I’m starting something I like to call Recipes for Real People. Many people are afraid of good nutrition because they assume it takes SO MUCH TIME. Let me be real, eating for nourishment does take more time than buying Hungry Man Frozen Dinners and hitting 5 minutes on the microwave BUT it doesn't have to be this all-from-scratch, complicated, 50-ingredient recipe process that people think it does. It can rely on ready-made ingredients. It can use frozen and canned foods. It can still taste delicious.
In these posts, I’m going to show you how I change existing meals, recipes, AND meal delivery kits to be easier and/or how to reduce the added sugar/oil/salt for better nutritional balance.
First up, we’re spinning this Golden Tabouli salad from Dr. Greger’s hit cookbook How Not to Diet Cookbook to be simpler but also richer in flavor. Highly recommend all of Dr. Greger's work...
Looks beautiful, right? The original recipe is very light but also a bit mild on flavor. It also calls for a lot of prep and a few unconventional ingredients (blended lemon peel, date syrup, etc.).
Here’s my version:
Obviously, I added tofu. But I also left out a few things that, frankly, weren’t missed! This took me a total of 25 minutes to cook and prep. And I was on the phone the whole time and didn’t come into this with a plan if that tells you how easy this is going to be.
Here's the recipe as is:
Here’s my adjusted recipe & instructions
1 Cup Quinoa (rinse in a fine-mesh strainer before cooking or buy pre-rinsed!)
1 ¾ Cup Water or low sodium veggie broth (I like the concentrates or bouillons to reduce the need to use an entire container right away. Watch the sodium on these!!). This is a flavor booster...
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 TBSP Date Syrup (I have this because I am ridiculous but use Maple syrup or honey if you’re a normal human)
2 TBSP Lemon Juice (I used bottled but you can use 2 squeezed fresh lemons if you’re feeling extra)
1.5 TSP spice blend (or whatever non-salt seasoning YOU like). Recipe at bottom of page for this spice blend (I used an empty spice container and just made a bunch one day. I’ve had this for a long time and it still tastes good so there’s a bit of time investment that’s worth it).
Splash vinegar (I used champagne vinegar but apple cider, balsamic, or whatever you LIKE works just fine. Avoid salad dressings - just go for straight vinegar. Or omit.)
Salad Add Ins
The things I left out were chickpeas, parsley, lettuce and scallions but feel free to add them if they are around and easy! This was based on effort and chopping herbs wasn't in the cards today.
Instead of beans, I went tofu...
1 packet marinade – I used Wild Garden Turkish Taouk
1 block high protein, extra firm tofu (little to no water means no need to press THANK GOD).
You can also buy pre-chopped tofu, or pre-marinated and pre-chopped tofu – that's easy factor at a full volume.
Whatever you like! I chose what existed in my fridge and was easy. If you're planning this out, you could pick up some pre-chopped veggies at the store. I encourage you to choose things you like raw because we're not cooking....don't go opting for eggplant in this...
1-2 large cucumbers
1/2 pint, or a handful or any quantity Cherry Tomatoes (I cute mine in half, no need to to save time)
Pre-chopped onion (or if you're chopping, 1/2 an onion...)
1 mini ripe avocado
Get the water or veg broth boiling, add the quinoa and turmeric, stir, reduce water to low and simmer, covered, for about 18 minutes. Once the water is gone, remove from heat and let sit for a bit. Fluff with fork.
While that’s cooking, grab the tofu. Cut into bite size pieces (1x1 or whatever bites you like) and toss with the marinade. I use bowls with lids or Tupperware to avoid plastic baggies. Let this sit while the quinoa cooks (that’s your built-in timer).
While that’s going on, mix the lemon juice, syrup and spice blend together. Then chop your veggies into bite sizes or however you like them!
When the quinoa is done and resting, that’s your signal to cook the tofu. I like to use the air fryer to avoid extra oil/fat. Since I used a marinade with an olive oil (healthy fat) base, I use tongs to place into the air fryer, leaving the extra sauce aside and effectively reducing the added fat and sugar to this meal. Then I air fried at 400 degrees for about ten minutes (to my desired crisp level). You can also bake on a silicone mat at 400 for about 15 minutes, or use a spritz of cooking spray and pan sear, or you can eat it raw! No need to cook tofu – that’s the beauty of it.
After the quinoa is ready, toss into a large bowl with the dressing and veggies – mix well. Splash in vinegar to your taste. Vinegar is AWESOME and any time I can add it, I do. Plus, there’s good research about its contribution to fat metabolism but who cares about that, it’s delicious.
Cut open your avocado, remove the pit and use the knife to gently (GENTLY) cut a grid into each one (for the hip crowd, draw a hashtag), then simply squeeze out over the bowl.
Mix well and serve with warm tofu atop and enjoy!!
Next week, I will walk you through how I turn (sometimes) very high calorie, vegan Green Chef meals into a leaner version by altering a few cooking steps.