Mixed Grain Salad with Avocado and Black Beans

I’ve missed blogging so much…I am really overdue for a post. Not only do I feel I have a responsibility to my you all, my fabulous and inspiring readers, to come up with recipes and accompanying photos, I have to admit there’s a selfish motivation backing this blog as well. Cooking/baking + photography is a stress reliever as well as a creative outlet for me. At the same time, the actual writing part has been more difficult these past few weeks yet I’ve missed all of you dearly in addition to being in the kitchen.

There are many changes going on in my personal life right now…I am an emotional roller coaster to say the least and I am taking one day at a time as I am experiencing a level of sadness and grieving that I’ve never had to before. At the same time, I feel stronger every day as my crying outbursts diminish and my negative feelings are turning into more positive ones. I realize I am being vague but please bear with me as I find myself and my strength with each day that passes, I will eventually be back in full swing again!

Not to mention, I’ve been without internet for the past 11 days so I am happy to report that issue has been remedied this evening…one thing to mark off on my check list. Things are looking up 🙂

While this might not be a crazy creative recipe, it’s very fitting for where I am right now: simple ingredients, good carbs, healthy fats and light summer flavors…this translates into a serotonin rush and a full, happy tummy. Eaten alongside a few of my salted millionaire shortbread bars, I am momentarily transported to my happy place 🙂

This easy grain salad can be made with your favorite gluten free grains, I chose quinoa, millet and amaranth but brown rice, buckwheat or sorghum could also do the trick! If you prefer one grain in particular, feel free to use 1 full cup for an even simpler dish. This recipe is an easy side, quick make-ahead lunch or a filling vegetarian entree…it’s up to you!

Mixed Grain Salad with Avocado and Black Beans

Ingredients

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa (red or white)
1/2 cup uncooked amaranth grain or millet or 1/4 cup of each (I used 1/4 cup both)
2 cups vegetable broth or stock
1 Tbsp coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil or Earth Balance, divided
3/4 cup onion, diced (or even 4 scallions, diced for a variation)
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (or one 15 oz can  rinsed and drained)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped + more for garnish
juice from 1 lime
1 avocado, pit removed and diced into chunks
1/4 cup walnuts (sunflower seeds, pepitas, almonds or your favorite nut can be substituted)
sea salt and pepper to taste

Optional: nutritional yeast or dairy free shredded cheddar cheese for serving

Directions

1. To a medium pot, add quinoa, amaranth/millet, vegetable broth and 1 tsp oil. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes until liquid is absorbed and grains are cooked through. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
2. In a small skillet, heat 2 tsp oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute for about 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent and tender. Toss in the black beans, garlic and ground cumin, cooking for one minute or until fragrant. Remove from heat.
3. Transfer grains to a large mixing bowl. Add onion-bean mixture and toss to combine. Stir in remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with additional cilantro and nutritional yeast or cheese if desired and enjoy!

I ‘ll leave you with a quote that has resonated with me recently:

“When your heart speaks, take good notes.” 
Judith Campbell

No-Oat Granola Bars aka “Birdfood Bites”

I’ve seen a whole bunch of granola bar recipes floating around the internet these days. After spotting several delicious chewy versions over at In Pursuit of More and Food Doodles and TexanErin, I couldn’t get them out of my brain.

Instead of going the oat route, I decided to incorporate my new (food) love — buckwheat. Ever since I made my spiced buckwheat pudding, my cravings have multiplied for this ingredient. That being said, I hope you won’t mind upcoming posts featuring this cute little seed.

Did you ever make those bird feeders as a child with popsicle sticks, peanut butter and bird seeds? The look of these remind me of those homemade bird feeders BUT they are really yummy and made for human consumption. Crunchy yet chewy and full of protein and flavor, these bites are no-bake, nut-free, quick and filling. They are adaptable too; add your favorite dried fruit, spices, seed/nut butter and make it your own. I will be making these again asap with different mix-ins.

I even had Chris saying “Wow” on this recipe. I asked if he would take a bite and before I knew it several whole bars/cones disappeared. He won’t admit it (since it’s classified as gluten-free) but he likes buckwheat too 🙂

No-Oat Granola Bars aka “Birdfood Bites”

Ingredients

3/4 cup raw buckwheat groats
1/2 cup raw millet
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp flaxseeds (or flax meal or more chia – I used sprouted flaxseed)
2-3 Tbsp coconut palm sugar (more or less to taste)
1/3 cup fruit-sweetened cranberries (or cherries, apricots, raisins, blueberries or even coconut)
2 scoops of good tasting vanilla protein powder* (I used Jay Robb’s whey)
pinch of sea salt (if using salted seed/nut butter, omit)
3-4 Tbsp milk (I used coconut) — (if you prefer to use a liquid sweetener instead of coconut sugar, use 3 Tbsp and reduce milk to 1 Tbsp or until it holds together)
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seed butter (or other nut butter – peanut butter or almond butter would be good!)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. Line a loaf pan with parchment OR use silicone molds for single serving treats. (I used a silicone brownie pop mold because I was feeling frisky and wanted a dome shape). Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, add dry ingredients and stir to combine (buckwheat, millet, chia, flax, coconut sugar, salt, cranberries and protein).
3. Add in remaining ingredients (start with the smaller amount of milk and then add) and stir well to combine until sticky and holds together. Use your muscles here!
4. Press firmly into molds or prepared pan to pack well to help mixture to stick together. Let chill in the refrigerator for an hour, cut into bars OR pop out of molds and enjoy!

*soy protein has a drying effect so if you use soy, you might need to increase the amount of liquid in small increments until the mixture holds together. Liquid sweetener might be best if using soy as well.
If you don’t want to use protein powder, feel free to sub finely chopped seeds or nuts in it’s place but you may want to use a liquid sweetener to help hold the mixture together better.

Makes about 10 large squares (loaf pan), 10 brownie pop molds or 13-15 mini muffin mold bites
I store these in the refrigerator, not sure how they would do at room temperature – if you give it a try let me know how it works for you!

Spiced Buckwheat Pudding with Pistachios and Currants

I’ve added buckwheat groats to baked goods before and I’ve ground them into a flour but I’d never cooked the whole kernels until yesterday. Why had I waited so long to do so? I am still asking myself that question…

Cooked buckwheat is creamy, hearty and SO delicious…in fact, buckwheat just might be my new favorite ingredient. Uh oh — Move over oats, buckwheat is now riding shotgun!

I’d been meaning to experiment with cooking whole buckwheat for a while now and I had too many ideas in my head. While I wanted to make two dishes — one sweet and one savory — I only had 3/4 cup of raw groats left in the pantry. Let’s just say my sweet tooth won the battle 🙂

Lightly spiced with cardamon and cinnamon and with a light, earthy sweetness from the coconut sugar, this “pudding” is a filling breakfast or snack and might even pass as a light dessert. The salted pistachios and currants add a lovely texture and flavor that compliment the spices nicely as well. If rice pudding and oatmeal had a baby, I think buckwheat pudding just might be the result…we’ll see, the verdict is still out on that one 🙂

Spiced Buckwheat Pudding with Pistachios and Currants

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup raw buckwheat groats
pinch of salt
2-4 Tbsp coconut sugar – I used 2 Tbsp (stevia, honey, agave or even maple syrup could be used**)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 to 1/2  tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup currants (I used zante, but raisins, cranberries, or cherries would be yummy)
1/3 cup shelled pistachios* (I used roasted and salted)
1-3 Tbsp almond milk or other non-dairy milk**
1-2 scoops of vanilla protein powder, optional but may need a bit more sweetener if omitted

pistachios and currants for garnish, optional

Directions

1. In a medium saucepan, combine water, buckwheat, salt, sweetener, spices and vanilla and stir. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes (depending on the texture and amount of chew you prefer, I cooked mine for 16 minutes).
2. Remove from heat and stir in the currants, pistachios, and almond milk. Let cool slightly and stir in the protein powder if using OR sweeten with additional honey, agave, or coconut sugar to taste. Serve immediately or chill for a hour or overnight and enjoy!

Makes about 3 cups (serves 2-4)

Recipe notes: I enjoyed this dish warmed as well as cold…if I had to choose I might like this chilled a teeny-tiny bit more because it reminded me more of a dessert similar to rice pudding. The warmed version was more like a breakfast oatmeal 🙂

*I used salted pistachios so if you are using unsalted, feel free to add more salt when cooking the buckwheat to enhance the flavors if desired.
**If using a liquid sweetener, you might need to decrease or omit the milk if you want a stiffer pudding, it’s up to you. If vegan, use any sweetener listed except for honey.