Buddha Bowls with Tahini Sauce

Buddha Bowls with Tahini Sauce

https://www.dinneratthezoo.com/buddha-bowls/

Like all the recipes on this week’s menu, this one comes from Dinner at the Zoo. This blog is one of my favorite resources for quick-and-easy dinners, but it’s pretty chicken-intensive. Which is no problem, but I’m usually not in the mood for a full week of chicken dinners, even if they’re all done in various different ways. So when I spied this simple vegetarian quinoa bowl, I figured it would be a nice healthy way to round out the menu. With an ingredients list that included tahini *and* maple syrup, I wasn’t sure it would be a home-run flavor-wise. But cashews, avocado, and sweet potatoes are all favorites of mine, and I was curious enough that I decided to give it a shot.

Fun note:  I got to try out my Black Sheep dark maple syrup, which I found at our little corner market in Hampton.  It’s locally made and is smoked, which I never knew was an option for maple syrup, but it has a really amazing, complex, deep flavor.  A little more savory than your standard grocery store syrup, but still very sweet and perfect on pancakes, as well as sauces like this one.  Canada knows what it’s doing when it comes to maple syrup.

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A couple of notes for next time: I found that the sauce was not remotely drizzly. I must have had a thicker tahini than hers to start with. I tend to add lemon juice in half-lemon increments, rather than tablespoons as recipe authors usually direct. So I added a half-lemon’s worth of juice, which I think was about 2 tablespoons (twice as much as written), and it was still paste-like. I tasted it and found it a little bitter and also a little too sweet, so I tried adding some soy sauce. That tasted better but was still pretty pasty, so I added just a tiny bit of water to thin it out. It still didn’t exactly drizzle; it was more of a gloopy consistency. (Technical term.)

Additionally, my sweet potatoes and chickpeas were not as roasted as I wanted them to be after 20 minutes at 400. I actually turned the temp up to 440 with about 10 minutes to go, and cooked them an additional 5-10 minutes for 25-30 minutes total. I think that roasting at a higher temp from the start is the way to go. Heads up: my sweet potatoes released a lot of hot steam, so when you open the oven be sure to wear an oven mitt!

I have to admit that as I was dishing this up, I was feeling skeptical. The sauce still tasted bitter to me, and with a lot of understated flavors in the dish, I was expecting it to taste… well, you know, healthy.

But my fears were totally unfounded. I took the first bite and it was loaded with amazing flavor. (Granted, the liberal splash of soy sauce I added might have had something to do with that.) The roasting brought out the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the nuttiness of the chickpeas. I was about halfway done with my plate and thinking, “Man, this is great, but I kinda wish it had another green vegetable in it…” and then I realized I’d forgotten all about the spinach. I threw on a handful, and the rest of the plate was perfect. It might sound implausible to suddenly crave a green vegetable, but it was just a little heavy without. The extra greens brightened it up; and because I don’t actually like greens that much, I’m always happy to find an opportunity to eat them without hating my life. 😛

I had plenty of leftovers after eating one bowl of this, so I dished the quinoa, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas into three serving-sized tupperwares with the remaining sauce. They kept well in the freezer; I ate some a few days later with fresh toppings, and they tasted basically the same as when they were made. Definitely a convenient healthy lunchtime option; I would definitely make this again.

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Deliciousness score: 7
Easiness score: 7

 

Vegan Avocado Chickpea Lettuce Wraps

Vegan Avocado Chickpea Lettuce Wraps

http://www.glutenfreeveganpantry.com/avocado-chickpea-lettuce-wraps/

My favorite thing about these little wraps is that they’re dead simple to prepare on autopilot at the end of a long day. I was starting dinner way later than I planned, it was a hot day, and I was already bone tired from working out. These were the perfect solution: just mash up some stuff in a bowl, slice a few bell peppers, and you’re good to go. (I had also had a carb-heavy day, with just cereal for breakfast and pasta for lunch, so carb-free lettuce wraps were sounding great to me by dinnertime.) It was a fun way to eat a ton of veggies, and it hit the spot. And it’s especially perfect for summer days when you’re just not excited about turning on the stove – literally no heat required.

The author conceived of this chickpea mash as a vegan alternative to egg salad. I’m not vegan, so I don’t have any particular need for an egg salad alternative, but it was in fact kind of similar. The chickpeas provide a hearty, smooth base; the soft, fatty avocados add some richness; and the celery & green onions (familiar staples from every egg salad recipe everywhere) add crunch.

While it was definitely a nice, easy light meal, I found myself wanting a little bit of a flavor boost. I used all of the juice from my lemon, more than just 1 Tbsp as written, and still wouldn’t have minded more. I also upped the salt and pepper. If I make this again, I’ll add the lemon zest as well as the juice, and possibly some dijon mustard to take it in an even more egg-salady direction.

I’ll definitely be making this again, because it’s such a light, refreshing summer meal. If you don’t think it’s quite substantial enough for dinner, you can always try it as a healthy lunch or lightweight snack.

Deliciousness Score: 6
Easiness Score: 8

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Avocado Toast with Chili Lime Corn Salad

Avocado Toast with Chili Lime Corn Salad

http://lovelylittlekitchen.com/chili-lime-sweet-corn-salad/

This is a dead simple little salad that jumped out at me when I was looking for something to do with my leftover cilantro this week. With only six ingredients, it couldn’t be easier to throw together, especially in summer when I’m always looking for excuses to buy corn on the cob. Just toss grilled, roasted, or boiled corn with some lime juice, butter, chili powder, and cilantro, then add feta cheese and salt to taste.  (The author recommends queso fresco, but I always have a hard time finding this in my grocery store; the feta works just fine.)  The recipe also says to boil the corn, which would be perfectly fine too, but it’s extra-amazing with grilled corn.  And you have the added bonus of not having to heat up your kitchen at all.

It’s not quite a complete dinner on its own, but it’s a perfect side dish or snack. My favorite way to eat it is as a topping on avocado toast.

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I just discovered avocado toast; apparently it’s been a big deal for a while now, but I am not hip and just tried it for the first time. I was a little skeptical when I heard this was a dish people were paying $19 for at brunch, but I have to admit it’s ridiculously good. I used this whole wheat bread recipe from King Arthur Flour to make a hearty bread for toasting:

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/everyday-whole-grain-bread-recipe

This bread doesn’t rise very high, as many whole grain breads don’t, but it still has a relatively light texture. I halved the recipe, but still made two loaves as written, which came out very flat. Then I cut them in half vertically as well as horizontally, to get four large toast-size pieces from each loaf. Each piece is crust on one full side, which ordinarily isn’t my favorite, but it’s great for toast that you’re going to load up with toppings because it doesn’t fall apart or soak through.

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Anyway, if you haven’t tried avocado toast yet, I highly recommend it. For this one, I just mashed up 1/4 ripe avocado and smeared it on the toast, followed by the corn salad. There are basically infinite topping options; I’ll definitely be exploring more of them in the near future.

Deliciousness score: 7/10
Easiness score: 9/10 (slightly lower if you make bread for toast)

6.5 rating