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whole grains

Bean and Vegetable Quinoa Pilaf with Tahini

After whipping up my last quinoa pilaf, I realized I had forgotten how easy cooking can be. When I’m stressed or simply overloaded with too many extraneous ideas to allow for creativity, cooking turns into an obligatory homework project. From outside the kitchen, it can psychological feel like nothing but a tiresome stack of unwashed dishes.

However, cooking’s really no different than when you conquer that first mile of a run. Ten minutes in, and often you’re ready to take on the whole trail.

For cooking, this is especially true with one pot dishes like these, where there’s very minimal cleanup required once you hit the homestretch.

Simple pilafs like these also keep things light and healthy. There’s no stove full of pans to oil up but rather just one pot of quinoa simmering away. That being said, don’t skimp on the tahini when you finish this one off. The creamy component is needed and adds a perfect richness that compliments the flavors infused in the quinoa. Enjoy!

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Curried Tempeh

Mmm, curry powder. The quintessential spice blend that fills much of Indian cooking lends such an astounding aroma to the kitchen. Aside from its riveting taste, sometimes I choose to cook with curry powder purely for its fragrance. The best is homemade curry powder, with cardamom, coriander, cumin, and a variety of other fresh seeds, ground up, and then sealed in your own jar. It becomes your own fairy dust, capable of working its magic on so many different ingredients. Homemade curry powder truly does make a significant difference in terms of flavor, but if you’re quite the busy lady (fella’), store-bought will certainly do.

Here, I use it to season one of my favorite vegetarian proteins—tempeh. Tempeh has such a dense, meaty texture, which of course I love. Plus, its nutrition stats are astounding—20 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber, 10% DV of potassium, up to 15% DV of iron—and with an ingredient list of five items or less, this is one of those hearty no-guilt ingredients I should be stocking my kitchen with more often.

However, tempeh’s truly not a very tasty ingredient when kept plain. It works best with a marinade of some sort, which is when I call my favorite fragrance of curry powder into the kitchen. I also added a few other ingredients, like ginger for some spice, mirin for a very subtle sweet touch, and cilantro and peppers for a splash of color. Pair it with brown rice, and you’ve got yourself one powerhouse meal.

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Acorn Squash and Aduki Bean Winter Stew

I don’t yet possess my own pressure cooker, but I can confidently say it’d be a great investment.  My mom has one and puts it to use quite frequently to make one-pot dinners like this one.  While presumably this same meal could be whipped up in a slow-cooker (another item I have yet to own), the pressure cooker will have it ready 5 times as quickly.  But if you don’t have the former, than test out the slow-cooker method because this is a hearty winter meal worth making.

Chewy wheat berries, tenderized by the pressure cooker, cook alongside creamy acorn squash and meaty portobellos to create a filling vegan stew.  The dish is modestly seasoned, but the array of veggies supply more than an adequate amount of flavor all on their own.  So, not only do you have just one pot to clean, but you also have zero herbs/spices to prep.  Plus, this dish provides all the elements you need for a complete meal within one bowl.  Win.

Finish this protein + fiber + vitamin-packed dish with a pungent, quality olive oil and any garnishes of your choice.

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Rice Salad with Marinated Tempeh

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a huge fan of grain salads. Why? They’re so effortlessly tasty, healthy, and transportable. All it takes to achieve that award-winning, 3-part combo. is this simple 3-part formula: One part grain + one part protein + one part seasoning. It’s as easy as that.

Grains: First you pick your grain. Let’s say you’re tired of brown rice (as used in this recipe), so then go for quinoa. Or bulgur wheat. Or maybe you even try millet. The list could go on, so even though the 3-part formula essentially stays the same, don’t worry about boredom creeping into the picture.

Proteins: Next, you choose your protein. As with grains, there’s a never-ending list of beans you can deploy. If the common legumes like chickpeas or black beans have your appetite dozing off, then break out of your comfort zone and try something different. One of my new favorites are butter beans. Or you could try lentils, adzuki beans, even edamame. Not feeling the beans? Then go for tofu, seitan, or tempeh, like I settled on for this one.

Seasonings: The last part of the formula is when you let your creative side run wild. Decide whether you want to go for herbs or spices or a combination of both. Determine whether you want a sweet, savory, or spicy vibe to flow from your grain salad. You can choose from cilantro, cocoa, curries, cinnamon, cardamon, caraway seeds, Just those six “c” herbs/spices merely begins to conquer the list of “c’s,” let alone the rest of the alphabetical herb spectrum. The seasoning list is probably the longest of any mentioned yet, so have fun with it!

For my latest grain salad, I went with brown rice, marinated tempeh, and cilantro. Easy. I added avocado, a standard ingredient seen in most of my grain salads, simply because I adore it’s creamy richness. It’s incredible how much WOW! power a few slices of avocado can add to a dish.

So what about you…What’s your favorite grain salad combo.?

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One Pot Curried Quinoa

For some reason, I’ve been neglecting quinoa in my diet. Once a weekly happening, I somehow have taken the college route lately, with pastas and sandwiches increasingly replacing cooked grains. Not cool.

Thankfully I ran into an old friend the other day who told me about the stockpile of cooked quinoa he keeps in his fridge at all times. This reminded me of my own stock I had tucked away in my closet. Mine was just sitting there, dry as could be, waiting to come out of the dark and get cooking.

I finally got to it the other day, putting a pot on the stove in between preparing some already-prepared ravioli (of course). While waiting the three minutes for the ravioli to be finished, I tossed in a few other ingredients I had handy. To the quinoa that is. Sometimes my patience and stomach prevents me from cooking anything elaborate. Not that this recipe is elaborate. However, after my hunger’s taken care of by some simpler version of a meal, occasionally I’ll get this cooking urge that just won’t leave. AKA, a rather glorious form of procrastination. Luckily, this leads to some rather handy leftovers, which I’ll put to use the next night when this scenario happens all over again.

Regardless, this recipe’s a good one for even when you’re busy. You’ll have to wait for it to simmer and stew, but the prep. steps are minimal, and all that will be dirtied is one pot and a cutting board. Use as a side, or serve as is, topped with a pan-fried egg or seared tofu.

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