Chick Pea and Pasta Salad—just the right kick

Chick peas are a great source of protein and who doesn’t love pasta salads? I thought chick peas were essentially flavourless, but they add the perfect tasty kick to this simple whole grain dish.

So simple, so savoury! (Photo courtesy of iStock)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chick peas, dry (or canned, but dried is healthier and better for the environment)
  • 1/2 stalk of celery
  • 100 g whole wheat pasta of your choice (fusilli, penne, go wild!)
  • 3 strips of green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil Tuscan Italian dressing (Kraft)
  • salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Rinse one cup of dry chick peas and place in a pot, then fill with water. The water should be about an inch higher than the chick peas. Cover and let soak overnight.
  2. Dump the water and rinse the chick peas. Add half a stalk of celery and fill the pot with water again.
  3. Boil the chick peas for 1 to 1.5 hours, until tender. Add salt to taste. When the chick peas are done cooking, they will have grown to double their original size (so now we have two cups!).
  4. Remove the celery and let the chick peas cool. Then add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and refrigerate the chick peas. They make a great addition to any salad!
  5. Boil water. At boiling point, add whole grain pasta and cook following the directions on the pasta package.
  6. Let pasta cool. Chop green peppers.
  7. Then mix peppers, pasta, 1/2 cup chickpeas and 1/2 tablespoon of salad dressing. Delish!

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Pasta e Fagioli: my favourite dish! (even more than tacos?)

This is the one dish that can make me full. It takes 1.5 hours to make the beans and then 20 minutes to cook the pasta. Once the beans and pasta meet, your stomach will rumble. Once the beans and pasta meet your stomach, you’ll  be full!

A satisfying, complete protein that's bound to fill you up

Ingredients

  • 1 can Romano beans (540 mL) or 3/4 cup dried beans
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 carrot, peeled
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of cavatelli pasta or a small whole grain pasta
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
  • chili flakes (optional)

Directions

  1. Before you do anything, note that if you are cooking with dried beans (the healthy choice!), they need to be soaked overnight and then cooked for 1 hour before you proceed with this recipe.
  2. Heat up pot with 1 teaspoon of olive oil (for one minute or so).
  3. Cut the onion in two. Chop one half into tiny pieces. Add onion and carrot to olive oil and cook for a few minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, pass tomatoes through a vegetable mill and set aside.
  5. When the onions seem to have started cooking,  add the tomato sauce to the pot and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Rinse the beans with water (the dried beans are already rinsed) and add beans to tomato sauce. Fill can with water and add water to pot.
  7. Cook beans for 1 to 1.5 hours, checking often.
  8. 45 minutes into the beans cooking, add salt and black pepper for taste.
  9. Once the beans are ready (taste test!), boil water and cook pasta.
  10. Serve beans and pasta in a bowl and add grated Parmesan cheese and chili flakes for flavour. Prepare to be satisfied!

Note: You may wish to double the recipe so you have leftovers for the next day. Yum! If you’re the only one consuming the above recipe, there is already enough for leftovers.

Serves 2

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Mexican Rice Salad: so delicious & bursting with veggies

Load up on fibre, protein and healthy vitamins! This Mexican rice salad  makes a savoury snack or side dish. Serve with refried beans and a side of salsa and Greek yogurt for snack, or with quesadillas to make a meal. You can personalize the rice salad to match any leftover vegetables lying about the house.


Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup rice, cooked (healthier to use brown rice)
  • 3 tbsp niblets (or corn kernels)
  • 2 stalks green onions, chopped
  • 2 small slices jalapeno pepper, diced
  • 1 sprig cilantro
  • 1 tsp taco seasoning
  • 1/2 cup refried beans
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt

Directions

  1. Place rice in pot and fill with water. Boil until rice is cooked. Mix with niblets and heat for 5 minutes. Mix in taco seasoning.
  2. Place rice and niblets in bowl and add green onions, jalapeno pepper and cilantro. Mix.
  3. Place refried beans into a pan and heat with a touch of water.
  4. Serve refried beans, salsa and Greek yogurt alongside Mexican rice salad. Each spoonful bursts with a different taste!

A different angle of deliciousness.

Nutrition information:

Calories: 341
Fat: 1.4 g
Saturated fat: 0.1 g
Trans fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0
Sodium: 945 g (too much, try to find low-sodium beans)
Carbohydrates: 69.7 g
Fibre: 9.3 g (excellent! now imagine it with brown rice)
Sugar: 7.2 g
Protein: 18.2 g (incredible!)
Vitamin A: 14%
Vitamin C: 10%
Calcium: 12%
Iron: 24% (That’s 1/4 of your daily quota)

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    Creamy Avocado Taco: rich in good fats and fibre

    This take on tacos (my favourite food) lets the avocados shine. This recipe offers a great opportunity to finish off your supply of Yves veggie ground leftover from the vegetarian shepherd’s pie. It also covers up the Yves flavour, if that’s not your favourite. Enjoy the health benefits of avocados and deliciousness in one meal!

    Creamy avocado tacos (photo credit: iStock).

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup Yves veggie ground, cooked (recipe here)
    • 1/2 avocado
    • pico de gallo (follow this easy recipe)
    • 2 tbsp Greek yogurt
    • 3 tbsp salsa
    • 2 leaves lettuce, shredded
    • 1 large whole wheat tortilla

    Directions

    1. Cook the Yves veggie ground according to this recipe. (Very simply, you will place Yves and water in a pan and cook for a few minutes, adding taco seasoning if desired.) Then mix with this pick-me-up pico de gallo made of tomatoes and onions.
    2. Line the middle of the tortilla with the Greek yogurt. *Note: Greek yogurt is replacing sour cream. One full serving (175 g) of Greek yogurt contains 20 grams of protein, so it’s very healthy!
    3. Scoop the Yves veggie ground and pico de gallo mixture onto the Greek yogurt.
    4. Peel the avocado, place in a bowl and mash the avocado with a spoon or fork. You may choose to add lemon and garlic as in this guacamole recipe or keep it simple and leave as is.
    5. Scoop the avocado onto the Yves veggie ground, then add the salsa and lettuce.
    6. Fold the tortilla and eat immediately, or cut in half, store in a container and heat quickly at work. It makes a great packable lunch!

    Daily food group servings:
    Grain: 1
    Fruits&veg: 2
    Protein alt: 1
    Dairy: 1

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    Read more about the health benfits of avocados.

    Health Benefits of Avocados

    Avocados are the belles of the fruit and vegetable ball. It took some time for them to hit their stride, but now everybody wants them. They’re beautiful, likeable and make you feel good. As their belle status implies, they’re also very popular; they get along well with salad dishes, Mexican meals and snack chips. They’re also rich in monounsaturated fats and promote good skin.

    Yum...(Photo credit: iStock.)

    This week, I’m focusing on avocados. These delicious fruits only entered my life two years ago, but I wasted no time in finding ways to eat them. That’s why you can look forward to some avocado recipes coming later this week.

    So, why eat avocados?

    • They’re rich in healthy monounsaturated fats (the good fats), which help lower cholesterol and reduce fat (hello, flat belly…?). But don’t eat too many of them: they’re high in calories, so you’ve got to eat controlled portions, as with all foods.
    • They offer 35% of your vitamin K quota and 30% of your daily recommended dose of fibre (thank you, Whole Foods).
    • Avocados are heart-heatlhy thanks to their folate offering.
    • This rich, creamy fruit increases the body’s ability to absorb carotenoids found in our favourite vegetables (add avocados to this delicious cucumber, tomato and olive oil salad).
    • Finally, something that has potassium! This mineral helps your body maintain a healthy blood pressure.

    Avocados take some time to ripen and then they spoil quickly and easily. Buy 2 to 3 of them and check back here for more healthy recipes and ways to eat these delicious fruits before they go bad. Yum!

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    Black Bean Burrito recipe: the best I’ve ever had

    I have officially achieved the perfect black bean burrito. I no longer have to buy a burrito because this one is amazing and oozes with fresh, healthy ingredients. OK, so I’ll still eat out for Mexican food now and then, but this black bean burrito is seriously amazing! Try it; it makes a great lunch at work.

    Most amazing black bean burrito ever. (Photo credit: iStock.)

    Ingredients

    • 1/4 cup black beans, cooked
    • 1/4 cup rice, cooked
    • 2 tbsp pico de gallo
    • 1 tbso Greek yogurt
    • 2 iceberg lettuce leaves, shredded
    • 2-3 tbsp salsa
    • 1 large whole grain tortilla
    • optional toppings: avocado, alfalfa sprouts and cheddar cheese

    Directions

    1. Place the beans in a pot and fill with water. Cover pot overnight. The next day, cook the beans in water for about 1.5-2 hours until cooked.
    2. Boil water with 1/4 cup rice and cook until rice is ready (usually 15 minutes for white rice and 30 minutes for brown). Optional: add salt for flavour.
    3. Line the middle of the tortilla with the Greek yogurt (it’s a protein-packed substitute for sour cream) to start off our bed of rice.
    4. Place a layer of rice on top of the Greek yogurt, followed by black beans, pico de gallo and lettuce. Top with salsa when ready to eat (to avoid sogginess).
    5. Fold the burrito carefully and package for work or eat immediately. Delish!

    I thought up this recipe last night, made it this morning, packed it up and brought it to work. Imagine my happy surprise when I took that first amazing bite and tasted success!

    Daily food group servings:
    Grain: 2
    Fruits&veg: 1
    Protein alt: 2
    Dairy: 1

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    Quesada Mexican Grill restaurant review: can’t get my mind off it!

    I had been planning on buying a veggie dog outside the ROM as a quick dinner but when I found the street hot dog vendor-less, I was left with three options: Quesada Mexican Grill, Subway or McDonald’s. I’ve eaten McDonald’s about five times in my life and I can’t think of many exciting veggie options there. Subway is delicious, but I had been wanting to try Quesada for a while. And, boy, was it worth it.

    Vegetarian options 9/10

    Mexican cuisine is very vegetarian friendly thanks to its inclusion of beans. I’m always surprised when I confess my love for tacos and someone asks, “But what do you eat?” Beans, of course! Tacos, burritos and the like are just as easy to prepare for vegetarians as they are for meat-lovers.

    Quesada Mexican Grill offers burritos (bean or grilled veggies), veggie tacos, veggie quesadillas, soups and snacks (think chips with salsa or guacamole). They will even serve a burrito on a bed of lettuce if you’re watching carbs, but don’t forget carbohdyrates are just as important as protein and good fats! Opt for a whole grain tortilla with your burrito or taco.

    More good news: you can choose between black beans or pinto beans. Yay: choice!

    The Food 8.5/10

    A vegetarian is sure to find her or his fair share of options here. The only downside is that while tacos, quesadillas and burritos can come vegetarian-style, only the burritos give the option of beans over vegetables. Perhaps if we ask, they’d be willing to put beans in the tacos?

    My meal: the small bean burrito, $5.07 (with tax)

    Burritos are my Mexican go-to because they have everything I want: beans, rice, vegetables, salsa, sauces and all the goods rolled into one tortilla. I was offered a white or whole grain tortilla and very happily pounced on the opportunity to eat whole grain (kudos to Quesada Mexican Grill!). I also had black beans, rice, tomatoes, mild salsa, sour cream, corn, lettuce and cheese. Delicious!

    Grain: 1 (whole grain)
    Fruits&veg: 2
    Protein alt: 1
    Dairy: 1

    Prices 8.2/10

    Quesada Mexican Grill is basically competing with other semi–fast food “restaurants” like Mucho Burrito (which I don’t like very much). It’s expected that the prices will be higher than that of a fast food chain like my favourite Taco Bell (almost $4 for a burrito) and lower than that of a restaurant’s burrito (usually around $8-12), so keeping that in mind, $5 is very reasonably priced.

    On the other hand, I ordered a small burrito. But then, a large bean burrito only costs $1 more! This seems alright.

    Service 8.5/10

    Service is difficult to rate at a place where no one, well, serves you. But the workers behind the counter were amusing, indeed. It was my first time ordering at Quesada so I wasn’t sure which toppings were part of my burrito order and which would cost extra (though it did say on the menu…).

    I experienced a Rat Race moment as the man working behind the counter was a new employee, aided thankfully by two experienced co-workers. I say “thankfully” not because he did a bad job of making my burrito (he didn’t), but because I wasn’t sure which toppings were at my disposal and as the man was new too, neither of us knew who should take the lead. When I asked for guacamole, one of the woman warned me that it costs 75 cents extra, so I promptly cancelled the demand just as the man was dipping a spoon into the avocado blend. I was eyeing the cheese and lettuce when one of the women informed me that cheese was $3 extra but just as quickly said that she was joking. I explained, “I was ready to believe you because cheese is so expensive!” In future, they may not want to confuse a new customer…

    Then, my burrito was ready. The man wrapped it up only to have his female co-worker explain that there was a more efficient way to treat the burrito. My two friends were standing nearby waiting for me. I looked on patiently as my burrito was wrapped and re-wrapped three times—there’s the Rat Race moment!—only to then have me wait for it to be grilled. But it was worth it!

    Atmosphere 8.5/10

    The place was relatively empty but seemed like a comfortable, clean place to eat.

    Would I go here again?

    Yes! My burrito tasted good and the ingredients felt and tasted so fresh and pure. I already wanted another one after I’d finished mine. I definitely want to eat here again!

    Note: If your stomach is sensitive to Mexican food, good news: this burrito did not cause any stomach pains.