Meatless Monday – Quinoa Salad with Artichokes, Olives and Chickpeas

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Quinoa is still the queen of the ancient grain world, just don’t tell freekah or farro.  Other grains try but they can’t steal the crown, perhaps because quinoa is so versatile and packed with nutrients. It is also the perfect backdrop for putting colorful veggies on display.  This yummy salad with quinoa, artichokes, olives, cherry tomatoes and chickpeas with fresh herbs tossed in a light lemony dressing is deceptively hearty and filled with protein. I love this combination of flavors.  The salty kalamata olives combined with the earthy chickpeas, lemony artichoke hearts and sweet tomatoes are lovely together, making a pretty and delicious meal. It got rave reviews last night from my husband, but then again, with these ingredients it’s pretty hard not to like.   If you are looking for an easy-to-assemble-in-less-than-half-an-hour-dish, this is it!  Since it is served slightly warm or at room temperature, this salad makes the perfect buffet or potluck dish.  Make it  ahead and let it sit until you’re ready-no last minute reheating required. In fact it only gets better the longer it sits and marinates, allowing the flavors to develop. This would also be a great use for leftover quinoa.  Just toss together with the veggies and herbs. Done!

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Why should you eat more quinoa?  Quinoa is known for being  great source of protein,  but it’s not only the amount, it’s the type of protein. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a ‘complete protein’, which is rarely found in plant foods, though common in meats. Amino acids are considered ‘essential’ if our bodies can’t produce them and we can only get them through our diets. My husband asked me how our livestock animals get enough protein when they only eat grass or grains.  I did not know the answer so I did what everyone does today, I googled it. Herbivores, animals that get all of their nutrition from grass and other plants, have no problem getting enough protein in their diet. Unlike humans, herbivores are capable of digesting plant cells and getting to the nutrients locked inside, like protein. So there you have it.  Cows and other ruminants who spend their day chewing their cud have superior digestive systems. But I digress, back to the star of today.  Quinoa also offers a good dose of fiber, iron and a whole host of other vitamins and minerals. It is low in calories, gluten-free and cruelty-free making it a great dietary choice for everyone.

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TIPS:  This is a vegan salad, however, crumbling feta on top would be a delicious addition for cheese lovers.  I did not have any or I may have been tempted to add a sprinkle or two.  Don’t forget to rinse the quinoa before cooking to remove the bitter saponin, a naturally occurring substance that coats quinoa to protect it from predators. Just use a colander with a fine mesh or you will lose some of your quinoa down the drain.  Some quinoa is pre-rinsed so check the label. Very important! Zest your lemon before cutting it in half.  Once they are cut, they are almost impossible to zest. I’ve tried…

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QUINOA SALAD WITH ARTICHOKES, OLIVES AND CHICKPEAS

1 cup quinoa (plain or tri-color)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 16 oz can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
1 16 oz can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped or julienned (plus more for garnish)

Dressing (Note:  This is a lightly dressed salad.  If you like a lot of dressing, double the recipe):

1/4 cup olive oil
zest from one lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh oregano, minced (or 1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning)
Salt and pepper, to taste

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  • Rinse quinoa and cook according to package instructions. Then transfer cooked quinoa to a large serving bowl and fluff with a fork to remove any lumps.

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  • Add the tomatoes, artichoke hearts, chickpeas ,olives, and basil.

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  • In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the couscous mixture and stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish with more basil, if desired. Serve room temperature.

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Quinoa Salad with Artichokes, Olives and Chickpeas

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 cup quinoa (plain or tri-color)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 16 oz can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
1 16 oz can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped or julienned (plus more for garnish)

Dressing (Note:  This is a lightly dressed salad.  If you like a lot of dressing, double the recipe):

1/4 cup olive oil
zest from one lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh oregano, minced (or 1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning)
Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Make quinoa according to package instructions. Then transfer cooked quinoa to a large serving bowl and stir to remove any lumps.
  • Add the tomatoes, artichoke hearts, chickpeas ,olives, and basil.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour the dressing over the couscous mixture and stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish with more basil, if desired.
  • Serve room temperature.

 

 

Meatless Monday – Pasta Primavera with Summer Squash, Peas and Arugula

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Primavera means Spring in Italian and the popular Pasta Primavera traditionally is pasta, usually spaghetti but other pasta shapes can be used, tossed with a variety of spring vegetables like asparagus, tomatoes and fresh herbs.  In spite of it’s name, it doesn’t mean you can only make this for dinner in the spring.  Pasta Primavera is a very versatile dish which allows for a wide range of vegetables to be used when they are at their best and their cheapest.  Throughout the year, the dish will change depending on whatever is in season.  I typically sauté whatever fresh vegetables looked the best at the market with garlic and olive oil, then braise in a bit of vegetable broth to make a nice sauce.  If my husband isn’t around, sometimes I will swirl in a spoonful of plain yogurt to add creaminess, then top with parmesan.  Yum!

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Today’s pasta has the gorgeous baby squash and zucchini that I couldn’t resist at the market due to their pure cuteness, as well as peas.  I didn’t see any good fresh peas so I used frozen, which are a good option.  They are frozen right after picking so sometimes they are actually fresher than ‘fresh’ peas that have been sitting around for a while. If you are using fresh peas in a pod, choose pods that are smaller.  The large pods are often filled with over mature peas that are tough and woody and only good in soups and stews.   The smaller pods usually have younger, sweeter peas.   I also added fresh basil and mint plus cherry tomatoes and lemon zest from my garden.

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To make this a healthier dish, use a whole grain pasta.  It’s easy to find good pasta made from whole grains like rice, quinoa or amaranth, all of which provide more protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber than pasta made from white flour. Don’t be fooled by packaging on regular pasta that says ‘fortified with iron or other nutrients’. That just means that nutrients like B vitamins  were removed during the refining process, and some of them are added back in.   Whole grain pasta has come a long way from when it used to be soft and gluey, so give it a try if you haven’t.  Livestrong suggests going half regular and half whole grain pasta if you’re having trouble making the switch to whole grain.

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Pasta Primavera with Summer Squash, Peas and Arugula

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

3/4 lb dried penne pasta
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas, shelled
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 small summer squash, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 red chili pepper(or dash of red pepper flakes – optional)
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons
1/4 cup fresh mint, cut into ribbons
1-2 cups arugula or spinach
2 large shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsn lemon zest
3 Tbsn butter, olive or coconut oil
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
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  • Saute the shallots, chilis and garlic in butter or oil until soft, several minutes.  Add vegetable broth and let reduce.
  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to directions.  Drain and reserve 1 cup pasta water.

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  • Add zucchini and summer squash to the shallot mixture and cook 2 to 3 minutes.  Then add peas.

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  • Add cooked pasta to vegetable mixture and stir to reheat.  Add a bit of pasta water if needed.

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  • Add cherry tomatoes, arugula, basil, mint and lemon zest and let wilt.  Add salt if necessary.  Depending on the saltiness of your vegetable broth, it may not be needed.

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  • Top with fresh parmesan, if desired.

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