Crunchy ginger quinoa lettuce wraps

This recipe is kind of an oldie. I made it over four years ago for Ancient Harvest and can’t believe I never logged it. Like most of my favorite recipes (at least when it comes to both preparing and eating them), it’s super easy to assemble and adapt depending on time and inclination. Maybe you’ve got a rainbow bounty of crisp fresh produce you can’t wait to chop, tear, and julienne– in which case it could be delightfully time-consuming (remember, Mary?). On the other hand, maybe it’s a normal reality kind of day and you would love something zesty, crunchy, colorful, healthy and energizing with whatever happens to be left in the fridge. Provided you’ve got a decent blend of substitutions and the main dressing staples, you can throw your own superb variation together less than 30 minutes.


My favorite form of these wraps is forsaking the wrap part. Just toss in a bunch of greens with the filling for a most satisfying salad. Kale goes better than lettuce anyway. But then, sometimes lettuce wraps have the perfect refreshing crispness. So pretty with a touch of novelty about them.

I’ve been returning to some soul-soothing oldies lately. Renewed appreciation for the competitive aspect of trail running. This quinoa obviously, and a whole bunch of used-to-be standby recipes that have enjoyed a reestablishment of status lately. And a little bit poetry, which I once made time for with a fervent sort of passion that kind of evaporated for several years. (When F  was born it was replaced largely by lilting rhymes and songs.) But this year, I’ve found the poetic longing resurfacing. I feel so fortunate to know eclectic and dynamic writers who have  inspired me to take a stab at submitting again, and am so thrilled and honored to have had a poem accepted in a beautiful journal of poetry and photography.


The funny thing about good things…how quickly do they put you on edge anticipating bad things? After the initial joy and gratitude, contentment and rush of optimism, I mean. Are we all somewhat conditioned to wait for the proverbial ball to drop? One glaring response would be, of course that’s just life. Ebb and flow, highs and lows, light and shadow. Then again, how much does the sharp reality check offer safeguarding protection that can come close to outweighing the limitations on our willingness to fearlessly enjoy the now?

In any case, for two weeks in a row I felt gifted with experiences that made me feel validated in areas that are important to me. And I felt so supremely grateful. As well as momentarily but mightily apprehensive about what the next impending down might bring. It’s due soon, a persistently whiny voice insists. I even go so far as to determine internally that it’s probably going to take the form of something like [X] happening, which will make me feel really foolish for spending all that time fearing [Y], which would have been bad but not as bad. It is frustrating being stuck hanging out with myself when I think like that.


But as you know, somehow I force cooking to become a daily exercise in cultivating the type of mindfulness and lessons I want to maintain more naturally. And when I made this quinoa, I thought ‘why haven’t I recorded this in the files yet’, which I already explained. Then at dinner, little F munched and crunched appreciatively, declaring how much he loves the eddy-mommy beanies, and I thought, ‘good…same but different…and it’s still good’. Which somehow transitioned easily into quietly contemplating the many ‘still good’ things.

We are living in tumultuous, tense, and deeply unsettling times. I am well aware what a place of privilege it is to have the luxury of worrying about what tomorrow might look like. It is enough know there will be things that will still be good, and I can keep striving to be good, too.

Crunchy Ginger Quinoa Lettuce Wraps
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup quinoa
  2. ¼ head red cabbage, slivered
  3. 2 medium carrots, grated
  4. 1 red pepper, sliced
  5. 3 scallions, trimmed and sliced
  6. 1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
  7. ¾ cup edamame, shelled and thawed
  8. ⅓ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  9. ¼ cup low-sodium, gluten-free soy sauce
  10. 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  11. 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  12. 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger root
  13. 1 tablespoon lime juice, plus extra lime to serve
  14. 1 – 2 heads romaine, or other large-leafed lettuce
Instructions
  1. Separate the head of lettuce into individual leaves. Rinse and dry, either with a salad spinner or by hand, using clean kitchen towels or paper towels to pat the leaves dry. Refrigerate between layers of clean, dry paper towels until ready to assemble and serve.
  2. Bring quinoa and liquid to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Add cabbage, all other vegetables, and peanuts to quinoa and toss to combine.
  4. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger and lime juice with a fork or whisk. Add to quinoa mixture and stir to coat.
  5. Spoon filling (approximately ⅓ to ½ cup per leaf) into the center of lettuce leaves, taco-style. Serve with lime wedges.
Notes
  1. Transform into a salad instead for a quicker, filling meal! In place of lettuce leaves, mix in chopped kale or mixed greens into quinoa mixture.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Curried quinoa pilaf

I’ve been sitting on this simple, comforting dish for weeks. Problem is, the only time I’ve had lately to log it has been when experiencing end-of-day brain burnout. So now I’m trying early morning power posting–quick, efficient, and just the basics. Which is actually really appropriate for this hearty, easy meal.

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There’s lots to love about this ‘pilaf’. For one thing, it’s delightfully versatile, in that it can be tailored to taste; it can just as easily make for a filling meal or an accompaniment. I added baked cubed tofu to bulk into a main meal, but other proteins would complement just as well if you’re not into soy. Switching things up as a side is easy, too–almonds for cashews, cranberries for raisins, addition of apples…there’s an awful lot of leeway for play considering how little active time it actually takes to make.

quinoa pilaf (1 of 1)
I’m veering off the promise of bare bones only–just quickly–but when
I first made this I almost made myself laugh out loud. Because on first bite, a warm swell inside was accompanied by my brain randomly reacting with this thought: mmmmm…yummy like Rice-a-Roni. And you know I can’t have had Rice-a-Roni more than a handful of times in my life. Not that I have a particular problem with the product. But–you know, right? What I mean?

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The more I read, observe, listen, learn, reflect, the more reasons I discover to deplore corporatization of our food system. The ugliness is endless, from the strategic profit at the expense of human health to the intent marketing directed at children. I’m rather obsessed. And yet I’ve still somehow attached sentimentality to boxed foods I hardly have any actual experience with. Whether testament to marketing genius or fickle-minded weakness I have no idea and don’t expect to solve in a hurried post about curried quinoa. But on the upside, the simple, soothing spice blend of this quick and easy makes for really good grounding when those convenience box cravings set in. Satisfying them is about saving time on little effort, and yielding something flavourful. Bonus, we can ditch the boxes and make said yields healthy too. Maybe you need to budget up to 30 minutes to make it, but the actual effort you put in hardly exceeds opening a box of spices within a box of grains to simmer in a pot. 🙂

Curried quinoa pilaf
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  2. 3 cups water or vegetable broth (or 1.5 cups each)
  3. 1 tablespoon curry powder, divided
  4. 1 tsp. ground ginger
  5. 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  6. Salt and pepper to taste
  7. 1 14-ounce pack organic firm tofu, cut into cubes
  8. 2 cups broccoli florets
  9. 2 cups cauliflower florets
  10. 1/2 c. raisins
  11. 1/3 c. roasted cashews
  12. Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place tofu (if using), broccoli and cauliflower florets on a baking sheet in one layer. Lightly coat with cooking spray and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and browning at edges.
  2. Meanwhile, bring water or broth to a boil. Add quinoa, ginger, turmeric, 2 teaspoons curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, covered, until quinoa is soft and fluffy (approx. 12-15 minutes). Stir in raisins and set aside, covered, until vegetables are cooked.
  3. In a large salad bowl, combine all ingredients. Enjoy!
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Carrot ginger (dressing) potato salad

This sort-of theme of “it’s all about the dressing” is getting a little tired. Maybe that’s why I’ve been so reluctant to put up this short post. Or maybe I’ve just been waiting for a lightning bolt of whimsy to supply me with something inspired to say. 

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The truth is, I just wanted to share this “dressing” that’s not really dressing exactly and which was in itself rather inspiring. I discovered it recently when I had the happy chance to test some recipes for a local magazine, including a heaping bowl of fresh, crunchy deliciousness. Just 3 ingredients (carrot, not too much sesame oil and pickled ginger) plus water. I was awed by the power of its simplicity, delivering a punch of flavor that is at once sharp and cleansing. One bite and the taste bud nerve connection impishly sent my mind into overdrive trying to come up with a variety of ways to incorporate this exciting new “dressing” into meals just so I could post it on this blog to come back to in case I ever suffer mild amnesia and forget how easy it is.

carrot-ginger potato salad (1 of 1)

OK, so “overdrive” was a little exaggerated. The brainstorming lasted about 5 minutes. But, five minutes fairly well spent, because Easy Carrot Ginger “Dressing” works very well with a light, fresh variation on traditional potato salad; it also fares well in veggie wraps, and is a nice tangy palate cleanser scraped from the bottom of the food processor, too. As long as you like pickled ginger–I do, so added more.

For no particular reason I’m hopeful that this dressing  motif will be phasing itself out soon, though probably not for at least another week. There’s a saucy experiment I have in mind that I’m hoping will work out delectably this week. If you don’t see it within another two weeks, you’ll know it crashed in our kitchen (pssst…it’s sweet and sour). More soon. 🙂

 

Carrot ginger dressed potato salad
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ pounds small new potatoes
  2. 1 large carrot cut into chunks
  3. 1/4 cup pickled ginger
  4. 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  5. 1 cucumber, seeded and cut into chunks
  6. 1 cup snap peas, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  7. 3 spring onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. In a steamer set over boiling water steam the potatoes, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are just tender, transfer them to a bowl, and let them cool to room temperature, then halve lengthwise (or quarter depending on size).
  2. In a food processor, pulse carrot, pickled ginger, oil, and ¼ cup water to create a chunky dressing.
  3. Combine potatoes, dressing, and vegetables in a large salad bowl. Serve room temperature or cold.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Mediterranean quinoa salad with tahini balsamic dressing

May be a trend…another recipe that is all about the dressing. Sort of. That is to say, the dressing is what I most want to remember and share for its uniqueness, at least to me. Until now I didn’t make the tahini-balsamic combo a regular in meal planning. I am definitely going to be making up for lost time moving forward.

 

quinoa_med

There is another beauty of a bonus, too: built-in is a major shortcut if needed. If it’s one of those days when the mere step of whizzing up a dressing has you feeling limp and listless, you can relax and refuel faster knowing this salad is so very forgiving. Just about any dressing will do. Whatever ready-made vinaigrette you wish (just stay away from the sweet ones), Italian,a splash of plain lemon juice and oil, or my personal favorite, the marinade from artichokes. But if you do feel fresh and awake enough to whisk a few ingredients separately in a bowl, or process them till smooth, tahini-balsamic has a simple way of elevating every quinoa seed and spinach leaf with rich, tangy, nuttiness.

 

quinoa_med2

Occasionally I have stretches where tahini has a way of breaking me from peanut butter love in a refreshing way. I would almost say the smooth paste could swap in and satisfy every PB craving with the added benefit that I’d never, ever eat it from the jar or have too much. I would lick away each semblance of a pool of tahini dressing on my plate though, and do.  And if I’m feeling twinges of guilt over that, I justify by telling myself “zero waste” and also the reminder that sesame seeds contain more calcium, iron, plus other minerals and phytosterols than peanuts do. But I don’t need this self-talk very often. This dish epitomizes how synonymous healthy and delicious truly are. No justification needed, just readiness to enjoy. 🙂

Mediterranean quinoa salad with tahini balsamic dressing
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup quinoa
  2. 1 (5 oz) package washed baby spinach, kale, or mixed greens
  3. 1 1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  4. 1 medium cucumber, chopped
  5. 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  6. 1 (14 oz) can quartered artichoke hearts in water, drained
  7. 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  8. 1/3 cup tahini
  9. 1/2 cup water
  10. 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  11. 1/2 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
  12. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  13. Sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook quinoa: add 2 cups water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and summer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Transfer to a large salad bowl.
  2. Add greens, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, artichokes and chickpeas to quinoa in bowl.
  3. Prepare the dressing: place tahini, water, vinegar, soy sauce and garlic powder in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Toss quinoa mixture with dressing prior to serving.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Spinach mango salad with honey lime dressing

So here’s a quick and simple salad that’s light and fresh and as buoyantly colorful as this past week has been. While it may not exactly be seasonal, it tastes like this warm and vibrant spring week has felt. Sweet with a pleasant tang.

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I wanted to stick this up early in the week as something to come back to, but  I kept dragging my feet. While the justification of being too busy is true and valid, it wasn’t really truth, I realized. The real issue was, I didn’t have a story to attach. No pensive reflection stirred by the sumptuousness of mango or the bite of lime. Even knowing the whole purpose of this whole blog is really a catalog, I guess I’m attached to the journal aspect. It feels like cheating, or failing, not to be bursting with thought guided by ingredients.

This is in its way a little ironic, as I’ve been striving so hard to cultivate more mindfulness. It’s been a slowly emerging, beautifully enlightening process, if but snail steps. And the most treasured part, embracing peaceful gratitude for each moment for just what it is. Why then so much hesitancy to share something with no purpose other than saying appreciatively, here is something rather nice?

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On that note, I don’t usually feel drawn to “here’s what happened this week” kind of posts, but this week has been rather rainbow lovely. The most perfect moments were the simplest and the most vivid, in both the actual colors present and the still life style peace of them. They were composed of  the kind of little things that relax you into breathing more deeply and seeing more wholly. 

Little F and I shared the best “egg decorating” yet.

egg decorating
And on Thursday, my boys melted and swelled my heart with the most beautiful, quiet birthday day. After a perfect early morning run with a friend, the day opened with the sweetest card depicting our little family team.

mommy_bdaycard
We took the day off, which took concerted maneuverings on Dave’s part, and we went to the mountains where for a little hike, picnic, and basking in the sun.

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I can’t pretend there’s a connection between this salad and this week aside from brightness and color. Except for this: each is worth a little appreciation and a place in a catalog, literal or mental. The other somewhat ironic thing about working so concertedly on mindfulness is how heightened a certain distrust has been of enjoying the perfection of the moment. There’s an inherent fear of being too happy. It only makes sense. Nothing lasts, good or bad. But time to let that go a little. 

Today, I was immersed in imaginative play with little F when he suddenly flopped on his back in a way reminiscent of when he was a little baby. “Cover me, Mommy,” he said sweetly, arms open and puppy eyes beseeching. Sometimes he likes me to do that–pretend flop on him like a blank, “covering” him. It won’t last long, and as I bundled him up, reveling in that moment, I couldn’t stop the nagging voice from saying so. But oh am I enjoying it now, in spite of nagging busybody “just you wait” warnings in my head. So I’m sticking the moment here in this post–which has (surprise) taken on tangents it didn’t need to. So I can take heart that I’m doing my best to remember, and get back to being with gratitude. 

Have a very bright and happy weekend!

Spinach mango salad with honey lime dressing
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Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 2 tablespoons lime juice
  3. 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  4. 1-2 tablespoons honey to taste
  5. 2 teaspoons white miso paste
  6. salt and pepper to taste
  7. 3 cups spinach
  8. 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced and then sliced across to make 1" long pieces
  9. 1-2 ripe mangos, diced
  10. 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
  11. 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks or shred
  12. 2-3 thinly sliced green onion (both green and white parts)
  13. ⅓ cup chopped roasted peanuts
  14. ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the first six ingredients (oil through salt and pepper) until thoroughly combined.
  2. Mix all remaining ingredients in a large salad bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat just before serving.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

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