Quinoa with Olives and Parmesan

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Okay, confession time. When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to eat was cheddar broccoli rice. Yes, the kind from the box with the dehydrated spice and “vegetable” packet inside. Another favorite was boxed (flake) mashed potatoes, with either butter, salt and pepper, or melted shredded cheddar cheese. I haven’t tasted either one in years, but every once in awhile I have a craving. Sometimes when I have a headache, a cold, or a particularly stressful day, I crave the boxed, dehydrated comfort food of my childhood.

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The great news is this: I don’t have to turn to the box with the sodium bomb spice packet to get my fix! I made the most delicious side dish the other day with whole ingredients from my own pantry. This version has more protein, less sodium, and more flavor than the original, and as an added bonus, I can pronounce all the ingredients. I suggest that you use this as a base recipe and add your favorite vegetables into the mix. Both broccoli and peas work really well in this. I think chopped greens would be great too. If you would prefer to make it vegan, simply substitute nutritional yeast for the cheese. Your choice!

Quinoa with Olives and Parmesan

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • vegan option: substitute 1/4 cup nutritional yeast for Parmesan

Preparation:

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Add scallions and garlic to hot pan and saute until fragrant.
  3. Add quinoa to pan and stir to mix. Add 2 cups of water to pan and increase heat to medium-high.
  4. Bring to a boil, cover, and lower heat to medium-low. Simmer until water is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Stir in olives and pepper to taste. Add either Parmesan or nutritional yeast and stir to combine.

Greek Spinach Salad with Herbed Tempeh

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I recently discovered a great way to punch up the flavor of a Greek salad while adding protein to round it out to a full meal. This super nutritious Greek salad features dark leafy spinach for extra vitamins and Mediterranean-style grated tempeh and Greek yogurt for added protein.

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I was thinking about ground lamb and lamb souvlaki when I prepared this tempeh. By grating a block of tempeh and sautéing it in olive oil with fresh herbs, you can achieve the perfect texture for a salad topping, while infusing a lot of fresh flavor. I am really excited about this tempeh that bursts with fresh oregano flavor. I can’t wait to expand it from salads to pastas, soups and wraps.

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One serving of this salad boasts over 24 grams of protein and contains over half the recommended daily amount of vitamins A, C, and K. The recipe below is a hearty portion that kept me full for hours.

Greek Spinach Salad with Herbed Tempeh (2 entrée sized servings)

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Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. tempeh
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemon flavor Chobani Greek yogurt (or 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt + 1 Tbsp lemon juice)
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 4 cups spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 small cucumber, diced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives
  • 2 oz. feta
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Into a medium sized bowl, grate the tempeh with a large cheese grater.
  2. Heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium heat. When hot, add tempeh to pan and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add oregano to tempeh and sauté for 4-5 more minutes, until tempeh is golden brown.
  4. While tempeh is cooking, make the salad dressing. With a whisk in a small bowl, or in a salad dressing shaker, mix together the yogurt, garlic, 2 Tbsp oil, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
  5. Mix together in a large bowl: spinach, cucumber, tomato, olives, feta and salad dressing.
  6. When tempeh is done cooking, season with salt and pepper and toss with other salad ingredients. Divide into two bowls and serve.

Mediterranean Tempeh and Spinach Stuffed Zucchini Boats

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Zucchini and yellow squash are two of the flavors that always remind me of summer. Just like fresh corn kernels, juicy tomato slices and tangy barbecue sauce, summer squash momentarily transports me to the backyard of my childhood home. I remember chasing fireflies after dinner, while the adults picked crabs and sipped cold beers on the back deck, and the smells of Old Bay, dewy green grass, pool chlorine, and charcoal grills filled the air.

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I remember eating zucchini and squash in one of two ways: grilled on kabobs or sautéed with Vidalia onions, bread crumbs, and grated parmesan cheese. Every once in awhile, I still make squash the second way for company. Each time, without fail, one of our guests tells me their Mom used to make it the same way.  Although the results are delicious, the method of tossing vegetables in butter, breadcrumbs and cheese is not the most nutritious way to prepare fresh produce. For a protein and veggie packed preparation, I turn to stuffed zucchini boats.

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I love this one recipe from Eating Bird Food for Overstuffed Vegetarian Zucchini Boats. One night this week, armed with a package of tempeh and a bag of market fresh spinach, I decided to put my own spin on Brittany’s recipe. My version features a filling made with browned tempeh, sauteed onions and garlic, fresh spinach, chopped olives, tomato sauce, herbs and feta cheese. The hollowed out zucchini and squash boats are stuffed, topped with more cheese (or not, if you’re being super healthy) and baked until bubbly.

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I am finding that as I experiment with more local ingredients, I create my own signature seasonal dishes that will hopefully become new food memories and comforting associations. Stuffed zucchini is quickly becoming a summer standby for me.

Mediterranean Tempeh and Spinach Stuffed Zucchini Boats

(serves 4)

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Ingredients:

  • 4 medium zucchini or other summer squash
  • 4 Tbsp oil, divided
  • 1 – 8 oz. package of tempeh
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning or mixture of basil and oregano
  • 1-1/2 cups pasta sauce
  • 1 – 4 oz. can of chopped olives, drained
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
  • 4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the squash lengthwise into halves. Scoop out the insides and leave about a 1/4-inch thick wall of flesh on the inside of each half.
  2. Place the squash in a baking dish, skin side down. Brush the squash with about 1 Tbsp of oil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.
  3. Grate the tempeh over a bowl with a large cheese grater. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the tempeh and sauté, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the tempeh to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Take the squash innards that you scooped out in step one, and measure about 1 cup of squash. Save the remaining squash for zucchini bread or cookies. Chop the 1 cup of squash into a small dice.
  5. Add 2 Tbsp oil to the small pan and add onions and garlic. Sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Then add squash to pan and sauté the mixture until tender, about 5 minutes.
  6. To the mixing bowl, add: squash/onion/garlic mixture, spinach, crushed red pepper, seasoning/herbs, pasta sauce, and olives. Add salt and pepper to taste. At this step you can stir in the crumbled feta. For a vegan version, omit the cheese.
  7. When the squash halves are removed from the oven, stuff each “boat” with the filling and top with shredded mozzarella cheese if desired.
  8. Bake the stuffed zucchini at 350 degrees F, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until filling is bubbly and cheese is melted.

Happy Summer Solstice!