Monday, March 14, 2016

We didn't intend to eat healthy. Sometimes it just happens.

Ever get excited when you find a recipe that uses a vegetable you actually grew and really bought the plant just because and even though you know you will use them, you don't really have anything planned? Ya, me neither. Are you kidding! Of course I do!  If you remember a couple of summers ago I grew kale for the first time and well....... I was just a little over the top silly about it. Guess what? This recipe also has kale in it- and poblano peppers!! 

Our weeknight dinner was accidentally healthy- swai fillets
baked with lemon and herbs and this healthy quinoa kale toss.
I found the original recipe on a food blog called Eat Drink Garden With Valerie and immediately thought it fit perfectly in my quest to use up some of my quinoa stockpile and get lots of fresh veggies into my lunch. This salad has a Latin flair with the poblanos, black beans, cilantro tossed in a cumin lime dressing. Valerie used feta cheese in her recipe but I decided to pass on the cheese.

Have you ever used poblano peppers in a salad? I think most people use them in Mexican recipes, but I am always looking for something different. Of course I was minding my own business looking for cherry tomato plants at the garden center one day when the poblano plant fell into my cart *wink wink* I might as well get it since it ended up there, right?  Poblano peppers really are a great choice for experimenting with chilies. They aren't hot, I like to call them "warm" and they have such a nice pepper flavor. Roasting them makes it incredibly easy to get the skin off and adds a smoky hint. You can roast peppers on a grill or under your broiler. Need help? Click HERE to read about roasting Hatch chilies- use the same method. Hmm, speaking of Hatch chilies, those would be awesome in this dish too.

Black beans are a pantry staple at our house. They show up in all kinds of dishes here and salads are perfect for beans. So are nachos, but I'm trying to be healthy for a day.

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Kale

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled and diced**
1 3/4 cups cooked black beans, rinsed
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
2 cups baby kale, lightly packed*
1/4 cup Lemon Herb Dressing, plus more for serving (recipe follows)

* You can use any salad green you like if you don't have baby kale. Radish greens, arugula, tatsoi are all great choices. If you have regular kale, tear it into bite sized pieces. I used a package of Kalettes, chopped coarsely.

** I didn't have any poblanos, sadly, so I used a green bell pepper. It was good, and I think next time I'll use a mix of colors of bell peppers. I didn't roast the pepper and really liked the fresh crunch.

In a dry saucepan, toast the quinoa for about 5 minutes over medium heat, until golden brown. Add the water and turn up the heat. Bring the quinoa to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and then spread it out onto a lightly oiled sheet pan to cool.

Roast the peppers, then remove the charred skins, stems, seeds and membranes and dice. I just used a fresh unroasted bell pepper so if you go with that too just dice it up. Chop the kale into nice bite sized pieces. Roughly chop the cilantro.

Toss the quinoa, peppers, beans, cilantro and kale in a large bowl with the dressing. Add the cheese and toss again. Serve!

Lemon Herb Dressing

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon lemon garlic seasoning (I used Trinidad from Penzey's)
2 teaspoons herb seasoning of your choice (I used Feiny's Everything)

Combine everything in a bowl or jar. Whisk or shake to combine

I'm a big zest lover, since it has so much flavor, so I added some lemon zest and tossed that in the dressing too. 

I really love kale in this salad because it's a sturdy green and doesn't get wilty and gross. I love the flavor of kale too. I often grow baby Russian kale or mixed baby kales and they are perfect in salads like this. I love this dressing with lime too. So bright and flavorful. Salads like this make perfect lunches too- just pack a couple bowls ahead of time and tuck in the fridge. No last minute fuss in the morning. We had our salad served alongside some delicious and very healthy baked swai fillets, drizzled with lemon juice and sprinkled with herbs. Lots of healthy protein, lots of fiber and virtually no fat except for the olive oil in the dressing.

The best thing about having a garden is being able to grow vegetables I can't always get at the store, and I get to try a lot of different veggies as well. Here in Des Moines we are lucky to have some of the best farmers markets anywhere and the selection of fresh produce is fantastic. Since this will be my first farmers market season back in the city you can bet I'll be going crazy with all the fresh produce!

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