Black Beans & Quinoa ‘Casserole’

I’ve got a ‘thing’ for black beans lately. Maybe it’s simply because they seem to be in vogue at the moment, but what I keep thinking of is their colour: it’s almost a nutritional fact that the richest, deepest coloured plant foods seem to be the most nutrient dense. Also known as turtle beans, they’re a ridiculously good source of protein, fibre, some vitamins & minerals. So I have a very large jar of them in my pantry. Because I don’t buy tinned products, I don’t even know if you can get these fellas pre-cooked in Australian supermarkets; I mean, I’ve never looked. I prefer to DIY. Y’know, prepare ‘from scratch’.Food Fervour

Because they’re a relatively new to my repertoire, I’m not quite sure what to do with them. Mexican predominantly comes to mind when I’m pondering what to make, but I often just throw them into salads as well. This time however, I wanted warm comfort food …and quinoa. I’d noticed a few black-bean-and-quinoa recipes floating around the net in the past, so I was confident I’d find something I wanted. And I did: three recipes, all quite similar… so I literally flipped between windows/tabs during the cook.

Having previously soaked, then slow cooked (overnight) the black beans, they were now ready to go. (Unfortunately I can’t recall the dry weight I began with, however I was lucky enough to have the exact quantity required for the recipe(s!) ….250gms.

This makes an absolute tonne, so as a single person I got about 4-5 meals out of it… and it tastes great cold so you don’t need to reheat it every time you want some. I should imagine it would freeze well too if you’d prefer to do that.

The ingredients I used were as follows:
a good dollop of EVOO, 1 diced onion, 1-2 finely chopped garlic cloves, ¾ cup (well) rinsed quinoa, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon chili powder, 1½ cups vege stock, black pepper & salt to taste, corn kernels (I used frozen) 250gm pre-soaked & cooked black beans, 200gm baby spinach.

In a large saucepan (over medium heat) add the oil then the onion and garlic, cooking for about 3 minutes or until the onion softens.

Add the quinoa, blending with the oil, onion & garlic, then add the cumin, chili powder, vegetable stock and black pepper. Give it a mix, increase the heat and once it has come to a boil, drop the heat back to low, pop on the lid and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Give it an occasional stir (mainly to loosen anything sticking to the saucepan base).

Finally, add the corn, beans and baby spinach, stirring gently then covering again for about 5-10 minutes …however long it takes to warm the beans, wilt the spinach and thaw the corn (if using frozen, like me).

Food FervourTo serve, use your imagination! You could easily just hoe in as it is, but I like to add more nutrients, so I went with a ‘warm salad’ theme and topped my serve with chopped avocado, fresh chopped tomato and crumbled feta. For a Mexican feel you could substitute my idea with (home made!) guacamole, (homemade!) tomato salsa and grated cheese ….as well as bit of sour cream (oooh! I just realised this would make a delicious vegetarian nachos topping!)

The next day I ate a serve cold, topped with freshly steamed broccoli, more feta (!) and a boiled egg for extra protein (pictured above). Go crazy …and don’t forget to let me know what you create. 😉

 

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Avocado, Tomato & Cheddar Salad

As I’ve said before, salads are the quickest, easiest way to pack a wide variety of nutrients into one meal (see my ‘How To’ post, https://foodfervour.com/2015/12/01/the-quickest-easiest-nutrient-dense-meal/) and since it’s so humid today, I’m feeling lazier than usual. So salad for lunch it is. Cutting board, check. Knife, check. Bowl, check.

Food FervourCraving some cheese, (I’ve started buying vintage cheddars because I love the sharp saltiness of aged ‘tasties’) I decided to run with a traditional popular combo, cheese ‘n’ tomato. And since avocado is so good for you, as well as complementing both of these foods, it had to feature prominently too.

So, starting with a handful of watercress (you could use any green leaf you like) half a lebanese cucumber, quarter of a red capsicum, half a large avocado and 6 baby roma (or cherry) tomatoes, I roughly chopped them all ….chewing on a stick of celery at the same time… before gently tossing them in the bowl. Slicing about 40gms of vintage cheddar from the block, I used the wide-grater (see the photo) to ‘shave’ the cheese then, adding it to the bowl with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and a dash of apple cider vinegar, I tossed the lot together with a little more gusto. A dash of ground black pepper and Himalayan salt and I was ready to dig in.

For something so simple, it’s a rich mix of flavour and texture: creamy, salty, moist and sweet all at once. But best of all, is it’s wonderfully filling thanks to the high fibre and healthy fat content.

Orange Salmon Salad

Gotta say, I’m pretty bloody pleased with this one. I’ve had salmon and orange together before but this will be memorable.Food Fervour

It began with my usual Google search: orange + salmon + salad + recipes. Most of the results were just marinades for salmon, not a complete meal, per se. But one in particular gave me an idea… and all it began with was orange and honey.

Now, I usually try to avoid adding sweeteners (even great natural ones like raw honey) where possible, but this marinade/dressing was going to need some, the way it was coming together in my head: orange rind can be quite bitter…

I started out by grating some rind from a navel orange (approximately one heaped teaspoon’s worth at a guess) then about the same amount of grated ginger. Cutting the top third from a navel orange, I hand squeezed the juice into a dish with the rind & ginger, then added a heaped teaspoon of raw honey, one teaspoon of tamari, and about a tablespoon of macadamia oil. After a good mix, I submerged my salmon steak in it. This began as the marinade but doubled as the salad dressing.

While the grill heated and the fish marinated, I scattered a mix of baby spinach, fresh basil & mint leaves on my plate, then grabbed some snow peas, celery, cucumber and cabbage out of the fridge. Popping the salmon in the grill, (skin side up) I set to finely chopping said veggies, then layered them over the greens.

I segmented the remainder of the orange as the salmon skin began to blacken, and after turning it over, decided to add a leftover avocado half, so sliced that and laid it on top of the salad pile. After placing the finished salmon steak on top, I scattered the orange segments and some roughly chopped up shallot greens, before dousing the whole thing with the remaining marinade. Then devouring.

It’s definitely the leaf combination and the dressing ingredients that made this dish so delicious. (I imagine a light sprinkling of crumbled feta would be fantastic too.) Whilst I haven’t provided a literal recipe here, I’d urge you to give it a go (in case you hadn’t noticed, the ingredients are all in bold typeface to give you a helping hand) because these flavours ….just amazing!

The Quickest, Easiest Nutrient-Dense Meal

Don’t you just love those ads that appear on almost every website, enticing you click, to find out what “5 foods you should never eat”? It’s laughable. Oh I have gone there, never you mind. Pretty much every time you are subjected to some long-winded video that culminates in no answer but a sales pitch.

Food Fervour

A simple salad with avocado & seeds

I’m going to give you an answer for free.

The quickest, easiest, healthiest meal you can make is:

Salad.
Just salad.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I’m lazy. On the whole, I hate complex recipes and heaps of washing up …and I’m also impulsive: if I’m hungry, I want it NOW.
But I’m passionate about eating well, as ‘cleanly’ (where ‘clean’ means as unprocessed and free of toxins, read: organic) as possible. And since veggies are the most nutrient -dense and -varied, my aim is to get as many in each day as possible …many more than the government’s “5 per day” guideline.

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Rushing to work? This healthy lunchbox takes no time at all

Salads make this possible when you are limited for time.  The only equipment you need to start with is:

One chopping board, a knife & your choice of serving vessel.

(I prefer bowls, so I can toss my salad more easily without scattering bits everywhere. Oh and they hold ‘fluid’ better, should I go overboard on the dressing) That’s it. Makes for a very quick and easy clean up.

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My favourite salad dish is a big square bowl

Then it’s just a matter of pulling all your foodstuffs out of the fridge. A little bit of organisation will take you a long way here: to put it simply, I try to keep everything together so I don’t have to make multiple trips. (Again, time-saving. Yes okay, as well as lazy…) The veggie crisper/drawer/bin (whatever you like to call it) is good for that. Who knows… maybe it was even designed with this in mind? 😉
Since I buy a lot of produce, it usually won’t all fit in my crisper, so I use another large plastic container in which I store the overflow (I bought it YEARS ago and it still works a treat)…

Food Fervour

Next it’s chopping time. Literally, chop: roughly or finely, however you prefer. (just no fingers, please!) I’ll usually cut finely because I like more variety in one mouthful!

I tend to put green leafy stuff underneath (spinach/lettuce/rocket) unless it’s more of a garnish (basil/watercress/mint) then load in the rest and toss it all together. Seriously, MOST foods/flavours combine well. All you have to do if you’re the slightest bit uncertain, is envisage salads you may have eaten in the past, or standard salads everybody knows. For example, I’ve turned Waldorf salad – basically celery, apply & walnuts – into a nutritional giant by throwing in green leafy stuff, cucumber, mint, eshallots, snowpeas. If you are really stuck, just Google. (Or follow me on Instagram for inspiration!) Pick an ingredient you want to use, type it in with “salad recipes” behind it and Bob’s your uncle. You will find literally tonnes of recipes on the net, and you’ll also discover that many of them are quite similar. (This is one way to become familiar with food pairings: you’ll surprised how easily you’ll absorb the info you glean…)

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Here’s my ‘pimped up’ version of a basic Beetroot & Feta salad recipe I found on the ‘net…

 

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I’m so lazy that most of the time I don’t even blend the oil & vinegar, I just pour them directly onto the dish from the bottles.

‘Rabbit Food’ can be tedious, I’ll grant you, but it’s only due to a lack of imagination and experimentation. The dressing is often the key to salads’ flavour, and will definitely help those who (think they) detest veggies to consume them with more ease. The problem is, shop-bought (ready-made/processed) dressings house a lot of the nasties (including excessive amounts of sugar) we need to avoid. If you haven’t the time or inclination to Google dressing recipes (by the way, here’s 50 of them, I found just now on the ‘Food Network’ site…) the easiest thing to do is throw either fresh citrus juice or your choice of vinegar with some extra virgin olive oil into a small jar, screw on the cap, then shake vigorously. Instant ‘clean’ dressing. Voila!

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‘Leftover’ Lamb Salad

Another consideration for the ‘veggie-haters’ is protein. Since our meals should include some of this macronutrient anyway (lazy me prefers nuts, seeds, boiled eggs & cheeses) the addition of your favourite meat will make salads even more palatable. Obviously for time-saving purposes, you’d look at using leftovers from a previous meal… unless you also had time to cook something. In which case, you wouldn’t be needing to read this post in the first place…?

Food Fervour

‘Sweetlip’ fish on a bed of salad

So, there’s really no excuse, as far as I can see. Eating healthily really doesn’t take much more time than it would to hop in your car and head to McDonald’s. But it’s a whole world more beneficial to your Insides. Which – quite bluntly – is the only thing that matters, because it’s where pretty much all Disease originates.

So, grab a knife and get healthy… Chop-chop!

 

Sustainable Eating

Let me just say, from the outset, that this may sound weird to most: I just got excited about making beef stock.

food fervourWell, that’s not exactly true. I have thought of jumping on the ‘bone broth’ wagon for a little while now, but only grabbed my grass-fed cow-parts a couple of days ago. Via a recipe on Jo Whitton’s old Quirky Cooking website, I prepared it and left it to simmer on the stove for almost 24 hours. Er, yes, even when I vacated the house & overnight while sleeping… (I know, a bit of a dodgy move) But now I have 3 litres of nutritious, gut-healing broth.

The exciting part is, I feel great knowing I’m using parts of the animal that a vast majority of people waste. Now I’m no saint (because offal & sweetbreads I just will not be able to manage) but considering I don’t usually consume a lot of meat anyway, I feel like I’m “doing my part” for the environment …and the cows. (Ok, so I’m nowhere near as virtuous as the Vegans and Veggos…)

food fervourWhat made me super excited however, was discovering there was more than just a few litres of broth in this process: there was lard. Well, not exactly; having never used it before, I’m not sure what I’ll do with it…

What I meant to say was beef. Slow-cooked (braised) beef, from the stock bones. So not only did I have lots of broth, but also a substantial amount of protein left to eat. Meals for DAYS! That means my $8 for 2 kilos of cow bits has also saved me a fair bit of dosh.

The ready-cooked (falling-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth) meat just needed a ‘theme’ and from the moment I saw & felt its texture, I knew I wanted Mexican. So all I had to do was fry up garlic, onion, spices, add the tomato passata, and some of my fresh broth before adding in the ‘shredded’ meat, to warm & soak up the flavours.

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Mexican Shredded Beef with grated cheddar & tomato guacamole on a bed of baby spinach, cucumber & capsicum

Making a quick guacamole in the meantime, my Mexican Shredded Beef salad dinner was ready in a matter of minutes. (Alright ….discounting the fact that it took nearly 24 hours to cook the meat in the first place….) And I have enough left for two more meals. I think that’s called “value for money”. And maybe also “sustainable eating” 😉

Quick Warm Salad with Avocado & Sautéed Bacon

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I wanted avocado but I wanted something warm. And of course I wanted a variety of veggies. But what protein?

I’m over throwing feta into everything. And then I remembered I had bacon in the freezer. Now I rarely touch cured meats because of the nitrates in them, but I always have some chopped up and stored in the freezer for the (very) rare occasion I feel like fried rice. Or a soup…or something. Like Matriciana.

Not that I’m into pasta either (especially since I went gluten free, and beyond that, choosing to avoid processed foods) but I know of that dish and know that bacon and chilli go well together. Oh, look at that! There’s some chillis in the freezer too, right under the bacon! With the frozen ginger and turmeric. “Right!” I think, “this will show you, Head Cold.”

Chilli likes broccoli too. And so do I. So it was all too simple.

food fervourI threw a de-seeded red chilli, a clove of garlic, a piece of turmeric and a piece of garlic in the Thermomix and chopped them up, then added the bacon and about 20gms olive oil and sautéed all that for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, I filled up & turned on the kettle, chopped up some broccoli and snow peas, then blanched them in a saucepan with the kettle’s boiling contents. I dissected and scooped out my avocado halves, chopped up some cherry tomatoes & a shallot, then drained the broccoli & snow peas and threw them on top of the rocket bed. I placed the avocado halves in the centre and scattered the cherry tomatoes around. The sautéed bacon & spices smothered the avocado and I sprinkled the shallots over the top. A decent hand-squeeze of half a bush lemon finished it off.

It took me less than 15 minutes to make, it tasted great and guess what? My nose has stopped running 🙂