Please welcome Elena Dennis to our Joyfoodly community. She’s not only our spring intern at Joyfoodly, but she’s a fellow educator who has a passion for teaching children to love eating seasonal vegetables and fruits through the camp she started at the tender age of 17–Camp Cauliflower. Please welcome Elena as she shares her passion for living veggie love in these next few blog posts:
I still remember the expression on my best friend’s face when I told her. We were sitting in the food court of the Northgate Mall, a bowl of teriyaki chicken and rice placed in front of us. The majority of the broccoli and carrots were pulled to my side of the plate while the tender chicken strips were gathered near her fork. Surprised that I wasn’t digging into the sweet and sour flavors of this slowly roasted bird, I decided to break the news.
That’s right folks. I officially announced my vegetarianism. However, I didn’t realize the slew of questions I would receive when converting over to a life full of veggies. Let me share some of the FAQs I’ve found over my three years of being a veg.
#1: How do you live?
Well, I’m able to talk, breathe, eat, and laugh, so living isn’t too difficult. I’ve never been the biggest red meat eater, and to be honest, I love vegetables so being vegetarian isn’t a bad lifestyle for me. However, I can see why people ask that question all the time, which brings me to #2.
#2: How do you get enough protein?
Research. It’s all about taking out the fat Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition and reading. I’ve found that my favorite sources of protein are quinoa, beans and rice, greek yogurt, and almonds. These are also incredibly versatile ingredients, which you can use and substitute into about any recipe.
#3: What do you usually make for dinner?
And this question brings me to my favorite dish: quinoa bowls. Whether it’s chopped cold carrots and celery or sautéed chard and kale doused in a ginger-miso sauce, I can confidently say that you could put anything on quinoa and feel satisfied after. These fluffy seeds are chock-full of essential amino acids that fulfill my complete protein requirement per day. I’ve been one to sprinkle toasted almonds and pecans over a honey-drizzled bowl of quinoa or create a cheesy quinoa mixture and stuff it into a roasted pepper. However, there is one quinoa dish in particular that I could eat for the rest of my life.
Behold, the Southwestern Black Bean Quinoa Salad. Whew—that’s a mouthful. But it’s a mouthful of deliciousness! I’ve always loved the combination of black beans and cilantro; it reminds of my father’s famous beans and rice that he introduced to me when I was a youngin’. This dish definitely leaves me feeling full, but not lethargic, which is very important as a hustling and bustling student.
With bursting colors of orange, green, white, and black, this zesty salad truly knows how to bring a family together. I’ve been one to finish off a whole bowl of this stuff with my brother and parents in one sitting. Sad? Definitely not! Because even though we left the table feeling as if our stomachs were a couple of inches wider, we were able to enjoy each other’s presence in the process.
- Black beans, 30 oz
- Quinoa, 1 cup (uncooked)
- Cilantro, 1 bunch
- Carrots, 4, medium
- Green onions, 1 bunch
- Limes, 2
- Olive oil, 1/3 cup
- Cumin, 1/4 tsp
- Garlic, 1 clove
- Maple syrup, 1 tsp
- Salt, 1/2 tsp
- Mangoes, 2
- Garlic, 2 cloves
- Habanero pepper, 1-2 (small)
- Shallot, 1
- Lime, 1
- Salt, approximately 1/2 tsp
- Take 5 minutes to get out all your ingredients, measuring and cooking equipment needed, and place them on a cookie sheet within easy reach. Wash all ingredients.
- Cook quinoa. Being 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water up to a boil. Once you reach a boil, turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook for 15 minutes. Leave this mixture cooking while you prep the vegetables.
- Peel and shred the carrots. Place in large mixing bowl.
- Remove lower stems only and rough chop the leaves. Add to carrots.
- Chop the green parts of the green onions and add to the other vegetables. Make sure to save the white parts of the onions for another recipe!
- Drain and rinse black beans. Add them to the bowl.
- Peel and cut mango meat off of pit and place in separate bowl. Using your hands, squeeze pulp off of the pit and place into bowl.
- Peel and chop garlic.
- Rinse and chop Habanero pepper. WARNING: do not touch your eyes after handling Habanero peppers; they will sting! Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands after touching them.
- Peel and finely chop the shallot. Make sure the pieces are very small!
- Juice the lime and add salt. Set aside.
- Once quinoa has finished cooking, take a fork and fluff the grains. Pour the cooked grains onto a cookie sheet, spread them, and let dry while you prepare the vinaigrette.
- Measure out all the ingredients of the lime vinaigrette and whisk in a bowl or quickly blend in blender.
- Add cooked quinoa to the bowl of prepped veggies, give the mixture a solid toss, and then mix in the lime vinaigrette.
- Enjoy a bowl of my Southwestern quinoa dish with a large dollop of mango salsa on top, or eat them separately! Both options are equally delicious!