Easy Warm Quinoa and Veggie Salad

Quinoa with Veggies

I’m not a turkey-sandwich-with-swiss-cheese-lettuce-tomato kind of gal. I sort of see lunch as a pick-me-up in the middle of the day, and un-inspired sandwiches that have been done 100 times before just don’t work for me anymore. Just look at my Instagram feed: apple and cheddar panini, tomato and mozzarella with prosciutto sandwich,  zucchini and red pepper quesadilla with pesto dipping sauce.

But, realistically, no one has the time to spend 30 minutes making lunch. (At least not every day.) But five or 10 minutes? That’s usually doable. This warm quinoa salad can be made two ways: in the microwave, or in a frying pan. I prefer the frying pan method, but in a pinch the microwave method works great, too. I’ll detail the pan method below, but the microwave method is so easy, I’ll tell you how to do it right here: Combine 1/3 cup cooked quinoa in a bowl with the raw vegetables listed in the ingredient list below, and microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until everything is heated through. Top with whatever dressings or cheese you like!

Since I’m currently working from home, I like to make single-serve batches of this dish (or a similar variation), but you could also make a big batch over the weekend and portion it out to take to work for lunch throughout the week.

Warm Quinoa and Veggie Salad

Warm Quinoa and Veggie SaladServes 1

What You Need:

1/3 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 tablespoons diced onion
1/4 red pepper, diced
2-inch section of zucchini, diced
4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 small handful spinach leaves
2 tablespoons kidney beans
Salt and pepper
Optional toppings: salad dressing of choice, hummus, pesto, goat cheese

What to Do:

Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Once warm, add onion, red pepper, and zucchini to the pan. Sauté until vegetables start to soften, 2-3 minutes.

Once the onion, pepper, and zucchini begin to soften, add the beans, spinach, and tomatoes. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes.

After the spinach has wilted and the beans begin to burst open, add the cooked quinoa. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, or until everything is heated through.

Serve, and top with whatever you like — simple oil and vinegar dressing, goat cheese, pesto, or hummus make great flavorings!

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Be My Valentine Pancakes

I’m not usually one to go out of my way to make crazy holiday-themed meals. Yes, I will without a doubt use any holiday as an excuse to cook up a special meal, but it’s never specifically holiday themed. In other words, Christmas means quiche and champagne, not tree-shaped green pancakes with a piped chocolate star on top.

But this weekend, I got this idea in my head, and it wouldn’t leave me alone. So I knew I just had to see if that idea could translate to real life. And it did! Sort of. After one or two (or five) test runs.

Heart PancakesWhen I was little, we had this crazy awesome Mickey Mouse-shaped pancake mold. Occasionally, if I was really good at whining and could charm (read: guilt) my Dad into making pancake batter, we would enjoy these mouse-shaped delights for weekend brunch. I have very fond memories of these mornings, and for some reason have been thinking about that pancake mold a lot lately.

This, combined with all of the heart-filled cupcakes I’ve seen on Pinterest lately put the idea in my head for a regular old pancake with a perfect pink heart in the middle. Plus, I have a set of two heart-shaped cookie cutters, and I don’t think I’ve ever used them (sorry, Mom) — this was the perfect opportunity!

Fancy brunches in bed always feel more celebratory and special to me, so I’d always much prefer a leisurely meal at home like this than a fancy dinner. Since Valentine’s Day is during the week this year, I plan to make these beauties the morning after instead. That way, they can be enjoyed (with Saturday morning mimosas)!

Heart Pancakes for BreakfastThe best thing about this recipe? It’s super easy: Whip up a batch of your favorite pancake batter, divide the batter into two bowls, and add a few drops of pink or red food coloring to one of the bowls. Now, I just used Bisquick Gluten-Free this time around, but you can really use whatever recipe or mix you prefer. (My oat pancakes — minus the blueberries — would work great!)

Also, I chose to use regular food coloring, but if that’s not your thing you could easily use natural food dye, beet juice, strawberry purée, or even a tablespoon of cocoa powder (and a bit of extra milk) to one half of the batter for a similar two-tone effect.

Be My Valentine Pancakes

Valentine's PancakesServes 2 (plus leftovers, depending on how hungry you are!)

What You’ll Need:

1 batch pancake batter (I used Bisquick Gluten-Free)
2-3 drops red or pink food coloring (or your favorite healthier alternative)
2-3 tablespoons butter
Heart-shaped cookie cutter
Toppings to serve: maple syrup, strawberries, bananas, butter — your choice!

What to Do:

Make 1 full batch of pancake batter, and divide into two bowls. Set one bowl aside.

To the second bowl, add a few drops of pink food coloring, or whatever your dying-agent of choice is.

Heat a large skillet over high heat. The pan is ready when a few drops of water dropped onto the surface of the pan dance around before evaporating. Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in the pan.

Heart Pancake_in panPlace the heart-shaped cookie cutter in the center of the pan, and fill with one of the batters until the bottom if just covered (no deeper than 1/4 inch, about). (I made a few with pink hearts and white outlines, and a few with white hearts and pink outlines.)

Next, take the other color and carefully pour right around the edge of the cookie cutter. Do your best to get the batter to touch the cookie cutter, but you can also use your finger to spread it out a bit if you’re having trouble reaching the very edge. Immediately after the holes are filled in, remove the cookie cutter. The side that’s touching the pan should be set up perfectly, but soft enough that the edge of the heart will stick to the surrounding color. The side that’s facing up will be much softer and will blend together a bit more.

Once the first side is cooked (edges are firming up, bubbles appearing on the surface of the pancake), flip and continue to cook on the other side.

Serve these up with whatever toppings you prefer, and enjoy. (A mimosa on the side wouldn’t hurt, either!)

What’s your favorite way to celebrate Valentine’s Day? 

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Lemon Chia Muffins_wide

These. These were special.

Lemon Chia Muffins_stacked

On Thursday morning, I was loading the recipe for these muffins into Greatist’s content system, and they sounded so good I had to stop what I was doing and make them immediately. (I guess that’s what I get for trying to work before feeding myself.)

The recipe comes from my friend Kelli at The Corner Kitchen. She uses Meyer lemon, lemon greek yogurt, chia seeds, and olive oil to make a healthier version of classic lemon poppyseed muffins.

Lemon Chia Muffin_side

I was missing a few of the ingredients Kelli used, so I improvised a bit: regular lemon instead of Meyer, and plain Greek yogurt instead of lemon-flavored. I also used gluten-free flour instead of all-purpose. And I didn’t fill the muffin cups enough. Oops! (They still taste great.)

I can see how the Meyer lemon would have enhanced the flavor quite a bit, but they were just fine with regular lemon, too. I do recommend doubling the amount of lemon zest if you skip out on the lemon-flavored Greek yogurt. The sweetness level of these was perfect for me with the plain Greek yogurt, but they could have used a bit more lemon flavor.

Head over to The Corner Kitchen for the recipe

In My Pantry: Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Oat Flour

Oat Flour

A few weeks ago, I was scanning the gluten-free section of my local grocery store and came across what I am convinced is the best thing since sliced (edible, gluten-free) bread: oat flour.

I picked up a bag around the holidays to make these Coconut Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies from Around My Family Table for a few friends and co-workers (they were a hit!). Since the recipe only calls for 3/4 cup, I was left with quite a bit of oat flour to experiment with! (And it’s ended up being the best $6.50 I’ve spent in a long time.)

I’ve used this stuff in a bunch of recipes thus far, and I can honestly say it works great in nearly everything. It didn’t do a fantastic job of thickening sauces, but it made perfect pancakes, muffins, and cookies.

My favorite recipe to make with this stuff has been Blueberry Oat Pancakes. Here’s the recipe I’ve been using:

Blueberry Oat Pancake

(Serves 1)

1 egg
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 cup vanilla almond milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup frozen (or fresh) blueberries
2 tablespoons butter

In a small bowl, combine oat flour, baking powder, egg, almond milk, and vanilla. Whisk until combined (there may be a few lumps — that’s fine).

Eat a small skillet over medium high heat. This part is important: Don’t you dare throw that butter or batter into the pan before that thing is hot. Otherwise, it won’t cook evenly and you’ll end up with an ugly, kind of weird-textured pancake. And no one wants that.

To test whether or not the skillet is hot enough, run your fingers under some cold water and drip a few drops into the pan. If the droplets sizzle as soon as they hit the surface, your pan is ready.

Drop 1 tablespoon of butter into the pan and let it melt. As it’s melting, stir your blueberries into the pancake batter. As soon as the butter has melted, scrape the batter into the pan. Let the pancake cook until the edges begin to firm up and there are some bubbles coming through the top of the pancake. After 2-3 minutes, flip the pancake and cook the other side for another 3-4 minutes, or until cooked through.

Remove from heat, plate, and top with the remaining tablespoon of butter and a good drizzle of maple syrup. Enjoy!