Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Quinoa Asparagus Salad (Super easy, Super yum, Super filling)

I don't eat  a lot of meat. I never loved it. Even when I was in high school I refused to touch red meat (mostly because my oh so cool Uncle from New York City didn't and I wanted to be just like him. Including living in NYC. Just like on Friends. Because that was real grown up life portrayed to us 90's high school kids. And it looked awesome.)

Since I was prego with my little girl, the thought of touching chicken, let alone eating it, makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit. I. Just. Can't. So that leaves me with the occasional red meat splurge, fish, eggs and turkey (because it is different than chicken. Don't ask me why my brain can handle a turkey carcass and not a boneless skinless chicken breast *gag*) Oh, and I limit dairy too. I had gallbladder surgery a little over a year ago and just can't. Nobody wants to deal with that. Seriously, I am a dinner party host's worst nightmare.

When I started the 21 Day Fix, I was pumped. I was so excited to see how I could use this portion control thing to really get me past the plateau I had been facing for a while now. (I guess I could have busted out the measuring cups but the color coded containers were SO much cuter and made me excited. I know. I know. Total nerd.) My conundrum came when I realized that, according to my calorie bracket, I was to eat 4 red containers a day. Red meaning protein. No biggie. And then I realized that beans and quinoa were considered a yellow container. The red container list consisted of meats, high protein dairy and soy protein (tofu and tempeh.)

Every once in a while I love to enjoy some soy protein (always organic and non-GMO certified.) But all the controversy around soy makes me nervous. So this is something I limit. Really limit. To maybe once a month. And I can't eat fish every day. First it is expensive. Second there are mercury issues. And third. That is boring.

Sure I could add an extra protein shake to my daily lineup (and some days I do) but the first go round I ended up eating A LOT of eggs. But I just couldn't do it again. I was sick of eggs. But I wanted to stick with the Fix nutrition guide because it worked. It is awesome and it forces me to meal plan (a total vice for me.) I knew I had to find a happy medium between the Fix lists and my desire to eat mostly plant based.

Then I found an interview with Autumn and she was asked about alternative protein for vegans and vegetarians. She said that it was totally acceptable to count things like lentils, beans and quinoa as protein for vegans or vegetarians (which I took to include people like me who float around somewhere in the middle of it all.) She did say that the results may not be as extreme if you are eating a lot of what used to be yellows as reds but because of the portion control you will still see success. And let's be honest. It really did bug me that a veggie burger was on the original list of red containers (and many veggie burgers have beans in them) but beans were not. This makes me really happy. So here is the updated food lists if you are a vegan or vegetarian (who doesn't do soy) or just a can't decide where you belong (like me).

So for dinner last week I made this awesome quinoa asparagus salad. I pretty much looked at what I had in my fridge and googled. And I adjusted to what I had. The hubby doesn't generally love meatless meals so I was thrilled that he really liked this. (When he asks how I made it and how long it took I know it's a keeper.) It was so much a keeper that I made it again a week later.

The original recipe didn't call for spinach but I had some that needed using so I added that. I would call that an optional ingredient. I also add the olives to mine but leave them out of John's since he has this whole olive "thing" (and by thing I mean loathing of all things olive which I think is totally crazy because they kind of make my heart sing.) There was also a lemon/oil dressing on the salad which I didn't love the first time. So on the second go round, I mixed it up and went with one of my favorites. The honey lime vinaigrette which I adapted from The Yummy Life (which you can find here.) I avoid canola oil like the plague when I can (hello GMO's) and sub it in every recipe. Plus I always like to take recipes and make them work for me. You will never find anything remotely spicy in anything I eat and if there is a way to add some fresh cilantro....it will probably happen. This dressing was amazing on the quinoa salad. I have also had it on regular green salads, shrimp, fish, turkey burgers....I will pretty much put it on anything. And then lick the inside of the blender. Seriously, make it. Love it. Use it on everything.

I have become a huge proponent of making your own salad dressings. It takes five minutes and then you don't have to worry about all the yuck that is lurking in store bought salad dressing. Some of those labels are insane. Tons of ingredients and most of them I can't pronounce. And if I am too lazy to make blend up a quick dressing....a good quality olive oil drizzle with some balsamic vinegar does the job just fine (but check your balsamic to make sure it doesn't contain caramel coloring!) But onto my kind of amazing dinner.

Here is what I did: 

1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa (I used Bob's Red Mill brand)
3 cups veggie broth or stock
1 bunch of asparagus (chopped into bite size pieces)
2 cups (or a few handfuls) of spinach
3.5 oz sun dried tomatoes (julienned)
1/2 red onion (a sweet onion works well too. If it is a really strong or large onion you may want to cut back to using 1/4 of it.)

Cook the quinoa according to package directions in the veggie broth.

While the quinoa is cooking prepare your dressing:

1/2 cup cold pressed olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (I juiced 2 1/2 limes)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard (I use Annie's Organic Horseradish Mustard)
1 tablespoon honey (I prefer to use raw honey. For more about the benefits of raw honey click here.)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or fresh minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
A large handful of fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients and blend.

Add chopped sundried tomatoes, onion and spinach to a large bowl.

When the quinoa is close to done. Cook your asparagus by either steaming or sauteing in a tiny bit of coconut oil. Cook 3-4 minutes or until the asparagus turns bright green. I like my still crunchy so not over cooking is a priority for me.

Add the cooked asparagus and quinoa to the bowl. Toss with spinach, sundried tomatoes and onion until the spinach starts to wilt. Top with dressing.

I also cooked up some shrimp (with cilantro and the juice of half a lime) to top our tasty quinoa. In this case I did count the quinoa as a yellow container, since I had the other protein source.

Enjoy your amazing dinner. (You can thank me later.)


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