Quick Lunch: Yogurt w/Bananas and Wheat Germ

One of the biggest challenges I face as a vegetarian is finding a quick meal that will fill me up, especially at lunchtime. I used to just take sandwiches or frozen dinners to work, but now that I’m more health conscious and I don’t eat meat, those options are a bit less appealing. One thing that I’ve noticed since I became a vegetarian is that I snack  much more and I think it’s because I’ve had a hard time finding something that is quick enough for lunch but fills me up so I’m not hungry 20 minutes later.

I was at the store the other day and I picked up some plain yogurt for smoothies. However, when I got hungry for lunch, I thought about what I might be able to do with the plain yogurt. So, I took 1/2 cup of plain yogurt, added a small banana sliced up, a few shelled sunflower seeds, and 2 tablespoons of wheat germ and what I got out of it was a filling lunch that was quick and tasted great! This is also a protein-packed lunch so it is beneficial in many ways. So if you are struggling to find the perfect balance of healthy eats that fill you up quickly, try this little concoction out.

Total Calorie Count = 237

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Getting to Know Our Grains: Quinoa

Red Quinoa

Cooked Red Quinoa

I made my Southwest Black Bean and Corn Quinoa for Easter this past weekend and the one question I got asked over and over again was, “What is Quinoa?” It made me realize that even though I eat it quite often, even I don’t really know much about what exactly quinoa is. So I decided to do a little research and I thought this would be a good place to share my findings.

At the most basic level, quinoa is grain-like, though not truly a grain. Quinoa is actually a chenopod, which is more closely related to species such as beets and spinach than to cereal family grains. Quinoa has been around for thousands of years, originating in South America and it grows best in somewhat cooler climates.

Incas referred to quinoa as “the mother of all grains” and it was a major staple in the Indian diet. It was such a central part of their diets because Quinoa contains many of the nutrients that are essential to good health. Quinoa contains high percentages of protein (12%-18%) and has a balanced set of amino acids. In addition, quinoa is gluten-free so it’s a great grain for those with allergies.

There are several types of quinoa, including the most prevalent cream-colored quinoa as well as red and black quinoa. In my experience, the red quinoa is a bit smaller and a little crunchier in texture than the cream-colored quinoa. If you have a gluten allergy, you can also find quinoa flour and other quinoa products that make a great replacement for traditional wheat flour.

You can find quinoa in the whole foods or heath foods section of your local grocery store and although it can be fairly expensive, it is definitely worth having around the house for various recipes.


Vegan Banana Pancakes

This is another recipe I came up with this last weekend when I was sick. I’m not really a pancake fan, but my daughter is, so I decided I’d give these a shot. To my surprise, these pancakes were delicious! The banana gives them just enough sweetness that you don’t even need syrup!

Ingredients:

1 cup All-Purpose Flour

1 tbsp Sugar

2 tbsp Baking Powder (seems like a lot, but trust me, it works)

1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg

1 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1 cup Plain Soymilk

2 tbsp Vegetable Oil

1 medium Banana, diced

Directions:

1) Place a large skillet or griddle on the stove over medium heat. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl.

2) Add in the wet ingredients and stir well until batter is smooth. Just before making the pancakes, add in the diced banana and mix well.

3) Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the mixture on the hot pan or griddle (you can change the amount of batter you use depending on how big or small you like your pancakes). When you see the top of the batter begin to bubble, wait about 30 more seconds and then flip the pancake. Cook for approximately 2 more minutes.

4) Repeat until all of the batter is gone. You can warm up your oven to 200 degrees or so and put the cooked pancakes onto a plate and into the oven to keep them warm while the others are cooking.

Serve warm! (These are also quite tasty cold.)

This recipe yields approximately 10 medium size pancakes.


Strawberry and Goat Cheese Galette

This past weekend I was sick and since I was going stir crazy I decided to get my bake on. Although desserts are (usually) a meatless affair, I thought this recipe was wonderful enough to share. An added bonus is that the crust is vegan (and super simple), so if you take out the goat cheese you’d have a delicious vegan strawberry galette. I also came up with several other delicious recipes over the weekend, so keep checking back this week for more recipes.

Before you begin this recipe, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Crust

Ingredients:

1 cup All-Purpose Flour

1/2 cup Vegetable Shortening (Crisco)

1/4 cup Cold Water

Directions:

1) Add the flour to a medium mixing bowl and cut in the vegetable shortening with a knife or fork. Continue to cut in the shortening until the mixture looks like crumbs.

2) Add in the water and stir until well combined. Roll the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. Put in the refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 20 minutes.

Filling

Ingredients:

1-2 lbs Fresh Strawberries

2 oz Soft Goat Cheese

2 tbsp Sugar

1 tbsp Cornstarch

Directions:

1) Slice strawberries into thin slices (about 4 slices per strawberry). Mix all of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Crumble

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Slivered Almonds

1/4 cup Brown Sugar

2 tbsp Butter or Butter Substitute, Melted

Directions:

1) Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl making sure it is all coming together in a crumble form. Add more melted butter and brown sugar as needed.

Putting it All Together

1) After the dough has refrigerated for at least 20 minutes, roll it out into an 11″ circle and place into a 9″ pie pan. Cover the bottom of the crust with the strawberry and cheese mixture. Spread the mixture evenly and then top it with the almond crumble.

2) Fold the edges of the dough just a barely over the outside edges of the filling. Put the pie into the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned.

This recipe yields approximately 8 servings at around 250 calories per serving.


Southwest Black Bean and Corn Quinoa

This recipe was a hit with vegetarians and meat-eaters alike! The subtle heat from the cayenne gives it just the small kick it needs but doesn’t overwhelm the dish. This is a fast dish that is low in calories and makes a great side to tofu, tempeh, or just about any other main dish you can think of.

Ingredients:

1 tsp Vegetable Oil

1/2 medium Onion, chopped

3 cloves Garlic, peeled and chopped

3/4 cup Quinoa, uncooked

1 1/2 cups Vegetable Broth

1 tsp Ground Cumin

1/4 tsp Ground Cayenne Pepper

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 cup Frozen Corn Kernels

1 15 oz can Black Beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

1) Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.

2) Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes,

3)Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro.

This recipe yields approximately 6 1/2 cup servings.


Black Bean and Egg Tostadas

This quick and easy recipe is perfect for nights when you don’t want to eat out but don’t have much time on your hands. You could also eat these tostadas for brunch or for a Sunday breakfast. I highly recommend frying up the tortillas, however, if you don’t want the extra calories or you don’t want to hassle with the oil, you can simply crisp them up by heating them over medium heat in a skillet. Feel free to customize this recipe as this basic recipe makes a great base for just about any ingredient you can think of! This recipe is just a single serving size, so just multiply the ingredients by however many people you are cooking for.

Ingredients:

2 Flour Tortillas, 8″

1/4 cup Black Beans (a 15 oz can is perfect for 4 servings)

1 tsp Chili Powder

1 tsp Onion Salt

1 tsp Garlic Powder

1 large Egg

2 tbsp Sour Cream

1/8 cup Feta Cheese

1/4 cup shredded Mexican Blend Cheese (any type of cheddar or jack cheese will work)

2 tbsp Salsa

Hot Sauce (optional)

Canola or Vegetable Oil for Frying

Directions:

1) Pour about 2″ of oil in a deep frying pan and begin warming it over medium heat. Place the black beans in a saucepan and mix in the chili powder, garlic powder, and onion salt. Warm over medium-low heat.

2) Fry the egg over-easy style in a small frying pan. Once the oil is hot, place one tortilla in the pan. The tortilla will bubble a bit so be sure to push those down while frying. Once the tortilla is golden brown on one side (about 1 minute), flip it over and fry the other side. Do the same with the second tortilla.

3) After the first tortilla is fried, begin assembling the tostada by spreading out 1 tbsp of the sour cream on the tortilla. Then add half of the black beans, followed by the fried egg. Add half of the shredded cheese on top of the egg and then 1 tbsp of the salsa and half of the feta cheese.

4) Top off the tostada with the other tortilla and put the other half of the black beans on top along with a tablespoon of sour cream and salsa. Top with the remaining shredded cheese and feta.

Enjoy!

Variation Suggestions: I have also added peas and corn to the tostada to get a few more veggies in. If you have meat-eaters in your family you can easily fry up some chopped ham and place that in the tostada as well. The topping bar style works well for big families or parties, that way everyone can assemble their own tostadas – all you have to do is fry the eggs and tortillas.


Review: Cheese Substitutes

Even though I am not a vegan, I am lactose intolerant, so I’ve been trying out some different types of cheese substitutes so that I can still enjoy the cheese flavor and texture without getting sick. I’ve tried a few different types of “cheese” including rice cheese and veggie (soy) cheese. Here are a few of the ones I’ve tried with some pros and cons.

Cheddar Flavored Rice Cheese Slices – This rice cheese has a great cheddar taste that works great in hot and cold sandwiches. The cheese has a texture that is a little more grainy than milk-based cheeses, however it does melt well if you are craving a grilled cheese. One word of caution is that this cheese does not taste particularly good on its own, but if you are avoiding soy and dairy, it’s a great substitute. This cheese is also low -cal at only 40 calories per slice.

Smoked Provolone Flavored Veggie Cheese Slices – This cheese is made from soy and it has a much creamier texture than the rice cheese. The flavor is a bit stronger than the rice cheese, but the soy cheese has a smoother texture. This cheese melts well and it tastes great on sandwiches. It also goes great with tofurky and other veggie sandwich slices.

Pepper  Jack and Cheddar Flavored Veggie Cheese Shreds – I had this veggie cheese on some tacos and it was the perfect complement to the taco seasonings. This cheese melts really well and it has great flavor that rivals some of the pepper jack milk-based cheeses I’ve had. These shreds are perfect for pizzas and other places where you need a little melted cheese.

All of these cheese substitutes are made by Galaxy Nutritional Foods. I live in an area where vegetarian and vegan options are just beginning to become more prevalent, however, in bigger markets you may be able to find other brands. These cheese substitutes are not as cheap as some milk-based cheeses, and the rice cheese is even higher priced than the soy-based cheeses. However, if you’re a vegan or lactose intolerant, these cheeses provide a great alternative that doesn’t make you sacrifice taste. These are just a few of the options out there, so feel free to leave comments about some that you’ve tried!