Quinoa Taco Salad

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By Corinne

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with quinoa as I shared in my post on Lemony Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas. I find it tends to suck the flavour out of things, and isn’t really that exciting on it’s own. Ha, ha, am I selling you on this yet? This really is a wonderful supper full of savoury flavours and delightful textures. I have found that red quinoa seems to have a bit more flavour, and I prefer it for this dish and most others. It is vegan as long as you either use dairy free cheese shreds and either omit or use a dairy free version of sour cream.

This recipe was inspired by one from Thug Kitchen 101- but edited for both additional flavour and simplicity. It could also easily be used as a filling for tacos, or as a topping for nachos 🙂

 

Time: about 35 minutes

Serves: 4 generously

You will need:

  • 1 cup red quinoa, rinsed (to rinse or not to rinse? I buy mine in bulk so rinse)
  • 1 3/4 cups water or veggie broth (I used veggie broth)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 cup canned (cooked) black beans
  • 1 large onion, small dice
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, small dice
  • 1-2 fresh jalapeño, minced (don’t be afraid to use at least one here! The quinoa really does make things less spicy somehow)
  • 2 heads romaine, washed and chopped
  • juice of one lime, + additional lime wedges for each salad
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • tortilla chips
  • garnishes- avocado or guacamole, additional jalapeño, green onions, diced cherry or regular tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, shredded cheddar or queso fresca

Combine 1 cup quinoa with water or veggie broth. Add 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp oregano. Bring to boil, and then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Stir every few minutes until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy- about 20 min. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding a bit more of everything to your taste, or leaving it as is. While quinoa is cooking, prepare vegetables.

Add 2 tbsp oil to pan on medium high heat, and add onion, black beans, bell pepper,  and jalapeño to pan. Fry until veggies are starting to get tender and getting some colour- about 5-7 min. Add cooked quinoa, lime juice, garlic, and cilantro. Stir for an additional minute or two.

Serve hot over lettuce with toppings of your choice. Also delicious cold for lunch the next day!

 

 

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Maple Balsamic Slaw and Sausage

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By Corinne

If ‘coleslaw’ makes you think of mayo- banish it from your mind!  This is not your mayo based coleslaw for sure. Red cabbage is beautiful, inexpensive and an excellent source of vitamins C, K, and A. You could do all red cabbage for this slaw, or all green if that’s all you can find, but I like a combination of the two for the colours. In the middle of winter it can be difficult to find good produce that is reasonably priced. This colourful meal checks a number of boxes- easy, fast, healthy and economical!

RANDOM SCIENCE FACTS AND FUN HOME LAB FOR KIDS– skip this and scroll down if you want to straight to the foods!

You can also make an AWESOME natural indicator with red cabbage. An indicator is a substance that changes colour depending on pH. Red cabbage contains a pigment molecule that is an anthocyanin- this is what is responsible for the colour changes. Want a fun little science lab you can do at home?  I have done the following MANY times with my science students. I usually have them test a variety of ‘mystery liquids’ with both pH strips and a few drops of the red cabbage indicator. They are always surprised with the variety and brightness of the colours produced.

To make the indicator, boil some chopped red cabbage(about a cup or cup and a half) with a half a cup of water for about 5 minutes- it doesn’t matter too much proportions, but you want to end up with a dark purple liquid – that being said, the colour of the liquid will very much depend on the pH of your tap water and how close to neutral your  water is. Strain and cool (keep tightly sealed in the fridge) Once cooled, you can test a variety of household substances.

Start with something you know is acidic- lemon juice or vinegar and something you know is basic- bleach for example, so you have a baseline and know what colours to expect from acids and bases. In science class we use spot plates and pipettes, but you can just place a few drops of your testing liquid onto a plate. You want just a few drops of the substance you are testing, and then place a few drops of your indicator into it and record your observations.

If you drip this liquid into a substance that is basic, it will turn green, and if you drip it into an acid it turns bright pink. (Neutral solutions will stay purple). Have fun checking a variety of household liquids!

Time: 40 minutes for the sausages, about 15 minutes for the slaw or less if you are using a food processor.

Oven: 400F

Serves: 2-3

You will need:

  • 350 g (about 4 cups) red cabbage thinly sliced
  • 200 g (about 3 cups) green cabbage thinly sliced
  • 140 g (1 large) carrot grated
  • 3 salt and pepper sausages (can be found at Maltese if you are in Thunder Bay) or 3 mildly flavoured sausages of your choice
  • 1 clove garlic finely minced
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) safflower or olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tbsp (37 ml) pure maple syrup (don’t use maple flavoured whatever!)
  • 1/2 tbsp (7 ml) toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) smooth dijon mustard
  • 1/2 shallot, finely minced (about 1.5 tbsp)
  • 1 clove of garlic finely minced
  • a few grinds of fresh pepper

Heat oven to 400F while you make the dressing.

Whisk together all dressing ingredients. This makes about 1 cup of dressing.

Thinly slice cabbages and grate carrot. I used a food processor today, but have often just sliced by hand. Dress slaw in half of the dressing and refrigerate and reserve the other half of the dressing. (This is fine made ahead, but ensure you don’t add the toasted sesame seeds until serving)

Add 1 additional clove of garlic to the reserved dressing. Place sausages in a small casserole dish with the half cup of reserved dressing. Bake for 40 minutes, flipping them over periodically and basting in the dressing.

In a small frying pan, add the sesame seeds and toast over medium heat, shaking them up until golden- about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Add a generous amount slaw to each plate. When sausage is thoroughly cooked, slice on the bias and place on top of slaw. Sprinkle with a teaspoon or two of toasted sesame seeds.

 

Cucumber Tomato Salad with Lemon and Dill

By Corinne

This salad comes together quickly and makes a delicious side. If you’re looking to make it a little more hearty, add some crumbled feta- if you do you should omit the salt until after you’ve tasted it with the cheese as feta is quite salty.

Makes: about 4 side servings

Time: less than 10 minutes

You will need:

  • 1 long English cucumber
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large clove of fresh garlic
  • juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped dill (add more if desired)
  • several grinds of fresh black pepper
  • salt to taste (about 1/4 tsp)

Halve the cucumber and thinly slice into half moons and put in a medium sized bowl. Quarter cherry tomatoes and add to cucumbers. Mince or press garlic and add to the cucumber and tomato. Chop dill and add to the vegetables. Add the juice of one fresh lemon and several grinds of fresh pepper and salt. Stir together. This salad can be eaten immediately, but is best if left to sit at least half an hour before serving in order to let the flavours marry.

 

Quinoa and Goat Cheese Salad with Orange Ginger Vinegrette

By Corinne

I haven’t quite managed to jump on the quinoa bandwagon, but have discovered that I do prefer the red quinoa to the white variety. It seems to have a little more flavour than the white variety and it cooks up exactly the same. This is a healthy and filling supper salad. It’s even better if you make the quinoa and dressing the day before and it has a chance to really soak in, which means it makes for amazing lunch the next day

Serves: 4

You will need:

  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cups water (I use a little less water because it’s going to absorb some of the dressing later)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 crispy apple (I used Red Prince variety)
  • 3/4 cup of pepitas
  • goat cheese- I’m not putting an amount because I like a lot. Full disclosure, I even added a few more chunks after I took the photo.
  • salad greens of your choice
  • Not pictured – but some slices of cucumber also work well with this dressing

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • zest of one orange
  • 4 tsp freshly grated ginger (taste, you may want to add more)
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced or pressed
  • Several grinds of fresh pepper and a generous pinch of salt

Before cooking quinoa, give it a good rinse in a fine colander under running water, scrubbing it a bit with your fingers. Cook quinoa in 1 3/4 cup of water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low for 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Fluff and remove from heat- leave uncovered to cool.

While quinoa is cooking, whisk together dressing ingredients.

In a dry pan, toast pepitas over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, shaking the pan every few minutes. You will hear some of them start to ‘snap’ and get a bit brown. They don’t all need to brown, but when they start to smell toasty they are done.

When quinoa is finished cooking and has cooled a bit, add half of the dressing to the quinoa. Let this sit for at least 10 minutes, though this could be done earlier in the day and refrigerated. Let the quinoa cool to about room temperature. (Though if you’ve made it earlier in the day or the day before and it’s cooled completely, that’s great too!)

Slice apple just before serving so it doesn’t brown.

Place salad greens in bowl, add several spoonfuls of the dressed quinoa on top of the greens. Top with apple slices, goat cheese, toasted pepitas and additional dressing.

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Steak and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

By Corinne

I love goat cheese and there is a generous amount of it on this salad – do feel free to cut back to a more reasonable amount. There is a pub in town that serves a delicious goat cheese and steak salad that was definitely my inspiration for this. Making it at home means I can add more cheese and make the dressing exactly how I want it.

Serves: 4 

Time: about 25 minutes – but it depends on how long you let the steaks come to room temperature and how long you let them rest for at the end

You will need:

  • 3 strip loin steaks (you can do one per person if they are particularly small or if you are very hungry – you can also do 2 steaks if you are looking to cut back on the meat portion)
  • Montreal steak spice
  • Worcestershire sauce (gluten free if you use a gf worcestershire – alternatively use balsamic here)
  • 10 oz (284g) salad greens (I used “tender ruby reds”, but spring mix or romaine work as well)
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 small red onion, VERY thinly sliced
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes if desired. Sometimes I feel them, sometimes I don’t.
  • 250g goat cheese (if you can find it, try ‘Celebrity’ brand – it’s one of the best ones I’ve found in a grocery store. If you live in Thunder Bay, you can find it at Maltese)

For the dressing

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar *
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • pinch of salt
  • few grinds of fresh pepper

*as I’ve mentioned in other posts, I tend to prefer my dressings more on the vinegar side. The classic oil/vinegar ratio is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil – feel free to adjust this to taste.

Sprinkle steaks liberally with Montreal steak spice and Worcestershire sauce. Allow to come to room temperature – at least 30 minutes, but 45 if you have time.

Whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.

Slice peppers and onions and tomatoes if using. Divide salad greens among plates, distribute onions and peppers on top of greens and sprinkle with goat cheese. I find raw onion can be quite strong. Slice it very thin, as thin as you possibly can. Give it a taste, the amount  you use is going to depend very much on the strength of the particular onion.

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Grilling the steaks – preheat bbq for 5-10 minutes. Sear steaks- place on grill for 1 minute, close the lid. Flip and place on the other side for 1 minute. Flip again and cook for 10-15 minutes flipping half way through, depending on desired doneness. If you haven’t tried it,  you should start trying the touch test for doneness.  It’s a more reliable test than purely timing, and once you have it down you’re golden. If you have a meat thermometer, you can use that, but it requires you poking the steaks and losing potential juiciness. Allow steaks to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Divide greens, vegetables and goat cheese between 4 plates. Thinly slice steak and place on salad. Divide dressing between 4 plates. If desired, add a few more chunks of goat cheese on top of the steaks.

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Lemon Pepper Chicken and Blackberry Salad for Two

By Corinne

I adore salads. I know that ‘adore’ seems like a word reserved for kittens and perhaps rich cheesy goodness but I really l do love salads.  I love them making them with fresh greens from my little garden all summer long, but even in the winter between bowls of soup, I still crave crunchy greens. In the summer, salad is our side for almost every meal, but in the winter I tend towards a supper salad, as greens for just a side are not only pricey, but can be hard to get in good condition

The only thing that makes me sad about a supper salad is I generally make them in whatever portion I need them for that supper, so I often don’t have leftover supper salad for lunches.

Time: about 20 minutes

Serves: 2- though easily doubled.

You will need:

  • 1 large head of romaine, washed and chopped
  • 2 mini cucumbers, or half of a regular English cucumber
  • 6 oz (180g) of fresh blackberries
  • 1 cup of finely shredded red cabbage
  • 2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts or 3-4 boneless skinless thighs (what I used in the photo)
  • lemon pepper seasoning

For the dressing:

  • juice from one lemon
  • 3-4 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 tsp liquid honey
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard
  • few grinds of fresh pepper

Whisk together all dressing ingredients and set aside. This probably makes a bit more dressing than you need for two salads, but better a bit extra than not enough!

Wash and chop lettuce, spin to dry and set aside. Finely chop red cabbage, and mini cucumbers and set aside.

Season both sides of chicken breasts or thighs with lemon pepper seasoning. I like Mom’s Pantry lemon pepper seasoning because it’s quite lemony and has no salt added, but whatever lemon pepper seasoning you like will do.

Heat about a tbsp of canola in a heavy bottomed pan (I used cast iron, but whatever pan you have will work) over medium heat and add chicken to pan. If your chicken is super thick on one end, you can give it a few pounds with a meat tenderizer to even it out a bit for easier cooking. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the chicken. Cook for about 10-15 minutes until cooked through.

Assemble salads. Divide romaine and place on plates, scatter red cabbage and cucumbers on top. Slice chicken and and top salad with sliced chicken and a generous handful of blackberries. Whisk dressing and drizzle over salad. Eat. Enjoy.

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Brie and Apple Salad with Cider Vinegrette

By Corinne

This is one of my favourite salads. It comes together quickly, and even though you bread and fry the cheese (just a little bit and it’s totally worth it) I still think it qualifies as a pretty good post-holiday-gluttony supper.

I absolutely adore pomegranate. It has a reputation of being difficult to peel and messy, but really it’s super simple. I was going to take pictures of how I peel it, but here’s a great video instead. You can even be less finicky with cutting off the top than this person is and it will still pull apart beautifully.

Time: 20 minutes or less – tonight I started this at 6 and we were finished eating at 6:30.

Serves: 4 as a light supper salad (I usually do half of this for just two of us)

You will need:

For the salad

  • 2 small heads of romaine, washed, chopped and dried
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 2 small crisp apples
  • 1 7oz (200g) wheel of double cream brie
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 3-4 tbsp canola for frying

For the dressing

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 tsp grainy mustard
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil (or olive oil if that is your preference, though I find it is sometimes over powering, especially in a salad like this that has rather delicate flavours)
  • several grinds fresh pepper
  • pinch of salt to taste

Whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.

Chop, rinse, and dry romaine. Open pomegranate and put all of the arils (that’s what you call the little bits you eat!) into a bowl.

Heat 3-4 tbsp of oil in a small frying pan.

Cut brie wheel into eight equal pieces – two will go on each salad.

Whisk one egg in a small bowl and put 3/4 cup of panko crumbs into a pie plate.

Dip each piece of brie into the egg and then into the bread crumbs, pressing them in and coating each side.

When all brie pieces are ready to go, core apples, halve, and thinly slice. You want to wait until now to do this step so your apples don’t brown before you are ready to serve the salad.

Place 4 slices of brie into the pan, they will only take a few seconds on each side for the breading to brown. Remove and drain on paper towel. Repeat with remaining 4 slices.

Arrange salad on plates- romaine, apple slices, handful of pomegranate arils and then top with two pieces of fried brie. Give the dressing another whisk before drizzling on top.

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