Monday, April 22, 2013

Veggie Quinoa Salad With Citrus-Basil Dressing

Full of protein--and delicious flavors!
I’m sure you’ve noticed but quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is all the rage these days. This little protein-packed, gluten-free wonder is a big hit with health food nuts and regular Joes alike. Why? Because it’s so versatile. I’ve used it in everything from Pizza Bites to breakfast casseroles. Not only is it easy to make, it’s good for you too. And in my book, that’s a win-win.

I saw this recipe on Pinterest (of course!) and thought it sounded too yummy not to replicate. I put my own spin on it by omitting the corn, adding lime juice and pepper to the dressing, and using more basil than the original dish called for. I just love fresh basil. I couldn’t help myself.
Here’s what I came up with.

Veggie Quinoa Salad With Citrus-Basil Dressing
Serves 4
1 cup quinoa, uncooked (I used the tri-color one from Trader Joes)
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup bell pepper, chopped (I used orange)
1 cup green onion, sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 lime, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, combine garbanzo beans, tomatoes, bell pepper, and green onion. Stir in quinoa once it has cooled to room temperature.

Place olive oil, lime and lemon juice, basil, and a dash of freshly ground black pepper in a food processor or blender and process until all the large basil leaves are chopped.
Pour dressing over veggies and quinoa and stir well to coat. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour and serve cold.

Cooking Tip:
If you know you want to serve this salad cold, you can always make the quinoa ahead of time and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.
As I’m sitting here typing up this blog post I seriously want to make this salad again. It’s so tangy, fresh, and delicious I can almost taste it now. (Can you tell I’m hungry?) This is one of my favorite dishes I’ve made recently. I love that it calls for fresh, healthy ingredients and that it only takes about 20 minutes to whip up (not including cooling time). I made this for lunch and ate the first round room temperature. It was great but I have to be honest, I preferred it cold for leftovers the next day. In fact, I liked it so much, I had it three days in a row. And that’s saying something because I get bored with food pretty quickly.

With all the protein from the quinoa and beans, this dish works as a standalone meal but it’s also a nice side for chicken, beef, fish…pretty much anything. Because quinoa is actually a seed, it’s gluten-free. You’ll note the absence of dairy and meat in this recipe so this salad is vegetarian and vegan, too.  And for those of you thinking, “This sounds too healthy to actually taste good.” I promise it is delicious.
So if you are in the mood for a little tangy, fresh, veggie-filled dish, give this one a try. You—and your taste buds—won’t be sorry.

Until next time,

Monday, April 8, 2013

Crock Pot Verde Carnitas

Delicious and simple...what more can you ask for?
You know what I love? Easy recipes. And it doesn’t get any easier than tossing a few things in the Crock Pot. This is one of my tried-and-true slow cooker faves. I don’t know where the recipe originated from but I’ve changed it a little over time in order to make it as simple—and tasty—as possible.
In the past, I’ve always used Pacifico, Corona, or Tecate as my “cerveza” of choice, but I didn’t have any of those in the fridge so a nice maple porter from Sam Adams went into the pot instead. (Really, whichever beer you are willing to sacrifice will do the trick.) You can also swap the beer for water or chicken broth if you are so inclined. Finally, if you don’t like pork tenderloin, chicken works really well in this recipe, too. Here’s what I came up with.
Crock Pot Verde Carnitas
Serves 8-10
1 medium white onion, chopped (a little reserved for garnish)

1 pork tenderloin (I get the 2-pack at Costco and use one package per meal…it’s probably 1.5 pounds or so)
1 12-ounce beer of your choice
1 large jar of salsa verde a.k.a. green salsa (a little reserved for garnish)
Fresh cilantro, washed, trimmed, and chopped (for garnish, optional)
Reduced-fat sour cream  (optional)
Corn or flour tortillas (I like the carb balance ones from Mission)
Guacamole (optional)
Place chopped onion in slow cooker. Add tenderloin and pour beer into the pot. Cover the tenderloin with most of the jar of salsa verde (remember to save a little for later!). Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours.

When cooking time is complete, shred the tenderloin with a fork (when it’s done, it falls apart easily). Serve taco-style on corn or flour tortillas and garnish with remaining onion and salsa verde and add a little cilantro and sour cream, if desired. (Chopped tomatoes and shredded lite Mexican cheese are good additions too!)

Really, you can’t go wrong with these yummy carnitas. Be aware this recipe makes A LOT of food. It’s awesome for feeding a group but the leftovers are also great served over brown rice or on top of tortilla chips with cheese and jalapeƱos nacho style. If you are trying to be all healthy, you can serve this mixture over romaine lettuce and go the low-carb route. It’s really versatile and delicious no matter how you eat it.

The recipe as written above produces a fair amount of liquid. If you don’t like it so “soupy” you can reduce the amount of water or beer you add or leave it out altogether and just let the tenderloin cook in the salsa. Up to you!

Again, I‘ve been making this recipe for years and it’s always a big hit in our household. Give it a shot and let me know what you think.

Until next time,

P.S. Happy 70th birthday, Dad! I love you and hope your day is as wonderful and special as you are.