I recently heard the word “flexitarian” used to describe a fellow food blogger’s eating habits. After learning more about the word, it seems to describe my diet perfectly. I eat vegetarian most of the time, reserving meat only for when I really crave it. In my case, that means I’m eating meat once or twice a week (sometimes less). My husband is the same way. Growing up in Israel, his mom cooked lots of vegetarian dishes like eggplant, hummus, and shakshuka. One of his favorite snacks was a simple slice of freshly baked bread toasted on the stovetop and dipped in olive oil and salt. We’re happiest with a simple dinner of eggplant stew or lentils with rice. Our eating habits change around the holidays, when we tend to splurge a bit. I love cholent or a well-cooked brisket on occasion. But generally speaking, being a flexitarian feels right to my body. I don’t have trouble staying at a healthy weight, my cholesterol tests always come back perfect, I have lots of energy and I feel great.
While I love eating flexitarian-style, I can’t eat too much soy, which is a major meat-free protein source. Soy negatively effects my hormones, so I can only eat it sparingly. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been trying to work more quinoa into my diet; it’s a clean and healthy vegetarian source of protein. Native to South America, this ancient seed was once called “the gold of the Incas,” and was fed to their warriors to increase stamina. It’s been cultivated in the Andes for centuries, and was a major agricultural commodity in Inca and Aztec society. Only recently, quinoa has been “rediscovered” here in America, showing up on health food market shelves across the country. Quinoa is closely related to spinach; much like spinach, it is packed with nutrients. It is a terrific source of protein, amino acids, insoluble fiber, magnesium, riboflavin, and phytonutrients. Regular consumption of quinoa can improve your cardiovascular health, reduce the frequency of migraine headaches, and even decrease your risk of certain cancers. It’s also gluten free, which is helpful to people with Celiac disease and those who are on gluten-free diets.
With Cinco de Mayo coming up, I decided to feature a few Mexican-style dishes this week. This Quinoa Black Bean Burrito Bowl is the perfect flexitarian lunch or dinner. It’s a deconstructed burrito, loosely based on Chipotle’s burrito bowl. I’ve replaced rice with cilantro lime quinoa to add protein and nutrients. Black beans are simmered with onions, garlic, and spices for added flavor. I’ve listed several optional toppings, so you can make this bowl your own. Make it vegan-style with toppings like pico de gallo, tomatoes, corn, or guacamole. If you don’t mind adding dairy, try shredded jack or cheddar cheese, lowfat sour cream, or even Greek yogurt. Spice it up with hot sauce or sriracha. It’s good stuff, and loaded with nutrients… a simple, tasty meal you can feel good about!
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- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup minced onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 30 oz. cooked or canned black beans (2 cans), rinsed and drained
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/4 tsp chili powder (mild)
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (spicy)
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 cup shredded lettuce
Optional Topping Ingredients
- Grated cheddar or jack cheese
- Sour cream or Greek yogurt
- Pico de gallo or salsa
- Diced seeded tomatoes
- Hot sauce or sriracha
- Sliced avocado
- Rinse the quinoa thoroughly in a mesh strainer or sieve, drain.
- Pour quinoa into a saucepan along with 2 cups of water. Bring the quinoa to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover the pot. Let the quinoa simmer for about 20 minutes till it becomes tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. Keep a close eye to make sure the quinoa doesn't burn.
- While quinoa is cooking, heat 1 tbsp of oil in another saucepan over medium heat. Pour minced onion into the saucepan and saute for a few minutes till it softens and begins to turn brown. Add the minced garlic to the pot and let it saute for 1-2 minutes longer till aromatic.
- Add the black beans to the pot of onions along with 1/2 cup water, 2 tbsp of chopped fresh cilantro, chili powder and cayenne pepper. Bring the beans to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Let the beans simmer for 15 minutes till the liquid is mostly evaporated. Stir in 2 tbsp of fresh lime juice. Season with salt to taste.
- When the quinoa is fully cooked, remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Use the fork to mix in 2 tbsp of chopped cilantro and 2 tbsp fresh lime juice. Season with salt to taste.
- Assemble your burrito bowls. Divide the cilantro lime quinoa between four bowls.
- Top each portion of quinoa with 1/4 cup of shredded lettuce.
- Top each portion of lettuce with simmered black beans.
- Top the black beans with your choice of Optional Topping Ingredients (ideas listed above).
- Serve warm.