Recipe: Quinoa Burrito Bowls

Quinoa burrito bowls are maybe my favorite thing on the planet. I definitely did not create this recipe; I just think that the world needs to know about it.  It takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and makes great leftovers and lunches.

quinoa burrito bowl

The dreamy filter I applied to the picture should show just how much I love this dish.  And yes, there is cilantro lime quinoa and a delightful black bean filling underneath the lettuce.

You can find the recipe here.  Go there, make it, and then come back for my topping recommendations.

Things You Should Put on Your Burrito Bowl:

  • Shredded cheese.  Throw it on top of the black beans and let it get a little melt-y.  I have not been eating dairy for a while now, and I use the Go Veggie shreds.  I have to use the microwave to help melt my faux cheese, but it’s worth it.
  • Shredded lettuce.   I cannot get enough of it on mine.   I tried shredding a head of lettuce with my grater but that was an epic fail, so I just finely chop my own.
  • Pico de gallo or salsa.   My favorite is Trader Joe’s hot pico de gallo.
  • Extra tomatoes.  Because DUH.
  • Avocado.  See previous comment.

You can also add other vegetables of your choice, or meat.  I usually just leave this vegetarian, but boyfriend always adds something.  Tonight he tried ground beef taco meat and really liked it, but he has also been known to throw leftover steak or chicken on it as well.

Prepare to meet your next favorite thing ever!  You’re welcome.

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Easy Lunch: Spinach and Tuna Salad

I am a planner.  I have found that planning my meals for the week makes grocery shopping easier and preparing meals throughout the week much faster.  So on Sundays, you will find me in the kitchen most of the day.  Lunch is always a hard decision: I need something that I can transport to school easily, something that holds up well because I never eat at the same time each day, and something that I can put together and eat quickly.   I used to take the prepared Starkist tuna salad packets and eat them on crackers, but about a year ago I came up with this little “recipe” for a healthier twist on tuna salad.  This is my go-to if I do not have any leftovers and I never really get sick of it.  Plus, it is under 250 calories and has a good amount of protein to keep me going all afternoon.  This is key, because if you know me you know that I am not fun when I am hungry.  Anyway.

tuna and greens

Spinach and Tuna Salad

  • 1 1/2 – 2 c. baby spinach (You can really use any kind of greens – I say the darker and leafier*, the better.)
  • 1 packet Starkist Tuna Creations (Sweet and Spicy is my favorite, but they have several flavors)
  • 1 t. Dijon mustard (Trader Joes Dijon with white wine is my favorite – it has a little kick to it)
  • 1 t. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 t. olive oil

For school days, I put the mustard, balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a small plastic container and shake it up.   Shake it again when you are ready to eat and pour over Spinach.   Shake to coat (I always eat this in a plastic container.  If you are using an actual bowl like a real person: first of all good job and secondly, just toss to coat.) and top with tuna.

*I can’t prove that “leafier” is actually a word, but it sounds good.

Recipe: Sweet and Spicy Pulled Chicken AND Sweet Asian Slaw

For the NFL playoffs, I thought an easy crock pot meal was in order. Plus, it gave me an excuse to experiment.  I have a favorite chicken marinade that is based on one of my mom’s recipes, and I have always wondered how it would work as a crock pot sauce.  It was, as I expected, delightful.

This marinade recipe makes a little more than what you will need for cooking, but save the excess.  It would be great as a sauce if you whisked it with a little cornstarch or as extra liquid for storing leftover chicken.

Sweet and Spicy Pulled Chicken

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • cooking spray
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 – 1 1/2 t. crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 c. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

Spray the crock pot with cooking spray and place chicken breasts on the bottom.  Whisk together the remaining ingredients.  Adjust to your taste.  Pour until marinade covers chicken like the picture below and cook on LOW for 6 hours or HIGH for 3 hours.

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Shred the chicken and return to the crock pot. Switch to WARM and let sit for about 30 minutes to soak in the sauce.  Serve as a sandwich or on a bed of coleslaw (bonus recipe below). It was also delicious with some pineapple. Naturally, boyfriend used both on his sandwich.

Update (1/28/15):

After making a Skinnytaste recipe this week that had a similar sort of feel to it, I would recommend a couple new steps at the end of this recipe:

  • After shredding the chicken, leave it out of the crockpot.
  • Dissolve some cornstarch in warm water (about 1 Tbsp. and 1/4-1/3 c. water) and stir into remaining sauce in the crock pot.
  • Turn crock pot to HIGH for about 20 min. to let the sauce thicken
  • Add chicken back in, toss to combine.

After you add the chicken back in and toss, turn the crockpot to WARM or OFF.  Nobody likes burned chicken.

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Bonus Recipe: Sweet Asian Slaw

  • 1 package coleslaw mix
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. sliced almonds
  • 1 package Ramen, noodles only, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. Stevia or Splenda (6 packets, in case you only buy those like me)
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. canola or vegetable oil

Combine coleslaw, green onions, almonds, and Ramen in a bowl.  Whisk (or throw in a jar and shake) remaining ingredients.  Add to the coleslaw mixture and enjoy! Tip: if you are not going to finish this in one sitting (it yields about 6 servings), put the Ramen on individually.  For the sandwiches, I omitted the Ramen (mostly because I forgot to buy it).

Recipe: Meatloaf

I definitely do not have a catchy name for this one.  It’s just meat loaf, but it is a particularly delicious one with tons of flavor.  And, it happens to be one of boyfriend’s favorite meals. Because I’m romantic, I made this for our “anniversary of our first date,” which is actually the only anniversary we celebrate but still must be called by its very specific name. Anyway.

Meatloaf

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped bell pepper (I used green this time)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 t. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. mustard
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire
  • heaping 1/3 c. panko

Mix all ingredients (your hands work best) in a large bowl.  Let sit while you preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly spray either two small or one large loaf pan. Bake 45-50 minutes. Top with ketchup if you desire (boyfriend requires this, I do not).

Side note: I realize that I should start choosing prettier foods to blog. I’ll work on that.

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Review: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

vanishing seaosn

Right before Winter Break I was reading through several “best of the year” book lists and came across a summary of The Vanishing Season.  I was all, “That sounds awesome! Why didn’t I buy it for my library?”  Then I checked my catalog and lo and behold, I did buy it.  I am not sure how this one slipped past me without me reading it yet, so I added it to the top of my Winter Break reading queue.

This book was reminiscent of Lauren Oliver’s Rooms (a YA version, of course), Elizabeth LaBan’s The Tragedy Paper, and Mary Downing Hahn’s Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls.  A ghost living in the basement of a Door County, Wisconsin home sees that girls are being kidnapped and later showing up dead in the lake.  Meanwhile, Maggie and her family have moved into the ghost’s house from Chicago after falling on hard times.  Maggie becomes friends with the beautiful and quirky girl next door and the quiet, strange boy who lives through the woods.  The ghost knows she is tied to these teens, but does not realize exactly how until it is too late.

My opinion? I really like this for older middle school and high school readers.  The author paints a beautiful picture of a tight-knit small town that has suddenly become cold and dangerous.  The characters are believable, and readers will be hooked as they try to uncover the killer. I cannot wait to (finally) return this to school and get it in the hands of my students.

Recipe: Overnight PB-Banana Oats

I don’t know about you, but I have always struggled with finding the perfect weekday breakfast.  I get up pretty early, and if I do not eat something substantial my whole day pretty much goes downhill.  I was on a smoothie kick for a while (like, an entire year), but I have found something that keeps me full way longer – oatmeal.  Bonus: you prep this the night before, so it is ready to go in the morning.

I originally started with a recipe from the Skinnytaste cookbook (if you do not own this, you should). After her PB&J oats rocked my world for a while I began experimenting with other mix-ins and came upon this beautiful combo.  I am a huge fan of anything peanut butter and banana.  When I heat these oats in the morning, they are as magical as something I am eating before 7 a.m. can be.

They’re pretty good after 7 a.m. too.

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PB-Banana Overnight Oats

  • 1/4 c. old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened* almond milk
  • 1 packet Stevia*
  • 1/2 banana, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. Chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. peanut butter

Combine all of the above ingredients except the peanut butter in a microwave-safe container.  Cover and refrigerate overnight. When you are ready to eat, heat for about 1 – 1 1/2 minutes, stir in peanut butter, and enjoy.

I do hear that you can eat this stuff cold, but that just isn’t my style.

*If you only have sweetened almond milk, lose the sweetener. I have no idea what would happen if you used regular cow’s milk as far as the sweetener goes, so let me know if you try it!

Recipe: Quick Pesto Pasta with Veggies

I love quick recipes during the week, and it does not get any easier than this pesto pasta with vegetables (and chicken, if you require it – boyfriend does). This is my interpretation of the Pesto Cavatappi at Noodles & Co., which is my favorite thing on the menu.  You can play with the type of noodle (I use whatever I have around), amount of pesto, and types of vegetables.  I know sometimes people are crazy not fans of mushrooms, so you can always omit or add other things. I bet zucchini would be good in this, now that I think about it…

Bonus: according to MyFitnessPal, one serving of the recipe below is 313 calories. I’ll take it!

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Pesto Pasta with Veggies (serves 4)

  • 8 oz. short pasta (I use whole wheat rotini)
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 oz. prepared pesto (I use about half of a Trader Joe’s container)
  • 4 sweet baby peppers or about 1/2 of any color bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 c. sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 c. grape tomatoes, quartered
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • shredded Parmesan (optional)
  • shredded or sliced chicken breast (optional)

Cook pasta according to directions on the package.  Drain and leave in colander. While pasta cooks, chop vegetables.  Spray the same pot used to boil the pasta (you could totally do this in a skillet as well, but I am all about saving dishes when I can) with cooking spray and saute vegetables over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.  I usually judge this part by the mushrooms – when they’re soft, you’re good. Add pasta back to the pot with vegetables and stir in pesto.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with a sprinkling of shredded Parmesan (I promise, grated is not as good for this recipe) and chicken, if you so desire. This is great leftover for lunch as well!

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Review: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

all the light

Those of you who know me know that I generally read YA (young adult) literature.  Being a middle school librarian, it is kind of important that I keep up with that age group.  However, I do allow myself to get crazy and read “grown up” books from time to time.  Generally, I do this when the “Best Books of [insert year here]” lists come out at the end of each calendar year. I see which adult titles are receiving buzz and the librarian in me feels obligated to read them. Long story short, that is how I came upon All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  I was not even a little bit in the mood to read a World War II epic, especially since I had just finished a cutesy adventure book aimed at 11 year olds.  With the library’s eBook loan clock ticking, I gave in.

I am SO GLAD I gave in.

It is not often that I stop while reading to marvel in the actual writing. I usually read quickly, sometimes (OKAY boyfriend, you’re right) skimming.  I do not often stop and re-read sentences just to revel in the words and structure and admire the author’s craft.  This book made me stop, re-read, and wonder how someone could come up with such beautiful sentences.

Okay, enough of my weird love for storytelling and sentences and other really nerdy things.  The story.

The story follows to children – a French girl and a German boy – through the devastation of World War II.  Werner is an orphan whose mechanical aptitude lands him a spot in a Hitler Youth program, where he is trained and eventually sent out to track enemy radio broadcasts.  Marie-Laure and her father are forced to flee their home in Paris for a town by the sea when the Germans occupy the city. Her father is entrusted with a priceless and dangerous relic from the museum in which he works. Marie-Laure is blind, and is left alone in the town by the sea when the Germans take over and, as you might guess, crosses paths with Werner.  The author made the characters so likable that I did not want the story to end.  Like, I was seriously upset. I completely understand why this book is receiving so much praise. This is absolutely worth the read (and trust me, I do not always say that).

In unrelated news, I have an Instagram account for all the books I read.  If you want to catch up, follow me at @the_loudlibrarian!

Recipe: Vegetable Soup with a Kick

Vegetable soup is my go-to anytime I feel like I need a boost of vitamins or to get back on track after overindulging.  Since I am heading back to school from winter break, I whipped up a big batch of this soup to take in my lunch all week.

Years ago, my mom taught me how to make the basic Weight Watchers vegetable soup. Over timeI have played with the recipe and I think I have finally gotten it right. It’s the Sriracha that really makes the soup, in my opinion. It doesn’t take a lot and it adds that little something extra that keeps the soup from being your typical, boring vegetable soup.

Vegetable Soup with a Kick

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2-3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste (start with 1/2 tsp. and add from there)
  • 15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 c. frozen corn kernels
  • 1 c. frozen French cut green beans
  • 1/4 head green cabbage, chopped
  • 32 oz. carton lower sodium vegetable broth
  • 1-2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 – 1 tsp. Sriracha (to your taste)

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Heat olive oil over medium to medium-high heat in a large stock pot. Sautee carrots, onion, celery, and garlic for about 3-4 minutes, or until slightly softened.  Add zucchini, salt, and pepper, and sautee for an addition 1-2 minutes.

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Add broth and tomatoes.  Cover and bring to a boil.

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Once the soup is boiling, add cabbage, green beans, corn, Italian seasoning, and Sriracha. If like heat, give the Sriracha a good squirt. If you are unsure, add a little bit at a time.  Turn heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Enjoy!  It makes great leftovers.

Of course, now that I added all of these photos I have realized that vegetable soup really isn’t pretty.  Good start, me! *self high five*

Here we go…

I have been thinking about starting a blog for a while now, and the beginning of the new year seemed like the perfect time to jump in.  Every article I read about blogging recommended that bloggers stick with one topic per blog.  I, however, could not decide between my two favorite things: cooking (let’s be real, that is a favorite because I love EATING) and reading.  Ergo, Lit and Lemons was born!  Thanks for stopping and reading, and be sure to check back for recipe ideas and book recommendations.