Easy Quinoa With Mushrooms and Spinach

Quinoa. Mushrooms. Spinach. What could go wrong? Nothing! It’s a great dish for vegans and non-vegans and it’s very easy to make, especially if you have a rice cooker.

Let me take a step back for a minute: I haven’t been the best vegan lately. I can rattle off all the usual lame excuses and legitimate reasons but it really boils down to this: I haven’t been eating well, whether I’m being a good vegan or breaking down and eating a block of cheese with a side of yogurt. I’ve also been exercising a lot more which is great, but I can definitely feel that it’s bordering on unhealthy because I’m not getting proper nutrition.

I’m trying to get back to healthy eating – meaning that I’m trying to ensure that I’m getting all the nutrients I need. This easy quinoa dish is a step in the right direction. It makes a great side dish with tofu or other protein of your choice and is totally versatile. Add some walnuts or sweet peppers or squash! Yum.

Quinoa with mushrooms and spinach

Easy Quinoa with Mushrooms and Spinach

(adapted from Damn Delicious)

1 cup quinoa
1 lb mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bellas)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 cup spinach
1 tbsp canola or safflower oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse and cook quinoa according to the package instructions. I use a rice cooker and it is perfection!

2. Heat up the oil in a pan. Toss in the garlic. After it starts getting fragrant, toss in the mushrooms, salt and pepper, and saute until cooked, about 3-4 minutes.

3. Lower the heat or remove from heat altogether and toss in the spinach – it all depends on whether you want the spinach fully cooked or just wilted.

4. Stir in the quinoa until well combined.

I ate this by itself, but I encouraged the fam to eat it as a side dish with fish or chicken. Feel free to throw in other spices or veggies! I myself sprinkled some crushed red pepper on this and that added a great kick.

As far as nutrition goes, I felt really good about eating this since:

  • Quinoa is a good protein source AND has a perfect balance of important amino acids AND also has a good amount of fiber and iron
  • Baby bellas are a great source of selenium, niacin, copper and pantothenic acid – all good things
  • Spinach is just awesome. Do I really have to explain why? There’s a reason that Popeye wolfed down a can of it to power up!

 

Easy Vegan Fudge from Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking

Fork and Beans by Cara Reed is easily one of the best vegan cooking blogs out there. Cara finally published her first book Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking in August and I was lucky enough to get my hands on it! Being the lazy vegan that I am, I gravitated toward her recipe for Easy Vegan Fudge. I mean, it’s got “easy” in the title and requires no actual baking!

I made these treats for a fall potluck hosted by What’s Cookin, Chicago and Bears in the Kitchen. If you’re in the Chicago area, check out these guys for upcoming food blogger events! Definitely check them out if you like food (and you know you do).

Vegan Fudge

Click here to see the recipe and much more vegan goodness on Fork and Beans

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 c non-dairy chocolate chips – I used dark chocolate morsels (about 1 1/2 packages) by Enjoy Life
  • 1/2 c. coconut cream – see below for my notes on coconut cream!!
  • 1/2 c. non dairy milk – I used almond milk
  • Dash salt – um, I totally forgot to add salt and nothing imploded
  • 1 c. chopped nuts, optional (or more!) – I skipped the nuts for the batch above, but I love me some walnuts!
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt chips with coconut cream, non-dairy milk, and salt.  Remove from heat.
  2. Stir in nuts if desired and vanilla.  Spread evenly into wax paper lined small square pan — or stick them into cute little cupcake thingys like I did.  Place more chopped nuts on top if desired.
  3. Chill 2 hours or until firm.
  4. Turn fudge onto cutting board, peel off paper and cut into squares.  Store covered in fridge.

Here’s what you need to know about coconut cream: They’re not all made the same or equally. This recipe requires something that actually says “coconut cream” on the label. Cream of coconut won’t cut it! But it will result in a heavy chocolate pudding-like treat. Coconut cream from Trader Joe’s is what works!!

Chocolate: I really like products from Enjoy Life because they are exactly like real chocolate chips and are not only dairy-free but also soy-free. They aren’t messing around with their dark chocolate, either! So grab their “milk” chocolate chips if you like something sweeter.

Don’t forget to visit Fork and Beans and pick up Cara’s book if you like what you see!

Juicing with Bitter Melon

I’m really excited because I have been invited by Williams-Sonoma to participate in their Juice Week! My mission was to share a recipe of a juice that “bites back” or contains a wild ingredient. What better ingredient to fulfill this mission than the enigmatic bitter melon?

I enlisted my Mom’s help with this since she juices regularly. Her recipes vary, but all of them have four basic ingredients: carrot, celery, cucumber and granny smith apple. She adds lemon and ginger for a nice punch. Ginger in itself is a wild ingredient that adds a spicy kick to any juice! All we did was add one bitter melon to the mix.

Juicing Bitter Melon

Basically Bitter Juice

Juice together the following ingredients:

1 bitter melon, de-seeded*
1 large cucumber
1 large carrot
1 Granny Smith apple
3 celery stalks
1/2 lemon with rind but remove the seeds
Ginger, to taste

*To remove the seeds from bitter melon, slice it in half, lengthwise, and then use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds and membranes, leaving only the tough green skin.

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Here is what the juice looks like! The hue actually fluctuates between green and orange, depending on how everything is settled and the lighting. As for how it tastes, the apple is enough to give this juice a sweetness and offset some of the bitterness, and the spiciness of the ginger can be felt in the throat.

Although this recipe includes bitter melon, the bitterness is not at all an overpowering flavor. Everything melds together nicely in this combination. The addition of a second bitter melon will definitely add that punch, but it’s still not super overpowering. I love this about bitter melon: it plays well with others. Even when cooked with other vegetables or meats, it doesn’t contaminate the dish with its flavor.

The great thing about juicing is that you can get any combination of ingredients and use how much or how little of each one that you like. There’s no science or precision when my mom juices. This might be scary to some, but if you’re making the effort to juice at home, then take the opportunity to test out ingredients and measurements to develop “your” juice.

Our juicer is the Breville Juice Fountain Plus. After tying out other juicers, including a Vitamix, we found this one to be our favorite everyday juicer. It hasn’t let us down and I recommend it for its quality and cost compared to other juicers. It’s all up to your personal preference – and Williams-Sonoma has a great selection to choose from.

If you’re ever curious about bitter melon, you should be able to find them at Asian grocery stores. In the Chicago area, I recommend Tai Nam on Broadway or any of the grocery stores on Devon Ave. They are of great quality in the summertime since they are in season!

What crazy ingredients do you add to your juice? Let us know in the comments! –Melissa

Plane Foodie Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my in-flight meal review! If you read Part 1, then you know that I was very happy and satisfied with the meal I had on my flight to Ireland. Coming back home had some different results. The vegetarian meal looked promising. The salad was much more “exotic” with the inclusion of cucumber, radishes, and greens other than iceberg lettuce. The dressing was again a balsamic vinaigrette, presented in a packet instead of a cute little bottle. I got crackers, a roll and some margarine. And dessert consisted of fruit.

Turning Veganese - Plane Food

The entree was yellow lentils and dhokla with some eggplant. Dhokla is made with a fermented batter derived from rice and chickpea splits. The lentils were good. I’m not familiar with dhokla so I didn’t know what to make of it. It tasted fine but was nothing to write home about. The eggplant was kind of gross. I don’t know what kind of sauce was on it, but the eggplant itself was rubbery.

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I was happy with the fruit for dessert! The strawberries, oranges and melon were really good and fresh. I avoided the pineapple to avoid any tummy issues.

The rest of the passengers had a choice between chicken with gnocchi or cheesy spinach pasta. I don’t remember what kind of dressing came with it, but my mom opted to use the rest of my balsamic vinaigrette in her salad. I tried some of the gnocchi – it was prepared with a tomato sauce and was much more tasty than my entree. Their dessert was a cookie.

Next time you fly and your ticket includes a meal, don’t forget to call up the airline and request a vegan or vegetarian meal! It’s an adventure in itself and may even help introduce you to new foods like dhokla.

Stay tuned – I’ll be posting soon on my culinary adventures in Ireland! –Melissa

Plane Foodie Part 1

Hey, remember when airlines used to provide snacks or meals on every flight? That doesn’t happen on domestic flights anymore — unless you’re a fancy first class passenger — but it thankfully still occurs on international flights (okay, maybe not flights from Chicago to, say, Toronto, but you get it).

So why am I talking about plane food? I just got back from a ten day trip to Ireland. Prior to leaving, I was told by more than one person that Ireland is a beautiful place. They’re not kidding!

Ireland - Cliffs of Moher

We contacted the airline prior to our departure to request a vegetarian meal. Note: VEGETARIAN, not vegan. You can also request a vegan/non-dairy meal. That said, the special meals that I got were vegan as far as I could tell. What was also interesting is that one of the two options for the rest of the passengers was vegetarian, which is great! For our flight to Dublin, my entree was a Curried Garbanzo Bean Medley. It came with a side salad, including balsamic vinaigrette dressing, a roll, and honeydew wedges.

Turning Veganese Plane Food

I just love these little salad dressings. For the record, everyone else got a French dressing.

Salad Dressing

I give the entree 4 out of 5 stars. It was really tasty and surprisingly spicy, and I was glad to have a great protein source. The rice was good as was the broccoli, but I felt like some of the carrots were too mushy. Anyone averse to Indian flavors like cumin would not have liked it at all. In that moment, I was grateful that I found the dish tasty and gave myself a pat on the back for being a non-picky eater.

Garbanzos

As I mentioned earlier, one of the options for everyone else was a vegetarian pasta. It looked good and wasn’t creamy or cheesy, so I would have eaten it. And on another day, I may have preferred it. But the great thing about these special meals is that the special diet is considered in all the meal components. There is no butter for the roll, a non-dairy salad dressing is provided, and the dessert is fruit! FRUIT IS AWESOME, especially on long flights – and makes requesting a special meal worth it! It was also much healthier than the 150 calorie cookie given to everyone else.

Even though it should be a no-brainer, I’m happy that airlines provide special meals without any hassle or added fees. It makes traveling, especially overseas, a much more pleasant experience. You also get your food before everyone else, which is pretty nice.

Check back soon for the “plane foodie” review of return flight meal. I will also be sharing some of my favorite dining experiences in Ireland! –Melissa

Summer Favorite: Bitter Melon (Ampalaya)

It never truly feels like summer until we can start harvesting the veggies from my dad’s garden. I feel so lucky that we always had the freshest vegetables in the summer and even luckier that we had “weird” veggies like eggplant and long green beans along with the typical tomatoes.

I got really excited yesterday when I spotted freshly picked bitter melon or ampalaya in my mom and dad’s kitchen:

Bitter Melon

Not everyone is a fan of bitter melon because it’s, well, bitter. But there are lots of different ways to prepare it which equals a lot of chances for you to acquire a taste for it. One of the things I would like to try is adding it to juice recipes. It’ll kick the flavor up a notch!

Many people believe that bitter melon has health benefits, but there are also some things to consider if you have the desire to go on a bitter melon binge. Note that while it is supposed to help with diabetes, it can also interact with diabetes medication. And one of the things that I was always told is that it’s supposed to help alleviate those pesky cramps that ladies get, but this also means that it is somewhat of a blood thinner.

Here are two bitter melon recipes that reflect its versatility!

Bitter Melon Salad – This is a raw recipe that I usually make with tomato and onion, but I also modify it by using strawberry in place of tomato which results in a playful mixture of bitter and sweet flavors.

Bitter Melon Salad

Stuffed Bitter Melon – I am still so proud of this recipe! The bitter melon is stuffed with soy curls mixed with Asian and spicy flavors and then baked.

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What are your thoughts on bitter melon? Let us know in the comments! -Melissa

Made in Nature Review & Giveaway!

Welcome to the relaunch of Turning Veganese! We are celebrating by trying out fantastic products from Made in Nature that will please both vegans and non-vegans. My discovery of Made in Nature came at a perfect time: I’ve been working really hard to eat more cleanly along with exercising regularly. One of my favorite snacks is dried apricots, and Made in Nature has these and much, much more for anyone who wants a healthy and natural snack.

Made in Nature selects the freshest, finest organic fruit, picks them at their culinary peek, and dries them to pure perfection to capture all of the flavor you crave. How do we do it? We work with the most dedicated family of farmers to grow the best tasting, organic fruit on the planet to guarantee true ‘taste of place.’

Made in Nature

Made in Nature has products from dried fruit to pizza to fresh produce. We were lucky to have the chance to try out their dried bananas, pineapples and apricots (my favorite!) as well as two products from their new line of healthy snacks! So, how are they different from anyone else? Here’s a list:

  • All their products are organic
  • NO sugar added
  • NO sulfur-dioxide
  • NO artificial color or additives
  • NO artificial fertilizers or pesticides
  • NO gluten or nuts
  • NO GMOs

I had my best taste testers assist me. I’ll admit that I was worried: these kids love their sweets. But they also love fruit and were game to try everything!

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Juliana was most interested in trying out the bananas. Now, I’ll admit that we was a little shocked when I opened the bag to find dark, dried banana pieces. I was expecting something that looked more like a banana chip but these were dark brown and chewy. Juju immediately put a whole piece in her mouth. “Interesting… mmmm, this is delicious!” I agree with my niece’s assessment. For any Filipinos out there, the taste and smell of this reminds me of turón!

Made in Nature

Jocelyn is a girl after my own heart, so she wanted to try the apricots. Again, these are much darker than a conventional dried apricot, but she did not hesitate at all in trying a piece (or 3). “These are really good!” I agree and can guarantee that the rest of the bag will go quick.

Made in Nature Dried Fruits

I tried a taste of the pineapple. Like the others, I really enjoyed the pineapple and especially enjoyed how much healthier it is than dried pineapple you’ll find anywhere else.

Finally, we all tried out the Fruit Fusion snacks. We sampled the Antioxidant Fusion and the Tropical Fusion.

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The Antioxidant Fusion consists of cherries, blueberries, cranberries, raisins, goji berries and pepitas. Yum!!! It’s hard to believe that there is no sugar added to this mix. Same goes for the Tropical Fusion: bananas, pineapples, mangoes, coconuts, ginger and cacao nibs. I’ll state right now that cacao has definitely been an acquired taste for me, but this mix is tasty and beautiful. Both snacks hit the spot in terms of satisfying that mid-afternoon craving. The best part is that I don’t feel one bit guilty about it!

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Do you want to try Made in Nature products? Duh. Of course you do! And thanks to the generosity of Made in Nature, you have the chance to win Made in Nature prizes. Be sure to read the rules of this giveaway carefully:

  1. Follow us on Twitter @turningvegan or on Instagram @turningveganese.
  2. To enter on Twitter, tweet about your healthy favorite snack and mention @turningvegan and @madeinnature and include #vegantvsnack.
  3. To enter on Instagram, post a photo of your favorite healthy vegan snack and mention @turningveganese and @madeinnature and include #vegantvsnack.

You MUST include both mentions and the hash tag in order to be eligible. You can enter on both sites to double your chances! The giveaway will close on Sunday, July 27 at 11:59pm Central Time and winners will be announced on Monday, July 28. P.S. By mentioning us, you are giving us permission to retweet or regram your photos. Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

I hope you like the new (and improved, in my opinion) Turning Veganese! –Melissa

Cookies!

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Hi. My name is Melissa and I don’t like baking.

This has been true from the time I was 8, had mixed together some cake batter, and then was too terrified to put it in the oven.

Fast forward to last month, when I heard about the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

The GREAT FOOD BLOGGER COOKIE SWAP brings together food bloggers from around the world in celebration of all things scrumptious. The premise is this: sign up. Receive the addresses of three other food bloggers. Send each of them one dozen delicious homemade cookies. Receive three different boxes of scrumptious cookies from other bloggers. Eat them all yourself (or, you know, share. If you want. No judgement either way.) Post your cookie recipe on your blog. See everyone else’s cookie recipes. Salivate. Get lots of great ideas for next year’s cookie swap. Rinse and repeat.

I signed up for the online swap before I could talk myself out of it. Then, I panicked. Omg! The last time I baked cookies was the Snickerdoodle experiment that took place on Snowmageddon 2011. This was going to be interesting.

Since I’m a cookie baking novice, I had to find a recipe to follow. I found an awesome recipe in Bake and Destroy which is so easy and unbelievably vegan! Super huge THANK YOU to Joelen of What’s Cookin’ Chicago for giving me this book!

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Vegans! You gotta get this book and check out BakeandDestroy.com. For the cookie swap (and also for the Chicago Food Swap, which I will recap in a few days), I followed Natalie Slater’s recipe for German’s Chocolate Cookies. I made a couple tiny changes to the recipe for two reasons: 1) I wanted them to be soy-free so that my sister could try some and 2) I was missing some ingredients.

Before I get into the recipe, I need to emphasize how great this book is. The recipes are awesome and range from breakfast to casseroles to snacks to dips and sauces. GIFT IT TO YOURSELF AND YOUR FRIENDS FOR CHRISTMAS (or just because)!

Vegan German Chocolate Cookies
adapted from Bake and Destroy

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
⅔ cup vanilla almond milk or soy milk
⅔ cup canola oil
2 tablespoons ground flax meal
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ⅓ cups rolled oats
¾ cup vegan chocolate chips
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, milk, oil, flax meal, and vanilla extract. Whisk for about 2 minutes, until the mixture thickens.

4. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until just mixed.

5. Fold in the oats, chocolate chips, coconut, and walnuts.

6. Drop by tablespoons (I used a cookie dough scooper thingy) onto the prepared baking sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are set up.

7. Let cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then let cool completely on the wire racks.

I was so happy with how these turned out. I may have some baking skillz after all! I got some great treats in return and will be giving kudos to my fellow food blogger cookie swappers in the coming weeks. –Melissa

Hot pot!

When Brent and I are feeling particularly lazy but still want to eat something healthy, we make hot pot. This is an East Asian fun thing that can be enjoyed by small groups of friends or just your family. We use a simple electric wok that’s resistant to tipping over and fill it with our favorite kind of broth. It’s a great way to use just about any vegetables that are available in our refrigerator – broccoli, green beans, baby corn, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, tofu, tofu skins, mushrooms, snow peas, broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, noodles (we use thin rice noodles and konjac noodles). Napa cabbage, spinach and Romaine lettuce are favorites.

After that, all you need is some fresh veg chopped into bite sized pieces and maybe some dipping sauces. Our broth recipe is as follows
1-2  liters of water

1-2 cubes of bouillon (we use “chicken” or mushroom)

1 tbsp of Szechuan peppercorns (we like spicy, what can I say)

2 star anise pods

15-20 goji berries

10-15 scallion onions, chopped into 2 inch pieces

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

a pinch of ground cumin

2-3 pods of allspice

1 coin size slice of ginger (optional)

juice from 1/2 lemon (optional)

1 tbsp chili or garlic flavored canola oil

salt and pepper to taste

I combine everything but the scallion onions in my pot and boil for 30 minutes or more until it’s fragrant and steamy. Then I add the spring onions and take the pot to our table. You put the veggies into the soup pot and wait for the liquid to return to a boil. Then we remove the vegetables without chopsticks, wait for them to cool or dip them in sauce or not (I like a home-made chili-lime-peanut sauce, Brent prefers a garlic chili sauce) and DEVOUR! Just be careful that the hot liquid doesn’t splash anyone and that the contents don’t spill onto anyone. It’s HOT (hence the name *hot* pot)! This might not be a dish for the faint of heart, but it is for the hungry, adventurous and lazy. Just put down a towel for all the drips and splashes.

As versatile as this particular dish is, there’s something for everyone. Just don’t get hurt when you realize someone ate your mushroom.

This is Christie, signing off!

Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts

We write about Brussels sprouts quite a bit, and it’s because they are freaking delicious! They’re definitely a winter veggie for me. I see a Brussels sprout and I think of Thanksgiving and Christmas and Sunday dinners. I’ve toyed around with several recipes, but I finally found one that I think is going to be my go-to recipe.

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Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts
(adapted from About.com > Vegetarian food)

1 1/2 cup Brussels sprouts, cut in half
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp safflower or canola oil
1/2 tsp mustard
salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together the vinegar, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Slowly incorporate the olive oil until a dressing is formed.

Gently toss the Brussels sprouts in the dressing.

Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle some salt on those babies if you’d like.

Bake for 20 minutes, turning once. Sprouts are done when they are lightly browned.

zOMG. These were so good! The mustard added a nice little pop of flavor that’s been missing from other recipes I’ve tried. The best thing about this is that they can easily be served with any meal, from a vegan roast to pasta to tofu to pizza! Yum. –Melissa