Black Bean Quinoa Bowl with Cilantro Honey Lime Vinaigrette

Black Bean Quinoa Bowl with Cilantro Honey Lime Vinaigrette | Veggie and the Beast

Alternate post title: The greenest dressing in all the land.

Alternate post title #2: That time my pretty quinoa salad got slimed, Nickelodeon style.

You out there, 90s kids?

Black Bean Quinoa Bowl with Cilantro Honey Lime Vinaigrette | Veggie and the Beast

Before we get too off topic, please don’t dismiss this dressing because it’s so very, very green. This dressing is based off of a dip I’ve had at a Mexican restaurant near my house. A dip into which I plunge crispy and creamy deep fried avocado egg rolls, which happen to be the key to my heart, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Black Bean Quinoa Bowl with Cilantro Honey Lime Vinaigrette | Veggie and the Beast

The combination of lime + honey + cilantro makes this vinaigrette tart but sweet but herby, and the perfect complement to a fajita-style quinoa bowl made with black beans, sweet bell peppers, red onion slices, and avocado. If you want the salad to be vegan, use agave in place of honey. If you’re not concerned with keeping it vegan, you should definitely consider crumbling a bit of feta on top. Yes.

Black Bean Quinoa Bowl with Cilantro Honey Lime Vinaigrette | Veggie and the Beast

I’ve eaten this salad cold and warm, and after much consideration I’ve decided that I prefer it chilled. That could be because the Minnesota humidity has started to kick up over the past week, and someone keeps turning the AC off when I’m not looking. Tricky.

Whether eating cold or warm, I highly recommend you eat this quinoa with a handful of tortilla chips. I’ve had some serious feelings for tortilla chips lately, meaning they’ve made their way into most of my eating situations. While some may argue that they’re out of place on the side of my pizza, or as an “appetizer” before my morning oatmeal (yikes), they’re totally appropriate here, so crush, crunch, and scoop to your liking.

Black Bean Quinoa Bowl with Cilantro Honey Lime Vinaigrette | Veggie and the Beast

See? Thoroughly, deliciously slimed.
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Creamy Veggie-Stuffed Enchiladas with Spanish Quinoa

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I’ve been having some intense cravings lately. Before you start in on the “you must be pregnant” jokes (which are ALWAYS funny, btw), let me remind you that it is LATE March and Minnesota has been having high temperatures in the teens. If that’s not an excuse to treat myself to yummy comfort food, then I don’t know what is.

The hardest craving to ignore? Mexican. The salty, cheesy, and rich combinations just hunker down and warm you up, no matter how frigid it may be outdoors.

cheese and veggie-stuffed enchiladas

The blustery weather has resulted in many-a-Mexican meal for The Beast and I as of late. A few weeks ago we made a Mexican casserole, and then many enchilada experiments followed. In my new favorite variation, I keep things healthy and filling with veggies, thick and creamy Greek yogurt, and a ridiculously easy homemade sauce.

Spanish Quinoa | Veggie and the Beast

Little-known fact on enchilada sauce: deciding on a store-bought variety can prove to be a tricky task. The first one we tried tasted metallic and full of chemicals (even though the ingredient label looked only moderately offensive). The second option we bought tasted fine, but included red food coloring, because apparently tomatoes aren’t red enough on their own. Finally I took things into my own hands and made it from scratch, and I will never go back. The sauce comes together in 20 minutes, and it is DEEEELICIOUS.

To make our homemade Mexican even better, we always serve it with the simplest and yummiest side ever: Spanish quinoa. I’ve discussed spanish quinoa before (try not to judge my early-blog photography too harshly), but it would be a shame if it were forgotten or ignored, so I must mention it again today. You’ll thank me.
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Fresh Veggie Quinoa Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing

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It’s March! That’s the start of spring, right? The Beast and I went on a vacation last week (more on that later…) and on the first day The Beast said to me, “You know what’s nice? When we come home it’ll almost be golf season.” The next day he said the same thing, but replaced “golf season” with “spring,” and then he went so far as to say we’d basically be coming home to summer. Welcome to the mind of a Minnesotan.

We ended up flying home in the middle of a snow storm…welcome to the life of a Minnesotan.

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When warm weather becomes such a foreign concept that I can’t even remember what it feels like to walk outside without the cold stealing my breath away, I like to eat something that at least reminds me of summertime. Take this salad, for instance. It’s jam-packed with fresh veggies, bright flavors, and pretty colors…which sounds silly, but when you live in a monochromatic winter world, colorful food helps.

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As a bit of a texture freak, I love the multiple crunches that come up as you bite through the raw onions, red pepper, and sliced almonds. Alongside that crunch, you get juicy tomatoes, nutty quinoa, and bright, creamy lemon tahini dressing. It’s so refreshing you might just think summer has a chance of coming around…eventually.

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I actually made this salad a few days before we left for vacation, thinking it would help get me in the spring/warm weather swing of things. Mission accomplished!…until we actually arrived for our vacation and experienced a very cold, very windy version of Florida. Oh well, it’s almost summer here anyway.
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Brown Butter Quinoa Monster Cookies

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Today’s a big day. Today’s the day when I venture into my “late” twenties. No more of this, “I can’t believe I’m in my early twenties!” or “My mid-twenties are flying by!” It’s no longer cute or funny that my automatic, knee-jerk reaction to the question,”How old are you?” is often an immediate response of “18.” Nope, now I’m a girl who’s basically 30. Well in 3 years anyway. This is troubling. This calls for cookies.

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My family makes a big deal of birthdays. Within an hour of waking up I’ll get text messages from my family members saying, “Happy Birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and at exactly 8:31am I’ll receive a message from my mom, and/or a call from my dad, saying “You’re officially [insert age here]!!!!” Yes, we’re over the top, but I love every bit of it.

The day-long excitement culminates after dinner when we feast on dirt cake, out of the bucket, served with a shovel. Yes, it’s a dessert for kids, but this will be what I eat on my birthday until I’m elderly and diabetic.

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Dirt cake may be the birthday dessert of choice, but birthdays don’t include just one treat throughout the day. Waiting for sweets until after-dinner is unnecessary restriction. Birthdays call for treats all. damn. day. So, to fulfill the day-long sugar craving, I played around with monster cookies to create a fun day-of-birthday treat.

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I texted my mom about these cookies and she said, “Um…but they are cookies? Crab cakes are called ‘cakes’ but we know they’re not.” This woman has no faith in my experimentations. So maybe I put quinoa in my cookies…what of it? Quinoa has a fun texture, nutty flavor, and it’s so good for you (but that’s not the point here). Normal monster cookies are made with old-fashioned oats, which my mom also would not approve of – “Why are you trying to make a cookie healthy? It’s a COOKIE.” You can’t win with this lady unless you stick to the straight and narrow, so why not make these cookies truly ridiculous in her eyes? It’s my birthday, after all (and in my family the birthday girl always gets her way).

quinoa monster cookies

What we have here is a cookie with all kinds of fun flavors and textures. Let’s start with flavors: peanut butter (swoon), dark chocolate in two forms (double swoon), nutty quinoa and whole wheat flour, honey, caramel-y brown butter, and a hit of vanilla. As far as the textures, you get a crunch of both the cashews and chunky peanut, and the hearty chew of old-fashioned oats and quinoa.

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To clarify, these are BIRTHDAY cookies, not diet/healthy cookies (I mean really, see the description above). The quinoa and whole wheat flour are there to boost the nutty flavor and complement the cashews and peanut butter. If you want to replace the quinoa with more oats and use all-purpose flour, go for it (but you’re missing the fun, fun killer).
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Secret Single Behavior and Brussels Sprout Quinoa Gratin

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One of my favorite Sex and the City episodes discusses secret single behavior, which is something that both men and women can probably relate to. After Carrie moves in with Aidan she talks with her friends about the loss of her alone time, aka the loss of time for her secret single behaviors, such as standing in the kitchen reading fashion magazines while eating a tower of saltines with grape jelly.

I’m fortunate that my relationship has never involved much humility. We both realize how ridiculous the other one is, so nothing surprises us too much. At the same time, I do notice my behavior shift a bit when he’s out of town. Since we’re currently right smack dab in the middle of prime deer hunting season, the past few weeks have brought on a lot of secret single behavior opportunities.
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