Easy dinner idea: Spicy black bean and chickpea stew

I love to cook, but, to be perfectly honest, I just don’t feel like doing it these days. As much as I’d like to pretend that I am superwoman and can juggle a full-time job, night classes, school work (as finals are approaching…), my personal life, as well as other little odds and ends, sometimes it gets to be a little much, and sometimes the last thing I want to do is make myself dinner (it has always been my least favorite meal to prepare…).

Despite my lack of motivation these days, it is still a priority for me to eat clean, real foods as much as possible.  Eating better makes me feel better, and I will always be a firm believer that “healthy” doesn’t have to equal time-consuming or boring.  Making something from scratch (or even sprucing up a premade veggie burger….) can often be just as easy (and often faster!) than relying on the more “convenient”  or fast foods out there.

So, I won’t lie, even though  I have been consisting mostly on veggie burgers, oatmeal concoctions,  random snack combinations and huge salads these days, I have also made some more notable meals as well. Last week, for example, my sister and I had the idea to make some sort of spicy bean-based soup/stew for dinner using a few simple ingredients we had on hand.  I am no chef and tend to make pretty low-key “recipes,” but, I must say, this turned out to be pretty delicious if I do say so myself.

The stew had a nice spice from the fire roasted tomatoes and chili powder, and the cumin gave it a nice smoky flavor as well.  Plus, all you need is a can opener, a few canned items, an onion/garlic, and some simple spices to whip this together…. it is basically impossible to screw up and works very well as leftovers (I am going to be eating a serving over some spinach for lunch today)…

Spicy black bean and chickpea stew

makes approximately 5-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lime (optional)
  • hot sauce (optional)

Directions

  • spray bottom of pot with non-stick spray (can also use olive oil)
  • saute garlic and onion for 5-6 minutes
  • add fire roasted tomatoes, black beans, chickpeas, and seasonings to pot
  • simmer 30 minutes
  • top with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and some additional hot sauce (optional)

I initially ate mine on top of some sautéed kale and roasted acorn squash/brussel sprouts (random, but I was craving roasted vegetables and was on a roll in the kitchen that day…), but I imagine that this would work really well on top of some quinoa or with a nice crusty piece of bread on the side as well.  If you have a can opener and a few simple spices you are good to go with this recipe…. try it out!

What are your favorite simple dinner recipes?

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Family Quirks + the BEST salad dressing recipe

Since going away to college and then living away from home, I have come to realize some odd quirks/habits my family has. Sometimes it takes a little time apart to see things from a different perspective. Some examples…..

  • We refer to all beverages that we drink as “drink.” For example, if my mom wants someone to pass her the iced tea during dinner she will say, “Can I have the drink.” Or in general, if someone is thirsty, they will say, “I need drink.” I feel like this is odd….
  • We have “clothes parties” at my house, meaning, my mom wants us to come downstairs and help her fold the laundry and take it upstairs. These “parties” started when I was about 10 in order for my parents to inspire my sisters and I to help with the laundry, but my mom still implements the term (even though I am 23 and do my own laundry…). The “parties” usually only revolve around towels these days….
  • We always have this one homemade dressing that is always made/kept in the house. We refer to it as “house dressing” (like Italian restaurants do), and you can always find it in our pantry. It is my FAVORITE kind of dressing, but I will only eat it at home. It is so simple to make, but it doesn’t taste the same unless my mom makes it….

I am sure we have plenty more “quirks,” but I’ll leave it at that for now…. Any weird habit/quirks that you/your family have and/or participate in? I know I am not the only one!

Since the “house dressing” I mentioned above is so delicious and so amazing, I thought I’d share the recipe. I just watched my mom make a fresh batch yesterday, so I took note of the ingredients. You probably already have most of the ingredients in your house already, so go make this ASAP! It’s so good!

My lunch from yesterday using said dressing... so good

“House Dressing”

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp minced garlic

Directions:

Whisk all ingredients together in small bowl until blended together. Store in any type or resealable bottle and/or tupperware container. Pour on any type of vegetable and enjoy!

Have a nice day everyone!

What odd quirks does your family have?

What is your favorite type of salad dressing (homemade or  purchased)? Please share!

Easy Lunch Idea: Veggie-Packed Lemon Tofu Sandwich

One of my favorite types of sandwiches to make is a hummus and veggie sandwich. They are easy to put together quickly, are always delicious, and always guarantee satisfying and healthy meal. My sister packed me a delicious variation of a hummus and veggie sandwich  for dinner the other day, and it was so delicious, I thought I should share.

This sandwich was full of veggies and had a nice punch of flavor with the addition of some fresh lemon juice.  My sister, Sami actually thought of this addition, so I can’t take the credit. Not only was this sandwich super delicious and fresh tasting, it was also super easy to pull together and filling with the addition of some pressed tofu (which is optional if you don’t like tofu… you could also add another protein source if you’d like).

I highly recommend you try this out!

Ingredients (for one sandwich):

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • cucumber (2 slices)
  • radish (2-3, chopped)
  • kale (leaves of a small stalk, shredded into bite-sized pieces)
  • zucchini (2-3 slices)
  • mushrooms (4-6 pieces)
  • hummus (1-2 tbsp)
  • squirt of lemon (1/4 of a lemon)
  • sprinkle of pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 block tofu (pressed, sliced into thin strips)… or another protein source (ex. a piece of grilled chicken, tempeh, etc.)

Directions:

  1. Press tofu (if using) to remove liquid (approx 30 minutes) – this can be done with a tofu press or with paper towels/dish towels and heavy objects…. (see Ashley’s post for a good tutorial) and can also be done ahead of time (I pressed mine over the weekend)
  2. Once pressed, slice block into quarters, reserving 1/4 for the sandwich and refrigerating remaining 3/4 (for more sandwiches later in the week!). Slice the 1/4 block of tofu into thin strips
  3. Spread 2 slices of bread with hummus (1/2-1 tbsp on each slice)
  4. On one slice of bread, add sliced tofu and veggies
  5. Squeeze a little lemon juice on top of the sandwich half with the veggies and sprinkle a little pepper
  6. Add on other slice of bread, cut sandwich in half, and pack in tupperware/tinfoil for an easy, healthy, delicious lunch (or dinner…)!

This sandwich was so good! I ate it while studying for a Bio test, and it made  studying  so much more enjoyable. Tofu and veggie sandwiches are great for a quick and healthy meal. Plus, they are so versatile! You can always switch it up with different veggies and condiments/spreads….

Options:

  • You could substitute any veggie with what you already have on hand (shredded carrot, pepper, tomato, etc. would all be delicious)
  • You can substitute plain hummus with another flavor or hummus or with another type of spread (I am a fan of using Trader Joe’s lentil masala spread as a sandwich spread)
  • You can omit tofu or add in another protein choice of your choosing

What is your favorite type of sandwich to pack for lunch?

I hope you have a great day!

Easy Lunch Idea: Lemon Dijon Kale and Barley Salad

I always make myself grain and veggie-based salads for lunch. They are filling, delicious, and so versatile. They also guarantee a complete meal with the components of :

  • whole grains (barley, brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta…)
  • protein (beans, tofu/tempeh, tuna/salmon, chicken, etc.)
  • fat (olive oil-based dressings, nuts/seeds)
  • veggies (spinach, carrots, mushrooms, whatever you have on hand….)

With the switching up of different grains, protein options, vegetables and dressings, the options are really endless when it comes to this easy meal concept.

To make these, I usually just tend to throw whatever ingredients I have on hand(veggies, protein source, grain, etc.) in a Tupperware container, pack some dressing on the side, and call it a day. While this is easy, effortless, and always results in a filling, healthy meal, I thought I could streamline the process even more by making and pre-portioning a big batch of a grain salad over the weekend to grab and go as  an easy meal option during the week.

I did just that this weekend by making a big batch of a barley and kale salad. This particular combination ended up tasting so delicious that I thought I’d share (in case anyone is looking to switch up their lunch routine or try out a grain-based salad for lunch). I especially liked how the  massaged kale and broccoli soaked up the lemon dijon dressing, and how the addition of the sunflower seed kernels  gave the salad additional crunch and texture. Overall, this was a very  enjoyable combination.

If you are looking for a simple, healthy, filling lunch idea, try this out!

Lemon Dijon Kale and Barley Salad

makes 2 lunch-sized servings

Ingredients:

  • barley (1 cup dry)
  • kale (approx 1/2 of a large bunch or 2 cups when torn into pieces)
  • carrots (1/2 cup, chopped)
  • broccoli (1/2 cup, chopped)
  • celery (2 stalks, chopped into bite-sized pieces)
  • chickpeas (1 cup, rinsed and drained)
  • sunflower seed kernels (2-3 tbsp – optional)

Dressing:

  • olive oil (2 tbsp)
  • lemon juice (4 tbsp or about the juice of 1 lemon)
  • dijon mustard (4 tsp)
  • pepper to taste

Directions:

  •  bring 1 cup barley and 3 cups water to a boil, turn heat to medium and let barley simmer for 25-35 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally (will make about 2 cups once cooked)
  • while barley cooks, prep your veggies!
  • rinse and tear kale into bite sized pieces and place in large bowl
  • chop broccoli, carrots and celery  into bite sized pieces and place on top of kale
  • add chickpeas on top of veggie mixture

To make the dressing: in a small bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and dijon mustard, add pepper to taste (you might want to add more olive oil or lemon juice or dijon depending on taste preference)

  • massage about 1/2 of the dressing into the kale, veggie and bean mixture, using your hands (or a stirring utensil) to evenly distribute the mixture. (Massage/mix until kale begins to wilt down a little and turn a bright green color)
  • once barley is cooked and somewhat cool, add 1 cup (you will have about 1 cup leftover) of the cooked barley into the veggie mixture and add the remaining dressing . Mix until well-distributed
  • separate salad into Tupperware containers, add about a tbsp of sunflower seed kernels on top of each salad and refrigerate until you are ready to eat!

Options:

  1. replace barley with another grain of your choice (brown rice, quinoa…)
  2. substitute the veggies with whatever you have on hand (cauliflower, cucumber, tomato, etc. would all work well) – you could also use spinach or another type of green in place of the kale
  3. substitute the sunflower seed kernels with some chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans…) or other type of seed

The options and possibilities are really endless with this. Let me know if you try it out!

Cherry Garden (aka Cherry Pineapple Coconut) cupcakes

So I have a fun dessert creation for you today!  Since it was my boyfriend’s birthday yesterday, I decided to bake him some cupcakes to celebrate the occasion. Jon is a big fan of all things pineapple- flavored and since his favorite ice cream flavor is Cherry Garden (which is impossible to find….but contains pineapple, cherry and coconut), I used the flavors of pineapple,  coconut and cherry as my “inspiration.”

For Jon’s last two birthdays I actually “made” his favorite ice cream for him, meaning I:

  1. bought vanilla ice cream
  2. took it out of the carton
  3. added pineapple chunks, shredded coconut, and marachino cherries
  4. put the new creation back into the original carton
  5. Created a label (complete with badly drawn cherries, of course) that read “Cherry Garden”

I’m pretty sure I could give Sandra Lee a run for her money….

But this year, I thought I’d switch things up and go the cake (vs. ice cream) route. I decided to make a Cherry Garden-inspired cupcake creation. While browsing on Pinterest the other week I came across a recipe for Pineapple Fluff cupcakes, so I stuck to the cake portion of that recipe (sticking maraschino cherries into the batter as well), and made a semi-homemade version of coconut  whipped cream frosting.

These cupcakes contain no added butter or oil (except for the frosting…) and the actual cake only contains 2 ingredients: cake mix and crushed pineapple (I am always amazed that this is possible – I am a fan of using canned pumpkin in cakes as well). Overall, the cupcakes only require only 5 ingredients!

These  made my apartment smell amazing, and I must say that despite my general preference to cooking vs. baking, I really enjoyed making these.  They were super easy and seemed so festive. They would be perfect for a tropical themed party.

I think I may need more occasions to come up that give me an excuse to make fun dessert creations. The wheels are turning….

Cherry Garden Cupcakes

(adapted/inspired from Pineapple Fluff Cupcakes)

ignore the eggs... I didn't end up needing them

Ingredients:

  • Yellow cake mix
  • 1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple
  • 1 container whipped cream frosting (any other vanilla-type frosting would work as well)
  • shredded coconut
  • maraschino cherries
  • yellow sprinkles (optional – and not pictured)

Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine cake mix and crushed pineapple
  3.  Distribute  mixture into lined cupcake tins (should make about 24 cupcakes)
  4. Add a maraschino cherry into the batter of each cupcake (optional)
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (mine were a little underbaked at 15 minutes, so make sure you check on them to make sure they are done)

Frosting

  1. Empty container of frosting into a medium-sized bowl
  2. Mix in 1/2 – 1 cup of shredded coconut into frosting
  3. Once cool, frost cupcakes
  4. Garnish with more shredded coconut, a maraschino cherry (I garnished each with 1/2 of a cherry), and yellow sprinkles

Lentil Quinoa Soup

Hi! I hope you are having a lovely day so far!

So meant to share a recipe/delicious meal I had with you last week, but somehow I forgot about it until now. I figure there is no time like the present, so I might as well share it with you now….

The thing is, I didn’t make this recipe. It was homemade, but I only took part in the eating of it. You see, my sister and her boyfriend tend to hang out/make dinner together about once a week and sometimes they invite me to join them. While I know I probably shouldn’t intrude on their weekly dinners, you can’t blame me.  Jared is a good cook and they are always making delicious food. Who am I to refuse a good meal? (thanks guys!)

Anyway, so far I have been lucky enough to be the third wheel and join in on the following meals:

1. Grilled ahi tuna with veggie spring rolls and Asian rice noodles

2. Homemade vegetable lasagna with spicy marinara sauce

3. Lentil Quinoa Soup

They made this lentil quinoa soup a couple of weeks ago, and it was so good (so good I felt the need to share)! It was slightly spicy and had so much flavor. I asked where they found the recipe, and it is actually  in the latest edition of Natural Health Magazine. The recipe is featured in an article called “Soup Rx.” After reading the article, I am pretty sure I want to make/eat every one:

  • Roasted Red Pepper Beet
  • Kidney Bean Curry
  • Butternut Apple Honey
  • Chipotle Cinnamon Pumpkin
  • Corn with Basil Oil…

How delicious do all of those sound? I had never even heard of Natural Health Magazine, but, I must say, they seem to know what they are doing.

I thought I’d share the recipe for the Lentil Quinoa soup in case anyone was interested.  While I can’t say much about how the preparation of the soup went… according to my sister, Sami, it was very easy to pull together.I definitely recommend you try it out. It doesn’t require any crazy ingredients and the final product is so good!

Lentil Quinoa Soup

(from Natural Health Magazine)

Ingredients:

1 diced yellow onion

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp minced ginger

2 minced garlic cloves

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp salt

5 c low sodium vegetable broth

3/4 dried red lentils

1 tsp dried thyme

29 oz can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes

2 c chopped carrots

3/4 c cooked quinoa

3/4 c unsalted cashews

juice of 1/2 a lemon

  • Heat olive oil in medium-high skillet, add onion; cook for 4 min
  • Add cumin seeds, ginger, garlic, cayenne, cloves, and salt; heat 1 min
  • Add vegetable broth, lentils, thyme, fire-roasted tomatoes, and carrots; simmer 20 minutes
  • Stir in quinoa, cashews,and  lemon

Do you ever “tag along” or join in on others meals (hopefully its just not me? hopefully….)? What is your favorite kind of soup to make? I’ve made Mama Pea‘s African Peanut Stew (from her cookbook) quite a few times and am always a big fan.

Recipes I want to make…

I have been eyeing up a lot of recipes recently and thought I’d share a few that I plan on making/trying out….

Crispy Breaded Tofu Strips –  I pretty much want to make everything Angela makes….

Chickpea Hummus Burgers – I am a big fan of chickpeas and hummus and am always looking for new bean burger ideas (I have made  quite a few types of black bean burgers ). I’ve never attempted any other type of bean before…

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower – I LOVE roasted veggies annnd spicy food

Sesame Crusted Tofu – I just got a tofu press, so I’ve been eyeing up a lot of tofu recipes to give me an excuse to use it. I saw this recipe on Sweet Tater a few weeks ago and actually bought some gomasio (a japanese dry ingredient made with sea salt, sesame seeds and seaweed) after seeing this recipe. I have no excuse not to try it out.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Veggie Enchiladas – These look super simple and Anne mentioned that her meat-eating fiance was a big fan (I am on a mission to cook vegetarian meals that  my boyfriend, who is also big meat-eater, will like), so I will definitely be testing these out.

Any recipes you have been eyeing up/interested in making? (feel free to link!) I’m always looking for new ideas!