Easy Power Lunch Bowls

Easy Power Lunch Bowls

Most people say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I personally get most excited about lunch. People who say “I was too busy, I forgot to eat lunch”… I don’t get you. But maybe I’m the only weirdo who eats breakfast and then immediately starts counting down the hours ’til lunch?

This bowl was inspired by one ordinary day last week when I made a quick lunch for myself with kale, sweet potatoes, some other things I had on hand, and these Yves Kale & Quinoa Bites. It’s definitely an “I work from home” kind of lunch, but the whole thing came together within the 20 or so minutes that it took to roast the sweet potato cubes. I usually have most of these ingredients on-hand so this sort of bowl is a go-to formula for me.

Easy Power Lunch Bowls Easy Power Lunch Bowls

What kicks this bowl up a notch are these tasty Kale & Quinoa Bites. I think they taste like mini falafels, plus they add some good veggie protein to your bowl. They’re a yummy little addition, especially if you’re not someone who has time during your lunch break to make homemade falafel.

I marinated my chickpeas in a zippy lemon-dijon dressing and then basically smothered everything in olive oil, lemon juice, and tahini. Done and done. Now I’m off to start thinking about what’s for dinner…

Easy Power Lunch Bowls

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Beets

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Beets

We celebrated Valentine’s day early this year. Actually, we celebrate most holidays early around here… at least food-wise. Christmas cookies in October, Thanksgiving food in late August and so on.

I’m not sure what we’re doing for “real” Valentine’s yet – but once I got this recipe just right and the pictures were done, Jack and I sat down to a romantic (albeit reheated) meal for two. The only caveat – Jack doesn’t like beets. He’s not a picky eater but beets are on his short list of foods he usually won’t touch. I originally tried this recipe with other roasted vegetables but the juicy sweetness of the beets went SO well with the creamy earthy flavor of the polenta. The little heart-like-shaped red beets combined with the pink and white striped Chioggia beets just needed to be here. Also, since I love beets and you love beets (right?), he was outnumbered this time.

IMG_2017_01_29_09341-2

Our dinner conversation went like this: 

Me: “So I know you don’t prefer beets, but don’t you think they work really well in this case – just a few of them – with the other vegetables and creamy polenta and this lemony dijon dressing kind of covers them up right? I mean, I know how much you love mustard.

Him: “They’re still beets.”

Me: “Remember that one time when I made beets and told you they were turnips and you ate them and you liked them?”

Him: “Yes, but this time I know they are beets and I can’t un-think that”

Me: “But if you didn’t watch me make this and you closed your eyes and ate this, you would probably be ok with this whole combination right? You would probably not even notice the beets.

Him: (as he’s licking his plate clean, btw.) “Ok… of all the way that I’ve had beets, this makes them taste the least beet-y. Plus this polenta is [flipping] awesome.”

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Beets

So I’ll leave it up to you whether you love or hate beets but let’s talk about the polenta. It’s creamy, made with my go-to unsweetened Almond Breeze instead of plain water or cream. It has olive oil instead of butter so aside from the tiny bit of optional feta sprinkled on top, this meal is dairy free and vegan (but you wouldn’t know it).

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Beets

This recipe is not difficult to make but I will say that it’s a tad on the fussy side, since each component needs to be prepared separately. If you’re good at multitasking, you’ve got this. If not, you can roast the beets ahead of time, make the dressing ahead of time, and (new discovery!) you can even make the polenta ahead of time.

That new discovery was a happy accident but it worked. I made the polenta and when it was almost done (not quite thickened), I let it cool, and put it in the fridge. I took it out the next day, heated it on the stove while whisking in a bit of water, and voila! The polenta was creamier in texture and had more mellow flavor than a “fresh” version I tested earlier.

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Beets

The rest of the dish is comprised of roasted red onions and chickpeas, sautéed spinach, and thinly sliced, lightly marinated Chioggia beets… I love the contrasting flavor, texture (and color) of the raw and roasted beets together.

This recipe serves 2, but can be easily doubled to serve 4.

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Beets

Shakshuka with Spinach and Harissa

Shakshuka with Spinach and Harissa

My mom is an article clipper. She reads the newspaper every morning – not the kind that is on the internet – and she clips articles for everyone that she’s close to. Techy stuff for Jack, figure skating/olympic articles for my sister, and of course recipe ideas for me. These bits of recipe inspiration are always helpful because, quite honestly, I often get stuck in my head about what to make and I appreciate the outside perspective.

Shakshuka with Spinach and Harissa

She came to visit a few weeks ago and said “I don’t know how to pronounce this one but it looks really good, why don’t you make something like this?” I hesitated for a second because while I’ve always loved Shakshuka, the reason I didn’t already have a recipe on the blog is that dishes like this are especially challenging to make look cute. Eggs in tomato sauce can be quite… inconsistent… looks-wise.

Then I thought “I’ll do mini skillets!” Anything mini is always cute, right? That way there would be only so much room for the eggs to spread and I planned to top the ugly parts with herbs (food styling pro tip, btw). Except I only had 1 mini skillet and 3 of us to feed. Then I had one of those moments where I stopped to think “what is this crazy life that I have that I’ve just spent an hour plotting how to make shakshuka look cute?” and just got on with it.

Shakshuka with Spinach and Harissa

Cuteness aside, I really love this dish – It’s perfect for this time of year because it’s largely a pantry meal. My version has spinach mixed for extra veggie power and harissa mixed in for extra spice. See the recipe below for instructions to make this whole recipe in one skillet. Since I was dividing this into multiple skillets to serve 3, I made the sauce in a separate pan and stored the extra in the fridge for an impromptu-shakshuka lunch the next day.

Shakshuka with Spinach and Harissa

Sustenance Sweet Potato Stew

Sustenence Stew from The Perfect Blend Cookbook by Tess Masters

Crazy weather we’ve been having here lately… one day we’re eating a sunny lunch on a patio and the next five nights we’re curled up at home trying to stay warm during torrential downpours. I SO wish I was one of those people who finds rainstorms to be cozy and calming but I’m quite the opposite. Storms may get me a little edgy and nervous, but what does calm me down is making a stew like this one.

This recipe comes from my friend Tess (a.k.a. The Blender Girl)’s new cookbook The Perfect Blend. This stew is everything you want on a cold January night – as its name suggests, it’s hearty and comforting. It’s also healthy and healing because it’s packed with a kitchen sink full of vegetables – sweet potatoes, broccoli, swiss chard, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and more. At first glance, the ingredient list looks like my go-to veggie stew formula, but what puts this one over the top is the generous scoop of almond butter that goes in toward the end – it’s a genius secret ingredient that make this stew taste extra rich, while also adding a bit of protein.

Sustenence Stew from The Perfect Blend Cookbook by Tess Masters

Tess suggests serving this stew over cauliflower rice. I’ve included the instructions with the recipe below, but I have to tell you that I skipped that step and just served this on its own. It was plenty filling and it yielded tons of leftovers which I’ve been eating for lunch ever since. This recipe comes together in roughly 30 minutes, so it’s a great healthy weeknight option.

Sustenence Stew from The Perfect Blend Cookbook by Tess Masters

If you’re looking to get healthier in the new year, I definitely recommend this book. It’s entirely vegan and gluten free and the recipes are super creative. On my list to try is her Greedy Green Curry, Jazzy Jackfruit Enchiladas and her Lick-your-plate-lasagna.

What’s truly unique is the way she’s organized the book. The recipes are grouped into sections like Energy, Immunity, Detox, Protein, Weight Loss, Anti-Inflamatory, Low Carb, Probiotic Promoting and Feed the Soul. In each section she talks about vegetables and herbs that are helpful for various ailments – it’s filled with fascinating information whether you’re new to plant-based eating or you’re a well seasoned veggie cook.

The Perfect Blend Cookbook by Tess Masters Click here to get the book!

*Photo #2 of the final dish is by: Anson Smart

Mushroom Lentil Spaghetti “Bolognese”

Mushroom Lentil Spaghetti “Bolognese”

Have you seen those lists of the new 2017 trends? You know, the ones that go around the internet this time of year predicting everything from the popularity of coconut oil to the color of pale pink we’ll all be wearing in the spring? One that caught my attention lately is that “they” are saying that staying in is the new going out. And I’m totally on board with that one. If you’ve had a busy holiday season how good does this sound: Stretchy pants, pasta, wine and and a nice dinner by the fire with twinkly Christmas tree lights in the background?

Ok, just kidding. We don’t have a fireplace and we haven’t even put up the Christmas tree because if you remember last year it was FEBRUARY before we got around to taking the thing down. But festivity aside, let’s make pasta, shall we?

Mushroom Lentil Spaghetti “Bolognese”

I’m calling this a “Bolognese” although I realize that Italian grandmothers are shaking their heads right about now. A traditional bolognese has meat and other very specific ingredients. So while this is not exactly authentic, this pasta includes a delicious hearty mix of mushrooms and lentils that get all stewy with onions, carrots, tomatoes, and rosemary among other savory ingredients.

Mushroom Lentil Spaghetti “Bolognese”

Hidden in this recipe are some unconventional ingredients. I find that balsamic vinegar and soy sauce brings out a rich flavor in the mushrooms. Sage (to me) has a sausage-like scent, so I used a bit of dried sage to bring a depth of flavor to the sauce. In addition to the lentils, I also added some finely crushed walnuts that you won’t detect but they add some richness to this no-meat situation.

I used canned tomatoes as the base of the sauce and tossed in some sliced fresh tomatoes near the end for no other reason except that I find brown foods exceptionally challenging to photograph 🙂

Mushroom Lentil Spaghetti “Bolognese” Mushroom Lentil Spaghetti “Bolognese”

Aside from that whole not having a Christmas tree thing – Christmas came early because I got the chance to cook with KitchenAid’s new Stainless Steel Cookware set. The polished stainless steel is so fancy! The 12-inch skillet cooked my stewy sauce perfectly and these pieces were a breeze to clean. Plus, how pretty is this large pot (and Jack’s action-pasta drop shot!):

Mushroom Lentil Spaghetti “Bolognese”

Cook your pasta until al dente, toss it with the sauce and serve it with steamed green veggies if you like!

Mushroom Lentil Spaghetti “Bolognese”