Yes Please to Cheese-less Mac & Cheese!

For¬†the past couple months, I’ve been switching over¬†to a dairy-free lifestyle. Which actually hasn’t been that hard¬†of a transition. Well…except for one detail.

Guys, I love cheese.

And it’s not until I stopped eating cheese that I began realizing just how many recipes include the stuff. Craving some comfort food? Good luck sans the cheddar. In a Mexican mood? Not without that pepper jack. How about a Greek salad? Umm…don’t forget the feta.

Sure. I could simply omit cheese from these dishes, but where’s the pleasure in that? There’s gotta be another solution. At which point you’re probably thinking:¬†Yeah, genius. It’s called vegan cheese.¬†Touch√©. But I’m new at this dairy-free business!

Besides, I’m not about scouring Whole Foods for nutritional yeast. Or soaking cashews in water for three¬†hours. Or you know…whatever.

The point is I’m lazy and need that cheese fix¬†like yesterday.

Which is the inspiration behind my own formula: Minimum Patience + Maximum Desire = Liquid Gold Sauce in Under 5 Minutes.

vegan-cheese-sauce

In¬†keeping with a¬†minimalist theme, I opted for the pre-sliced¬†variety. So, after comparing ingredients in multiple brands, Chao¬†made the final cut. It’s tofu and coconut-based without any preservatives or GMOs. To sum up, I’m fangirling.

Yep. Over tofu and coconuts. I mean…we’ve all been there.

Something else I’m¬†fangirling over: mac & cheese. And quinoa. Because I’m a wellness blogger. And. We. Eat. Quinoa.¬†So,¬†that combination is how¬†Cheese-less Broccoli Quinoa Mac & Cheese¬†became a thing.

And my taste buds lived happily ever after!

broccoli-quinoa-mac-and-cheese

Ingredients:

1/2 Broccoli Head (chopped into florets)

1 cup Dairy-Free Milk (Unsweetened)

2 Vegan Cheese Slices (of Preference)

1/2 cup Quinoa (Organic)

1 tbsp. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

2 tbsp. Spelt Flour*

1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder

1/2 tsp. Sea Salt

*spelt contains gluten, so if you need a GF alternative, check out these options.

quinoa-mac-and-cheese-ingredients

Preparation:

  1. Cook the quinoa on your stovetop, following the package instructions.
  2. Pre-heat a saucepan on another stovetop burner, bring to medium, then add the milk, flour, olive oil, garlic and sea salt.
  3. Stir until the consistency thickens, then add your preferred vegan cheese and stir again until melted.
  4. Pre-heat a smaller saucepan on yet another stovetop burner, pour in about 1 inch of water, bring to boil, then add the broccoli.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium, then cover your saucepan and steam the broccoli for 5 minutes.
  6. Combine the broccoli and quinoa, then pour the vegan cheese sauce on top, and stir to distribute the flavors evenly.

quinoa-mac-and-cheese-collage

Yeaaaaah. I¬†know what you’re making for dinner tonight. Don’t even pretend otherwise. But like…it’s¬†healthy¬†mac & cheese. Why wouldn’t you make it for dinner tonight?

shrugging

Exactly. *drops wooden spoon*

Deliciousness Happens When Superfoods Unite!

Yeppers, kale and quinoa come together for the win in my latest kitchen creation, packed with essentials like protein, whole grains, calcium and Vitamins A & C.

Tons of nutrients, exotic Mediterranean flavors, and a simple¬†cooking process make this recipe an instant hit. So, you know, go ahead and sneak it into your “Speedy Weeknight Dinner” rotation (shhhh…the kids won’t even know they’re eating kale!). You’re welcome.

Quick note for any vegans or vegetarians: this recipe includes scallops, which you’ll obviously need to omit when recreating in your own kitchen.

******

Kale & Quinoa Superfood Salad — yields 4 servings

scallop kale salad ingredients

Ingredients:

3 cups Kale (chopped)

1 cup Scallops

1 cup Quinoa

1/4 cup Feta (crumbled)*

1/4 cup Dates (chopped)

1 clove Garlic (diced)

1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 tsp. Coriander (ground)

Sea Salt (to taste)

*Looking for a dairy-free feta substitute? I’d recommend trying out this vegan recipe from The Happy Herbivore!¬†

******

 Preparation:

 1. Fill a large pot with Quinoa and 2 cups Water, then pre-heat on a high stovetop setting and bring to a boil.

 2. Reduce the heat to low, then cover the pot and let simmer for approx. 15 minutes or until the moisture has mostly been absorbed.

 3. While the Quinoa is cooking, prep the Kale, Dates, Garlic and Feta (or dairy-free substitute), then set aside temporarily.

 4. Coat a small saucepan with Cooking Spray and pre-heat on a medium stovetop setting, then add the Scallops.

 5. Saute the Scallops for approx. 2-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have cooked thoroughly.

 6. Remove the Quinoa from heat and stir in the Coriander, Garlic and Olive Oil, then combine this Quinoa mixture with the Scallops.

 7. Arrange the Kale on a serving plate, then spoon the Quinoa and Scallops mixture over the Kale.

 8. Sprinkle the Dates and Feta (or dairy-free substitute) on top, then add the desired amount of Sea Salt.

9. Allow this Salad to cool slightly (approx. 1-2 minutes) before serving. 

scallop kale salad

Quinoa & Edamame Burgers (a.k.a. Your Dinner Table’s Next Meatless Marvel)

Trivia Question: how does a self-proclaimed foodie, who really really loves veggie burgers, cope on Friday night when her boyfriend ditches her (but all is forgiven, Broski!) for some old-school Nintendo 64?

By creating a kickass recipe to satisfy said veggie burger cravings! Obvi.

I’m not vegan, but I do have a healthy appreciation for vegan cooking. So, that’s exactly what we have here — veggies, whole grains, and plant-based proteins. ¬†Pure, nutritional deliciousness! And I can assure even the most committed carnivores out there that this burger hits the spot.

Nope. You won’t miss the meat.

Don’t believe me? Alrighty, then. Make it yourself. (I’ll just be over here, chanting: “told ya so!”)

  • Ingredients:
  1. 1/4 cup Quinoa (cooked)
  2. 1 tbsp. Mushrooms (diced)
  3. 2 tbsp. Roasted Red Peppers (diced)
  4. 2 tbsp. Edamame
  5. 2 tbsp. Rolled Oats
  6. 1 tbsp. Dijon Mustard

veggie burger ingredients

  • Preparation:
  1. Preheat a small saucepan on a medium-high stovetop setting, then cook the quinoa according to the package instructions.
  2. Preheat a small skillet on a low stovetop setting, then saute the mushrooms and roasted red peppers for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Puree the edamame in a blender or food processor until coarsely mashed, then transfer to a mixing bowl.
  4. Puree the mushrooms and red peppers in a blender or food processor until they reach the same consistency as the edamame, then transfer to the mixing bowl.
  5. Add the quinoa, rolled oats, and mustard into the mixing bowl, then stir until the ingredients combine to form a slightly “mushy” texture.
  6. Mold this mixture into patties (I made 1 large patty, but you could just as easily make 2-3 small patties), then transfer them to another skillet and turn the stovetop setting to medium.
  7. Cook the burgers for approximately 5 minutes on each side, then remove from heat and allow them to cool slightly before serving.

veggie burger before

  • Serving Suggestion:

Play off the Asian-inspired flavor of the edamame by wrapping your veggie burger in a Nori sheet (dried seaweed) instead of a traditional bun. Not only will the crisp saltiness please your palate, but it’s also a much healthier swap-out.

In fact, while we’re at it, why not continue this plant-based theme we’ve got going and substitute cheese for cashew cream? It’s a snap to whip up and makes a tasty topper for our veggie burger.

Simply soak 2 tbsp. raw cashews in 1/4 cup water for 1-2 hours (feel free to skip this step if you’re pressed for time), then drain and toss the cashews into a blender, along with 1 garlic clove, 3 tbsp. lemon juice, and a pinch of sea salt. Puree these ingredients until smooth, then spread the cream on your patty.

veggie burger after

¬†Aaaaaaand….Dinner is served!

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.

Clean Up Your 4th of July Cookout

Hotdogs and baked beans are so 1776.

Fire up the grill, gather some friends, and serve these even better alternatives to a traditional all-American BBQ. Your backyard is sure to be this year’s block party hot-spot long after the fireworks display fades out.


Chick Pea Veggie Burgers (yields 6 – courtesy of Best Grilling Tips and Recipes)

  • Ingredients:
  1. 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 2 16-oz. can chickpeas (rinsed & drained)
  4. 1 red bell pepper (seeded & halved)
  5. 1 red onion (quartered)
  6. 1/2 cup olives (sliced)
  7. 6 cloves garlic
  8. 3/4 cup feta cheese (crumbled)*
  9. 1 egg (or 2 egg whites)
  10. 1/4 cup Italian dressing
  11. 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  12. 1 tbsp. dried parsley
  13. 1 tsp. black pepper
  14. 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs**
  15. 6 whole wheat pita pockets

*If your dietary needs exclude dairy, substitute extra-firm tofu soaked overnight in lemon juice.

**If your dietary needs exclude gluten, substitute crushed GF Rice Chex cereal.

  • Preparation:
  1. Boil the water in a small pot and add the brown rice, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot.
  2. Allow the rice to simmer for about 45 minutes, or until it is tender and the water has absorbed.
  3. Preheat the grill to 450 degrees (Fahrenheit) and coat a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray.
  4. Once the chickpeas have dried off from being rinsed, transfer them to a mixing bowl and mash with a fork.
  5. When the chickpea mash becomes thick and pasty, set the mixing bowl aside temporarily.
  6. Put the pepper, garlic, olives, and red onion into a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped.
  7. Strain the excess water out of this veggie mixture, then add to the mashed chickpeas and stir thoroughly.
  8. Pulse the cooked rice and feta cheese (or tofu) in the food processor, then stir into the chickpea mash.
  9. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, Italian dressing, oregano, parsley, garlic, and black pepper.
  10. Add this mixture to the chickpea mash as well, then stir in the bread crumbs until the mash holds its shape.
  11. With your hands, form 6 patties and place them on the greased sheet of aluminum foil.
  12. Coat the grill grate with cooking spray, then place the aluminum foil holding the patties on the grill.
  13. Cover the grill and cook the burgers for about 20 minutes, flipping them once after 10 minutes.
  14. Place 1 burger inside each pita pocket and serve with any condiments of your choosing (I suggest a dollop of plain Greek yogurt mixed with 1 tsp. olive oil).

chick pea burgers   

(image courtesy of thedailyspud.com)

Chili & Lime Corn-on-the-Cob (yields 6 Рcourtesy of All Recipes)

  • Ingredients:
  1. 6 corn-on-the-cob ears (husks removed)
  2. 3 cups water
  3. 1/2 cup lime juice
  4. 1 tbsp. chili powder
  5. salt and black pepper (to taste)
  • Preparation:
  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and coat the grate with cooking spray.
  2. Pour the water into a mixing bowl and add the corn, then let them soak for 5-10 minutes.
  3. In another mixing bowl, combine the lime juice, chili powder, salt, and pepper, then set this mixture aside temporarily.
  4. Remove the corn from the water, dry them off completely, and place on the heated grill grate.
  5. Cook the corn cobs for 3-5 minutes on each side, turning periodically and brushing on the chili mixture as you turn them.

corn on the cob   

(image courtesy of allrecipes.com)

Quinoa, Black Bean & Mango Salad (yields 6 – courtesy of Skinny Taste)

  • Ingredients:
  1. 1 15-oz. can black beans (rinsed & drained)
  2. 1 cup cooked quinoa
  3. 1 cup corn (off the cob)
  4. 1 red bell pepper (chopped)
  5. 1 mango (chopped)
  6. 1/4 cup red onion (diced)
  7. 1/2 cup cilantro (chopped)
  8. 1 jalapeno pepper (seeded & diced)
  9. juice from 1 lemon or lime
  10. 1 1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  11. 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  12. 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  13. 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  14. 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • Preparation:
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the quinoa, black beans, mango, corn, pepper, cilantro, onion, and jalapeno.
  2. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon (or lime) juice, chili powder, turmeric, cumin, garlic, and olive oil.
  3. Drizzle this mixture over the quinoa salad, then refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

quinoa salad   

(image courtesy of skinnytaste.com)

Minty Rosewater Lemonade (yields 6 – courtesy of Banglish Kitchen)

  • Ingredients:
  1. 2 cups water
  2. 1 bunch mint leaves (chopped)
  3. 1 1/2 cups Stevia powder or organic honey
  4. 3 tbsp. lemon juice
  5. 3 tsp. rosewater*

*You can typically purchase rosewater at Middle Eastern ethnic markets.

  • Preparation:
  1. Boil the water in a medium-sized pot, then add the mint leaves and Stevia powder (or honey).
  2. Continue boiling this mixture, stirring occasionally, until the sweetener has dissolved in the water.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the lemon juice and rosewater, then allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Remove the lemonade from the heat, pour it into a pitcher, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  5. Add some ice cubes and more lemon juice or sweeter to taste, then refrigerate the lemonade for another 15 minutes before serving.

rosewater lemonade   

(image courtesy of sunandglory.com)

Berry & Tapioca Parfaits (yields 6 – courtesy of Fat Free Vegan Kitchen)

  • Ingredients:
  1. 3 cups almond milk (divided)
  2. 1/3 cup tapioca pearls
  3. 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  4. 3 tbsp. agave nectar
  5. 1/2 vanilla bean (split lengthwise)
  6. 1 lb. strawberries (washed & stemmed)
  7. 1 pint blueberries (rinsed & drained)
  • Preparation:
  1. Put the tapioca and 2 1/2 cups of almond milk in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  2. Turn the heat down to a simmer and continue to cook this mixture for 15-20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the cornstarch and 1 tbsp. of the remaining almond milk and set aside temporarily.
  4. When the tapioca pearls have become translucent, add the remaining almond milk, 1 tbsp. agave nectar, and vanilla bean to the pan.
  5. Return the heat to a slow boil and continue to cook and stir for another 5 minutes.
  6. Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the pan and cook for another 5 minutes or until the pudding thickens.
  7. Remove the pudding from the heat and transfer it to a metal bowl and scrape out the vanilla bean.
  8. Place the metal bowl in an ice bath and allow the pudding to chill for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  9. Slice the strawberries into quarters and pulse them in a food processor with 2 tbsp. agave nectar, then divide the puree into 6 glasses.
  10. When the pudding has cooled, divide it equally among the 6 glasses on top of the strawberry puree.
  11. Refrigerate the glasses for at least 15 minutes before serving, then top with a generous amount of blueberries.

parfait   

(image courtesy of blog.fatfreevegan.com)

Stock Up on Whole Foods While Still Staying on Budget

Whole Food (noun): any form of sustenance that is naturally grown or cured, has not been processed or refined, and contains no artificial ingredients.

In other words…what you should¬†be eating.

“Gahhhh! But it’s too expensive,” you say. Ain’t nobody got time (or, let’s face it, money) for that. WRONG! Just because most of us can’t afford to actually shop at Whole Foods (uppercase “W”) doesn’t mean we ought to exclude ourselves from the whole foods (lowercase “w”) lifestyle. With a little resourcefulness, resolve, and sheer common sense, anybody can easily integrate an organic diet into their daily regimen.

That’s right, “au naturel” is no longer just a status symbol for the rich and famous. It’s for you and me. And our bodies will be ever so grateful. But…like…how do¬†you follow a whole foods meal plan that leaves both your palate and wallet satisfied?

Glad you asked!


  • Fruits & Vegetables:
  1. Shop for produce at local farmers’ markets, which are typically cheaper than buying from a grocery store and almost always organically-grown.
  2. Try to only buy produce in-season, which retain nutrients longer and cost less than fruits or veggies that have been imported from other climates.
  3. Plant a backyard fruit, veggie, and herb garden, which will drastically cut down on spending and ensure that your produce is at the peak of freshness.
  • Meats & Proteins:
  1. Buy frozen poultry and fish, which saves a few dollars and has a longer shelf life than refrigerated meat (just make sure there are no added preservatives).
  2. Purchase meat in bulk directly from a farming source, which eliminates middleman mark-ups and often guarantees grass-fed or free-range quality.
  3. Look for alternatives to satisfy your protein needs, like eggs, yogurt, beans, or nuts, which are budget-friendly and often more wholesome than meat.
  • Grains & Carbohydrates:
  1. Make whole grain goods from scratch, which removes preservatives and cuts costs in half (homemade tortillas, granola, oatmeal, or bread saves at least $3 apiece).
  2. Shop at ethnic markets for large sacks of quinoa, brown rice, or other grains which is more economical than buying smaller often overpriced packages from the grocery store.