Quinoa Guacamole Bowl

I *may* have an obsession with avocados. I buy 2-3 every time I go grocery shopping, even when I have no specific plan for them, even when they cost a small fortune (in New Zealand, where I currently live, avocados cost as much as $4 for just ONE in the winter).

So I try to be mindful to use them up when they ripen. One of my favorite recipes for using avocados is The Barefoot Contessa’s Guacamole Salad and I make it often, with some small tweaks.

But I wanted to take this favorite side dish and up the ante a bit by making it into a meal. And what better way to make it a meal than by adding quinoa to it?

I’ve loved quinoa ever since a friend’s mom introduced me to it eons ago (before it was popular) and still love it, even though it’s no longer the most popular “superfood” in town. While I don’t buy the “superfood” premise, I do love the high protein content, the yummy nutty flavour and texture that quinoa has and I like to incorporate it where I can.

But I digress…here is the recipe!

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Ingredients

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed

1 cup vegetable or chicken stock

1 can of kidney beans

1 can of sweet corn

2 tomatoes, medium diced

1 pepper, medium diced (any colour, but I find orange makes the salad look prettiest)

2-3 tbsp small diced fresh or pickled jalapeno pepper

1 bunch coriander/cilantro, chopped (optional – I adore cilantro but I know that not everyone does – still a yummy meal even if you opt to not use it).

1/4 cup olive oil

Zest of one lime

Juice of 1-2 limes

Cayenne pepper sauce to taste (I like to use Frank’s Red Hot – and usually put 3+ Tbsp of it, but we like it pretty spicy! 1 – 2 Tbsp is enough for most people who like just a little kick)

2 Haas avocados, large diced

Salt & pepper to taste

 

Directions

  1. Combine quinoa and stock in a small pot, cover and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, combine beans, corn, tomatoes and peppers in a medium bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl (or glass jar), combine olive oil, lime zest, lime juice and cayenne pepper sauce.
  4. Once quinoa is ready, add to the veggies and toss with the dressing. Fold in avocado and add salt and pepper.

Makes about 2-3 dinner sized servings.

This dish is yummy served while quinoa is warm but is also excellent chilled. I’ll often double the recipe just to make sure I have left-overs for lunch the next day.

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Green Bean Niçoise Salad

In an effort to get healthier and lose some weight, my husband and I have really tried to cut way back on processed carbs, like bread, pasta, rice etc. We still eat carbs, just try to get them from whole foods more, like fruits and veggies and to be able to indulge in our favourite treats (for him, beer and for me, wine and chocolate). My husband has lost over 40 lbs and has kept it off for almost 6 months and counting! I was able to lose about 10 lbs and I’m finding it much easier to maintain so it has become our new lifestyle.

Tired of lettuce based salads I decided to do a take on the traditional Niçoise Salad. I love to make it for lunch for myself or even as a dinner for my husband and I (I just beef it up by adding an extra hard-boiled egg). This salad also is delicious as a left over, so I will often make a double portion to keep for the next day.

Niçoise salad

Ingredients

1 bunch of green beans (approximately 2 fist-fulls)

1 large tomato, medium diced

10-15 olives (I like using a mixture of green and black olives

1 can of tuna

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Sea salt & pepper

¼ C crumbled feta cheese

1-2 hard-boiled eggs , quartered

Serves two.

Directions

  1. Wash and trim green beans. Cook by throwing into boiling water or steam for 2 or 3 minutes, so that they are still firm and crispy. Drain and place into a medium sized mixing bowl.
  1. Add chopped tomatoes, olives, can of tuna (I like pole and line caught tuna). Toss.
  1. Pour over olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper, then toss again.
  1. Add crumbled feta and fold in gently.
  1. Plate the salad on to two plates and top with hard-boiled egg. I like to use a whole egg per person if I am serving this as a dinner and ½ an egg per person if serving it as a lunch.

Tomato Avocado Salad

As a busy mom, I love having tasty recipes on hand that are quick and easy to throw together for lunch or dinner.

This is one that I love because it takes minutes to do and tastes delicious.

Tomato Avocado Salad

Ingredients:
2 – 3 large tomatoes (I like beefsteak tomatoes), large diced
2 large avocados, large diced
½ large white onion, medium diced
½ C sour cream or plain yogurt
Salt & pepper

Directions:
Combine tomatoes, avocados and onions into a large bowl.

Fold in sour cream. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve!

Tip: Use the most flavorful tomatoes you can find. Also, this salad does not keep too long, so it’s best to prepare right before eating and serve right away – which is no big deal since it’s so quick to make!

Lettuce Fajita Cups

My husband and I have adapted to a low(ish) carb diet life style (the “ish” is because we do still eat all veggies, fruits and have carbs occasionally) and its been working very well for us. My hubby has lost 35lbs (and counting!) since we started this in December and I’ve lost about 12lbs (though I definitely cheat more than he does).

Anyway, one struggle is coming up with fun things to eat for dinner and we miss certain high carb things that we used to make all the time, like fajitas. But I was feeling creative today and came up with this recipe and am thrilled with the result. And as always, this yummy dish is super cheap to make AND healthy to boot.

Lettuce Fajita Wraps

Ingredients

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 red pepper, sliced into thin strips

1 medium Spanish or yellow onion, sliced into thin strips

1 large avocado, medium diced

1 lb chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips

¼ C water

½ C shredded cheese (I like aged cheddar)

1 head of Boston lettuce, separated into individual leaves

3-4 Tbsp Taco/Fajita seasoning (I use this recipe but you can easily use a prepared fajita or taco mix packet)

Hot sauce (optional)

Salt & pepper

Directions

  1. Heat oil on medium-high in a large pan.
  2. Add sliced chicken breast and season with salt and pepper, then sauté for 5-7 minutes or until chicken starts browning.
  3. Add sliced pepper, onion, taco/fajita seasoning, water and mix. Simmer for an additional 5-7 minutes.
  4. Arrange lettuce leaves on a plate and sprinkle each with cheese. Spoon on the chicken/pepper/onion mixture and top with a few pieces of avocado. Season with hot sauce & enjoy!

Makes about a dozen (depending on size of lettuce leave). Good main for 2-3 people.

Pork & Apple Meatballs

Meatballs are a great for families because they are so versatile! You can eat them on their own with some veggies on the side, put them into a sandwich and of course, with spaghetti.

Here is a quick and easy meatball recipe that  can also be adapted to include more flavours but is great just as is. Bonus? All the ingredients are cheap and easy to find and freeze wonderfully for a fast dinner on busy nights. This recipes yields around 30 meatballs.

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

Ingredients:

1 lbs lean ground pork

1 apple – small diced

¼ C onion (yellow or white) small diced

1 egg

¼ C panko bread crumbs

Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 410oC.

Combine ground pork, diced apple, diced onion, egg and panko bread crumbs in a bowl. Add a few turns of salt and pepper.

Form into 1.5″-2″ balls (slightly smaller than golf-balls) and place on a raised rack in a baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes, turning the meatballs about halfway through. Change bake setting to broil and broil for 5 minutes.

Tip: Use a baking dish with a rack and pour a little bit of water inside. Placing the meatballs on a rack will help drain extra fat and the water will keep it from smoking while broiling.

Yum!

Yum!

 

Blueberry Apple Cake

My oldest son asked me to make his favourite lemon cake for dessert today. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough lemons handy to make it, but wanted to offer him an equally yummy alternative.

And I opted for this delicious cake that I often make when we have last minute guests over for dinner or just a weekend treat. I like it because it has a lot of fruit, its ready start to finish is under an hour and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. If you don’t have blueberries, just substitute the blueberries for more apple.

Moist Blueberry Apple Cake

Ingredients:

1 ½ C small/medium diced apples – about 2 medium apples (Gala or Granny Smith)

1 C fresh blueberries

¾ C brown sugar

125g butter (1 stick) melted

2 eggs, beaten

1 ½ C flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

Directions 

Pre-heat oven to 350oC. Line a 20 cm round cake pan with parchment paper.

Place diced apples and blueberries into a medium sized bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Toss to combine and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add beaten eggs, melted butter and apple/blueberry/sugar mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Pour batter into cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until tooth pick comes out clean. Cool about 10-15 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream – enjoy!