As some of you are aware, I embarked upon The Great Vegetarian/Vegan Diet Experiment last year. I really enjoyed it: I loved finding new recipes and ingredients to try out, I had tons of energy, my cholesterol dropped like 40 points, and I felt great. That is, until my innards exploded in a painful, ongoing bout of what was eventually diagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. My suspicion is that the rapid diet overhaul was too much for my poor intestines to handle, and they rebelled by making it painful and … let us say, “unpleasant” to digest anything more fibrous than a saltine cracker.
After many doctor’s visits, a litany of tests, and several months of bland, largely fiber-free food, the situation is starting to improve, and I’m finding myself leaning in a vegetarian/vegan direction again. I probably won’t go 100% vegan (for one thing, I’m no longer cooking only for myself, and Mister Principessa is pretty fond of his eggs and bacon), but I would like to get back to eating that way as much as possible. I typically eat breakfast and lunch by myself, so it’s easy to have vegan food for those meals.
The only problem with this style of eating is that vegan food –at least the kind I like to cook and eat–takes quite a bit of thought, preparation, and time. Sure, you can be a “junk food vegan” and subsist on corn chips and Skittles, but where’s the fun (or health benefits) in that? I’ve found that I can save myself considerable grief during the week if I prepare my breakfasts and lunches in advance over the weekend. Then during the week, those two meals require no more thought or effort than it takes to reach into the fridge and pull out a Tupperware container. In other words, none whatsoever.
This week for lunch, I’m going to be eating a quinoa salad that I invented last year. Let’s take a gander, shall we? Be advised, this post is rather picture heavy.
First of all, you’ll need to cook some quinoa. One cup works well for this amount of salad. Nothing magical about cooking quinoa; it’s just like cooking rice or any other grain but takes waaaaay less time. Then set it aside in a big bowl (I use a large mixing bowl). I generally add salt and pepper at this point.
I like to put eggplant in this salad, and my favorite way to prepare it is to roast it. No trick to this either. Cut your eggplant in half lengthwise,
then stick it in a 350-degree oven and cook until done, generally 20-30 minutes.
Onions are a good addition to almost any salad. Red onions or scallions are my favorite in this one. Just slice ’em up …
… and chuck ’em in!
I’m a sucker for leafy greenery in salads, so I generally put kale in this too. I steam it in a pot using the smallest amount of water possible; really, I just wilt it, which you can do using pretty much just the water that’s left on the leaves after you wash them.
Stir it around so it all wilts, adding teeny splashes of water if necessary.
When it’s ready, dump it in the bowl with the quinoa.
I also like tomatoes in this.
Quinoa is pretty high in protein, but to add even more, I like to include a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas. I’ve also made this with lentils and baked tofu, both of which work very well. Or if you’re not tied to the whole “vegan” thing, chopped hardboiled eggs or cooked chicken would be good too.
You, being smarter than I am, will surely remember to add your damn eggplant. I forgot it and had to go back and add it at the end. So in your mind, please insert a picture of me cutting the eggplant into cubes here:
and adding the cubes to the bowl here:
On to the dressing! You could mix up a simple vinaigrette for this, or even use store-bought dressing. I like to dress this salad in the laziest way possible, which is to say I just add seasonings directly to the bowl, stir, and hope for the best. If you season it pretty lightly to begin with, you can adjust it to suit your taste. I usually add …
Several grinds of black pepper (please, for the love of all that is right and good on this earth, do not use pre-ground pepper, ever, for anything … it is dusty and worthless)
A few small pinches of cayenne … I’m kind of a heat wimp
Red wine vinegar
And a wee drizzle of olive oil.
Stir it all up good!
Again, kindly pretend there’s eggplant in there.
And now for my favorite part. The divvying! I like to put the salad into five separate containers, which minimizes the amount of brain power I have to expend on my way out the door at 6:30 in the morning.
And that’s it! Easy, healthy, and practically infinitely variable. And vegan to boot! Win win win win!