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

 

Healthy Burrito Bowls with Amazing Spiced Chicken

Healthy Burrito Bowls with Amazing Spiced Chicken

http://www.dinneratthezoo.com/burrito-bowls-chicken/

So, as mentioned in yesterday’s review of tilapia tacos with pineapple salsa, if I’m making one Mexican recipe in a week, I usually like to make at least one more so I can use up all the toppings before they go bad (cilantro, sour cream, etc.). These burrito bowls seemed like a good followup; pretty simple, a little bit on the healthier side with no tortillas or cheese, and I could use the remaining pineapple salsa from the taco recipe.

To be honest, I didn’t have super high expectations at the start; I mean, it seemed tasty enough, but I was mostly looking for an easy way to use up leftovers. But! The marinade for this chicken is absolutely bonkers delicious. I’m a sucker for smoked paprika; I love the savory, complex, hint-of-barbecue flavor it lends to everything it touches. This marinade had a pretty large amount of it, and it worked perfectly. Garlic, onion powder, smoked paprika, and chili powder is a pretty foolproof combo, actually.

I marinated my chicken for the full eight hours, so it had plenty of time to soak up the flavor. (I also ended up having to cook the chicken almost twice as long as she suggested, because my pieces were super thick.) Just this week, I finally bought a meat thermometer; considering that my husband is basically a carnivore, I’m not sure how we didn’t have one until now. So far I’ve mostly used it to monitor oil for deep frying, but it’s already changed my life. In the same Amazon order, I got both the meat thermometer and a kitchen scale, and I’m so relieved that I never have to rely on my intuition again. (Wait a minute, you say – you seem like at least a semi-serious cook, how is it that you didn’t have a scale *or* a thermometer?) The official answer is that last year, we were trying to get ready for an international move, so we were pretty intentional about not acquiring anything we didn’t urgently need. We had already filled every inch of space in our tiny condo kitchen, and didn’t want to shove anything else in there if it could reasonably wait until we got into our new house. In retrospect, a thermometer and a kitchen scale take up almost no room, and if I’d realized how much I would enjoy using them, I would have made the space and gotten them much sooner. But, the past is past, and I expect I’ll make up for lost time by obsessively measuring all the things every day from now on. 🙂

In any case, the meat thermometer would have been really handy to have for this recipe; as the outer coating on the chicken grew increasingly charred, I was paranoid that I was going to end up with a dry, inedible mess. But it turned out fine, luckily. I kicked myself later for totally forgetting to put the beans on; I must have been frazzled from worrying about the chicken. But it was tasty anyway; just a simple combination of rice, chicken, salsa, and avocado, topped with sour cream, cilantro, and lime. (And diced red cabbage, which I did not remember in time for the photo but did add later.) I can definitely see myself throwing this together in the future any time I have Mexican toppings that need to be used up, and it’s very easy to configure based on what you like and have on hand.

Deliciousness score: 8
Easiness score: 7

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Super Simple Not-Too-Sweet Granola

Super Simple Not-Too-Sweet Granola

http://thelivefitgirls.com/2014/05/super-simple-granola/

This granola has become a staple at my house, and is in fact super simple to make. It’s nice because you can easily customize it to the sweetness level you prefer, and level it up with whatever nuts or berries or other add-ins you enjoy.

My fiance quit eating sugar last year, and as a result, almost all breakfast cereals taste too sweet to him now. So we’ve been on a quest for granola that holds together, is crunchy, and doesn’t turn out too dry or too mushy, without being overly sweet. It’s trickier than you might think; in most recipes, sugar or honey or syrup or molasses is responsible for the granola’s crunch and stick-together-ness. There is honey in this recipe as well, but I’ve found that you can decrease the amount of honey and increase the coconut oil, and still end up with granola that has good body. (Is “body” a term that applies to granola? I’m not sure.) But the texture is what you’d expect from granola, and it keeps well without losing much of its crunch.

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The recipe as written asks you to toast your oats and almonds together; I prefer to do these as separate steps. I’ve learned the hard way that different nuts have different toasting times, and they can go from perfectly toasted to a burned mess in the blink of an eye. I usually add two or three different nuts to this granola (pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds are our favorites), and you really do have to keep an eye on them and pull them out the moment they’re done. Here’s a quick primer on different ways to toast nuts:

http://thepioneerwoman.com/food-and-friends/3-ways-to-toast-nuts/

It’s pretty simple though; just spread out your nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and toast in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes. When they’ve darkened by a couple of shades and you can smell the toasted nut aroma, they’re done.

You can toast the nuts first, or wait and do it while the granola is cooling.  To make the granola, I start with oats and unsweetened coconut:

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

I roast these dry ingredients at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Then I pull them out and drizzle them with the wet ingredient mixture:

  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

This is half the honey called for in the original recipe; the missing honey is replaced with more coconut oil. We’re still experimenting with other binders to keep the granola together: mashed bananas, pumpkin, and peanut butter are all on the list to try (although probably not all in the same batch).

Anyway, just drizzle the wet mixture onto the roasted oats, stir to combine evenly, and then pop it back into your oven and turn it off. The granola will sit in the warm oven for 5-10 minutes to finish toasting. Pull it out and let it cool completely, then mix in your nuts, raisins, or other additions.  I usually add raisins and dried cranberries.

We store this on the counter in an airtight container, and it keeps for about two weeks, which is about how long it takes us to go through a batch. We love it with yogurt and berries; you can also sprinkle it onto a smoothie bowl, or just eat it with milk.

Enjoy customizing your own super simple homemade granola!

Deliciousness score: 8
Easiness score: 9

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