Brazilian BBQ Quinoa Bowls

It is rare that I go out for lunch, typically opting to bring my own (or scrounge an affectionately called “Workiva Special” from the complimentary office snacks) since it’s much cheaper and much easier to make healthy choices. However, on the days I am not on top of life and don’t want to eat yet another quesadilla, my favorite quick, inexpensive, and reasonably healthy spot is a local Brazilian BBQ place. Since you pick your base, your toppings, and your sauce, it’s easy to customize and they offer lots of vegetables. (Plus they have sweet potatoes, which is a sure way to win me over.) My go-to order is brown rice with greens, roasted root vegetables, black beans, steamed collard greens, and their mango BBQ sauce: delicious, filling, and a hefty serving of vegetables all in one.

Since all of these components are pretty simple to make, craft night with friends seemed like a great chance to try my own version. Although it requires a fair amount of prep work and oven time, it’s definitely not complicated and allows all your guests to adjust their bowls to their own preferences. If you use vegetable broth or water to cook the quinoa, your vegetarian and vegan friends can easily join in. And if there are any leftovers, everything reheats great.

For the roasted vegetables I chose sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant, but you can obviously pick whichever ones you want. Just make sure to adjust your baking times accordingly, as everything can take somewhat different times to reach their optimal texture. Potatoes take the longest, followed by things like broccoli or Brussels sprouts, and peppers or summer squash take the least. Keep an eye on things in the oven and you’re good to go.

Stir-fried steak is easy and doesn’t take any extra oven space, but shredded (or diced) pork or chicken are also great options. Not a meat-eater? Just skip this step entirely, the bowls are delicious without any animals in them too. I tend to eat quinoa in lieu of rice, but any similar grain will work great. I like to cook my quinoa in broth to give it a bit more flavor, but if you don’t have any around just use water as normal. Spinach goes with everything so I sautéed some here, and also added some black beans because why not.

Now, let’s talk about some sauce.

As a huge fan of barbecue sauce in general, the mango version at Five on Black is a fun twist on a classic. I slightly adapted a recipe with a similar profile and it really takes these bowls up a notch. Obviously you can substitute your favorite homemade or store-bought sauce, but if you have the time I hope you give this one a shot. Lightly sweetened with maple syrup, a vaguely tropical flavor profile from the mango, and a little kick of chipotle, this sauce hits all the right taste buds in all the right places. Definitely use a very ripe mango for the best flavor, and adjust the syrup and adobo sauce amounts in order to lean sweeter or spicier. I’m pretty wussy about spice so I didn’t add any extra, but if you like a spicy experience you could easily double or triple the adobo sauce, or even add an extra chipotle pepper.

Tons of veggies, good sources of protein, and a magnificent sauce come together in a wonderful and healthy meal, perfect for all weather. Give my version a try or create your own, but be sure to let me know what you come up with!

Brazilian BBQ Quinoa Bowls

Inspired by Five on Black
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

3-4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 bell peppers, seeded and sliced
1 eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp olive oil

2 lbs steak, thinly sliced1
1 Tbsp olive oil

3 cups broth or water1
1.5 cups quinoa

8-10 cups spinach and/or kale
1 tbsp olive oil

1 recipe Mango Chipotle BBQ Sauce (below)
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
optional toppings: chives, green onion, etc

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, adjusting shelves to fit two pans. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix sweet potatoes and 1 Tbsp olive oil until well coated. Spread in one layer on one of the prepared baking sheets.
  3. In the same bowl, mix eggplant and 1/2 Tbsp olive until well coated. Spread in one layer on half of the other baking sheet.
  4. In the same bowl, mix eggplant and 1/2 Tbsp olive until well coated. Spread on the other half of the baking sheet.
  5. Place sweet potatoes on the top rack and roast for about 40 minutes, until softened and lightly browned.
  6. After about 20 minutes, place eggplant and peppers in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes, until peppers are starting to blacken and eggplant is nicely browned.
  7. Meanwhile, cook quinoa in broth or water according to package directions.
  8. When the vegetables are almost done, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high in a large wok or frying pan.
  9. Add the steak and sauté until browned. Drain, remove from pan, and set aside. (Obviously skip this for vegetarian/vegan modification.)
  10. Wipe out extra meat juice from the wok, and heat another tablespoon of olive oil.
  11. Add spinach/kale and sauté until wilted and heated through.
  12. For each bowl, start with quinoa, and arrange veggies, beans, steak, and greens on top. Drizzle with mango BBQ sauce, and optionally top with green onion.
  13. Enjoy hot and refrigerate any leftovers in separate containers, for easy build-your-own dinners and lunches.

Notes

For a vegetarian or vegan meal, skip the meat and use water or vegetable broth to cook the quinoa.

Mango Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Adapted from 1 Big Bite
Makes 3-4 cups

Ingredients

1 very ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 (15 oz) can, fire-roasted diced tomatoes (drained)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 chipotle pepper (from a can of chipotles in a adobo)
1 Tbsp adobo sauce (from the same can)
1 Tbsp molasses
1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce2
1 tsp salt

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to medium low, cover with a lid, and simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat and puree completely using an immersion blender1.
  4. If desired, stir in additional syrup or adobo sauce to suit your preferences.
  5. Store in sealed container in the refrigerator.

Notes

If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a regular one or a food processor, but let the sauce cool for about 10 minutes first.

2 This recipe is vegan if you choose a vegan Worcestershire sauce.

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Sweet Potato Grilled Cheese

Happy April! Meatless March is over but, psych! Here’s another vegetarian recipe. I actually did not struggle too badly with the no meat thing until the last week, at which point I suddenly had the giantest of cravings for a Canyon Creek burger from Ted’s Montana grill. I still have not satiated this craving, but it’ll just be all the better when I do.

Regardless, in case you are not aware, April is National Grilled Cheese Month! Yep, that’s a thing. ‘Merica. I happen to super love grilled cheese and as such will be employing the theme this month; check for a new flavor every week. Hope you enjoy the series!

First off I went with one of my favorite things, sweet potato. You may have noticed I have a slight obsession so if it’s not your thing just close this tab and come back next week. If it is your thing, however, trust me when I say this is a grand adventure for your mouth. Several weeks ago a friend was making dinner and ran out of the main course (in her defense, I arrived quite late) and offered to make me a grilled cheese. On a whim she threw some cooked sweet potato in with it and on that day began a new era.

In my version I upped the flavor complexity a bit by mashing my sweet potato with goat cheese and a little chipotle, and then layered it with sliced Gruyère. I opted for sourdough bread from a local bakery but I think a seeded multigrain would also be excellent, as well as a fluffy potato bread. Whatever you decide to envelope your cheese delight with, I’m sure you’ll be thrilled with the outcome.

Creamy sweet potato with the slight tang of goat cheese pairs beautifully with Gruyère, and the chipotle adds a nice little kick. I made mine pretty mild (shocking, I know) but you can definitely play with the ratios to suit your fancy. Step up your grilled cheese game and make yourself a Real Adult Dinner this evening.

But if you want to pair it with chocolate milk, I won’t judge.

Sweet Potato Grilled Cheese
Makes 1 sandwich

Ingredients

1/4 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
2 Tbsp goat cheese
1/8 tsp ground chipotle, to taste (or cinnamon!)

2 oz Gruyère cheese, thinly sliced

2 slices bread
butter or oil

Directions

  1. In a medium pan (big enough to fit both slices side by side), heat a little butter or oil over medium-low.
  2. Meanwhile, mash together sweet potato, goat cheese, and chipotle; add more spice if necessary.
  3. Spread sweet potato mixture on one slice of bread, and arrange Gruyère in a single layer on the other.
  4. Place a lid (or a plate, or whatever you have around) over the pan and continue to cook low and slow until the Gruyère is melty and the sweet potato is hot.
  5. Gently transfer one side on top of the other, and cook an additional 30-60 seconds so the flavors meld.
  6. Remove from pan, slice in half, and enjoy immediately.

Notes

I like this method of grilled cheese preparation because it doesn’t require flipping the whole sandwich, and I think the cheese melts faster, but feel free to use your own preferred method!

Sweet Potato Lasagna Shells

For this month’s mindfulness challenge, I am doing Mindful Eating II: Meatless March. This is less an effort about specifically giving up meat since I don’t feel particularly dependent on it (especially when M is out of town), and more an effort to continue to venture into new recipe worlds and expand my go-to repertoire.

Last month I made a delicious sweet potato lasagna out of the fantastic cookbook I got for Christmas: Run Fast, Eat Slow. Although I would love to share these recipes with you, as the authors do not make them freely available online I don’t feel I should either. I can say that 100% of the recipes I’ve made from it are just absolutely fabulous, and I highly recommend you buy it. I’m not affiliated in any way, just a super huge fan!

In any case, inspired by the sweet potato ricotta mixture that made up one of the lasagna layers, I created a meatless dish with similar flavors. I’ve always been intrigued by those jumbo pasta shells and often see recipes in my Pinterest feed, but somehow have never actually made them. I determined now was a good a time as any and set out to make sweet potato lasagna shells.

Sweet potato, ricotta, and spinach make a glorious filling, surrounded by a typical but delightful spaghetti sauce. You can never have too much cheese so some shredded Parmesan graces the top of the dish. The finished product is creamy and a fun mix of sweet with just a little spice from the sauce, which makes it a great way to jazz up an otherwise traditional pairing.

I used a convenient jarred sauce as I was crunched for time, but this would be extra delightful with your favorite homemade version. Extra diced and sautéed veggies, a little crushed red pepper, a splash of red wine, and you’re good to go. I decided I didn’t want my shells to be drenched in sauce, but if you like alllll the sauce then definitely use the larger end of the range listed in the recipe.

My friends know I could eat sweet potatoes all day every day, but I have to stress this is probably one of my new favorite dishes. I split my recipe into two 8×8″ pans and placed one in the freezer to bake later, and I’m already excited to have it again. It reheats great for leftovers and goes excellent with a side salad or roasted veggies.

This is a slightly time-consuming meal since you have to cook the shells and stuff them before baking the whole shebang, but it can be made more weeknight friendly by making the filling and the sauce ahead of time, or even assembling the dish completely and refrigerating until you’re ready to bake it. This may increase the baking time a bit so make sure you check the shells are heated through.

And just in case the crew you’re feeding can’t possibly give up meat, this dish would be excellent with some diced bacon or your favorite ground meat in the sauce.

Sweet Potato Lasagna Shells

Inspired by Run Fast, Eat Slow
Serves 8-10

Ingredients

1 box jumbo pasta shells (40+ shells)

1 medium onion, diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil

32-48 oz spaghetti sauce (use the larger amount if you like lots of sauce)
2-4 Tbsp red wine (optional)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

1 cup shredded Parmesan  or mozzarella cheese
freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 cups cooked sweet potato puree
16 oz whole-fat ricotta cheese
1 cup (packed) finely chopped spinach
2 eggs, beaten

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, 1 minute less than al dente. Drain, rinse in cool water, and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic and sauté until onions are softened and translucent.
  4. Add spaghetti sauce, red wine, and pepper flakes reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, mix together sweet potato, ricotta, spinach, and eggs until completely combined.
  6. Transfer ricotta mixture to a large Ziploc bag and snip a 1/2″ slice off the tip.
  7. Stuff shells with the filling, about two tablespoons per shell.
  8. Spread about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish.
  9. Arrange the shells in a single layer in the dish. You should be able to squish about 40 shells into the pan. (I had a couple ripped shells, and a couple extra filled ones, which made a great mid-cooking snack.)
  10. Spread remaining sauce on top of the shells and sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese. Add freshly ground pepper, to taste.
  11. Cover pan with foil and bake until sauce is bubbly, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and lightly browned.
  12. Serve hot with your favorite roasted vegetable (goes great with Brussels sprouts!)

Notes

If you’re feeling omnivorous, some bacon, pancetta, or Italian sausage would be great additions to the sauce.

If you’re vegetarian such that you don’t eat eggs, you can just leave these out. The texture will be a little different (a bit runnier) but the flavor will still be great.

Sweet Potato Soup

As you may have noticed, I love me some sweet potatoes. Served with eggs for breakfast, in a salad for lunch, or as a side of fries for dinner, they are fantastic for any and every meal of the day. Even better, they are a pretty healthy option and low on the glycemic index, which is great for those of you that care about things like that.

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

A few months ago I started meal prepping for my work lunches. Each weekend I make a meal and portion into lunch-sized servings to eat throughout the week. I try to change it up each week with salads, quinoa bowls, spaghetti squash, etc, so I don’t get bored. It has helped a lot to have healthy meals ready to go and in correct portions for each day of the week, as well as given me the opportunity to try lots of new recipes that wouldn’t be particularly appealing to M.

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

One of the new recipes I’ve tried is this sweet potato soup. I made a few changes to the original, by substituting zucchini for celery and nixing the nutmeg in favor of chipotle. It’s light but filling, vegetarian (vegan if you want), and makes a great lunch for chilly days, especially when served with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts. This soup reheats perfectly and is nice and thick, which I personally think makes it feel more filling. I like mine extra thick but you can use 1 less potato or add a little extra stock/water to thin yours down if you prefer.

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

Smooth and creamy and with great sweet potato flavor, this soup has a slight kick from the cinnamon and chipotle that tones down its inherent sweetness. I have a pretty low spice tolerance, so feel free to up the spices if you want a more kapow flavor, but I recommend waiting till after it’s puréed to do so.

This soup is pretty simple and relatively quick, which makes it a pretty good weeknight dinner even without leftovers. Alternatively, it also works great in the slow cooker, so I have instructions for both methods below. Serve with a side of roasted broccoli or Brussels sprouts and a savory whole-grain bread to hit all the food groups and most of the rainbow.

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

PS – Isn’t this bowl so great? It has a handle and a water-tight vented lid which makes it a great to-go option and perfect for heating in the microwave. I got it in 6 different colors and I’m very excited to use them both for work lunches and for showcasing new recipes on here!

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

Sweet Potato Soup

Adapted from I Heart Naptime
Makes about 3 quarts (8-12 servings)

Ingredients

2 Tbsp unsalted butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup diced zucchini (or celery)
3 cloves garlic, minced

3-4 medium-large sweet potatoes, washed and cubed  (about 10 cups)
4 cups vegetable stock

1 tsp ground cinnamon, to taste
1/2 tsp ground chipotle, to taste
pinch of salt

1/3 cup whipping cream, optional

Stove Top Directions

  1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add onions, zucchini (or celery), and garlic, and sauté about 5 minutes, or until onion is softened and translucent.
  2. Increase heat to high and add sweet potatoes, vegetable stock, and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
  3. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender (or any blender) to purée the soup completely.
  4. Stir in the cream and have a quick taste. If desired, add extra spices now.
  5. Either serve immediately or return to the stove to simmer until ready to eat. (If you added more spice, I recommend simmering for at least 10 minutes afterwards.)
  6. Serve topped with a sprinkle of extra cinnamon or chipotle if desired.

Slow Cooker Directions

  1. Add all ingredients except cream to a slow cooker (you can nix the butter/oil if you want.)
  2. Cook on high 3-4 hours, or on low 6-8 hours, or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
  3. Use an immersion blender (or any blender) to purée the soup completely.
  4. Stir in the cream and have a quick taste. If desired, add extra spices now.
  5. Either serve immediately or return to slow cooker on “warm” until ready to eat. (If you added more spice, I recommend cooking for at least 10 minutes afterwards.)
  6. Served topped with a sprinkle of extra cinnamon or chipotle if desired.

Notes

Vegans can either leave this out, or substitute coconut cream (or milk), although it may give the soup a slight coconut flavor if you do so.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad with Cinnamon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Lately I’ve been all aboard the sweet potato train, and today’s post will hopefully get you on the bandwagon as well. I love sweet potatoes in pretty much any form, and could happily eat them for several meals a day. Luckily they are great all year round as French fries or a delicious breakfast, and work just as well in salads as they do in soups and chilis.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Several months ago my office had a catered lunch that was a bit higher class than our norm. Although all the food was delicious, the one that made the most impact on me was an arugula and spiced sweet potato quinoa salad. Their version was sweet, with heavily candied nuts, sugary dried cranberries, and a sweetened balsamic vinaigrette amongst the quinoa, arugula, and goat cheese. Although I loved this combination, it really was like eating dessert with arugula in it which isn’t necessarily something I want to do very often.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Inspired by their concoction, I opted to test out a more savory version for myself. I kept the cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes but only lightly honeyed my walnuts. I also nixed the cranberries and used bacon instead, and adjusted the arugula:quinoa ratio to be more in favor of the former. Originally I was going to use brie as chèvre (goat cheese) can be exorbitantly expensive, but I discovered Costco carries goat cheese at an incredibly reasonable price and so I kept that flavor as well. Feel free to substitute brie or another neutral soft cheese if you prefer.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

The spiced sweet potatoes, salty bacon, creamy chèvre and lightly sweetened and toasted walnuts come together in that fantastic sweet-and-salty juxtaposition that is so popular these days. Arugula and quinoa make a great base and let salad act either as a light lunch or a great side dish.

To round out the experience, I made a cinnamon balsamic vinaigrette only slightly sweetened with honey to mellow the flavor. The dressing gives the salad more of a punch of flavor, and I highly recommend you make it too. In fact, maybe make extra and use it on your other salads too since it’s just that delicious.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Although my original recipe is clearly neither vegetarian nor vegan, it could easily be altered for those diet preferences. Vegetarians can simply ditch the bacon, and a pinch of salt to the dressing, and carry on as normal. Vegans will want to substitute maple syrup in lieu of the honey as well as nix the cheese. You may want to add another ingredient to round it out, dried cranberries or salted almonds would both be great options, depending on which flavor route you want to go.

Full of cinnamon flavor, tasty sweet potatoes and a tinge of sweetness, this would be a superb side dish to grace your Thanksgiving table. Instead of those overly sugary sweet potato and marshmallow concoctions normally served this time of year, this salad would be a healthier and more sophisticated twist for this year. Even better, you can absolutely make it ahead (even a few days!) and store it in the fridge until ready to use. It’s delicious cold, at room temperature, or warmed, so pick your favorite or the most convenient and serve it as such.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

The dressing makes a fair amount, so start with half of the recipe and stir in more to taste or serve on the side for guests to add as they like. I am personally a light dressing kind of person but many people prefer a stronger flavor, and it’s good to have options.

If you’re not doing the Thanksgiving thing, or don’t want to wait that long, this also make a great lunch. I made a batch on Sunday and got about 4-5 lunches out of it. Stored in the fridge, it reheated beautifully at work for the rest of the week. Additionally, if you’re not a fan of arugula, some kind of baby spring mix would be a great substitution.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad & Cinnamon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Inspired by Food for Thought and Just a Pinch
Serves 6-8 (side dish) or about 4 (lunch)

Ingredients

Salad
4 cups cubed sweet potatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup

6 slices bacon (optional)1

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

5 oz arugula (or leafy veggie/mix of choice)
~4oz goat cheese (or brie, optional)1

Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey or maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine sweet potatoes, olive oil, and cinnamon. Stir with a rubber scraper until potatoes are well coated. Arrange in one layer on half of a cookie sheet.
  3. In the same bowl, combine walnuts and honey and stir until completely coated. (Heat the honey sightly to liquify for easier stirring.) Arrange in one layer on the other half of the cookie sheet.
  4. Arrange bacon in one layer on the other cookie sheet.
  5. Place cookie sheets in oven (I put the potatoes on the middle rung, and the bacon one rung below it) and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until walnuts are lightly toasted.
  6. Remove the walnuts to a plate to cool. Continue baking potatoes and bacon for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, and bacon is cooked to desired doneness.
  7. Remove bacon to paper towels to cool, pressing to remove excess grease. Dice bacon and set aside.
  8. Meanwhile, in a medium pot bring quinoa and water to a boil, then cover and simmer until all liquid is soaked up, about 15 minutes. Uncover and set aside.
  9. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients until completely combined.
  10. In a large bowl, combine arugula and half the dressing, tossing to coat. Add quinoa and sweet potatoes, and stir gently until well combined.
  11. Add walnuts (breaking apart if necessary), diced bacon, and goat cheese, stirring gently to combine.
  12. Serve immediately, later today, or tomorrow since it’s good at pretty much any temperature. Store leftovers in the fridge, or make it ahead the night before. Reheats well with a brief stint in the microwave and is also excellent right out of the fridge.
  13. Add additional dressing just before serving if necessary, or serve it on the side.
  14. Delicious as a side dish (6-8 servings) or for a lighter lunch (4 servings).

Notes

For a vegetarian option, just leave out the bacon, it’s great without it too! To get that added salty flavor, add a pinch to the dressing or include a few chopped salted almonds in its place. Vegans could also use maple syrup and ditch the cheese, although you may want to add another ingredient (maybe dried cranberries?), and follow the same salty suggestion.