The calendar is telling us that it is spring, but here in Central Pennsylvania it is actually the season of limbo. The temperatures have been rising as the week draws to a close and today is supposed to be the warmest day yet! For the time being, the sun and warmth are like a balm for our cold, chapped, winter-weary souls. But we know that it won’t last and at any moment, winter could return and bring with it some snow and ice that is most unwelcome as we ease into April. It short, early spring is pretty much a meteorological purgatory.
In October, when the weather was just beginning to turn, I gravitated to all things warm and cozy and heavy – spaghetti, chili, and anything else carb-heavy that could qualify as bone-sticking. But now, in our early-spring limbo, I want food that is nourishing enough to see me through the cold that will undoubtedly return but also bright enough to remind me that warmer weather will come, and stay. Eventually. Lemon, fennel, and quinoa check all of those boxes. The lemon and fennel are bright and a little sweet, the quinoa is a nourishing protein, and you get a peppery kick from the arugula.
Don’t be afraid of fennel! I’m always a little discomfited when a vegetable doesn’t fit neatly in a produce bag. It just defies the seemingly natural order of things when you can’t put the produce item in a bag and neatly seal it up with a twist tie. If there is one thing I really love, it is ORDER, and fennel is without a doubt disorderly. It has a wild look to it with it’s fronds spiking out all over the place, so it is one of those vegetables (actually, it is an herb if you want to get technical about it) that many of us look at on the shelf and then immediately walk past in search of something more familiar. Fennel has a distinct anise-like taste to it when eaten raw, but don’t let that scare you either. I am not a fan of anise; I’ve never even liked black licorice, but fennel is milder and sweeter and tastes even better when mixed with citrus, as we do here.
If you’ve never bought or prepared fennel, this video from the New York Times is a great reference! One thing to note – you can eat the bulb, the stalk, and the fronds of the fennel plant. I have found the stalks to have a woody texture so I usually don’t use them. I only use the bulb and the fronds and leave the stalks for our wildlife friends in the back yard. You could consider that a perfectly good waste of fennel, but it makes them happy and if they are happy and less hungry, then it is my hope that they will eat fewer plants in my front flower bed.
Wishful thinking on my part? Likely.
Quinoa Salad with Fennel, Caramelized Lemon, & Arugula
A bright and lemony salad to help celebrate the arrival of spring!
- Prep Time: 25 min
- Total Time: 25 min
- Category: Salad, Food Prep
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp. olive oil
1 T. red wine vinegar, if needed
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. agave syrup (or honey for non-vegan)
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
3 oz. sun-dried tomatoes (dry, not in oil)
1/3 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 T. fennel fronds, chopped
2 cups thinly sliced fennel
3-4 oz. arugula
1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add rinsed quinoa and sun-dried tomatoes. Return to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water. Set aside to cool.
2. Zest lemon, reserving zest. Cut lemon in half.
3. Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a small non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add lemon halves, cut sides down, to the skillet. Cook for approximately 8 minutes, or until the cut side is nicely brown and caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
3. Once cool enough to handle, juice lemon. Add enough red wine vinegar to get 1/4 cup of liquid. (I usually end up with about 3 T. lemon juice and 1 T. red wine vinegar.) Add salt, agave (or honey), and 1/4 cup of olive oil and mix well.
4. Cut the fennel stalks from the top of the bulb, reserving some of the feathery fronds at the end of the stalks. Wipe the outside of the fennel bulb with a damp towel to remove any dirt. Cut fennel bulb in half, vertically. Cut out the core from inside the bulb. Thinly slice the fennel. A mandolin works very well here, and helps you to get extra thin slices of fennel. If using a mandolin, I do not remove the core and instead work my way around it. The core helps to keep the bulb intact so you have more to hold on to when slicing it with the mandolin.
5. Combine cooled quinoa with reserved lemon zest and lemon vinaigrette. Add fennel, olives, almonds, and fennel fronds, tossing to coat.
6. If you are serving immediately, gently toss in arugula. If you are making ahead, or keeping it as part of your weekly food prep, then keep arugula separate and serve salad on a bed of greens when you are ready to eat.
*Salad keeps well for several days. Keep arugula separate so it doesn’t get sad and wilted.
Keywords: lemon quinoa, quinoa food prep, food prep, fennel salad, fennel and lemon, fennel and quinoa
It comes as a surprise (to some) that a waffle recipe with the words “vegan” and “quinoa” in it can be so delicious. This is one of those recipes that is best described to my husband in vague terms because if he knew what I really called it, he would instantly be wary and disinclined to try it. As it was, I just made him the waffles, he happily ate them and said they were good before I told him that they had quinoa and flax in them. Then he promptly groaned and told me I had to stop forcing him to eat so healthy. He did, for the record, eat them several days in a row for breakfast, so apparently he got over his initial nutritional misgivings pretty quickly.
It was with a tone of equal parts skepticism and very great hesitation that my husband read my list on the kitchen chalkboard and said “Baked Noatmeal….what is that?” In all fairness, his state of dubious reservation was justified as I think we can agree that baked oatmeal without the oats would leave your breakfast decidedly lacking….or so you would think. Unless you had a dietary reason for not eating grains, including oats, it probably never occurred to you to try such a thing. But if you are one of those people, like me, who at times need to clean up your system, then Baked Noatmeal is definitely for you.
I love it when I can combine several of my favorite foods and flavors all in one place and have it result in something really delicious – which is exactly what happened here. I started off wanting to experiment with a cold sweet potato salad with a fall vibe, thinking along the lines of a vinaigrette with apple cider vinegar and maple syrup. Then I added Dijon mustard for some extra tang. Then maple syrup just goes with bacon, and bacon goes with everything, so that was thrown in. And then a friend of mine told me about a roasted sweet potato and Brussels sprout dish she made recently, so I shredded up some Brussels sprouts and put them in the mix. And viola, sweet potato and Brussels sprout salad was born, and I am immediately loving it. Eat a little as a side or a lot on top of some greens for a quick lunch or dinner.
Easter morning is always a little bit hectic. You have the baskets and maybe an egg hunt and church and somewhere in there you try to squeeze in some brunch. As with any holiday, having a dish ready to be popped in the oven is the way to go. Having it be healthy, but still taste like a treat is even better! Baked oatmeal is best if assembled the night before and with this one, everything comes together fairly quickly. Don’t let the long ingredient list scare you. The hardest part of assembly is shredding the carrots, which is a task easily delegated to one of your kids so you can finish the rest of your holiday preparations, which you and I both know, will probably still be unfinished as of Saturday night. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, give the baked oatmeal a try, it will be one less thing to worry about on Sunday morning.
Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal got two thumbs up from my somewhat-picky husband. He was a little disgruntled to hear that the glaze was tofu-based, but it didn’t stop him from eating an extra spoonful.
…And he’s even more disgruntled now that I have told the internet that he ate anything tofu-based.
Who doesn’t have a soft spot for carrot cake? I don’t delude myself into thinking it’s healthy because it has carrots. I’ve baked enough carrot cakes to know that the carrots are not included for nutritional value. The reason I love it is because it has so many different textures and flavors going on. Carrot cake is kind of the pastry equivalent of a circus. Colors, textures, flavors, all mixed up together. Minus, thankfully, the clowns. It’s delightful, don’t you think?
Maybe it sounds strange to turn a pastry circus into a breakfast food but it makes complete sense if you think about it. Raisins, nuts, and coconut are pretty routine oatmeal additions. Pineapple is not far off. That only leaves you with the carrots and carrots are sweet so they are practically like fruit. Are you buying it? Even if you’re not, just give it a try.
I like topping mine with more pineapple and toasted coconut and a drizzle of the dairy free cream cheese glaze. Dairy free cream cheese is soy-based so if you don’t tolerate soy, then just spoon a little extra maple syrup on top; it will still be delicious.
- 2 eggs
- 3 cups of almond milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 T. maple syrup
- 2 T. olive oil
- 3 cups gluten free rolled oats
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup diced pineapple
- 1/2 cup non-dairy cream cheese, softened (such as Tofutti)
- 4 T. pure maple syrup
- 3 tsp. vanilla
- 2-3 pinches of salt
- 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- 2. Beat eggs, milk, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, olive oil, and maple syrup with a whisk until well blended.
- 3. Add in oatmeal, carrot, coconut, nuts, raisins, and pineapple.
- 4. Pour in a 2 1/2 to 3 quart baking dish coated with cooking spray.
- 5. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
- 6. Bake for 45-55 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- 7. Serve with extra pineapple, toasted coconut, and dairy free cream cheese glaze.
- 1. Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl.
- 2. Cover and let sit 4 hours or overnight so flavors can meld.
- 3. Drizzle on top of cooked baked oatmeal.
- A 9X13 inch pan works well for one recipe, but you could also use a square pan or a deep dish pie pan as I did in the photographs. Keep in mind that you may need to add 10 minutes or so on to the baking time if using a smaller pan since the mixture will be thicker. Check it periodically after 50 minutes and cover with foil if the top is getting too brown. If using a smaller pan, it will be FULL, so refrigerating the mixture overnight in another bowl is a good idea, then it can be transferred to the smaller pan once some of the liquid has been absorbed overnight.
How are we feeling about the holidays friends? Thanksgiving is over and it is full steam ahead towards Christmas. Like it or not, that train is moving and it’s moving fast, so I guess it’s time for us all to jump on!
I’ve talked to people that have all of their shopping done already. Some of them even have their gifts wrapped!
I am not one of those people.
We got our first holiday card in the mail yesterday.
I was tickled that I even got my cards ordered. Getting them addressed and in the mail is a whole other story. If I were you, I wouldn’t wait by your mailbox in anticipation of receiving it.
I’m seeing pictures on Facebook of beautifully decorated Christmas trees, holiday mantles, and outdoor lights.
We are getting ready to replace the flooring in most of our first floor, so I am using the anticipated dirt and dust as an excuse to keep all of our decorations in the crawl space.
Elves on the Shelf have already made appearances in many homes and are getting up to their usual holiday hijinx.
Our elf, Rosie, has shown up after the incessant questioning by my kids of when she would come and has unceremoniously plopped herself in the usual boring and uncreative spots.
There are certain recipes that I gravitate to when I know my schedule is going to get hectic. Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken is definitely one of them, but right next to it at the top of that list is this wild rice salad. I love that it holds up for several days, so it fits well into a meal prep day and gives you a few different options for lunches and/or dinners throughout the week.
I am a creature of habit. I find comfort in routines and schedules. In fact, if you called me up at 10:30 in the morning and asked me to go to lunch, I would spend the next hour and half having a serious internal struggle about the merits of going to lunch versus continuing on with my lunch as I originally planned. This inner conflict makes absolutely no sense since more often than not, what is originally planned does not actually involve any plans – at least none that can’t be changed for one day. I desperately want to be that spontaneous person that does things like make last-minute lunch plans, but internally, I resist it to my very core.
Recently, we celebrated Bert’s birthday and my uncle in-law gifted me with a whole bag of cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes from his garden. Given that I have a notorious black thumb, any time that someone wants to pawn off their garden surplus on me, I am so very happy to oblige. I’ve been thinking about a chilled cucumber soup lately, and then Uncle Joe showed up with a whole bag of cucumbers! Clearly the universe decided that chilled cucumber soup needed to make an appearance here at Always Daydreaming, so here we are.