Vegetarian sides; Hearty, Healthy and Delicious

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Plant sources of protein offer several health benefits.  They are often higher in vitamins, nutrients, and fiber when compared to other protein sources.  Generally, they have less fat and can be lower calories.  Some people hear Vegetarian or Vegan and cringe, but you don’t need to be one to reap the benefits of including a few meatless dishes in your diet regime.  There are some great dishes out there filled with what your body needs, that are healthy and packed with flavor.  Here are a few to try. . .  

Crock Pot Rice and Black Beans  

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1 or 2 (14 oz) cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
¾ cup uncooked quinoa
1 ½ cups water
¾ cup salsa
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
½ tsp garlic
Black pepper
Lime juice
Avocado slices  

Add beans, quinoa, water, salsa, bay leaf, cumin, and garlic to the crock pot. Cover and cook on High for about 2 hours. Remove lid and fluff quinoa with a fork.  Remove the bay leaf. Add in fresh lime juice to taste and black pepper to taste. Serve topped with sliced avocados.  

Sweet & Spicy Sweet Potato Salad

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4 large sweet potatoes
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided Ground black pepper
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and quartered
2 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
½ cup sliced scallion
½ cup minced fresh mint leaves
1 or 2 fresh minced jalapeno, or to taste ¼ cup raisins  

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel sweet potatoes and cut them into bite size pieces.   Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 Tbsp of oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with ground fresh pepper, and roast, turning occasionally, until crisp and brown outside and just tender inside, about 30 minutes. Remove and keep on the pan until ready to dress. Make the dressing while the potatoes cook.  Put the remaining 6 Tbsp of oil in a blender, along with the vinegar, bell pepper, cumin, and zest if you’re using it.  Sprinkle with ground pepper.  Puree until smooth. Toss the warm potatoes with the scallion, mint, chilies, and raisins if you’re using them.  Add ½ cup of the dressing, and toss to coat, adding more if necessary.  Serve immediately or at room temperature.  

Not-so French Not-so Toast  

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2 ½ cups quinoa, cooked and cooled
4 eggs beaten
1/3 cup vanilla almond milk
1/3 cup maple syrup (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp cinnamon  

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place the quinoa in a large mixing bowl.  Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with baking spray.   In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, almond milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon until thoroughly combined.  Add maple syrup (if using) and whisk. Add egg mixture to cooked and cooled quinoa.  Stir with a large spoon to combine. Pour into the parchment lined baking dish and spread it around to ensure that it’s even.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes until set and golden. Using parchment, remove bake from pan as soon as possible so that it doesn’t steam. Cool completely and cut into squares.

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