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Mushroom Bean Bourguignon

There has never been a better time to try out a plant based diet than during this COVID-19 pandemic. The two biggest reasons to eat meatless meals while “sheltering in place” are: A) Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to boost your immune system and B) fruits and veggies are cheaper and more plentiful in stores than meat and dairy (which can be harder to keep fresh). Some of you who are home with your families may have more time to prepare meals and can ask your children or partner to help prep/chop up veggies for recipes. Turn meal prep time into your own “home economics class” and prepare your kids for life on their own (which comes sooner than you expect).

This recipe from Taste of Home.com is one of our family’s favorites, esp. on cooler nights. It uses easy to find ingredients and tastes like a hearty stew – but without the beef. It is easy to make and serves 4 to 5 (or 10 servings if doubled).

Mushroom-Bean Bourguignon

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tsp olive oil, divided
  • 2.5 medium onions, halved and sliced
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 Large portobello mushrooms cut into 1 inch chunks OR 1 pint package of baby portobello mushrooms cut in half (or quartered if they are big) .
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 2/3 cup dry red wine or cooking wine
  • 1 cup vegetable or mushroom broth (divided)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained (optional – for more flavor)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp minced free thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can navy or northern beans, drained
  • 1/2 pkg (14.4 oz) frozen pearl onions (optional)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp all purpose flour

Directions:

  1. In a Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots and onions; cook and stir 8 – 10 minutes or until onions are tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Remove from pan to a separate bowl.
  2. In same pan, heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, cook and stir until lightly browned. Note: If you are doubling the recipe – sauté the mushrooms in two batches and return both batches to the pan when finished.
  3. Add tomato paste; cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir in wine, 1/2 cup of the broth, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, thyme and carrot mixture; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 25 minutes.
  4. Add the drained beans and pearl onions (if using) and cook for 30 minutes longer.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk flour and the remaining 1/2 cup of broth until smooth; stir into pan. Bring to a boil and cook and stir 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add more broth if the mixture is too thick.

Serve with crusty bread.

Per Serving (without tomatoes): 234 calories, 6 grams of fat (1g sat. fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 613 mg sodium. 33g of carb., 7g fiber, and 9g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2 starch, 2 vegetable, 1 lean meat, 1 fat.

Mushroom-Bean Bourguignon

Quick Vegetable Stir Fry

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This quick and easy dish taken from “SmartintheKitchen.com” can be served alone or over rice or noodles. I added baked tofu (using the Easiest Crispy Tofu Recipe) but you could serve it with your favorite protein substitute (like seitan, etc.). Use fresh vegetables if you have then (like peppers, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus, etc) – but frozen stir fry mix is just as good and faster. This recipe takes about 20 minutes – but add another 25 – 30 minutes if making the crispy tofu too. Serves 4 – 6

Quick Vegetable Stir Fry with Crispy Tofu

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil or avocado oil
  • 1 package frozen stir fry mix, without sauce
  • 1 package frozen broccoli, without sauce
  • 5 green onions, cut on diagonally into then slices
  • 1-inch piece of changer, peeled and finely grated (I use ginger paste from a tube – available at Aldi)
  • 3 garlic closes, minced (about 1 Tbsp)
  • 1/3 cup tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), soy sauce or coconut aminos (or more to taste)
  • Sesame seeds, cilantro leaves or green onion (optional garnish)

Crispy Tofu Ingredients:

  • 1 14 oz block of Extra Firm Tofu (if using)
  • 2 Tbsp of Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Tbsp Reduced-sodium Soy Sauce or Tamari

Instructions:

  1. If using crispy tofu – follow directions below (takes 45+ minutes – but can be baking while you made the vegetable stir fry).
  2. In a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, add 2 Tbsp coconut oil or avocado oil.
  3. Add green onions, ginger and garlic and sauce until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add both bags of frozen vegetables and cook until tender. Don’t worry about defrosting them, just add them frozen and let the pan do the work.
  5. Once vegetables have softened and thawed, add the tamari or soy sauce and taste for seasoning.
  6. Add crispy tofu if it is ready (see recipe below).
  7. Garnish with sesame seeds, fresh green onion slices or cilantro if you’d like.

Instructions for “the Easiest Crispy Tofu Recipe” (taken from “FrommyBowl.com“)

I don’t often make tofu to be perfectly honest (it tends to be mushy). The good news is – I finally found a very easy and fool-proof way to make crispy tofu that actually tastes good!

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  2. Cut tofu into 16 cubes (about 1″)
  3. Add tofu to a large bowl and add 1 Tbsp of Soy Sauce or Tamari toss with spatula.
  4. Add Nutritional Yeast and gently mix until coated (add more Nutritional Yeast or extra seasoning to taste.
  5. Transfer coated tofu cubes to a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat, leaving space between the cubes. Bake on the top rack to the oven for 20 minutes, then carefully flip the cubes. Bake for another 20 – 30 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your tofu. Leftovers will last in the fridge for up to one week.
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Chickpea & Vegetable Tagine

We are all adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic and for most of us that means staying home and cooking at home. For those of you who are interested in fixing healthy meals for you and your family without meat – you’ve come to the right place! It’s been a while since I’ve posted – but I’ve been trying a bunch of new recipes that I’m anxious to share with others. We’ve been eating vegan for going on 3 years now – and have enjoyed many health benefits including a stronger immune system.

This delicious recipe from The How Not to Die Cookbook with recipes by Robin Robertson, uses 5 fresh vegetables, but you could use canned or frozen if you don’t have fresh. I served it over warm quinoa in bowls – but you could use brown, red or black rice. Just make sure to start cooking your grains before starting on the main entree. You could also substitute any veggies that you don’t have with some of your favorites.

Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion (I used a white onion)
  • 1 carrot, chopped (you could use canned)
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (1/2 tsp)
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger (I use ginger paste in a tube – found at Aldi)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 1/4 inch pie fresh turmeric, grated (or 1/4 tsp ground turmeric)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups diced mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 15.5 oz chickpeas (or garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro or parsley (I used 2 tsp dried parsley)
  • 2 tsp blended peeled lemon (I used lemon juice)
  • 1 Tbsp raisins or minced dried apricot (optional – I did not use)

Directions:

  1. Begin preparing quinoa, rice, or pasta (make enough for 4 servings)
  2. Heat 1/4 cup of water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and bell pepper. Cover and cook for 5 minutes – string often.
  3. Stir in the garlic, ginger, tomato paste, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, turmeric and cayenne.
  4. Add the broth, green beans, mushrooms and chickpeas and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes (stir often).
  6. Stir in the cilantro, lemon and raisins (if using) and cook 5 minutes longer. Taste to adjust the seasonings and serve hot.

I will try my best to post more “Healthy at Home” recipes while we are in quarantine.

Quinoa-Avocado Salad with Black Beans and Salsa

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This is my new summer favorite vegan dish! It is simple and quick to make – and it uses some of my favorite ingredients: avocado, quinoa and black beans. It is perfect for hot summer nights when you don’t want to cook over a hot stove. It is great for left-overs too (in fact, I like it cold). Again, all these ingredients can be found at Aldi which makes this a reasonably priced and quick vegan meal that your whole family will enjoy!

This dish can be found on page 44 of “One Dish Vegan” and it serves about 4. It usually takes me about 20 minutes or less. For mine I like to substitute black beans for the pinto beans. Enjoy!

Quinoa-Avocado Salad with Black Beans and Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • salt
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked pinto or black beans or 1 (15.5 oz) can of pinto or black beans – rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup tomato salsa (our favorite is Newman’s Own Peach Salsa)
  • 2 ripe Hass avocados, pitted, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro (opt)
  • 2 scallions, minced (opt)
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime (about 2 Tbsp. lime juice)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Torn mixed salad greens for serving (opt)

Directions:

  1. Place water in a saucepan, add 1/2 tsp salt, and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa, return to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the quinoa is tender and the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl to cool. (I like to pop the bowl into the refrigerator until the other ingredients are ready to add).
  2. Add the beans and salsa to the the bowl, and toss to combine. Add the avocados, cilantro, scallions, lime juice and zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
  3. If serving as a salad: arrange the salad greens on plates, top with the quinoa-bean mixture and serve.

You don’t eat no meat?

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How many of you remember that hilarious line from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? And then her immediate reply – “That’s OK – I’ll make lamb.”  My husband and I have had that same question posed to us – maybe not as dramatically. In fact, I have asked many other vegetarian and vegan friends. Why would you want to cut meat out of your diet – and dairy too? That is just too extreme!

My reply may surprise most people. We just don’t want to die . . . prematurely that is. In June of 2017 my Physical Therapist husband said he wanted to share a video with me – that was sent as a link by his Physical Therapy Association. It was the introductory video by Dr. Greger on “How Not to Die” – showing studies of how diet can affect and even prevent certain diseases.

“How Not to Die” – written by Dr. Michael Greger, MD, FACLM 

A Wake Up Call

This was a wake-up call for both of us, because both sets of our parents had passed or where in the processes of dying from one of 4 major killers: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and Alzheimers disease. I had just had my DNA tested and it showed that I was at higher risk for two of these diseases! We were in our mid to late 50’s and ready to take action to slow down or maybe even prevent some of these diseases.

Where do we start?

The next question most people ask us is “Isn’t it hard to find and cook food that has no meat or dairy in it?” At first I would have said, yes! It took us a few months to get used to the new plant-based diet. In fact the first night we were “all in” we went out to celebrate our 25th anniversary with a dinner out. The waiter was nice enough to describe the special for the day: Prime Rib!! After such wonderful, mouth watering description we had to confess that we were vegan (which was not easy). Neither was finding vegan entrees as we traveled for a weekend get-away to a quaint little town in southern Indiana.

That same night we decided to check out Whole Foods and pick up a list of foods I had never heard of – taken from a newly purchased vegan cookbook for beginners (“But I Could Never Go Vegan!”). They nearly jumped up and down when we told them we were going vegan – and were more than happy to show us where to find the tofu, plant-based milk, miso, tahini and coconut oil (half of the stuff I rarely if ever used). I tried my best to prepare several of the entrees from the cookbook – but it was very difficult. Some of the stuff I had never heard of – and some of it was downright unappetizing.

I was determined not to give up, however. That Christmas I was given several vegan cookbooks and settled into using one more than any other, “The One Dish Vegan” by Robin Robertson. The ingredients were easy to find, they were not expensive and most dishes took only 30 – 40 minutes to cook. Every time we tried a new recipe we would rate it with 1 – 5 stars and then take a photo of it to reference later (her book did not have photos in it). This process made cooking so much easier and satisfying. In fact, my husband volunteered to do the cutting up of the veggies and I did the actual cooking – which made dinner prep so much more fun. We actually started to enjoy cooking together – which is a big deal for someone who used to hate cooking with a passion (me!).

One Dish Vegan by Robin Robertson

Changes for the Better

Within weeks were feeling more energy than we had felt in years, were more regular then we had ever been and had several other unexpected side affects including less gas and constipation, less tarter on our teeth, improved eye-site (my prescription changed), far fewer hot-flashes for me, and we spent less on our food budget!  The most encouraging news, however, was that my bad cholesterol (LDL) numbers went down 28 points (from 106 to 78), and my total cholesterol dropped by 38 points (198 to 160)! I also lost about 5 pounds – but I am still working on increasing my physical activity (exercising 3 – 5 times a week). My husband actually lost 7 – 10 pounds too (is at the same weight he was in high school)!

That is why I decided to write this blog. I want to encourage others out there who are committed to improving their health and preventing disease through a healthier lifestyle including eating a plant-based diet. If your partner or family is not on board yet – I encourage you to start with just one vegan meal a week and don’t make a big deal about the meatless thing. Your family may be surprised by how delicious and satisfying these meals are.

I called this blog the “Practical Vegan” because I am very practical and I want meals that don’t take hours to cook, cost a lot, or include hard-to-find ingredients. I also may include a non-vegan ingredient occasionally like feta or greek yogurt – but those can be easily be substituted. I will only post recipes that I have actually made and will include photos. If you have questions or want me to try out a new recipe – please let me know. I would love to hear from you!

Let food be thy Medicine and medicine by thy food. – Hippocrates, 460 B.C.

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Acorn Squash & Pear Soup

One of my favorite meals to make when the temperature starts to plummet is soup. I ran across this very delicious soup recipe from Taste of Home magazine (Dec/Jan 2013). I made it to share with friends or for potlucks and have received several compliments! This unique soup has an amazing flavor – pairing the sweetness of the pears with the savory flavors of the squash and other spices. I found a few shortcuts – but it still takes about an hour and a half to make – so start early! The recipe serves 10 (or cut in half for 5 servings).

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium acorn squash (cut in half)
  • 4 medium firm pears, peeled and coarsely chopped (1 inch cubes)
  • 3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp salt (or less if broth has higher sodium)
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage leaves
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 carton (48 oz or 6 cups) vegetable broth

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the pears, celery, onion, olive oil and seasonings. Transfer to a greased shallow roasting pan. Brush olive oil on the inside of the acorn squash and place on a separate cooking pan/cookie sheet. Roast at 375 degrees for 1 1/4 hours or until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally.
  2. Cool slightly. Scoop out one of the squash halves and add to a food processor along with 1/4 of the roasted veggies mixture. Process in 4 batches along with 1.5 cups of the vegetable broth. Transfer to a Dutch oven and heat through, stirring occasionally.

Shortcut: cut the acorn squash in 1/2 & bake it for 30 minutes @ 350 degrees, then sauté all the rest of the vegetables with seasoning on the stove until soft. Scoop out the squash and add along with the seasoned vegetables to a blender (in batches), then add broth and puree together. Transfer to a large pot and heat through.

Green Bean and Mango Salad

It’s the middle of summer and the past few weeks have been HOT and muggy – definitely too hot to cook! So I found this great salad that we made last summer that earned a rare a 5 star rating. It uses fresh ingredients that are easy to find at my local Aldi store (for you cost conscious people like me out there). This recipe is Thai inspired and found on the Forks Over Knives website and was created by Jessica Nadel. It is super easy (takes 15 minutes) and serves 4 – 6 people. It is gluten free (depending on what you serve it over) and full of color and fresh crunchy flavor! Give it a try and let me know how you like it.

Green Bean and Mango Salad

Ingredients:

For Salad:

  • 3 cups of fresh green beans or Asian long beans (I like to cut them into 1 – 2″ pieces before cooking)
  • 2 slightly underripe mangos
  • 1 cup cherry, grape or calamari tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro – trimmed (opt. – my husband hates cilantro so I left it off)
  • 3 creen onions, sliced
  • 1/4 peanuts, crushed
  • Optional: Cooked rice (we used Simply Nature Seven Grains which warms up in 90 seconds in the microwave)

For Dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp gluten-free tamari
  • 1/2 tsp unrefined cane sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw)
  • 1 fresh Thai Chili, minced (optional
  • Optional: 1 Tbsp Pad Thai Sauce

Instructions:

  1. Bring a 3 qt pan of water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook for up to 2 minutes, until bright green and tender-crisp. Drain, then plunge them into a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process. Drain again. (Optional: trim the ends and slice the beans in half lengthwise). Place them in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. See and peel the mango and slice into long, thin strips. Add Mano to the green beans, along with the tomatoes, cilantro, onion and peanuts.
  3. Wish together the lim juice, Tamara, cane sugar, and chili in a small bowl. Pour over the salad, toss and serve. The salad can be made and dressed ahead of time and left to chill and marinate in the fridge for up to 3 hours.

Quick Tip: This salad can be served alone or on a bed of rice, quinoa or other grains. We used the Simply Nature Organic Seven Grains from Aldi which adds 8 grams of protein to this meal.

Green Bean and Mango Salad

Tunisian chickpeas with sweet potatoes and greens

Tunisian chickpeas with sweet potatoes and greens

I prepared this delicious and colorful dish for supper last night and served it over quinoa. This easy to prepare dish is from “One-Dish Vegan” by Robin Robertson and is packed full of antioxidants and protein from all veggies! It is soy and gluten-free depending on what you serve it over (couscous, rice, pasta, quinoa, or warm flatbread). It took me about 30 minutes to prepare and it serves approximately 4.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil or 1/4 cup water
  • 1 medium (or half large) yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp)
  • 1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 6 t0 8 cups chopped stemmed kale, spinach or chard
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa, couscous, rice or pasta (enough for 4 servings)

Instructions:

  1. Cut up the onion, sweet potato and spinach (spinach needed last).
  2. Follow directions for cooking about 2 cups of couscous, rice, pasta or quinoa.
  3. In the meantime, heat the oil or water in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 to 5 minutes to soften, stirring occasionally, Add the sweet potato, coriander, paprika, thyme, cumin, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add the tomatoes with their juices, chickpeas, and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the kale (or spinach/chard), stirring to wilt. Simmer until all the vegetables are tender – about another 10-15 minutes. Serve hot over couscous, quinoa, pasta or flatbread and top with a squeeze of lemon.

Today’s Bonus Tip:

Eating a plant-based diet is great for your health – but we need to be mindful of toxins from the environment (chemical pesticides and fertilizers) found on our fruits and vegetables.

I found this newly updated list of the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean 15” for 2019 taken from: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/diet-nutrition/a26873412/dirty-dozen-foods-2019-list/. I don’t have this list memorized – but I do keep a copy of it in my purse so I can refer to it while I shop.

Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a list of the “Dirty Dozen,” or the fruits and vegetables the nonprofit claims have the highest amount of pesticides when grown conventionally versus organically. 

The EWG has compiled the list annually since 2004 based on internal data that’s not peer-reviewed. Using 40,900 samples for 47 different types of produce, the EWG found these twelve had the most pesticide residue:

The 2019 Dirty Dozen Foods List:

  1. Strawberries 
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries 
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

Strawberries rank number one for the fourth year in a row, and the rest of the list looks similar to years past with one exception: Kale made the top 12 for the first time in a decade.

If you’re concerned about pesticides, the EWG also publishes a list of the “Clean 15,” a.k.a. the produce from conventional growers that generally had less residue in the group’s tests. This year they are:

The 2019 Clean 15 Foods List:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Frozen sweet peas
  5. Onions
  6. Papayas
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Kiwis
  10. Cabbages
  11. Cauliflower
  12. Cantaloupes
  13. Broccoli
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Honeydew melons

Tuscan-Style Roasted Asparagus

Asparagus is in season now and can often be found on sale at most food stores (I found mine at Aldi). When I was a girl I hated asparagus, but I think it was either over-cooked (mushy) or under-cooked (chewy). This super easy recipe, taken from Taste of Home (Feb/March 2013 edition), earned the coveted 5 stars from my husband! As a side dish I added a bag of quinoa and kale, found in the frozen section at Aldi. It only takes 15-20 minutes to prepare plus another 15 – 20 to bake (30 – 40 minutes total) and serves 3-4 people as a main dish or up to 8 as a side dish.

Tuscan-style Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. fresh asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 Tbsp. pine nuts
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minded (1 tsp)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (omit for vegan)
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon peel (opt)

Instructions:

  1. Put asparagus, tomatoes and pine nuts on a foil-lined 15″ x 10″ x 1″ baking pan. Mix 2 Tbsp olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper; toss with asparagus.
  2. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes or until asparagus is just tender. Drizzle with remaining oil and lemon juice; sprinkle with cheese (if using) and lemon peel. Toss to combine. Serve with quinoa and kale mix (available frozen from Aldi’s – see below).

Nutritional Information: 95 calories, 8 grams fat (2 sat. fat), 3 mg cholesterol, 294 mg sodium, 4 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 3 grams protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1 1/2 fat, 1 vegetable.

Tuscan-Style Roasted Asparagus with quinoa & kale
Steamed Quinoa & Kale – from Aldi
Steamed Quinoa & Kale – from Aldi

If you like my blog or have any recipes to share – please let me know!

Couscous Spinach Salad

I was looking for side dish to bring to our church’s annual birthday party potluck and I found this delicious vegetarian salad. Originally called “Summer Salad by the Lake” this salad was created by Ramya Ramamurthy – and was chosen as one of the winning winning entries for the Taste of Home Summer Sides Contest – included in their 2018 issue. I made it on two separate occasions: on a week night I cut the recipe in half for just my husband and I (didn’t include the pineapple) – and then the full recipe for the potluck. Several people asked me for the recipe afterword.

Prep time: 35 minutes, Cook: 15 minutes + standing, Makes 10 servings.

Couscous and Spinach Salad

Ingredients:

  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 2 medium sweet bell peppers, sliced (I used red and yellow)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Salad:

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 12 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup uncooked pearl (Israeli) couscous
  • 1/2 cup red quinoa (I used regular), rinsed
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-in pieces
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach (or arugula)
  • 1 cup cubed fresh pineapple (or Mandarin oranges or mango chunks)
  • 1/2 cup fresh shelled peas or frozen peas (thawed)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (omit for vegan recipe)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower kernels (pepitas) toasted
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 12 tsp. salt
  • 12 tsp. pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl toss together garlic, sweet peppers, oil, salt and pepper; transfer to a 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan. Roast until dark golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring water, oil and salt to a boil. Stir in the couscous and quinoa. Reduce heat; simmer, covered for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer the couscous and quinoa to the large bowl. Stir in the remaining salad ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients until blended. Pour over salad and gently toss to coat.

Substitutions: You can use peaches, Mandarin oranges or mango chunks instead of pineapple, or cherry tomatoes instead of heirloom tomato pieces. In the winder, use root veggies such as roasted carrots, broccoli or squash.

Nutritional Information (per 3/4 cup serving): 269 calories, 15g fat (2g sat. fat), 3mg cholesterol, 700mg sodium, 29g carb (7g sugars, 3g fib er), 7g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2 starch, 2 fat.

Easy Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

I’ve struggled with finding a good vegan sandwich that is quick to make and easy to pack for outings. I remembered my niece sending me a recipe for chickpea salad – but I couldn’t find it anywhere. So, I did a search online and found this very easy and very delicious recipe. I was able to whip it up in 15 minutes – and take it with me for lunch with my choir group.

Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

This recipe was published on July 26, 2018 by Michelle Blackwood (updated on May 6, 2019) on her blog, “Healthier Steps“. “Chickpeas,  also known as garbanzo beans are high in protein and a great replacement for meat. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.”

Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 15 ounces chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 stalk celery (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper (finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons red onion (finely chopped) – optional
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1/4 teaspoon dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegan mayo (I used Just Mayo extra to spread on the bread)
  • 4 slices bread (I used gluten-free bread)
  • lettuce leaves

Directions:

  1. Drain and rinse the can of chickpeas (or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas), and place them into a bowl. Next mash chickpeas with a fork or a potato masher.
  2. Then add chopped red onions (if using), red bell pepper. celery, dill, vegan mayo, salt to taste and mix to combine.
  3. Spread between slices of bread with lettuce.

This delicious, colorful and crunchy salad recipe would make a perfect sandwich for potlucks, school, work, or a family trip.