Quinoa Bowl with Kabocha & Tahini

Jumpstart your healthy eating routine with this Quinoa Bowl with Kabocha & Tahini!

The other day, Alex and I both became aware that our bodies were feeling a little bit sluggish and our pants were fitting a juusssssst a little bit snugger. Recognizing that we had enjoyed ourselves quite a bit the last few months, with brunches, birthday parties, happy hours, homemade cookies & crackers, etc. we made a conscious decision to clean up our act the next few weeks.

I don’t know about you, but when we decide to get serious about eating healthy – we have to make a plan that will actually work for us and not try to limit ourselves so insanely that we can’t sustain it for more than a few days. We’re not paleo people or low carb people – we simply commit to being more conscious of our eating and supporting each other so we make healthy choices together.

Here’s our go-to philosophy for clean eating regimens:

  • conscious of portions – no mindless eating!
  • eat when we’re hungry, not out of boredom
  • no alcohol during the weekdays
  • no baked goods during the weekdays
  • don’t have unhealthy snacks & chips in the house
  • pack healthy lunches & eat dinners at home during the weekdays
  • prep healthy grains, protein and veggies in advance so meals are easy to put together

A few samples of what this looks like in practice:

  • Breakfast: Overnight Oats with raw nuts, seeds & berries (no PB)
  • Lunch:
    • Salad with filling protein & delicious veggies
    • Warm Quinoa Bowls
      • with roasted chicken, chard, tomatoes, and sriracha
      • with chickpeas, roasted kabocha squash, chard, tomatoes, and tahini
      • with chicken sausage, saurkraut, and roasted beets
    • Healthy Wraps (multigrain or flax wraps with lower calories than bread)
      • with roasted chicken, avocado, hummus, cucumbers and sriracha
      • with roasted veggies, avocado, sprouts and balsamic dressing
  • Snacks:
    • Small yogurt or kombucha
    • Cucumber & carrot sticks with 1 tbsp of hummus
    • Hard boiled egg
  • Dinner:
    • Roasted chicken & veggies with green salad
    • Cumin crusted salmon with zoodles and mint yogurt
    • Tofu & Veggie Stirfry with quinoa (or small portion of brown rice)
  • Dessert???
    • Strawberries or mango for a sweet palate cleanser is my go-to when I really need a treat

Out of love for our bodies and compassion for ourselves, we try not to do strict diets where we completely cut out certain food groups or count calories – instead we come up with healthy recipes together that excite us but limit less healthy grains, sugars, and fats. It’s also fun to grocery shop with this in mind – we go crazy in the produce aisle and buy lots of veggies that will hold us through the week.

Over the next few days I will post guides & tips for a few of the meal recommendations above. To get you started though….

Warm Quinoa Bowl with Kabocha & Tahini

Ingredients

Meal Prep – quinoa and kabocha

  • 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa
  • Spices: cumin, paprika, salt & pep
  • 1/2 can chickpeas
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 kabocha squash, halved, seeds removed
  • Coconut or olive oil for brushing

Lunch Bowl Add Ins

  • 2 chard leaves, chopped into bite sized pieces (or kale or other green veggie)
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 1 tsp tahini
  • sriracha

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Brush the inside of your kabocha squash with coconut or olive oil. Season with paprika, cumin, salt & pep. Optional: brush it with a little red curry paste. Place the halves face down on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until it is golden and has some crusty bits on the edges. A fork inserted into the flesh should go in easily. Once done, set aside on the baking sheet and let it cool – it is verrrrrrry hard to handle when it’s hot!
  3. Put 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa in your rice cooker (or pot over medium-low heat on the stove) and cover with 3 cups water. Season with a few shakes of cumin and paprika and with salt & pep. Let it cook for 10 minutes, then add in canned chickpeas and give it a stir. Continue cooking until fluffy and the white ring on the quinoa becomes visible.
  4. At this point, you can store the quinoa and the kabocha in the refrigerator and use them throughout the week for lunches or meals at your convenience.
  5. When prepping your bowl, place about 3/4 cup cooked quinoa/chickpea combo in the bottom of your microwave safe tupperware bowl. Top with raw chard and tomato slices.
  6. Cut a wedge of kabocha squash and remove the skin with a knife or your fingers – careful not to lose a lot of the tasty orange squash along with the skin! Chop the squash into large cubes and place ontop of the bowl.
  7. Combine lemon juice and tahini and drizzle on your bowl, finish with a squeeze of sriracha or hot sauce.
  8. When you’re ready to eat it – microwave with a top on for 1-2 minutes. Leaving the top on will help the quinoa heat up without becoming dry, the steam from the tomato juices will help wilt & soften the chard and the tahini will flavor everything deliciously 🙂

Enjoy and feel good.

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Make this bowl everyday for the week using the quinoa and squash you prepared. OR add quinoa to any green salad to make it more filling. Kabocha can be eaten as a side OR throw it into a stir fry or curry. I love kabocha so much I’ll eat it on its own as a snack – the consistency is buttery and delicious!

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Fresh Spring Rolls

As a kid I had lots of energy and was never quite able to slow down or stop moving- those who know me will say not much has changed in the last 20 years. Dinner was particularly difficult. Our family always sat down to eat together and I was usually so excited and energy-filled that I spent more time chatting away about my day, getting so involved in stories that I would be up out of my chair demonstrating things, than actually eating. At some point this actually became somewhat of a problem because living in a family with two older brothers – if you didn’t eat quick, you didn’t eat at all!

Filled with energy, I fondly remember the meals we got to assemble at the table. Often, my mom and dad would prep different ingredients and toppings for burritos or tacos and then we would each make our own. I enjoyed these dinners, funneling my energy into putting together creative combinations of toppings. It seemed like a dream come true, getting to play with my food and assemble the meal exactly how I wanted it.

Today, DIY meals are still some of my faves. Prepping a lot of ingredients and then allowing each person to make their own wrap, taco, or roll is a great way to have an interactive dinner party. Sushi tacos are one of those meals we like to bust out for fun dinners with friends – see recipe here.

Another DIY meal that is sure to please? Fresh spring rolls! Stuffed with your protein of choice, crunch veggies, and fragrant herbs, dipped in heavenly peanut sauce – these will impress guests OR can make a quick and healthy weeknight meal.

Fresh Spring Rolls

Ingredients

  • Rice paper wrappers (available in most grocery stores with other Asian cuisine ingredients)
  • Tofu (Or protein of choice – ex: shrimp)
  • Vermicelli noodles
  • Cucumber, cut into thin spears
  • Carrot, cut into thin spears
  • Avocado
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • 1 tbsp Natural Peanut Butter
  • 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Hoisin Sauce
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 tsp Sambal Chili Paste
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Sriracha

Directions

  1. Put vermicelli noodles in a pot or bowl. Pour boiling water on top and let soak for 8-10 minutes, until soft but not goopy. Drain and cut with scissors a few times, so the noodles are not too long.
  2. Prepare tofu by cutting it into small rectangles and pan frying them on each side until they’re lightly browned! Set aside. (If not using tofu, prep your protein of choice as desired.)
  3. Mix up the sauce by combining peanut butter, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sugar, lime juice, chili paste, and water together. Taste and add more of whichever ingredient you like the most. It should be nutty, tangy, and a little sweet! Add sesame seeds if you want 🙂
  4. Put hot water in a shallow bowl or pan and place on the table, along with all of your prepared toppings – including herbs, veggies and sauces!
  5. When ready to eat, soak rice wrappers one at a time in the hot water, dipping it on one side and then the other – careful not to leave them soaking for a long time. Once the wrapper has started to soften but is still holding together, place it flat on a plate.
  6. Load with your toppings, but be careful not to over stuff it or the wrapper will break! Tuck in the ends and then roll like a burrito, pulling it tight so it sticks together and makes a dense wrap.
  7. Make a bunch at the beginning of the meal and chow down without interruption, or make wraps one at a time as you eat them. We love making them one at a time – creates a fun dinner activity that is interactive and lets you play with your food!

Vegetarian Sushi “Tacos”

Alex grew up making open-faced sushi at home. His mom’s side of the family is Japanese and despite being in the United States for quite a few generations, they enjoyed preparing the cuisine of their ancestry (who wouldn’t…Japanese food is amazing!).  Sadly for me, sushi was not in my family’s cooking repertoire. I did, however, grow up feeling jealous of my friend Annie who brought seaweed rice balls to school for lunch and homemade sushi rolls to potlucks (inspired by her family’s time living in Japan). Her sushi rolls would have simple but delicious ingredients: tuna fish, cucumber, carrot sticks, avocado, sprouts, etc. I remember being so excited each time I got to try some of her homemade rolls, but for some reason I never even thought about making it at home.

About a year ago, Annie came to visit me and Alex in Los Angeles. She had just come back from teaching English in Japan and we had a great time catching up. To repay us for crashing on our couch (like she needed to pay us back – it was a treat to have her), she wanted to make us dinner. Lucky for us, she prepared sushi tacos with lots of different fillings and toppings so we could assemble our own at the table. It was wonderful and seeing it prepared as an adult, I had a realization…it’s not hard! I wish I could go back in time and tell my high school self to give it a try – I spent so many years being envious of Annie’s lunches only to realize now that I could have made it myself.

Since then, Alex and I have made Vegetarian Sushi “Tacos” on a pretty regular basis.  Despite having sushi rolling mats, we like to stick to the open-faced variety – it’s less hassle, easy to do on the fly, and just as tasty. Just hold on to them tight as you dunk it in the sauce (or play it safe and pour the sauce on top) – if you get sloppy with your technique, the toppings tend to pop out!

Vegetarian Sushi “Tacos”

Ingredients

  • Seaweed squares *
  • Half cucumber, cut into spears
  • 2 large carrots, cut into spears
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cube tofu, cut into thin rectangular slices
  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 2 cups white rice (+ 1sp vinegar & sprinkling of sugar to make sticky)
  • Dipping sauce: Soy sauce & rice vinegar mixed.
  • Sriracha

*We buy large ones and then cut them in 4. You can find them in Vons next to the other asian cuisine ingredients. You can buy the seaweed snacks that come in the little boxes too. They will be slightly smaller and there’s more plastic packaging which is why we buy the bigger ones.

Directions

  1. Cook your rice in a rice cooker or on the stove, as you would normally.
  2. While it is cooking, heat up a frying pan with 1tbsp of oil (coconut or veg). Place your tofu in a single layer and let fry. Check the bottoms and once browned, flip them to the other side. Once browned on both sides, remove from pan and place in a bowl.
  3. Scrape out any tofu pieces that are left in the pan, and then heat the pan again. Pour in the scrambled eggs, swirling it around so it’s a thin layer all around. Let cook until firm, and lightly browned on the bottom side, then flip carefully with a spatula. Turn off the burner, let the bottom side cook in the hot pan for a minute and then remove from heat. Cut the egg pancake into rectangular strips. (Note: if your pancake rips and falls apart a little bit, that’s fine. Just make sure it is thin and gets firm on both sides.)
  4. Prepare the dipping sauce with 2 parts soy sauce & 1 part rice vinegar.
  5. When rice is done cooking, stir in 1 tbsp rice vinegar and sprinkle 1 tsp of sugar. Use a piece of paper or an oven mitt to fan the rice while you stir it so it cools slightly and the vinegar/sugar mixture makes it sticky.
  6. Cut your seaweed squares and serve all toppings in the dinner zone – dinner table, kitchen counter, floor in front of TV (no judgement here!)
  7. Assemble your tacos as you eat them, switching up the toppings in each one savoring each bite! I recommend spreading the rice in a thin layer and then layering on the veggies & protein. Top with sriracha, pour a little sauce on top (or try to dip it…just be careful not to lose your toppings!) and enjoy!

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Salad with Acorn Squash & Goat Cheese & Pepitas

Spring has sprung! And you know what that means…longer days for backyard potlucks and parties! Our friend threw a beautiful backyard bash to ring in the first days of Spring and it was wonderful.

Alex and I got a CSA box last week. Have you ever gotten one? CSA means Community Supported Agriculture and it is a way to buy produce directly from the farm that grows and harvests it! Unlike shopping at a farmers’ market though, the farmer packs the CSA box and determines what goes in there. AKA  you don’t have control over what you’re getting each week. Which may seem daunting at first, but it’s actually amazing…It encourages you to try new vegetables, break your routine, and experiment with new recipes. Look out for more reasons to sign up for a CSA later on…

This week’s box came packed with seasonal leafy veggies and greens so we made a large salad to share our CSA bounty with all of our friends!

Salad with Acorn Squash & Goat Cheese & Pepitas

This salad is a prime example of me checking out our refrigerator situation and making it up as I went. For example, we had acorn squash left over from earlier in the week (we were sad we didn’t eat that much squash this winter so we went out and bought some even though it was late in the season!) I thought goat cheese and pepitas would go nicely with the squash. The flavor combo was reminiscent of winter & fall, so I whipped up a fresh citrus vinaigrette – making this salad a lovely farewell to the colder months as we usher in spring & summer!

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 purple cabbage sliced thin
  • 1/2 acorn squash
  • Goat cheese crumbles
  • Raw pepitas
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions

  1. Prep the acorn squash – cut it in half through the stem, use a fork to scrape out the seeds (save them and roast them if you want). Leave the skin on and place the squash half cut side down on a cutting board. Cut it into slices about 1/2 inch thick.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Place the squash in the pan – single layer if possible. Sprinkle salt & pepper on top, let it cook for a few minutes checking to be sure the squash doesn’t get burnt. Once one side is brown, turn the pieces over so they get cooked all the way through. Sprinkle salt & pepper on the top one more time. Once squash is easy to pierce with a fork, take them off the heat and set them on a plate to cool slightly.
  3. Place the chopped kale and sliced cabbage into a large salad bowl
  4. Crumble goat cheese on top and sprinkle raw pepitas.
  5. Once squash is cool, cut them into bite size pieces and add them to the salad!

Citrus Vinaigrette

  • 3 parts olive oil (I used Pasolivo Citrus Olive Oil – the best!)
  • 1 part white balsamic vinegar (balsamic or red wine vinegar could be substituted)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a mason jar (or in my case a recycled TJ’s salad dressing bottle) – SHAKE IT UP! 🙂 Dress your salad lightly right before eating and toss!

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Enjoy with friends and a chilled glass of rosé!