Summer Quinoa Salad

This fresh salad is the perfect side dish for a hot summer day, plus it’s full of healthy veggies. It can also stand on its own as a lighter lunch or snack, or – my favorite – serve it over fresh greens and add your favorite protein for a yummy salad. It’s easy to make ahead of time and then just scoop when you’re ready to eat!

Ingredients:Summer Quinoa Salad

  • 1 cup organic quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 1 leek
  • 1/2 large cucumber
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • A handful of fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

Steps:

  1. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under cold water using a fine mesh colander. Add the quinoa to a medium pot, then add the water and a drizzle of olive oil. Cover with a lid and heat until it boils, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 15-17 minutes. When it’s done, remove from heat and use a fork to fluff it up (if it’s still soggy, leave over low heat for a few more minutes). Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion. Place it in a large skillet, drizzle a little grapeseed oil over the top and saute over medium heat, stirring often.
  3. Peel the outer layer off the leek, chop off the top darker green part, then rinse. Next, cut the leek in half lengthwise and then chop each long half into thin pieces (about 1/4 inch thick). Place these pieces in the mesh colander (reuse the one from step 1) and run under cold water, squishing apart the layers with your fingers, to separate the pieces and ensure the dirt is all washed away. Toss the clean pieces into the skillet with the onion, add a few sprinkles of salt, and stir, continuing to saute until the leek softens and the onion is golden brown.
  4. Wash and peel the cucumber, then chop it into small pieces. Set aside.
  5. Wash the tomatoes and, depending on their size, chop each in half.
  6. Wash the parsley and pull off the leaves, placing them in a pile on your cutting board. Use a large knife to cut the parsley into finer pieces. (Hold the rounded front end of the knife down with one hand so that it doesn’t move too much, then use your other hand to rotate the knife in a chopping motion. Then rotate the cutting board 90 degrees and repeat, so you’re chopping perpendicularly.)
  7. In a large bowl, combine the fluffed-up quinoa, the onion and leek saute, the cucumbers, the tomatoes, the parsley and the garlic powder, along with a drizzle of olive oil, dash of pepper and a few sprinkles of salt. Toss together, then cover and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy. Yum!

Try to buy as much organic produce as you can, as it minimizes the bad stuff you put into your body to optimize your health. Quinoa packs a hearty protein punch, so this light salad is a great healthy choice for a hot summer day like the ones we’ve been having!

Bok Choy Delight!

Let’s be honest, green leafy veggies don’t usually excite people and can be intimidating to make into a meal. However, it only takes a bit of preparation to make them delicious and enticing. I only recently started cooking with bok choy at Rob’s urging (seriously), and I’m glad I gave it a try – it’s simple to prepare and really yummy, not to mention healthy.

Ingredients:

  •  2 or 3 heads of organic baby bok choy*baby bok choy
  •  1 large onion
  •  5-7 shiitake mushrooms
  •  2-3 garlic cloves
  •  1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil
  •  1 teaspoon minced parsley
  •  1 teaspoon ground ginger
  •  1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  •  1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  •  Few sprinkles of ground sea salt
  •  Dash black pepper
  •  A few good drizzles of Bragg’s liquid aminos (chock full of amino acids; you can also use soy or tamari sauce, but check out Bragg’s if you haven’t used it before, it’s good stuff!)

Steps:

  1. Peel the onion and chop it into bite-size chunks. Place in large skillet with a good drizzle of grapeseed oil, stir, and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  2. While the onion is sauteing, wash the mushrooms and chop into small pieces or strips. Add to the onion and stir. Turn heat to medium-low and continue sauteing.
  3. Peel the garlic and chop each clove in half or thirds, then perpendicularly cut it into thin slices (so that you’re basically cutting the garlic into small pieces). Set aside.
  4. Keep an eye on the saute and stir every minute or two. Turn off the heat if the onions and mushroom start to look soft and really golden brown; otherwise, leave over medium-low heat.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the bok choy (this step may look longer but it’s easy, I promise, I just wanted to give some extra detail). To start, lay out some paper towels and put on a little water to boil in a large pot, which you’ll use for steaming. Rinse each head of bok choy off under cold water and discard any outside leaves that look brown. Then, peel off each leaf individually, rinse well (use your fingers to rub off any dirt spots), and set on paper towel. When you get to the center of each head, the leaves will be tiny – these are still great, so rinse away. For each stalk: chop the very bottom off and discard; chop the white part of the stem into 1/2 inch chunks and set in a steamer basket; pile the green leafy parts from several leaves on top of each other and cut horizontally into 1/2 inch strips and set aside (include the tiny leaf/stalks in this pile, uncut).
  6. Add the chopped garlic, parsley, ginger, garlic powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of Bragg’s to the onion skillet and stir well. Add the leafy bok choy strips to this, stir, then place a large lid over the skillet pan for about 5 minutes.
  7. At the same time, steam the bok choy stalks over the boiling water for about 4 minutes, until softened.
  8. Remove the lid from the saute (if the leafy greens are not softened, leave the lid on for another minute or two). Add the steamed stalks to the saute and stir, adding another drizzle of Bragg’s. Let it saute for another minute or so, then serve hot over brown rice or quinoa.
  9. Delicious, nutritious dinner!

*The bok choy really “cooks down” – it gets much smaller as you cook it because the water evaporates, so while 2 or 3 heads may initially seem like more than you want, most of it will seemingly disappear! In fact, this recipe really serves only 2 people, so increase the proportions if you’re cooking for a larger group. You can also use a similar amount of regular bok choy.

Although step 5 may look long, the bok choy is really simple to prepare. You can also just steam the entire stalk/leaf after rinsing well, then add it in for even less work (I like the more bite-size pieces, but many people love the full leaves). Add spices and / or meat to adapt this dish as you like.

Photo: http://centralfarmmarkets.wordpress.com

Snacktime: Nachos

Nachos are an almost unrivaled snack: they’ve got so much going on, what with the crunchy chips, gooey cheese and spicy salsa, not to mention the other toppings. Since I’ve been on a healthier path, I really haven’t gotten to enjoy fully loaded nachos. However, the other day I had a craving and just went for it – this healthier version is yummy, easy and adaptable.

nachosIngredients:

  • A couple handfuls of whole corn tortilla chips
  • A veggie burger (try my favorite, Sunshine burgers)
  • Vegetable salsa (look for one with only whole ingredients and no added sugar)
  • A small piece of raw cheese
  • 1/2 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
  • A lime wedge
  • Sea salt

Steps:

  1. Prepare the veggie burger according to the instructions, then cut into small pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, spread the chips on a plate. Add the veggie burger pieces evenly over the top, then drizzle or spoon the salsa over the top.
  3. Use a vegetable peeler or grater to add thin slices of cheese all over to nachos. Sprinkle a little salt over the top.
  4. Microwave on medium heat for 30-45 seconds, just until the cheese starts to melt.
  5. Lastly, add the avocado chunks and squeeze a little lime juice over the top.
  6. Snack time!

This recipe is so easy and pretty filling. Get creative with toppings like black olives, sauteed onions, and spicy jalapenos.

Although my body tends to know when I consume dairy (hello allergies and congestion), raw dairy products don’t have the same effect. Raw dairy, such as raw cheese, still contains enzymes from the original milk that help to break down and digest the dairy itself, so that if you have problems with lactose you may be able to enjoy raw dairy with less or even no issues (you read that right, it basically digests itself). If I’m craving cheese, I’d rather have a more natural food like raw dairy than the processed vegan cheese that you can buy at the grocery. (However, you can make your own more wholesome vegan cheese, like we did in this Gratin.)

Cucumber Water

cucumber waterTreat yourself to a refreshing, rejuvenating drink of health. This is really too simple to be called a recipe, but it’s too amazing not to share. Every time I take a sip of this drink, I feel like I’m relaxing at a spa. Cheers to that.

Ingredients:

  • 1 organic cucumber
  • A glass of filtered water
  • A few ice cubes

Steps:

  1. Wash the cucumber (peel if you so desire). Cut the cucumber in half, then slice off a few thin-ish rounds from the middle.
  2. Add the cucumber slices to your glass of water, then add ice on top.
  3. Sip and relax.

Make a pitcher of this with more cucumber slices for a relaxing day with friends. Enjoy the leftover cucumber in your next salad, or if you get hungry after all that refreshment, just munch on the slices from your glass :)

Photo: http://naturalmommie.com

Okra Skillet

okra“Oak-rah” – now that this unique veggie is in season, it’s time to take full advantage. On a summer visit to South Carolina when I was little, we had fried okra as part of a southern feast. My twelve-year-old self wasn’t so sure about this little green veggie at first, but I fell in love with it – and it wasn’t just the fried part, the okra itself was delish. Here’s an easy, healthier way to enjoy it.

Ingredients:

  • A few handfuls organic okra (about 3 cups chopped)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 veggie burger, crumbled (try Sunshine burgers)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Sprinkle of sea salt
  • Dash pepper
  • Dried cayenne pepper or hot sauce, to taste (optional)

Steps:

  1. Peel and dice the onion, then saute it with a drizzle of oil over medium-low heat for about 5-10 minutes. Also, peel and mince the garlic; add the garlic to the skillet only once the onion is golden brown, then turn off the burner after 30 seconds (the garlic burns easily).
  2. Meanwhile, thoroughly wash the okra and then chop it horizontally into 1/4 inch wide rounds. Steam the chopped okra over a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes.
  3. While steaming the okra, prepare the veggie burger (use the onion skillet or the microwave, which I’ll admit is super convenient if not the ideal choice). Once cooked, cut it into small pieces – it will probably crumble with cutting, which is perfect.
  4. Add the okra and veggie burger to the skillet and mix, returning the skillet to medium-low heat. Also add another drizzle of oil and the seasonings, and toss it all together.
  5. Serve over quinoa or brown rice for a delicious side, or increase the proportions for a full-blown meal. :)

No okra to be found? Check the freezer section of your grocery; while nothing compares to fresh okra, the frozen stuff is almost as good – just steam it for about 9 minutes instead of 5.

Photo: http://blog.cookingchanneltv.com