Pepper and Farro

I was exhausted Monday. I needed and wanted to cook dinner for our little group but my brain wasn’t processing properly. I was having trouble sequencing my thoughts when I was at the grocery store doing our weekly shop so came home slightly unprepared for how and what I was cooking for dinner. This dinner was a little bit of what I could find in our kitchen and a request from the hubs for “that farro stir fry [I] made a few weeks ago.” Documenting the dinners my family enjoys is the main impetus for this blog…and requests like this, when I can barely remember what I had for lunch (Monday? a yogurt with honey, a spoonful of peanut butter, a handful of sprouted sunflower seeds and some carrots. Holy crap! I remembered).

In the fridge I found a pork tenderloin, almost at its sell by date, three yellow squash, a few red shallots and two red peppers. I also went into the garden and grabbed a handful of big leaf basil. 

  • pork tenderloin
  • handful of basil
  • 2 large shallots
  • 3 yellow squash
  • 2 red peppers
  • oyster sauce
  • 1 meyer lemon

The first step was to cook the 10 minute farro that we love. I use chicken stock instead of water. Boil the chicken stock, add the farro, stir occasionally.

While the farro is cooking, cut the tenderloin into 1 inch by 2 inch pieces. Salt, pepper and douse in oyster sauce, coating evenly. Slice shallot thinly. Heat olive oil in large saute pan over med-high heat until shimmering and then add the shallot. Cook quickly until slightly soft, push to the edges of the pan and add pork. 

While the pork is browning, cut squash into discs and zest the lemon (saving the lemon for later). Turn pork if starting to brown and cook through. In a separate pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add squash. Turn the squash in the olive oil to coat and then arrange them so that most are laying flat on the bottom of the pan. Lightly salt and pepper.

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While the squash softens and browns, chiffonade the basil and cut the peppers into thin strips. Turn the pork as it should be getting near finished, add the basil and lightly coat with oyster sauce again. Squeeze half of the lemon on the pork. Mix thoroughly. Turn the squash so that all pieces are evenly browned. Remembering that the pork will continue to cook in the pan and that pork should have a bit of pink in it, turn off the burner and move the pan off the heat. Add the red pepper to the squash. 

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(Be sure to take out the lemon seeds after squeezing…or, you know, avoid them all together 🙂 )

When the squash is soft and slightly browned, add reduced balsamic and coat. Turn off heat.

Serve by adding to a bowl a layer of farro, the squash/pepper mix and then top with the pork. It was DELISH.

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Kitchen Sink Quinoa

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One of the first meals I made for M to transition us out of carb heavy meals to those that were more wholesome and healthy was this Kitchen Sink Quinoa.

Ingredients:

  • Avocado
  • Edamame
  • Pomegranate
  • Pre-cooked beets (canned or fresh)
  • Feta
  • Shallot
  • Quinoa
  • Balsamic vinagrette

I had all of the ingredients on hand so this came together quickly. It is great for lunch or leftovers, too. 

Cook the quinoa as directed on the package but substitute chicken (or vegetable) stock for water. Meanwhile, cut the beets into 1/2″ pieces, pop the perils out of the pomegranate, cut the avocado into cubes and, if necessary, pop the edamame beans out of their shell. Cut the shallot into thin slices and lightly saute until translucent. Add the beets to heat through.

Once the quinoa is cooked through, add avocado, edamame, pomegranate, chopped beets, shallot, feta and quinoa into a large bowl. Personally, I don’t dress the salad as that is something that is a deeply personal decision (one on which M and I disagree) and let each person add the amount of dressing they wish. This also helps the dish keep for leftovers. It is delicious.

Variations: This is a great place for leftover veggies and/or chicken/fish from the night before. Chop all leftovers into small chunks and the lunch salad becomes dinner.