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Thai Chili Tofu with Kale & Quinoa

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A clean, healthy, and nutritious dinner seasoned with a Thai-inspired sauce. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and guilt free!

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To be honest, I don’t know a lot about cooking with tofu. I only have a handful of tofu recipes, most of which my sister has sent me and (no offense, sis) have been difficult to successfully make gluten free. Back in January, when I did a Daniel Fast, I started playing around with tofu a bit more, and found this delicious recipe from VeganYumYum. It was so good, I’ve made it over and over again since then, even after the Daniel Fast was done.

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As I made this recipe over and over, I was never actually truly following the recipe. The original recipe calls for collard greens, but I had kale on hand, so I just used that. Rather than season the kale with lime juice I just sauteed it with a little garlic and crushed red pepper (my go-to kale seasoning). As for the quinoa, well, I just skipped the seasonings all together. I’m sure they would be delicious, but cardamom is just too expensive for me! I made a couple of minor changes to the tofu part of the recipe, also. I’m sure the original version is delicious (even though I’ve never actually tried it)! This version is, too!

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The invaluable lesson I learned from making Tofu dish over and over is the technique of dry-frying tofu. I was used to this soft, squishy, falling-apart tofu, and honestly, that isn’t incredibly appetizing. Now, dry-fried tofu, that is something totally different. Tofu prepared in this way has a texture very close to chicken. Because of it’s nature, it still basically functions like a little sponge that absorbs up flavor. The best of both worlds: great texture and great flavor! As I’m typing this I’m wondering “why do I not use dry fried tofu in more recipes”.

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Another benefit of tofu? It’s cheap. At least here, a pound of tofu is nearly half the price as a pound of chicken or beef.

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What makes this meal is not so much the tofu though, but the sauce. It’s so simple – just 5 ingredients you probably have in your pantry/fridge. When the sauce is mixed, and poured over the cooked tofu it soaks in a bit a forms a sort of glaze. The tofu + glaze is wonderful on it’s own, but to get the best result mix it with the kale and quinoa. It all blends perfectly, and is one of the best vegan meals I’ve ever had!

And for what it’s worth, my meat-loving spouse enjoys this dinner just as much as I do. It’s that good!

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Thai Chili Tofu with Kale & Quinoa

Serves 2 – 3 adults.
 
Ingredients
  • 2/3 c quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 1/3 c water
  • 1 lb extra firm tofu
  • 4 c kale, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp Sweet Leaf Stevia blend (or use 1 Tbs sugar)
  • 1 1/4 tsp garlic powder (divided)
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (divided)
  • 3 T soy sauce (I use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos)
  • 2 T lime juice (approx. juice from 1 lime)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil or coconut oil
Directions
  1. Add the quinoa and water to saucepan. Heat to boiling, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer. (The quinoa will likely finish before the tofu and kale is done. Feel free to start the quinoa closer to the serving time if you’d like. If your quinoa finishes early, no worries. Just turn the burner off, but leave it covered, in the pan and it will stay nice and warm.)
  2. In a small prep bowl mix the stevia, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, soy sauce, and lime juice.
  3. Cut the tofu into bite sized pieces, and lay it in a single layer in a non-stick skillet.
  4. Turn the burner to medium high. As the tofu cooks, press it gently with a spatula, periodically. This releases some of the water in the tofu. Check the bottom side of the tofu, and when it is browned a bit flip all of the pieces. Repeat the same gentle pressing on this side, cooking until the bottoms have also browned. This whole procedure takes about 15 minutes give or take a few minutes.
  5. When both sides of the tofu have cooked, add the sauce into the pan and stir to coat the tofu with the sauce. Keep cooking, stirring, until the sauce has thicken and formed a glaze on the tofu, about 5 minutes.Remove the tofu from the pan.
  6. Add the oil to the same skillet, followed by the kale. Toss the kale with the oil, and cook, stirring constantly until the kale has softened and wilted some. Cook shorter for crisper kale and long for softer kale (I taste test mine to gauge when it is done). Stir in the remaining 1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes and 1/4 tsp of garlic powder.
  7. To serve, spread quinoa on each plate, and top with some of the kale and tofu.

Dijon Quinoa & Green Beans

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This is an efficient side dish, great for a busy night. Its a grain and a vegetable all in one! The quinoa and green beans cook in the same pot. When the quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid and the green beans are tender you just stir in this 4 ingredient sauce. Little effort, little time, lots of flavor. Healthy, too!

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I usually serve this with some sort of chicken. Its a great side for anything grilled. I can be outside tending to the grill and just let the quinoa and beans simmer away without needing to stir the pot, add any ingredients, etc, etc. Have you ever gotten into that mess of needing to tend to something cooking on the grill and on the stove at the same time? I do often. I end up going back and forth between the kitchen and the deck every two minutes. Sometimes I burn something or forget an ingredient, other times I just temporarily can’t keep track of what’s going on.

Anyway, it’s not even quite grilling season but I’m still rambling on about it. I do really enjoy grilling though!

Back to the quinoa and green beans. Tasty, quick & easy side dish that’s naturally gluten free! Just make sure you check the label on your dijon mustard and creole seasoning to make sure both are gluten free. For a quick (and totally indoors) meal, try doubling the sauce and stirring in some shredded chicken. Yum!

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Dijon Quinoa & Green Beans

Ingredients
  • 3/4 c quinoa
  • 1 1/2 c water
  • 8 oz green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces.
  • 2 Tbs Dijon mustard (read label to make sure it is GF)
  • 1/2 tbs lime juice
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp creole seasoning (read label to make sure it is GF)
Directions
  1. Add the quinoa and water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water is boiling reduce the heat to low, gently place the green beans into the pan (just kind of set them there – don’t stir) and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed.
  2. While the quinoa and green beans are cooking mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Once the quinoa and beans have finished cooking pour the sauce into the pan and stir until well combined.

 

 

Quinoa Pilaf

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As I’ve been blogging and talking about quinoa I’ve realized that I never make or serve plain quinoa. Very occasionally I’ll switch things up a bit and serve a stir fry with plain quinoa but that is rare. If I’m making quinoa as a side dish I almost always make this pilaf. It’s kind of crazy that it’s taken me months of blogging to post one of my staple recipes!

Quinoa Pilaf 1

The beauty of this quinoa recipe is that it is not significantly more time consuming than making plain quinoa but it tastes a million times better. Rather than cooking the quinoa in water I use chicken stock. It’s an easy substitution that takes NO extra time or energy but makes huge leaps in terms of flavor.

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The rest of the flavor comes from vegetables. If you have good knives it will take you no time to chop up the onion, celery, and carrot that is cooked with the quinoa. I truly enjoy getting out my chef knife and dicing vegetables in no time, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use the pre-chopped kind you can buy at the grocery store.

Quinoa Pilaf 2

As you may be able to tell from these pictures, I do not rinse my quinoa. I never have. I don’t mind the little white thingys wrapped around the pieces of quinoa, but I don’t know that I’ve ever had rinsed quinoa to compare it with! Honestly, I would try it rinsed, but the quinoa would fall right through the holes in both of my strainers. So, for now all of my quinoa will go un-rinsed.

Rinsed quinoa or not, I know that you will enjoy this pilaf. Don’t be surprised if it makes you want to kick plain old quinoa to the curb ūüėČ

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Quinoa Pilaf

Ingredients
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large stalk celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 c quinoa
  • 2 c chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian option)
Directions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, celery, and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.
  2. Add the quinoa and chicken stock, stir, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Let cook for about 15 minutes, until the liquid has absorbed.

Chicken, Broccoli & Quinoa Casserole

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I love casseroles, but (at least for me) they are always a guilty pleasure type of meal. Usually casseroles are so creamy, cheesy, and delicious, but also so unhealthy. My favorite GF casserole is seriously irresistible, but it doesn’t really have much nutritional value. This casserole is like magic. It tastes so bad, but is really so good!

The major components in this casserole are whole foods: just some pan seared chicken, quinoa, and steamed broccoli. Sounds boring, but then it’s all topped with a creamy cheesy topping. And, get this, rather than just dumping on some sour cream or cream cheese, this sauce is made from scratch from milk and parmesan. All together = yum!

Obviously, we thoroughly enjoyed this casserole because at the end of the meal this was all that was left:

There’s a got bit of prep work involved in this casserole because everything is fully cooked before it is combined and put in the oven. This makes for a great make ahead of freezer meal. My instructions here are for prep immediately followed by baking. If you do prepare this ahead of time, or freeze it, just increase the bake time until the casserole is heated through. If you have questions about the cooking process let me know and I’ll help you out!

Happy healthy eating! And happy beginning of October!

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Chicken, Broccoli & Quinoa Casserole

 
Ingredients
  • 3/4c dry quinoa
  • 1 1/4c water
  • 2 small heads of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 3 large chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbs salted butter
  • 2 small shallots, minced
  • 1 Tbs all purpose GF flour
  • 3/4c milk (I’ve used almond milk and skim milk)
  • 3/4c chicken stock
  • 3/4c shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4c basil, finely chopped
Cooking Directions

Quinoa & Broccoli

  1. Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan. When the water, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook until the water is absorbed, about 12 minutes.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, steam the broccoli florets. (My steaming method: Fill a large saucepan with about an inch of water. Place a steamer basket in the pan and fill it with the broccoli. Cover, and bring to a boil. Once water is boiling (which will happen in just a couple of minutes), reduce heat to a simmer. When broccoli is soft, after about 5 minutes, depending on how large the florets are, remove from heat and drain it).
  3. Roughly chop the cooked broccoli and combine with the cooked quinoa

Chicken

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces to the pan.
  2. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until cooked through.

Cheese Sauce

  1. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Add the shallots to the melted butter and cook for a few minutes, until shallots have softened.
  2. Stir the flour into the butter/shallot mix.
  3. Very slowly, add the milk and chicken stock into the pan while stirring. Start with just a tablespoon of liquid at a time, making sure it is entirely absorbed before you add more. As the mixture looks more liquid-y than solid you can add more and more liquid.
  4. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. It probably take between 5 and 10 minutes. When the mixture is thickened, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese, garlic powder, and basil

Bake Casserole

  1. Preheat oven to 400¬į F
  2. Place chicken in the bottom of a large casserole dish (or use several smaller dishes – great for freezing). Top with quinoa and broccoli, and finally with the cheese sauce.
  3. Cook for about 10 minutes to let everything heat through (or longer, if baking from refrigerator or oven. In this case, put the baking dish in the oven while it is preheating, also).

Lemony Quinoa & Spinach (GF)

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When I need a quick and nutritious meal this is what I make. Great things about this dish:

1. It will be done in about 15 minutes, and most of that time is just letting the quinoa simmer.

2. It only takes one pot.

3. It uses feta cheese. Personally, I love feta.

4. Quinoa and spinach are both really healthy. I eat this whole recipe for lunch often and I feel totally energized (and not at all guilty). I’m all for foods you can feel good about eating.

5. Did I mention, quinoa is really healthy?! Once you learn about it and try it you’ll be sold. Just ask my husband; he didn’t know what this stuff was before we got married and now he goes around showing people at work his leftover quinoa at lunch telling them “its one of those superfoods!” He’s correct. It contains more fiber than any other grain (good for us celiacs), tons of protein, and lots of other nutrients (iron, magnesium, and others). The price tag may be a little scary, but it’s well worth it. I’d suggest buying in bulk if possible – it cuts down on the cost, and then you have more quinoa to eat!

 

So, anyway, that was my quinoa rant. Now, onto the recipe!

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Lemony Quinoa & Spinach

Ingredients (makes 1 serving as a meal, makes 2 servings as a side dish)
  • 2/3c water
  • 1/3c quinoa
  • 1c packed spinach¬†
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • feta cheese
Cooking Directions
  1. Bring quinoa and water to boil in a small pot.
  2. Once water is boiling, reduce heat to simmer and cover the pot (it will be boiling pretty hard, so just watch and make sure nothing overflows until the boiling slows down). Let the quinoa cook for about 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.
  3. When the quinoa is done add the lemon juice and stir, just a bit.
  4. Dump the spinach on top of the quinoa and cover it again. Once the spinach is wilted, stir it in.
  5. Finally, add a few crumbles of feta cheese, though this will be tasty with or without it!
 
 

 

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