March 9: Red Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

The problem with going vegetarian cold turkey is that I didn’t see how the sharp reduction in protein would affect me. I had been waking up hungry the last few days but attributed the issue to my stoked metabolism (I fell off the fitness wagon for a few weeks).  I inspected my diet and realized that I was not eating enough protein to compensate for the lack of meat. It’s only so much Fage greek yogurt I can eat in one day, so I opted for a more economical solution: quinoa.

The back of the regular quinoa box had a recipe for stuffed peppers. My mom made the best stuffed peppers when I was growing up. She used ground beef, white rice, canned crushed tomatoes, diced yellow onion and cheese. I’ve actually followed her recipe to make stuffed peppers before, so I didn’t bother with the recipe on the quinoa box. I picked up ingredients at Kroger: a bag of 3 tri-colored peppers, a yellow onion (that I didn’t end up using), vine-ripened tomatoes (I’m anti BPA), and a bag of Private Selection Zesty frozen vegetables.

So this zesty vegetables is pretty tasty. It’s black beans, sweet corn, diced onion, diced green pepper, diced red pepper, and spices. The bag is steamable, which makes cooking super easy. I figured rather than ice a bunch of vegetables, which I wasn’t feeling, I would cheat and use the frozen veggie medley as my filler. I did dice the tomatoes because I love fresh tomatoes.

I did not multi-task very well. Start the quinoa before prepping the vegetables; red quinoa takes longer to cook than regular quinoa. I washed the vegetables with produce spray and rinsed. I chopped the tomatoes. I sliced the tops from the peppers and removed the seeds and pulp from the peppers. After the vegetables steamed in the microwave for 5 minutes, I transferred them to a large mixing bowl with the diced tomatoes. I transferred the 2 cups of cooked quinoa to the mixing bowl (0.5 cup dry = 2 cups cooked) and stirred. I mixed in some shredded queso cheese (something Kroger makes) because I like my stuffed peppers to be cheeeeeeesy! Stuff the peppers and top with lots of shredded cheese!

The peppers were placed in a baking dish lined with foil. Filled peppers don’t stand up well on their own, so I reconfigured the stuffed peppers in the dish so they wouldn’t fall over while cooking. The dish went into a 350 F oven until the peppers were cooked. I didn’t cover my peppers with foil, and the cheese did not burn. My mom would wait until the peppers were cooked before topping with cheese.

Anyway, dinner was delicious. I roasted asparagus in a separate baking dish while the peppers cooked. So, lots and lots of vegetables with a touch of protein. I had extra filling, so 2 small tomatoes, the steamable bag of vegetables, and 2 cups of quinoa can stuff 5 medium bell peppers. Quite the economical and hearty meal!

February 2: Seared Salmon and Couscous salad (with currants!!)

I love salmon. I must have been an orca in my last life lol. Unfortunately, I cannot afford fresh salmon on a regular basis. Kroger had fillets of salmon on sale, so I purchased enough for four meals. I found myself in the grocery store again a few days later to buy produce to accompany the salmon. Originally planning to buy broccoli, I ended up with two pounds of spring green mix, a three pack of colored bell peppers, and a red onion to prepare a dish similar to one I learned in my very first cooking class, which interestingly enough was about a year ago.

Instead of quinoa salad, I opted for Near East roasted garlic olive oil couscous, which I had on hand. To spice it up a bit, I added currants. I bought them for a Moroccan-inspired beef stew, and it’s so many of those little fruit in the tiny box! I thinly diced half the medium red onion (~3/4 cups) and the red bell pepper (~1/2 cup) as the salmon seared on the stove. Salmon is so flavorful, so I only use kosher salt and ground black pepper.

The diced vegetables were transferred from the cutting board to a large mixing bowl. When the couscous (with currants *smile*) cooled somewhat, I added it to the mixing bowl. In a small bowl, I whisked together 3T of balsamic vinegar, 3T of olive oil and sugar to cut the acidic taste before pouring it in the mixing bowl. I did not want wet couscous salad, so 6T was just a perfect amount to lightly coat the onion, pepper, and couscous. To plate my dish, I placed a generous helping of mixed greens on a dinner plate, spooned one cup of couscous salad, and topped with one fourth of the salmon.

I must say that the couscous adds a much different flavor to the salad than quinoa. Overall, the dish is very healthy and inexpensive. Each serving is less than $4.00. A similar salad at our nicer dining facility on campus costs $7.00. I didn’t keep up with the nutritional value but I estimate each serving contains about 500-600 calories.

I will definitely prepare this dish again, though I will cut back on the amount of onions I include lol. They do pack a strong punch, but I love their crunchiness! Firm, thick cuts of fish are definitely best for this dish. I’ll add pictures this weekend.

Couscous salad

Plated salad

 

October 23: Inca Red Quinoa

A must try if you like quinoa!

Since I cooked a pot of Inca Red quinoa on Sunday for dinner, I have been raving about it to all my co-workers. I am a huge fan of quinoa in general because it’s quick and easy to prepare, it’s a great source of whole grains and protein, and it’s affordable. The only downside of quinoa to me is that it’s rather bland. I definitely have to add either salt or some chicken bouillon to boost the flavor. Well, I happened up a box of Inca Red quinoa while roaming the natural food aisles in Kroger on Sunday morning. Ancient Harvest brand quinoa was on sale for the same price Wal-mart carries it. The Wal-mart in my town only carries the regular variety of quinoa (if I can even say that), so I was pleased to see the Inca Red heirloom brand.

Inca Red cooks the same exact way as the regular variety: boil 2 cups of water and toss in 1 cup of quinoa, reduce to simmer, and cook until the water is absorbed or evaporated. Oh.but.the.flavor! I love it! Inca Red has a nutty flavor and a firmer texture than regular quinoa. The taste and texture reminds me of tabbouleh, only better. I can eat Inca Red by itself whereas I feel with the regular variety, I at least need to throw some vegetables on top to make it more palatable.

I am definitely going back to Kroger this weekend to stock up on Inca Red before the sale price expires. It’s $4 a box good, but not $6 a box good! I’m trying to keep my food costs down, especially since I developed a taste for expensive Fage yogurt, so quinoa will provide an excellent source of protein to go with roasted veggies and bean soups.  I might even mix up some quinoa salad with the Inca Red to see how I like it!

In random updates, I am all about roasted carrots, onions, and sweet potatoes. I prepared some to accompany the Inca Red quinoa and baked Honeysuckle turkey loins. I’ve been bringing leftovers as lunch and the meal is so filling that I can get by on a light snack for dinner, well as long as I don’t workout after work. I just can’t say enough good things about Inca Red quinoa. If you like quinoa, you have to try it!

April 4: Roasted summer squash and eggplant

Visiting a section of the produce aisle that I only see from a distance, I learned of the existence of baby eggplant and Mexican squash, the latter resembles a short zucchini with a nutty taste. I have never bought an eggplant in my life, though I rather enjoy the flavor on the rare occasion I eat it. Mexican squash is entirely new to my palate. I found that the skin bruises very easily, so I peeled it prior to cutting. I removed residue and dirt from the vegetables using Fit Fruit and Vegetable Wash. I sliced the eggplant and squash crosswise. Some slices were further diced into quarters so that all the pieces were approximately the same size. I placed the slices into a glass bowl and drizzled them with olive oil before spreading them onto a foil-lined baking sheet. I liberally seasoned the vegetables with a store-bought blend of Moroccan seasoning and a wee bit of kosher salt. The baking sheet went into a preheated oven at 450 F for 20 minutes.

The eggplant was soOoo delicious. The Mexican squash provided a subtle, distinct background flavor. I served the roasted veggies with plain quinoa on a bed of mixed greens all alongside a pan seared salmon fillet. Yum! The produce isn’t quite in season, so it cost about $4 for one eggplant, one yellow squash, and two Mexican squash. I will definitely incorporate eggplant and Mexican squash into future meals.