Assignment #3 – Quinoa

I have used quinoa before as a kind of rice substitute or as a simple side to a meal. I chose to make a batch of Quinoa with the intention of using it in new ways to see if I could get my kids to also enjoy it. Turns out, I haven’t had the best of luck with cooking quinoa (or rice!) on the stove, so I decided to try and use my rice cooker for the quinoa. Turns out, the rice cooker was a slick and easy way to cook up a whole batch of quinoa – which is great since I’m much more likely to cook it more often when it’s easy!


The first recipe with quinoa I tried was Oatmeal Quinoa Bites – something I hoped the kids would enjoy! I made a couple substitutes to use things we had on hand (instead of apple chunks, I used frozen black berries from our garden, and instead of dipping the bites in chocolate after they had baked, which seemed like too much work for me, I added mini semi-sweet chocolate chips to the mix before baking).

Basically, I simply mixed all the ingredients together, then scooped into a well greased muffin pan, and baked for about 12 minutes. The kids were a little hesitant to try the bites, but once they did, they loved them! They are excited to try a few more fruit substitutes with the recipe and see which one becomes our favorite!


Next, I decided to use quinoa in a casserole. I found a recipe online that called for broccoli, quinoa, cheese, and bread crumbs. I decided to also add black beans, onions, and some red pepper flakes, since I enjoy experimenting 🙂 After combining everything and topping with a little crushed pepper, I baked it for about 30 minutes. Turned out to be quite delicious!


Finally, smoothies have been a go-to option for me to trick the kids into eating stuff they refuse to eat, such as spinach, kale, etc. While one of my kids will eat quinoa, the other doesn’t care for it, so I thought we’d try it in a smoothie!

I usually wing it when it comes to smoothies, so I decided to mix about half a cup of quinoa with some frozen mango, strawberries, black berries, plain greek yogurt, banana and some white grape juice we had on hand. The quinoa blended really well and was undetectable, but the smoothie was lacking a little flavor, so I added some frozen blueberries last minute. It made for a super yummy treat for the kids (which they BOTH enjoyed!) and a nice option to get a little extra protein and grains into their diets without much fuss. 🙂


This class really has inspired me to use grains in more creative ways and to branch out a bit to grains I’m not used to preparing. It has been super helpful for me as we transition to a more plant-based diet to have gained more knowledge and experience with preparing whole grains. I think a major hesitation for me has been a lack of confidence in how to cook grains, so this class has been tremendously helpful! As summer approaches, I really look forward to trying more recipes to combine new grains and the veggies we grown in the garden!




Assignment #2 – Kale and Eggplant

I chose Kale and Eggplant as my two types of produce. Before this class, I had tried each of these before, but thought they were terrible! Then during our first week, I actually REALLY enjoyed the kale we made in class and decided to give both Kale, and Eggplant another chance!

The first dish I prepared with Kale was a very simple Frittata, with egg, cheese, tomato, onion and kale. I wanted to try incorporating Kale into breakfast and this was a delicious way to do so!!


The next thing I tried was with the eggplant, making Baked Eggplant Parmesan. I also decided to spice up the recipe a bit and add some extra sauteed kale I had into the sauce for fun. I coated the eggplant in eggs and bread crumbs, then baked on a cookie sheet. Then I laid the baked eggplant in sauce, kale, and added the parmesan and mozzarella. After baking it all together, I sprinkled a bit more kale on top to be fancy! I was pleasantly surprised that both my husband and I really enjoyed the eggplant! Time to add it to our line up of vegetables for our garden this year! 🙂


Finally, I often rely on some very simple recipes during the week and I wanted to find an easy way to add Kale without much hassle to something I already enjoy. So I made a Kale Parmesan Whole Wheat Pasta dish. It was incredibly simple, just saute some kale, add to whole wheat angel hair pasta with garlic, olive oil and parmesan. It made a great meal and one that is easy to bring to work during the week for lunches!


I think this assignment was a great exercise for me. I often want to try new produce, but hesitate because I’m not sure how to prepare it. This class has really helped to move me outside my comfort zone and gave me some great hands on experience with a variety of produce, grains, ginger, etc. that has helped me gain a little confidence. After preparing both the kale and eggplant in recipes that we really enjoyed, I feel much more excited about giving other produce a try!


Assignment #1

Meal planning has been at the top of my mind since having kids, trying to balance easy, quick meal prep with healthy, kid-friendly meals. Seems like I can stick with planning meals ahead for a few weeks in a row, then inevitably something gets in the way.


Either the kids get sick, we go out of town for a weekend, or some other circumstances throw off my meal planning game for that week. During those weeks, I’m scouring my pantry (pictured) for anything I can throw together to pass as a ‘meal’!

So as it turns out, I was very comfortable with this week’s assignment, considering I often create my own recipes based on the contents of my pantry, freezer, and fridge!

Even though I’m just getting to posting my assignment, I actually completed the meals a couple weeks ago now. I was in luck for week one when we had some left over veggies from my son’s birthday party, brown rice (which I always keep in stock), and a random stir fry sauce packet!


So I turned to one of my staple meals, Stir Fry! I sauteed the broccoli, baby carrots, and snap peas in olive oil, then added the sauce mix. And at the same time, I cooked the brown rice in my rice cooker (I struggle with rice prep – the rice cooker has been helpful in this area!). To top it off, we had some left over fruit from the party too – so not a bad meal!


For the second meal that week, I utilized a few items from our freezer – bag of tator tots, corn, hamburger, and grated zucchini (frozen from our garden), and a couple pantry items I usually have on hand – cream of mushroom/celery soup and green beans and cheese slices. Altogether, these items make a comfort casserole from my childhood – Tator Tot Casserole! 🙂


To make this, I brown the hamburger, mixing at the bottom of the pan with all the veggies and soups , then add a layer of cheese to the top, then carefully lining up all tots. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.


As I said, making a meal on the fly is common place at my house and honestly, I have a tendency to adjust and add random things when following a recipe too. I like to experiment! But one of the reasons I’m taking this class is to become more comfortable using different ingredients and incorporating some new staple meals that I can turn to that are even healthier and hopefully, more plant-based going forward. I was very excited that we were given suggestions for pantry items (so helpful!) and I know once I get used to a few new recipes, I’ll be able to add them to the line up!