Quinoa Quesadillas (now, that’s fun to say!)

It’s Saturday night. Yours truly isn’t exactly in the mood for anything that doesn’t involve Netflix. Thus, I’m gearing up for a low-key evening in the comfort of my own humble abode¬†[read: bed].

But…then hunger strikes. What’s a girl to do?

Crank up the stove and start experimenting, of course!

So, tonight’s creation features a mash-up of flavors a la¬†Mexico and South America. I submit for your culinary seal of approval, my friends:

…drumroll, please

Quinoa Quesadillas!!!

Yup. These vegetarian delights are overloaded with protein, whole grains, and essential plant-based nutrients for a meal that will satisfy both your appetite and taste buds.

To utilize my limited command of the Spanish language (because, you know, just keeping with our theme), they’re fantastico.

Legitimate Spanish-speakers: is that actually a word?

Well, regardless…enjoy this delicious and nutritious recipe from my kitchen to yours!

Ingredients:

quinoa quesadillas ingredients

  1. 2 Whole Wheat Tortillas
  2. 1/4 cup Quinoa
  3. 1/4 cup Mushrooms (chopped)
  4. 1/4 cup Red Onions (sliced)
  5. 1/4 cup Tomatoes (chopped)
  6. 1/4 cup Cotija Cheese (crumbled)*

* Make this recipe vegan by substituting the cheese for Silken Tofu.

Preparation:

quinoa quesadillas preparation 1

quinoa quesadillas preparation 2

quinoa quesadillas preparation 3

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, cook the quinoa according to the package instructions.
  2. While the quinoa is simmering, prep the vegetables and cotija cheese (or vegan substitute).
  3. Pre-heat a small skillet over a medium stove top setting and coat with olive oil cooking spray.
  4. Remove the quinoa pan from heat and drain any remaining water, then set aside temporarily.
  5. Combine the mushrooms, red onions and tomatoes in the skillet, then saute them until softened.
  6. Remove the vegetables from heat after approximately 3-5 minutes and set aside temporarily.
  7. Re-coat the skillet with cooking spray and turn the stove top burner back to a medium setting.
  8. Place 1 tortilla¬†in the skillet and spread the quinoa evenly over it, leaving 1/2″ space along the edge.
  9. Add both the cotija cheese and sauteed vegetables, then place the second tortilla on top.
  10. Cook the bottom tortilla for approximately 2 minutes, or until it sizzles, then flip to the other side.
  11. Allow the second tortilla to cook for the same amount of time before removing from heat.
  12. Once the quesadilla has cooled slightly, cut it into 8 equal-sized wedges and ENJOY, of course!

quinoa quesadillas finished product

TA DA!!!

But wait…there’s more:

Serving Suggestion:

Cored avocado halves — mashed with a fork, drizzled in lime juice, then¬†dusted with just a hint of chili powder,¬†stevia and leftover cotija cheese —¬†make a fabulously bold side for this Latin-inspired dish.

4 Dinner Ideas for an Easy & Speedy Midweek Meal

Once you’re over the…well, hump…of Hump Day, it’s often downhill in the dinner department. We’ve all experienced that struggle of¬†keeping things semi-creative in the kitchen when all we¬†really want is to order take-out and pretend it’s Friday.

However, there’s no reason for a midweek meal to suffer just because schedules are tight or¬†“foodie” inspiration is lacking. ¬†The following recipes are super simple to make, have “proven crowd pleaser” written all over them, and take up less than 20 minutes of your precious time. Plus, they feature wholesome ingredients for a guiltless chorus of “I’ll have seconds!”

A couple caveats: These are single serving recipes, so if you’re cooking for more than just yourself, double (or triple or…quadruple?) the ingredients. Also, some recipes call for cheese, so if you prefer vegan or dairy-free diets, you’ll need to either find a suitable substitution or omit the cheese¬†altogether.

Now, without further ado,¬†I present your solution to that infamous Is it the weekend yet???”¬†din-din dilemma…


For a Mexican Fiesta:

Mango & Avocado Quesadillas

  • Ingredients
  1. 1/2 mango
  2. 1 hass avocado
  3. 2 whole wheat tortillas
  4. 1 block low-fat Gouda
  • Preparation
  1. Peel and dice the mango into bite-sized chunks, then do the same with the avocado.
  2. Grate the Gouda cheese and measure out 1/2 cup of the resulting shreds.
  3. Grease a small skillet with cooking spray, then heat it on a medium stove-top setting.
  4. Place 1 tortilla in the pre-heated skillet, then spread the shredded cheese evenly on top.
  5. Layer the avocado and mango chunks over the cheese and top with the other tortilla.
  6. Cook the bottom tortilla for approximately 3 minutes, or until the cheese starts sizzling.
  7. Flip the quesadilla over and cook the other tortilla for the same amount of time.
  8. Allow the quesadilla to cool slightly before cutting it into triangular  slices.

* Side Suggestion: serve this dish alongside a black bean and corn chutney


For an Asian Chow Down:

Vegetarian Thai Red Curry

  • Ingredients
  1. 1 cauliflower head
  2. 1 red potato
  3. 1/2 red onion
  4. 6 mint leaves
  5. 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  6. 2 cups light organic coconut milk
  • Preparation
  1. Chop the cauliflower into small florets, then wash the florets in a strainer.
  2. Peel the potato and chop it into bite-sized chunks, then do the same with the onion.
  3. Grease a large skillet with cooking spray, then heat it on a medium stove-top setting.
  4. Add the cauliflower, potatoes, and onions to the pre-heated skillet, then sautee for 10 minutes.
  5. Pour in the coconut milk and Thai red curry paste, then turn the heat up to a boil.
  6. Stir this mixture vigorously until the coconut milk starts to bubble, then reduce the heat to medium.
  7. Continue sauteing this mixture, while stirring constantly, until the coconut milk has thickened.
  8. Allow the curry to cool slightly before mincing the mint leaves and sprinkling them on top.

* Side Suggestion: serve this dish alongside honey-infused jasmine rice (brown variety)


For a Mediterranean Spread: 

Garlic Couscous Greek Salad

  • Ingredients
  1. 2 cups couscous
  2. 1 block low-fat feta
  3. 1 cup spinach
  4. 1/2 red onion
  5. 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  6. 1/2 cup kalamata olives
  7. 1 tbsp lemon juice
  8. 2 tbsp olive oil
  9. 1 clove garlic
  • Preparation
  1. Fill a medium-sized pot with 3/4 cup of water, then heat on a high stove-top setting.
  2. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, add the couscous, garlic, and olive oil.
  3. Stir this mixture vigorously for approximately 1-2 minutes, then reduce the heat to low.
  4. Cover the pot and allow this mixture to simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
  5. Grate the feta cheese and measure out 1/2 cup of the resulting shreds.
  6. Finely slice the cherry tomatoes, red onion, spinach, and kalamata olives.
  7. Once the couscous has absorbed all the water, add the feta and vegetables to the pot.
  8. Stir this mixture thoroughly until all the ingredients are combined evenly.
  9. Allow the couscous salad to cool slightly before pouring in the lemon juice.

* Side Suggestion: serve this dish with a grilled whole wheat pita toast point


For an Italian Trattoria: 

Margherita Flatbread Paninis

  • Ingredients
  1. 3 basil leaves
  2. 1 Roma tomato
  3. 1 piece whole wheat Naan
  4. 1/2 part-skim mozzarella ball
  5. 1 tbsp organic basil pesto
  • Preparation
  1. Spread the basil pesto evenly over the smooth side of the Naan flatbread.
  2. Thinly slice the tomato and mozzarella, then place each slice on 1 half of the Naan.
  3. Layer the basil leaves side-by-side on top of the tomato and mozzarella slices.
  4. Fold the other half of the Naan over the layers of tomato, mozzarella, and basil.
  5. Transfer the Naan onto an open panini press or George Foreman grill.
  6. Close the lid of the panini press or grill and cook for approximately 3 minutes.
  7. Once grill marks appear on both sides, remove the panini from the heat.
  8. Allow the panini to cool slightly before slicing it in half, diagonally.

* Side Suggestion: serve this dish alongside balsamic vinegar-drizzled tomato wedges

Fall Has Fallen Into My Kitchen…

This past weekend, I visited a farmer’s market in the historic downtown section of my Southwest Florida stomping grounds. Even though autumn in my neck of the woods doesn’t necessarily mean colorful leaves and blustery wind gusts, we beach babes still get into the seasonal spirit.

So, – like I was saying before I went off on a “Floridians love this time of year too” tangent – I went to a farmer’s market. And I came home with an butternut squash, a bag full of apples, and other freshly-picked, locally-sourced fall-ish produce.

Then, I set to work putting these farmer’s market finds to use. And if you’re gonna whip up some autumnal comfort food, you might as well do it right. You might as well make soup.

Butternut squash soup. Butternut squash soup with apples. Sprinkled with aromatic spices on top. Warm, hearty, soothing. Ahhhhhh!

So, yeah. From my “fall friendly” kitchen to yours…here’s the recipe:


  • Ingredients:
  1. 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock (low sodium)
  2. 1 butternut squash (peeled and cubed)
  3. 1/2 red onion (chopped)
  4. 1 apple (peeled and chopped)
  5. /2 tbsp. ground nutmeg
  6. 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  7. 1/4 tsp. sea salt

butternut squash soup ingredients

  • Preparation:¬†
  1. Combine the butternut squash, apple and union cubes in a medium-size pot, then pour in the vegetable/chicken stock.
  2. Cover the pot and place it on a stove-top burner, then turn the heat up to high until the stock has reached a rolling boil.
  3. Uncover the pot and reduce the heat to low, then let this mixture simmer for approx. 10 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
  4. Remove the pot from heat and pour this mixture into a blender, then puree until the soup is thick and smooth.
  5. Pour the soup back into the pot and turn the heat on low, then simmer for a few extra minutes, while stirring constantly.
  6. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then give the soup another quick stir. (Side note: I also found that tossing in 2-3 packets of organic Stevia added a lovely sweet and savory combination to this recipe.)

butternut squash soup before

butternut squash soup after

  • Serving Suggestion:

I prefer¬†my winter veggie soups on the slightly sweet side, so I mixed 1/4 cup plain coconut milk into the soup, which added some creaminess to the texture and perfectly complemented the squash’s already nutty flavor.

butternut squash soup with coconut milk

It’s Meatless Monday. Make It Marvelous.

Even sworn carnivores won’t be asking “Where’s the beef?!” with this zesty twist on a classic Asian stir-fry. It’s loaded with protein (from the Edamame and Greek Yogurt), whole grains (from the Brown Rice), fiber (from the Sugar Snap Peas), and Vitamin D (from the Mushrooms). So, serve up a heaping helping of vegetarian deliciousness on this – or any – Meatless Monday. Going “green” never tasted so good!


Kickin’ Horseradish Stir-Fry (yields approx. 4 servings)

horseradish stir fry

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. Horseradish
  • 1 cup Sugar Snap Peas
  • 1/4 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. Plain Greek Yogurt (non-fat)
  • 1/2 cup Edamame Beans (shelled)
  • 1/2 cup Shitake Mushrooms (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp. Soy Sauce (low-sodium)
  • 1/2 cup Brown Rice (cooked)

Preparation:

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, boil the rice, according to the cooking instructions on the packaging.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, soy sauce, horseradish, and rice wine vinegar.
  3. When the rice has finished cooking, add the peas, edamame, and mushrooms then stir thoroughly.
  4. Stir the sauce into this mixture, then sautee the rice on low heat until the vegetables have softened.

Meal Prep: Learn It, Love It, Live It

When you plan ahead and prepare meals in advance, it’s simple to formulate a diet around whole foods and balanced nutrition.

Rather than calling for take-out, throwing together whatever’s been taking up space in your pantry or – worse yet – stopping at the drive-through window, just set aside a couple hours each week to whip up some easy-to-store-enjoy-anytime recipes. Then, simply heat your creations in the microwave as needed throughout the coming days.

I’ve compiled a list of instructions, along with corresponding visuals, to walk you through the steps of proper meal prep. The recipe below is just one example of a make-ahead meal that’s convenient, satisfying, and completely guilt-free – whether on its own as a filling lunch or as a tasty side dish for dinner.

And here’s more fabulous news: all you need to pull this off are a few basic, fresh ingredients!


  • Step 1:¬†Chop your vegetables of choice (any veggies you have on-hand will work; I used onions, mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, and corn).

food prep step 1

  • Step 2:¬†Transfer the vegetables into a Tupperware container and store in the fridge while you continue with the remaining prep work.

food prep step 2

  • Step 3:¬†Assemble your seasonings (I used olive oil and garlic) and whole-grain carb (lentils are my go-to, but quinoa or couscous will work too).

food prep step 3

  • Step 4:¬†Rinse off the grains, transfer them into a Teflon pot, and allow them to soak in water for approximately 10 minutes.

food prep step 4

  • Step 5:¬†Place the pot on a stove-top burner and turn the heat on high until boiling, then lower to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally.

food prep step 5

  • Step 6:¬†Add the seasonings (1 tsp. garlic and 1 tbsp. olive oil), then re-cover and let the mixture simmer for approximately 30 minutes.

food prep step 6

  • Step 7:¬†Once the lentils (or another whole-grain of choice) have softened, add the vegetables you prepped earlier and stir thoroughly.

food prep step 7

  • Step 8:¬†Allow the vegetables to simmer for approximately 10 minutes, then strain this mixture to remove any excess liquid.

food prep step 8

  • Step 9:¬†Transfer the lentils (or another whole grain of choice) into a Tupperware container and store in the fridge until your next meal.

food prep step 9

***¬†1 16-oz. package of lentils yields at least a week’s worth of lunches/dinners. ***

A Smorgasbord that Just Screams “Summer!”

Summertime may be halfway over, but that doesn’t mean outdoor cookouts should come to a screeching halt.

Au contraire!

There’s still a forecast of several sunny days ahead to embrace the refreshing, bold, and colorful flavors of this glorious season. So, put those thoughts of pumpkin spice lattes on the back-burner and get back into the summer spirit.

Here’s a light and tasty dinner idea that’s sure to both beat the heat and please the palate!


Fish Tacos (yields 4 servings)

2014-07-26 19.44.17   

  • Ingredients:
  1. 4 corn tortillas
  2. 1 avocado (diced)
  3. 1 mango (diced)
  4. 1 cup cabbage (shredded)
  5. 1/2 cup organic salsa
  6. 2 salmon fillets
  7. 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Preparation:
  1. Cut the salmon fillets into bite-size chunks.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan on medium-high.
  3. Saute the salmon in the olive oil until cooked thoroughly (flaky).
  4. Toss the mango, avocado, and salsa together in a mixing bowl.
  5. Warm the tortillas in the oven (350 degrees) until slightly crisp.
  6. Slice the cabbage into thin shredded pieces (like coleslaw).
  7. Assemble the tacos in this order: fish, cabbage, salsa mixture.

Watermelon Salad (yields 4 servings)

2014-07-26 19.42.52   

  • Ingredients:
  1. 1 cup watermelon (cubed)
  2. 1/2 cup feta cheese (crumbled)*
  3. 2 tsp. mint leaves (chopped)
  4. 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  5. 1 tbsp. olive oil

*If your dietary needs or preferences exclude dairy, you can substitute firm silken tofu in place of feta.

  • Preparation:
  1. Toss the watermelon chunks and feta cheese (or vegan substitute) together in a mixing bowl.
  2. Whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in another mixing bowl.
  3. Once the oil and vinegar have been thoroughly combined, drizzle this mixture on top of the watermelon.
  4. Sprinkle the chopped mint on top of this salad as a garnish.

Serving Suggestion:

Set out the salad, tortillas and toppings, buffet-style, so that cookout goers can enjoy a “build-your-own-taco” station.

2014-07-26 19.48.18   

Now, let’s all do 5 minutes on how¬†delicioso that looks. Go.

My Make-Ahead-Enjoy-Anytime Menu for a Full Day of Healthy Eating

So, what does an entire day of balanced¬†nutrition look like? Let’s break it down meal-by-meal. For example, the following delicious dishes were my¬†breakfast, lunch, and dinner yesterday. Not only did they pass the taste test, but they required minimal effort and used whole food ingredients. Yeah…that’s a win in my book!

Recreate¬†these recipes for 12 hours of only the freshest fuel (that won’t¬†even feel like you’re on a diet).


Breakfast: Apple & Carrot Smoothie

  • Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup rice milk
  2. 1 tbsp. almonds
  3. 1 apple
  4. 1 carrot
  5. 1 tbsp. nut butter
  • Preparation
  1. Peel and chop the apple.
  2. Peel and chop the carrot.
  3. Finely chop the almonds.
  4. Combine all the ingredients in a blender.
  5. Puree until the mixture is smooth

carrot apple smoothie ingredients       carrot apple smoothie   

Lunch: Lighter Cobb Salad

  • Ingredients
  1. 1 egg (hard boiled)
  2. 1 avocado (sliced)
  3. 2 Roma tomatoes (diced)
  4. 1/2 cup corn (off-the-cob)
  5. 1 cup lettuce (shredded)
  6. 1/2 cup chicken (chopped)*
  7. 2 tbsp. bleu cheese (crumbled)**

* If your dietary needs/preferences exclude animal protein, you can easily omit the chicken or use a vegetarian substitute (i.e. tofu or tempeh).

** If your dietary needs/preferences exclude dairy, you can substitute a vegan “cheese” product.

  • Preparation
  1. Boil the chicken (or protein substitute) in 1 cup of water for 15 minutes, or until fully cooked.
  2. Saute the corn, uncovered, on medium-heat for approximately 8-10 minutes.
  3. Hard boil the egg in 1/2 cup of water for approximately 12 minutes (for step-by-step hard boiling instructions, click this link).
  4. While the chicken, corn, and egg are cooking, prep the other ingredients, then set aside.
  5. When the egg has finished cooking, chop it into bit-size slices, then set aside until the chicken is cooked.
  6. Once all the ingredients are ready, arrange the lettuce at the bottom of a salad bowl, then layer the other ingredients on top of the lettuce.
  7. Toss the salad thoroughly so as to evenly distribute everything.

cobb salad   

Dinner: Shrimp, Mango & Avocado Flatbread

  • Ingredients
  1. 2 tbsp. organic orange juice
  2. 1/2 tbsp. lime juice
  3. 2 tsp. organic honey
  4. 1 tsp. orange zest
  5. 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  6. 1 tbsp. plain hummus
  7. 1 piece Stonefire whole-grain naan*
  8. 1/2 pound shrimp (peeled)
  9. 1/2 red onion (thinly sliced)
  10. 1 mango (peeled and chopped)
  11. 1 avocado (peeled and chopped)
  12. 2 tsp. cilantro (finely chopped)
  13. 1 tbsp. peanuts (finely chopped)

* If your dietary needs/preferences exclude gluten, you can substitute this GF naan recipe from Queen of Quinoa.

  • Preparation
  1. In 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil, saute the shrimp on medium heat for approximately 15 minutes, or until fully cooked.
  2. Combine the orange juice, honey, lime juice, and orange juice together in a small bowl.
  3. Whisk the other 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil into this mixture, then toss in the shrimp once they are finished cooking.
  4. Allow the shrimp to marinate in this mixture between 5-10 minutes, then add in the mango, avocado, and onions.
  5. Warm the naan in the oven on 350 degrees F for approximately 5 minutes, or until crispy.
  6. Allow the naan to cool slightly, then spread a thin layer of hummus on the bread.
  7. Drain excess liquid from the marinade, then spoon the shrimp, mango, avocado, and onion mixture on top of the hummus.
  8. Garnish with a few pinches of chopped peanuts and cilantro.

shrimp mango avocado flatbread