Vietnamese Inspired Quinoa Bowl

Guys, I’m not one to outright brag. But I just created my absolute greatest recipe ever. EVER!

Let me give some back story. I recently became rather obsessed with Vietnamese food after visiting an MSG and gluten free Vietnamese spot near Nick’s apartment. As I became more familiar with the cuisine, I realized that many Vietnamese dishes – like bun noodle dishes and pho – are naturally gluten free. Since I don’t have to worry about cross contamination, I started frequenting other Vietnamese restaurants too.

Like the enthusiastic home chef that I am, I began thinking about the flavor profile when I wasn’t actually eating the food. I started researching the most common ingredients in Vietnamese dishes with the intent to create my own versions.

I’ve been making a lot of new recipes from my fellow healthy food bloggers lately and as a result, I have a refrigerator full of leftovers and odds and ends. When it came time to make dinner tonight, I pulled everything out and assessed the situation:

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I had some quinoa, a couple slices of meatloaf, cilantro, chopped red pepper, half a carrot, half a lime, garlic, and a small piece of ginger. This is when I got really excited. I can totally make this into something Vietnamese! How you may ask? Well, with the help of these trusty friends:

20130615-191706.jpgThat’s fish sauce, coconut aminos, and coconut oil, basking in the heavenly glow they so fully deserve.

I started by sauteing the garlic and ginger in the coconut oil. After a couple minutes, I grated the carrot into the skillet and mixed everything around before mixing in the red pepper, cut into thin slices.

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This is where the fun begins! After a minute or two I drizzled in a few large dashes of coconut aminos and a couple small dashes of fish sauce and stirred to coat the veggies. Things are starting to smell Vietnamese in this kitchen! Continue to stir frequently until veggies are tender-crisp.

Next, I cut a slice of meatloaf and crumbled it into the skillet.

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I allowed the meatloaf to warm up a little bit, but didn’t wait very long before I added the quinoa. The meat is already cooked and you don’t want it getting too dry!

IMG_1950Finally, stir in half of the cilantro! Let the flavors marinate together for a minute before you taste and adjust accordingly. Mine was a little dry, so I added a small amount of extra coconut oil.

IMG_1959Dinner is served! Top with the remaining cilantro and lime wedges (if desired). My only regret about this dish is not making enough. Since I was using leftovers I made just one serving – had I made two I definitely would have finished both in one sitting!

Vietnamese Quinoa Bowl

(Serves 2)

1 and 3/4 cup cooked quinoa

2 slices leftover meatloaf (or 1/3 lb. cooked, seasoned ground beef)

2 tablespoon coconut oil

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1-inch piece ginger, grated

1 carrot, shredded

1/2 large red pepper, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon coconut aminos or tamari, more to taste

1/2 teaspoon fish sauce, more to taste

3 tablespoons cilantro (fresh coriander), chopped

lime wedges (optional)

Note: When I made this dish, I did not measure out the coconut aminos or fish sauce, but simply drizzled them into the skillet. I have therefore made my best conservative estimation for the recipe. Fish sauce in particular has a very intense flavor, so it’s better to start small and add more after giving it a taste! Also, if you are using leftovers like I did, don’t get too caught up on having the exact right amount of the ingredients. Use what you have and you can adjust the seasoning accordingly at the end!

Saute the garlic and ginger in the coconut oil over medium high heat, turning down to medium once it becomes highly aromatic. Add the grated carrot and red pepper, stirring frequently. After one minute, add the coconut aminos and fish sauce, continuing to stir.

When the vegetables are tender-crisp, add the crumbled meatloaf or cooked ground beef and stir. When the meat is warmed stir in the quinoa. Continue to stir-fry for one to two minutes before mixing in 1 and 1/2 tablespoons cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve topped with remaining cilantro and lime wedges (if desired).

I’ve shared this recipe with this week’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

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Middle Eastern Tapas

When I was a kid, my mom would sometimes make what we called “appetizers for dinner.” Now that we’re all a little more worldly, I’ve put two and two together and realize that it was tapas! How sophisticated we were, without even knowing it. 😉

I had the evening free last night, so I decided to try out two new recipes. It ended up being a scaled down version of “appetizers for dinner” centered around a cuisine that I can’t get enough of: Middle Eastern. The two recipes I used as my guide were this babaganoush recipe from Ellie Krieger at Food Network and this falafel recipe from Angela at Vegangela. If you’d like to make the recipes, you can find them by following the links above!

Both recipes involved prepping quite a few ingredients, so I put the quinoa on for the falafel and threw the eggplant in the oven. While they cooked, I got all my chopping done!

IMG_1897Gotta love mise en place! It really does make cooking so much easier. The quinoa and eggplant finished around the same time. I set the quinoa to the side to cool and got to work scooping the gooey insides out of the eggplant and into the blender!

IMG_1903I made the babaganoush first and set it aside to work on the falafel. Following the advice of the recipe, I made the avocado tahini dressing and then started on the falafel patties. This version is unique in that it uses quinoa for a light, airy texture. AND it uses cilantro, my absolute favorite herb. After sauteing the garlic and onion, I mixed all the ingredients together and started frying!

IMG_1906For my readers with IC – you may be freaking out looking at all that onion on my chopping board. Well, I was too. I ended up putting in only about a half of the onion I chopped (for a total of about 1/4 of a medium onion in the falafel mix) and added some extra garlic instead. Extra garlic in place of onion is a trick I use in almost every recipe I make. If you’re super sensitive, you can just leave the onion out altogether and add as much garlic as you want!

The only other change I made to the recipe was using real eggs in place of the vegan variety.

I wanted a fresh and light drink to contrast with the rich flavors of my meal, so I blended up a few slices of watermelon. Yum! the perfect “cocktail” to go with my tapas.

IMG_1919Finally, I chopped some red pepper and carrot slices for dipping.

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IMG_1924My tapas meal was so satisfying! I will definitely make both recipes again, using considerably less lemon in the babaganoush (Don’t you love it when a dish tastes better without an ingredient you’re supposed to avoid!?!) and ditching the avocado tahini sauce – I’ll probably go with a tzatziki type sauce next time. The good news is I have lots of cilantro left – perhaps some Vietnamese food tomorrow? 🙂

Do you ever make tapas style dishes at home? What are your favorites?