How To: Healthy Lunch – Cashew Quinoa Salad with Asian Grilled Chicken

Saturday night we switched the clocks forward an hour in anticipation of the warm spring weather. I normally wouldn’t complain about losing an hour of sleep in favour of ditching the winter boots and heavy jackets.

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Except, what we now have is an hour less of sleep, heavy jackets and winter boots, and snow on the ground. So how is this fair? 

Well to make up for this, I have a treat for you today. Not one, but TWO recipes – who doesn’t love a good 2 for 1 deal? (and this totally makes up for this long and cold winter we’re having, right?)

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While this cashew quinoa salad can certainly stand alone as a delicious and healthy lunch or light dinner, the addition of an Asian flavoured grilled chicken breast adds a little bit of extra protein. Not a fan of chicken? The marinade would also work great on salmon, tilapia, steak, or tofu.

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And just like our other delectable quinoa salad, you could definitely just throw in a can of beans or chickpeas and call it a meal.

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Not only is the quinoa loaded with crunchy cashews, but it gets an extra nutty flavour punch from the gingery peanut dressing. I just realized I gave you another gift to beat these winter blues – the dressing can certainly be used on almost anything, from a leafy green salad to a sandwich spread or vegetable dip.

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While we may still need our down filled jackets and UGG boots for a little while longer, you can now spring forward with gusto to a delicious lunch with these two new healthy and flavour packed recipes.

Dara

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Asian Grilled Chicken Breasts

Serves 2
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish, Salad
Misc Freezable

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Note

These chicken breasts pair beautifully with the Asian flavoured quinoa. They are also great as a make ahead and stored in your fridge or freezer. Chop them up or cut into strips and add some extra protein to your next salad or pasta or roll them in a tortilla or pita for an easy lunch option.

Directions

1. Combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil and place in a zip lock bag with chicken. Let marinade in fridge overnight or for at least 2-3 hours.
2. Preheat a grill pan over medium high heat and spray with cooking spray. At the same time, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.
3. Grill chicken on grill pan for about 5-7 minutes per side. Transfer to baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or until fully cooked through.

Cashew Quinoa Salad with Peanut Dressing

Serves 4-6
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish, Salad, Side Dish
Website Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups quinoa
  • 1/2 head red cabbage (shredded)
  • 1 red pepper (diced)
  • 1/2 red onion (diced)
  • 2 carrots (shredded)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro (chopped)
  • 1/3 cup green onions (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup cashews

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2 tsp ginger (grated)
  • 6 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2-4 tbsp water (to thin dressing to desired consistency)

Note

This quinoa salad makes a great lunch or side for dinner. I've served it with grilled chicken but it would also be great as a side to salmon or steak. Or toss in a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas for a vegetarian main dish.

Directions

1. Place quinoa and 1 1/2 cups water in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and remove from heat and set aside.
2. In a large bowl combine quinoa with remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Pour dressing over quinoa and toss until coated.
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3. Combine peanut butter and honey in a small bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and add in remaining dressing ingredients. Add some water, a tbsp at a time, until dressing is pourable.

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How To: Quickie Meal – Thai Chicken Cabbage Wraps

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After a slew of vegetarian dinners, lunches, soups, and healthy sides, I think it is high time we satisfy our hungry carnivorous readers out there.

I think we’ve mentioned it before, while we both tend to cook vegetarian most nights of the week, I still keep my freezer stocked with chicken breasts, lean ground meat, and ice cream….wait, what?

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And lean ground chicken breast is the perfect vehicle to be slathered in a delicious and spicy peanut sauce and piled high into sturdy cabbage leaves. We’ve posted in the past a fantastic tofu lettuce wrap recipe, but I find these cabbage leaves are able to hold a lot more of this hearty filling, so you can pile these babies high with toppings galore!

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The filling comes together in literally 15 minutes – the rest of your time is spent chopping and dicing as many or as little vegetables to garnish the wraps as you’d like. Note the baby monitor – vegetables chopped and dinner cooked just before the afternoon nap is over. You can definitely have this one on the table in no time!

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No matter what vegetables you choose to top your leaves with, do not skimp on the sauce. I think that anything would taste good slathered in this spicy and sweet peanut sauce.

This quickie meal would also make a fun dish for a dinner party. Like our tortilla soup, everyone can customize their own plate to their liking.

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So head to your butcher and grab your wok and cook up a terrific Thai inspired meal tonight!

Dara

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Thai Chicken Cabbage Wraps

Serves 2-4 (depending how hungry you are!)
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish
Website Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients

  • 1/2 onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 tbsp ginger (grated)
  • 1/2 red pepper (diced)
  • 1 pound ground chicken breast
  • 4 green onions (chopped)
  • 1 can water chestnuts (drained and chopped)
  • 1 head green cabbage (leaves separated)

sauce

  • 3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 7 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 1/2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp sriracha

garnish

  • 4 green onions (chopped)
  • 5 radishes (sliced)
  • 1 carrot (peeled and cut into strips)
  • 1/2 red pepper (thinly sliced)
  • 1/4 cup cashews (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup parsley or cilantro (chopped)

Note

These cabbage wraps would also work great with ground turkey. You could also use bib or iceberg lettuce in place of the cabbage, they just won't be as sturdy. Do not skimp on the sauce!

Directions

1. Preheat a non stick wok over medium high heat and spray with non stick cooking spray. Add onion, garlic, red pepper, and ginger and stir fry for about 3 minutes, or until vegetables are slightly softened.
2. Add ground chicken breast and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink. Add 1/2 of the sauce and stir to combine. Add green onions and water chestnuts and cook another minute or two, until heated through. Serve in cabbage leaves topped with the garnishes of your choice and a spoon or two of extra sauce.
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3. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and microwave for about 1 minute, stirring every 30 seconds.
garnish
4. Set aside cut up veggies and nuts to top the cabbage leaves with.

How To: Quickie Meal – Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

Toronto has caught a fever…the taco fever that is!

Kung Pao chicken tacos

It seems like every day there is a new taco joint opening up – trying to come up with a new spin on the classic Mexican street food.

Well, we have definitely been feeling the heat and given the success of our fish taco recipe, it was high time for another taco treat. And this Asian inspired version definitely shows up your average chicken taco plate.

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I mean, who doesn’t love that crispy kung pao chicken? And you can make a healthier version at home without deep frying in a vat of oil.

Coating the chicken in cornstarch and stir-frying in a wee bit of canola oil gives them a crispy exterior and super tender interior. Perfect contrast to the soft taco shells and crunchy veggie topping.

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The sauce gets another shot of cornstarch to help thicken and coat the chicken in a sweet and spicy glaze. And this whole delicious and impressive looking Asian-Mexican feast is completely work week friendly. Hence the “quickie meal” title.

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So go ahead and feed your taco fever!

Dara

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Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

Serves 4
Meal type Main Dish
Website Adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (cut into cubes)
  • 6 tbsp soy sauce (divided)
  • 1/3 cup plus 3 tsp cornstarch (divided)
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 4 tsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp sriracha
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cashews
  • 3 stalks celery (sliced)
  • 2 red peppers (sliced)
  • 1/3 cup green onions (chopped)
  • 2 limes (cut into wedges)
  • 8 corn or small whole wheat tortillas

Note

This Asian twist on the classic Mexican taco is also delicious served over rice or noodles. Feel free to sub tofu or shrimp for the chicken.

Directions

1. Place chicken pieces in a large zip lock bag and add 2 tbsp of soy sauce. Let marinade for at least 30 minutes. Remove chicken and discard remaining marinade. Place 1/4 cup of cornstarch in a large bowl and add chicken, tossing to evenly coat.
2. Preheat a wok or large non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add 1/2 tbsp of canola oil. Shake excess cornstarch from chicken and add half to pan, cooking until brown (about 5 minutes). Add remaining 1/2 tbsp canola oil and cook the remaining half of the chicken. Set aside.
3. Meanwhile, Combine remaining 3 tsp cornstarch, remaining soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sriracha, and garlic. Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
4. Add celery to the same pan you used to cook the chicken over medium high heat and cook for about 3 minutes, or until slightly soft. Add back the chicken, sauce, and cashews and cook just until everything is heated through. Remove from heat.
5. Divide chicken mixture between tortillas and top with red peppers, green onion, and a squeeze of lime juice.

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How to: Recipe Makeover – Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Winter’s coming….

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Game of Throners have known this for a while.

But today it feels like it’s here.

There was a crispness in the air. I had to wear a scarf. Hmph.

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It makes me want to cook everything I eat in a big old pot so it can simmer away while I change into joggers and a hoodie and settle indoors for the night with a large steaming bowl of whatever it may be.

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Meatballs most certainly fit the bill.  Meatballs simmering away in sweet and sour sauce?

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Oh gawd yes.

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It’s been a while since we’ve shared a meatball recipe. Remember our thai turkey meatballs? Hard to forget if you’ve tried them!  

Recipe tip: Make two batches of meatballs at once.  It only takes an additional 5 minutes to roll them, and they can be baked on a separate tray in the oven at the same time.  Freeze your second batch for another recipe later on.

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I’m certain you can get away with canned pineapple for this recipe, but fresh really is top notch.  Use the rest of your pineapple for snacks throughout the week or toss it with some yogurt and granola for a well balanced breakfast.

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I love a good homemade recipe makeover.  This puts those bottled sweet and sour sauces to shame, and yay! the first ingredient isn’t sugar.

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Enjoy!

Erin

Sweet and Sour Turkey Meatballs

Serves 5-6
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 50 minutes
Website Adapted from Jan's Sushi Bar blog

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1/2 small yellow onion (minced or finely grated)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs (whole wheat if you can find them)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 red bell pepper (cut in to 1 inch pieces)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper (cut in to 1 inch pieces)
  • 1 medium carrot (peeled and sliced in to ¼ inch rounds)
  • 1/2 red onion (cut in to 1 inch pieces or slices)
  • 1/4 fresh pineapple (cut in to 1 inch pieces)
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or 3 Tbsp liquid honey)
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch

Note

Serve 4-5 meatballs per serving.  Delicious over whole grain rice and steamed baby bok choy.

Directions

Meatballs
1. Preheat over to 375F. Add all meatball ingredients to a large bowl and mix (preferably with your hands!) until just combined.
2. Roll meatballs in to 1.5 inch rounds and place on a foil (oiled) or parchment lined baking sheet. Baked for 15-18 until lightly browned.
Sweet and Sour Sauce
3. Heat canola oil over medium heat. Add peppers, carrot and onion and cook for about 5 minutes until slightly tender and crisp. Add pineapple, tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar (or honey) and stir until combined. Add cooked meatballs and simmer for 3-5 more minuted until vegetables are tender.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together corn starch and cold water. Add to meatball pot, stir well and simmer for another 2 until sauce is thickened.

How To: Slow Cooker – Sesame Chicken

Sesame Chicken

I have a confession to make -

Before making this recipe and writing this post, I had never used my slow cooker before. Crazy, right? And if you too are one of those ashamed slow cooker virgins, I promise after one use, it will become one of your favourite kitchen tools too.

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It may surprise you that after our delicious pulled chicken and lentil stew recipes, I had yet to break out my crockpot. What finally gave me that push to break-in this appliance? A barely two week old beautiful newborn who requires constant use of my hands and…other parts. That is the beauty of a slow cooker. With minimal prep and assembly, you have a delicious meal on the table that is basically hands-free.

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This sweet and sticky chicken is reminiscent of your favourite Chinese take out sesame chicken, without all the greasy fried batter. The slow cooker creates a tender chicken breast coated in a rich and thick sauce.

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Once the chicken is done, a simple shred and addition of a cornstarch slurry to thicken the remaining sauce finishes this dish off nicely. I loved this chicken over rice or another grain of your choice, but I think it would also work great as a sandwich or taco filling.

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And if you happen not to be suffering from lack of sleep and baby brain, add the sesame seeds that you set aside but forgot to use for a nice crunchy finish.

I have a feeling you may be seeing many more slow cooker posts in the near future!

Dara

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Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken

Serves 4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 5 hours, 15 minutes
Total time 5 hours, 25 minutes
Meal type Main Dish
Website Adapted from Family Fresh Meals

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 onion (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp cornstarch (dissolved in 3 tbsp water)
  • sesame seeds (to garnish)

Note

This slow cooker chicken is best served over rice or another grain of your choice to soak up all that sweet and sticky sauce. I also like it served with some sort of simply steamed green - broccoli, kale, spinach, or swiss chard would all be great.

Directions

1. Place chicken breasts in slow cooker and season with salt and pepper.
2. Combine honey, soy sauce, garlic, onion, ketchup, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Pour over chicken and cook on low for about 5 hours.
3. Once chicken is cooked, remove from slow cooker and set aside. Add corn starch mixture to sauce and cover and cook on high for about 10 minutes, or until sauce has thickened.
4. Shred chicken with a fork and knife and add back to sauce in slow cooker. Serve over rice or quinoa and garnish with sesame seeds (if you can remember!)