Asian Cashew (or Peanut) Quinoa Salad

I have made this particular recipe about 6 or 7 times over the past month alone.  I’ve eaten it as a side dish and as a main course. I’ve taken it to BBQs and even used it as payment for babysitting (at the sitter’s request).  It’s a hit every time, and I usually get asked for the recipe.  So I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to share this incredible find on my blog.  Plus, what healthy eating blog would be complete without a quinoa salad recipe?  This is sure to be the most delicious cliché you have ever put in your mouth.

I found this little treasure while pursuing a remedy to a craving for an Asian inspired quinoa salad.  This is the way I find 80% of my recipes; I have something in my head that I want to make (or ingredients in my fridge that I want to use), and I look for a recipe that fits the description.  I found this one on vegangela.com and it definitely hit the spot.  I love the fresh taste of cilantro, and most recipes don’t have enough for me, but I, surprisingly, didn’t have to change the measurement this time.  In fact, I didn’t really change this recipe much at all.  It’s creamy, nutty, fresh, and crunchy all at the same time.  Perfect!

Nicholas doesn’t really like the chunks of cabbage but loves the flavour, so I always take out a scoop for him before I add it. While I have made both the cashew and peanut versions, I prefer the cashew version, as it’s a bit of a lighter flavour, but the peanut version is still divine.

From a nutritional perspective, this salad has it all; a rainbow of phytonutrients, healthy fats, and enough plant-based protein to make this a main course option.  For an even bigger protein punch, add some shelled edamame, tofu, or shredded chicken.

 Asian Quinoa Salad

Asian Cashew (or Peanut) Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups finely cut purple cabbage
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup chopped fresh coriander
  • ½ cup crushed raw cashews (or peanuts)
  • Optional (for extra protein): ½ cup shelled and steamed edamame, shredded chicken, or tofu cubes quickly sautéed in olive oil and tamari

Dressing:

  • ¼ cup natural cashew butter (or peanut butter)
  • 2 cloves garlic pressed or minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 ½ tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 1 ½ tbsp maple syrup (or agave)
  • 2 ½ tbsp warm water
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

Instructions

  1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil.  Add quinoa, stir, bring back to a boil, and then reduce to the lowest heat setting.  Simmer until the water is completely absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy – about 20 mins. *Alternatively, you can cook your quinoa in your rice cooker as you would rice.  You need to keep an eye on it though, as it tends to cook a bit faster than rice.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together.
  3. Add the quinoa to the dressing and mix well to combine.
  4. Add the veggies, onions, cilantro, nuts, and edamame/chicken/tofu if using.

 

Hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Here is a link to the recipe on vegangela.com:

http://vegangela.com/2013/09/27/asian-cashew-quinoa-salad/

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Greeña Colada Pops

I officially dub this the summer of popsicles!  So many popsicle recipes have been floating around that I decided I needed to go out, buy myself a popsicle mould, and get popsicling.

Seems easy enough; throw a bunch of stuff into a food processor, blend it, and then freeze it in the moulds.  Kind of like making baby food, except you don’t feel weird about eating it yourself.

One of the recipes that really caught my eye used coconut milk and avocado.  I googled similar recipes but didn’t find one that totally fit the bill, so I decided to go rogue.  I prefer tart flavours and not overly sweet ones.  I would never make a popsicle with added sweeteners as I don’t believe its necessary.  Fruit has enough of its own natural sugars to do the job.  In this recipe I used a ripe banana to add in some extra sweetness.  If you have more of a sweet tooth than I do, you can always try adding more banana and less avocado.  Also, ensure your pineapple is nice and ripe (more ripe = more sweet).

This recipe made eight 2oz pops with some leftover.  I probably could have filled at least 1, if not 2, more moulds.

Greeña Colada Pops

Ingredients:

  • 200 mL coconut milk (1/2 can) *I used full fat but I’m sure lite would work as well
  • 2 medium avocados
  • 1 ripe banana (one of the black ones in your freezer will work well)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1/3 cup chopped pineapple

Directions:

  1. Place all of the ingredients into a food processor or blender
  2. Blend well until you get a smooth consistency
  3. Spoon mixture into popsicle moulds
  4. Freeze for at least 4 hours
  5. Remove from mould and enjoy

Greenia Colada Pops FPGreenia Colada Pops

These turn out to be nice and creamy.  You could probably even partially freeze this (or use an ice cream maker) and serve it as an ice cream.

Hope you enjoy! Any feedback is appreciated.

Homemade Baby Food 101

My biggest inspiration for this blog is my son Nicholas.  He just turned 2 last month, which I cannot believe.  The last two years have been a whirlwind.  So much can change in such a short amount of time.  Some of my first few posts will be spent catching up on the last two years of dietary adventures.  Although I was very sleep deprived for the first 12 months plus, I will do my best to recollect any important details.  I thought it would be best to start from the beginning; Nicholas’s first ‘solid’ food.

When Nicholas was about 4 or 5 months old, I took a course on how to make homemade baby food purees.  I was a little leery on feeding him anything out of a jar, especially when he seemed so small and vulnerable.  However, what ended up really selling me on this idea was tasting the difference between the pre-made and homemade versions.   As I may have mentioned; I love food, and I want Nicholas to love food as much as I do. Therefore, it makes sense to me to introduce him to the full potential of flavours as early as possible.  The packaged varieties just don’t cut it for me flavour-wise.  Plus we have access to farm fresh organic produce and making the purees was so simple.  It wasn’t really a hard choice to make.

I waited the recommended 6 months to introduce ‘solids’ and spent quite a bit of time contemplating which foods I would introduce first.  The recommendations on infant feeding had just been revised, so I no longer had to worry about avoiding the long list of allergens.  Now almost anything goes, with the exception of dairy (not until 9-12 months) and honey (not until 12 months).  You are also encouraged to introduce meats or iron rich foods early on as an infant’s iron stores begin to dwindle around 6 months of age.

Here is a link to Health Canada’s infant feeding recommendations:

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/index-eng.php

I finally decided on acorn squash as his first food.  We had some fresh from our farm share.  He loved it!  I can’t quite remember the exact order of the foods which followed but I know broccoli, quinoa, and sweet potato were in there.  I also can’t remember which meat I introduced first, but it was probably chicken or turkey.  He gobbled everything up, just as I had hoped.  My 6 month old; the foodie!

Here is a pic of Nicholas getting his first taste of solid food.  Based on his expression, his mind is completely blown. Nick squash

Making purees is really simple.  Anyone with a blender can do it.

Here are the basic instructions on turning foods into baby food purees:  

Fruits and Veggies:

  1. Cut the fruits or vegetables into small chunks and steam or boil until soft.  *Avocados do not need to be steamed, and it’s debatable whether bananas need to be cooked first for younger babies, as raw bananas may constipate them.
  2. Cool and then transfer the cooked fruits/veggies into a blender, Magic Bullet, or food processor with breast milk, the leftover liquid you used to cook, or a combination of both.  Blend well until you get the desired consistency.

Tip: I liked to use at least some of the left-over water you used to steam, as you are adding back some of the nutrients that were leeched from the veggies as they cooked.

I also sometimes freeze the left-over liquid to use when making grains.  This adds extra flavour as well as nutrients.

Meat:

  1. Cut the meat into small chunks or break apart a package of organic ground meat and place it in a medium sized pot with a tight fitting lid.
  2. Cook the meat in a pot with some water in the bottom (about ¼-1/2 inch) and the lid on, so you are basically steaming or simmering the meat. Heat should be med-low.
  3. Keep stirring and make sure the water does not boil away so that the meat does not start to brown.
  4. Once the meat is cooked through, cool and transfer it to a blender, Magic Bullet, or food processor.  Add breast milk or water, and blend until you reach the desired consistency.  Mmmmm, meat smoothie.

Tip: I always use dark meat, as it has a higher iron content.  The extra fat in the dark meat also creates a better consistency.

Grains:

  1. Put your whole grains in a blender, Magic Bullet (or similar), and blitz with the grinder blade (2 blades which lay flat) until they are your desired grind.  Start with a very fine powder and work your way up to lumpier textures.
  2. Boil 1-2 cups of water, depending on the consistency you are aiming for and add ¼ cup of powder (Oatmeal may take less water ¾ cup – 1 cup).  *It may take a bit of trial and error to get the consistency just right.
  3. Bring back to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer and cover.
  4. Cook for 10 minutes, whisking regularly to avoid clumping.

Tip: When making oatmeal, steel cut oats are best.  Avoid using instant oats or quick oats. When making rice, use any type of brown rice.

Notes on Consistency: Generally, you want to start with a smoother consistency and work your way up to a lumpier texture.  I would recommend working your way up to a lumpier consistency fairly quickly to get your little one used to a variation of textures.  Introducing a wider variety of textures early is being linked to less picky eating later on.

IMG_5100 Storing and Freezing: It’s most convenient to make big batches and freeze the purees in small mason jars or a stainless steel (or other freezer safe) ice cube trays.  Once the cubes are frozen, you can transfer them into a larger container.  You can then just take out a cube of this and a cube of that, warm it up in a small sauce pan, and serve.  Frozen purees can last in the freezer for up to 6 months, but are best consumed within 3 months.

I haven’t tried freezing any of the grains as I hear that they do not freeze well.  It’s easy enough to make a pot of what you need, and keep it in the fridge to use over the course of 2-3 days.

Always label the containers so you know what’s what.  After all, how else would you tell the difference between a chicken cube and a turkey cube, or a kale cube and a spinach cube? I occasionally think my memory is up for the challenge but it rarely works as well as I hope.

Here is my go-to website for all things baby food:

http://wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com/

Baby Led Weaning/Feeding (BLW)

For those of you who have never heard of BLW, it’s basically giving your baby finger foods right off the bat and skipping the whole puree stage.  The foods need to be a big enough so they have a ‘handle’ to hold while they gnaw on it. The idea is that they will have more of a chance to explore ‘real’ foods and will begin chewing and swallowing the foods at their own pace.  I’ve read up quite a bit on this subject, and I have a few friends who used this method.  I would actually say that I used a combination of purees and BLW for Nicholas.  However, while I understand the concept and agree with most of the philosophies, I just wasn’t comfortable committing to it fully.  I enjoyed making the purees, and I was a little nervous about giving Nicholas whole chunks of food to gnaw on at 6 months. I was also anxious to get as much solid food into him as possible to see if it would get him sleeping longer (which is a story for another time).  It didn’t.  It did however give me more confidence when I started introducing finger foods.  I started to give him soft foods with ‘handles’ earlier than most other moms I knew and earlier than I would have otherwise.

A place to start for more info on Baby Led Weaning:

http://www.babyledweaning.com/

I don’t really feel there is a right and wrong choice between purees and BLW (as long as you are introducing lots of textures with the purees).  It just comes down to what works best for you and what seems right for your baby.  All families are different and all babies are different, and there isn’t always going to be a one size fits all approach.  I think the most important part is making sure your little one is eating a healthy diet.  If you are able to provide homemade nutritious foods, it doesn’t matter what form it’s in.  Keeping everyone healthy and happy should take top priority.