Caprese Quinoa Salad.

A healthy, easy side dish filled with bright mediterranean flavors!

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Tomatoes + basil = perfection, am I right? I never get tired of that flavor combination.

I know adding mozzarella to the mix is the most traditional option, but I decided to use feta instead. It’s still very mediterranean, but more flavorful in my opinion. Feta is slightly more tangy and salty than mozzarella, and I think it worked great here. If you prefer mozzarella, use it!

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If you have a garden, this is the perfect way to use up a lot of fresh tomatoes and basil. It’s amazing how such simple ingredients can be so good, am I right? Complicated recipes have their time and place, but this is not one of them, making it perfect for a weeknight meal. Toss all the ingredients together in a bowl and you’re good to go!

I served this with grilled chicken breast, but this would be great with fish, pork, beef, whatever! And, if you’re vegetarian, this could become a main dish. You can eat it warm, at room temperature, or cold from the fridge. The leftovers were great, too!

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Do you like caprese salads? Tell me your opinion in the comments section below!

Caprese Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 10-15 basil leaves cut chiffonade
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (or mozzarella)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 Tbsp lemon juice or rice wine vinegar
  • Generous amount of sea salt (about 3/4 tsp) and freshly cracked black pepper (about 1/2 tsp), to taste

1). In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth and quinoa to a boil. Cook according to package directions, about 15-18 minutes or until all the broth is absorbed. Move the quinoa to a large bowl to let it cool.

2). Add all the remaining ingredients to the bowl of quinoa, tossing to combine well. Taste and re-season, if necessary. Enjoy immediately or cover and refrigerate.

Servings: about 8 1-cup servings. Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 157 Carbs: 17g Fat: 7g Protein: 7g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 2g Points+: 4.
Recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Kale

This dish just screams autumn to me. Everything from the colors to the warm flavors make it a perfect recipe to cook this time of year. I love all the major ingredients that play into this recipe and I am always looking for new ways to incorporate them in our menu, especially kale.

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The preparation of the kale for this salad was unique. It is baked in the oven to create crispy kale chips, but it bakes in balsamic vinegar which gives it a neat tang. I ate a couple right out of the oven and they were awesome! Roasting the sweet potatoes and onion together really bring out a nice flavor that carries through the dish. This was filling and could also be a main dish for vegetarians/vegans! 

I really appreciated that other than the small amount of oil used to roast the sweet potatoes, no additional oil is necessary in the “dressing.” All that is added is a few extra tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to ensure that every bite of this quinoa salad is tangy and delicious.

Once all the vegetables and quinoa are cooked, toss them all together in a large bowl, making sure to mix really well so that everything is equally distributed!

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The salad can be served warm or even at room temperature. I could even see this as an addition for Thanksgiving to cater to vegetarians/vegans. You can also add dried cranberries to add another dimension of flavor. Yum!

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Quinoa Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Kale

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups kale
  • 5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1 cup uncooked black quinoa
  • 2 cups water (or low-sodium, fat free broth)
  • Pinch of salt

1). Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place sweet potatoes and onion in a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss together and then put them on a large baking sheet that has been lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender. Stir a few times while baking.

2). Drizzle kale with 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. When the sweet potatoes and onions have been in the oven for 15 minutes, put the kale in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, or until kale is wilted and starting to get a little crispy.

3). While the vegetables are roasting, make the quinoa. Using a strainer, rinse the black quinoa under cold water. Add quinoa, water, and salt to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Let cool quinoa cool.

4). When the vegetables are done roasting, let them cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, combine quinoa, sweet potatoes, onion, and kale. Drizzle the salad with remaining three tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Servings: 6 as a side dish. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 184 Carbs: 33g Fat: 4g Protein: 6g Sugar: 6g Fiber: 4g WW Points += 5 

Recipe adapted from: http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/quinoa-salad-with-roasted-sweet-potatoes-kale-dried-cranberries-red-onion/

 

 

 

Farmer’s Market Quinoa

Audrey’s Apron has a fresh new look for spring! Let me know what you think of the new blog design!

Spring finally feels like it is here (or maybe summer…it’s in the mid 80’s in Georgia today!) and farmer’s markets are a bustling place on Saturday mornings! If you are in need of a healthy side dish or need to clean out your fridge of a random assortment of vegetables from your last trip, you must try this recipe!

There are so many things I adore about this dish:

#1. I love quinoa (and shared some of the health benefits associated with it in this post.)

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#2. It is BEAUTIFUL! Look how colorful and bright the red of the tomatoes is when paired against the vibrant yellow corn and deep green spinach! You just know it is going to taste delicious.

#3. The homemade “dressing” is actually oil-free. The lemon juice and zest make the quinoa tangy and delicious.

#4. You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand…thus the title of the recipe! Extra zucchini, squash, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc., are all welcome to this skillet quinoa. Herbs too. Fresh basil, oregano, parsley…or dried. Whatever. The quinoa provides a blank canvas for you to be as creative as you would like to be!

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While I do not think this dish is complicated or labor-intensive, keep in mind it will take at least 25 minutes to make because the quinoa requires 20. Once the veggies are sauteed and the quinoa is cooked, combine them in a giant skillet with the dressing and serve.

This can easily be a main dish for vegetarians (use vegetable broth or water instead of chicken broth), and even vegan by using agave nectar instead of honey and omitting the feta cheese. As a side dish this serves about 7 people, so it is perfect for a large family or if you would like to have leftovers throughout the week!

Farmer’s Market Quinoa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cup low-sodium fat free chicken broth (or vegetable broth, or water)
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach (or zucchini, etc.)
  • 2 ears or about 1 1/2 cups sweet corn (if using canned, rinse and drain first)
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat crumbled feta
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried)

For the Honey Lemon Vinaigrette:

  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced or microplaned
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

1). In a medium sauce pan, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for about 20 minutes or until broth is absorbed.

2) For the vinaigrette: whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

3). In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sautee for about 30 seconds. Add corn, green onions, fresh spinach and season with salt and pepper. Sautee until barely tender, about 4 minutes. Add cooked quinoa and half the honey lemon vinaigrette. Stir and cook for about 1 more minute.*

4) Add remaining vinaigrette, tomatoes, feta cheese, and basil to the skillet. Mix well and taste for seasoning preferences. Enjoy!

*If you want to make this a cold salad, cool cooked quinoa and veggies separately, then mix with the remaining vinaigrette, tomatoes, feta cheese, and basil, and chill completely.

 

Serves: about 7 as a side dish. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 184. Fat: 5g Carbs: 28g Protein: 6g Sodium: 160 mg

Recipe adapted from: http://iowagirleats.com/2012/05/14/farmers-market-recipe-collection-farmers-market-skillet/ 

 

Quinoa “Risotto” – Done in 2 steps!

The first time I ever had risotto I was sitting outside the Palacio Real in Madrid with my mom. I was studying abroad in Spain and we spent some time in Madrid together before I headed to Seville for the semester. Anyway, after a long morning of touristy adventures, we decided to stop and enjoy the beautiful afternoon dining at a fine restaurant across the street from the Palacio.

Dining outside in Madrid!

Dining outside in Madrid!

This was our view. Gorgeous.

After perusing the menu, I ordered the mushroom parmesan risotto.

It. was. delicious.

The most incredible risotto of all time.

The most incredible risotto of all time.

In fact, it may be the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. Even though that was 4 years ago, I can still almost taste it now. Isn’t it amazing how food can be so memorable? Or is that just me?

That may also be the first time I was ever inspired to take a picture of my food. I just can’t begin to tell you how amazing it was!

Anyway, I have not yet tried to recreate that exact dish for fear nothing will ever come close. I also try to not go crazy eating large amounts of white rice. There just isn’t a lot there nutritionally.

Enter: QUINOA!
(Pronounced KEEN-WAH)

You can buy quinoa in bulk for a great price at Costco!

You can buy quinoa in bulk for a great price at Costco!

Quinoa has AMAZING health benefits. It is an ancient seed originating from Bolivia, and in the last few years there it has exploded in popularity across the nation.

One of the biggest appeals of quinoa is that it is GLUTEN FREE! I know many people who have gluten allergies, and if you do, quinoa is a perfect replacement for pasta. I am not gluten intolerant, but I choose to eat it because it is sooooo much better for you than flour-laden pasta/couscous. It also cooks in about 15 minutes, making it a convenient option even on a weeknight.

Here are a couple important nutrition facts about quinoa:

  • It is a complete protein, containing all 9 amino acids! (This makes it one of the most protein-rich foods you can eat!)
  • It is high in fiber, iron, magnesium, B vitamins, and antioxidants.
  • Depending on the brand you use, there are only 130-155 calories in a cup of cooked quinoa!

If you’ve never tried quinoa, I think this is the perfect recipe to use to give it a try. The quinoa absorbs the sauce much like rice does in a risotto. This recipe is much easier than traditional risotto because you do not have to stand over the pot  adding broth, stirring constantly. Once you’ve cooked your quinoa, all you have to do is heat the broth/marinara sauce, and mix in the quinoa and cheese. Easier and better for you!? I am a fan!

Healthy Quinoa Risotto!

Healthy Quinoa Risotto!

And, so is my husband! He usually doesn’t love quinoa recipes as much as I do, but he loved this one! So, if you’ve been trying to acquire a taste for quinoa, give this recipe a try. It just might surprise you!!

Quinoa “Risotto” – 2 steps!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups cooked quinoa (according to package directions)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth (or veggie if you’re not a meat eater!)
  • 1/4 cup pecorino romano, grated
  • 1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce

1) Heat sauce and chicken stock in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.

2) Combine with cooked quinoa and cheese. Mix well. Top with extra cheese if desired.

Servings: Four big 1 cup servings or eight 1/2 cup servings.
Approximate Nutritional Information per 1 cup serving: Calories: 221 Carbs: 41g Fat: 8g Protein: 18 g Sugar: 6g
Recipe adapted from skinnytaste.com

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I served this quinoa risotto as a side to roasted broccoli and pan-seared chicken breast. So filling and delicious! This “risotto” goes well as a side to any meal with Italian flavors.