Toasted Quinoa and Arugula Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Almonds

Trying a new recipes doesn’t always have to involve many new ingredients that you can’t even pronounce. In fact, often the flavors that you turn to most often can be combined in unique ways to create a flavorful yet simple medley.

This recipe is just that — a salad made with ingredients that I buy on almost every grocery store run, yet I’d never combined them in this arrangement. Another notable addition is the toasted quinoa. I often cook with quinoa, but rarely do I toast it. Going that extra mile adds a nutty flavor and crunchy texture. I encourage you to experiment with not only new ingredients but new cooking processes as well.

Toasted Quinoa and Arugula Salad

Ingredients:

> 1 cup quinoa
> 1 cup unsalted slivered almonds
> pomegranate seeds from 1 large pomegranate
> 4 cups wild arugula
> juice from 1 lemon
> 2 tablespoons olive oil
> salt

Instructions:

Cook the quinoa in 2 cups water. Once cooked, heat olive oil in a small saucepan. Add quinoa and stir. Toast the quinoa for about 4 minutes. Be careful not to brown the quinoa. Cool quinoa on a large plate.

In a small pan, toast the almonds over medium heat. Keep a close eye on the almonds since they blacken quickly.

Mix together the quinoa, almonds, pomegranate seeds and arugula. Add lemon juice and olive oil. Combine and season with salt.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Eat Drink Garden.

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Chickpea Veggie Stew

Winter in California doesn’t always bring cold temperatures or harsh conditions, but merely hearing about snow storms and single-degree temperatures from friends on the East Coast makes me crave a hearty, filling meal. Often soup is thought of as an addition to a meal — hardly ever does it stand on its own.

This soup seeks to defy that norm. It’s full of nourishing flavors while the chickpeas provides protein and the sweet potatoes carbs making for a filling meal. Feel free to add other fresh vegetables to add even more variety to the recipe.

Chickpea Veggie Stew

Ingredients:

> 2 tablespoons olive oil
> 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
> 1 sweet potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
> 4 heirloom carrots, diced
> 2 garlic cloves, minced
> 3 cups vegetable broth
> 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
> a dash of almond milk
> 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
> salt and pepper
> 3 cups arugula

Instructions:

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the bell peppers until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots and garlic and cook about 5 minutes. Add the broth and chickpeas and bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer over low heat until the potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes. Add a dash of almond milk and the lion juice. Bring to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. Top with a handful of arugula.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Food & Wine.

Lentil-Mushroom Pita Pockets with Lemon-Yogurt Dressing

Legumes have made their debut as a must in any diet. They’re a great source of protein and high in dietary fiber. From black beans and peas to tempeh and tofu, legumes offer a variety of flavors and textures. Lentils, in particular, are served in a variety of cuisines from soups in Europe to main dishes in the Mediterranean. A mushroom-lentil taco recipe called out to me, but instead of making tacos, I opted for a Mediterranean twist by placing the filling in warmed pita pockets. Feel free to experiment with the recipe as you please.

Lentil-Mushroom Pita Pockets 2015-01-10 18.51.17

Ingredients:

> 1 cup cooked lentils
> 1 tablespoon olive oil
> 2 cups chopped mushrooms
> 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
> 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
> salt and pepper
> pinch of paprika
> 1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
> 6 ounces non-fat plain Greek yogurt
> 3 cups arugula
> 4 whole grain pita pockets, warmed

Instructions:

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the mushrooms are cooking, make the lemon-yogurt dressing. Stir together the lemon juice and yogurt in a small bowl.

Reduce the heat to low. Add cooked lentils, garlic, cumin and a sprinkle of salt, pepper and paprika to mushrooms.

To assemble, cut pita pockets in half, spread lemon-yogurt dressing inside the halves and fill with a few spoonfuls of lentil-mushroom mix. Top with a handful of arugula and a dollop of dressing.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Food52.