How in the world is it already May? April was a total blur. March was too, come to think of it. I met a bunch of new people. I moved. Last week I got sick for the first time since last May and it was terrible. And in the midst of it all, May sneaked up on us just like a bad cold. But now, I get the feeling things have settled a bit. Seven weeks or so of whirlwindy-ness and now I think I can chill out a bit. Just in time for Cinco de Mayo. A day on which, in order to counter all the chips and tequila I’ll probably be ingesting like it’s my job, I’ll probably also be making these tacos.
And just like colds and spring weather and the month of May, these tacos are sneaky. They’re spicy and limey and crunchy enough that they feel like the carnitas tacos you’ll stuff your face with to end Cinco de Mayo (buried under a whole mountain of sour cream and guacamole of course). But these sneaky guys are totally healthy! You’ve got sweet potatoes, black beans, cabbage, onion, cilantro, and lime juice. That’s it! Plus tortillas. These are the tacos you’ll want to start your night with, when vegetables of the non-fried variety still sound good. And then you’ll want to make them the next day and the next day and the next so you can feel like your cheating on your healthy eating streak and your grocery budget when really you’re being quite faithful to both. Let’s do it.
These tacos are crunchy, fresh, and just a bit spicy. Plus, you know, they’re tacos. Can’t really go wrong there.
Black Bean & Sweet Potato Tacos
Adapted a teeny bit from Joy the Baker
Serves 1 with a little leftover or 2 as an appetizer/snack
1 medium sweet potato, chopped
splash olive oil/butter
generous sprinkle of cumin
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained
small corn tortillas
1/4 head cabbage, shredded
1/2 red onion, sliced
chopped cilantro to taste
lime juice to taste
Place the butter or oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Once it’s hot, add the cumin and pepper flakes and cook for a minute or so until fragrant. Add in the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring every so often, until they are softened and a little charred. Add in the black beans and cook until they are heated through, a minute or two more.
Meanwhile heat the tortillas however you like. Microwave, over a gas stove burner, or in oil.
To assemble, divide the sweet potato/black bean mixture between the tortillas. Top with cabbage, onion, cilantro, and lime juice. Enjoy!
A couple weeks ago, I was stuck in a lunch rut. Since starting my 9-5 desk job I’ve tried to keep my lunches as interesting and varied as possible, since, sadly, unless there’s a holiday potluck or it’s time for the monthly birthday party, I can pretty much guarantee lunch is the most exciting part of my day. I’d been through a pretty lengthy hummus-and-veggies stage, a salami sandwich phase, a few failed attempts at a salad phase (it just never tastes as good as I think it will), a pretty delightful peanut butter and jelly phase, and a random snacks all day phase.
Needless to say I needed to change my game a bit. I like the idea of salad, but it was just never filling enough to make the cut, even if I did add tons of vegetables and beans. So I thought if I made the salad out of something hearty and filling and just happened to add a few greens to it, that might be just the thing that could get me out of my lunch rut.
So I did a little poking around, knowing I wanted to use quinoa because not only is it a complete protein, it’s totally delicious. I found this winter fruit salad, changed a couple things when I couldn’t find the ingredients, and it totally did the trick! I think I’ve pulled myself out of my lunch rut. For now at least. I’ve made two other quinoa salads after this one, so we’ll see how long this phase lasts.
Quinoa is a great salad base. It’s healthy but also has a great nutty flavor. This one is packed with winter fruits. I added black beans to make this salad even more hearty, and the arugula gives it a nice spicy kick.
Quinoa and Winter Fruit Salad with Arugula
Adapted from foodandwine.com
1 1/3 cups quinoa (about 1/2 pound)
1 2/3 cups water
1 tangerine, segmented, seeded, and chopped
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup pure olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large Bosc pear, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bag arugula
Rinse the quinoa for 2-3 minutes with cold water in a mesh strainer. This will take away the bitterness. Place the quinoa and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, and simmer until the water is nearly all absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let steam for 5 minutes. Place the quinoa in a large bowl and let cool completely.
In a small bowl, add the tangerine, cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt, and let sit for 5 minutes.
Add the pear, cucumber, and black beans to the cooled quinoa and toss. Add the dressing and toss until absorbed. If you’ll be serving/eating all the salad at the same time, add in the arugula and toss. If you want to eat it over a few days, only sever with as much arugula as you need, and refrigerate the leftover quinoa separate from the arugula.
I think it’s probably too late to say, “Happy New Year,” but I hope the first few days of your 2014 have been wonderful. I rang in the new year by going to bed right after midnight and waking up at 5:30 on New Year’s Day to ski. This is the second year in a row that I’ve skied on January 1st, and I think I want to make it a tradition. It feels so much better than waking up at 11am, groggy and headachy, lazing around all day and eating a big dinner. I’ve got the whole year to laze around, and I think dragging my butt out of bed on the first day of the new year is a good way to set the tone for the other 364 days ahead.
Now that I’ve started my year off with a few go-get-it type of days, I hope I can keep it up in the coming months. This year I’m not making any resolutions, because those things don’t really tend to work anyway. They’re like the opposite of quitting a habit cold turkey. Starting a habit cold turkey. December 31st, I’ve spent the last two months not working out because I’m too busy Christmas shopping and eating too many cookies and pies, and now it’s January 1st and I’m supposed to be a paleo-dieting gym rat who always goes to bed at a decent hour and wakes up early to do yoga and make a super-healthy salad to bring to work for lunch? Yeah….not happening. At least not right away.
So this year I’m focusing on the long term. Should I be healthier and create new, better habits and whatnot? Should I be on the lookout for ways to make myself and my life better? Sure, but it’s not going to happen in a day, a week, or even a month. This year, when I’m not feeling motivated to do anything or I forget to keep an eye out on my goals, I’m going to think back to the first day of the year when I woke up at 5:30, lay in bed for an hour debating with myself about whether the three-hour drive to the mountain was worth it, decided it was, and then when I got home at 8:00, realized that going was the best thing I could have done for myself. This year, I’m going to focus on making improvements simply by deciding to do things.
This is a simple recipe for a quick, healthy, and satisfying dinner. The the broccoli will give you your vegetable for the day, the garlic adds a kick and the pecans make it seem richer than it really is.
Couscous with Broccoli, Pecans, and Garlic
1/2 cup pearl couscous
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch red pepper flakes
1/4-1/3 small head broccoli, chopped into bite-size pieces
handful of pecans, chopped (walnuts or almonds or cashews would work too)
2 cloves garlic, minced
In a small saucepan, bring some water to a boil. Add the couscous and let it cook until done, about 11 minutes.
While the couscous cooks, heat a frying pan over medium high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add in the pepper flakes and broccoli. Cook until the broccoli is bright green, then add in the pecans. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then add in the garlic and cook for a minute or two more. Be careful to not let the nuts or garlic burn.
When the couscous is done, drain in a fine mesh strainer, place in a bowl, and stir in a small amount of olive oil or butter. Add in the broccoli mixture, salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.