Quinoa Confetti Salad

Where in the world would I be without meal prep? Hungry, crabby, and the chronic victim of an unproductive work-day, most likely.

All jokes aside, meal prepping has for some time now been at the crux of my routine. Between early morning workouts, an unpredictable work schedule and some semblance of a social life, I’m not exactly in a position to be cooking up leisurely dinners in the kitchen every night a la Nigella Lawson. Saturday nights are usually spent cooking up a batches of beans and grains, portioning out salad greens and smoothie packs. Sure, it sounds a little mundane and repetitive – but in the long run it saves so much time and for the most part prevents the “hangry” mood swings from kicking in at the office.

Given the delightfully warm temperatures (I say that with only the slightest hint of sarcasm – I actually prefer the hot weather), nutritionally dense, meal-sized salads have been my go-to lunches as of late.

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This one is just that – not to mention piled high with a multitude of uplifting colors, textures, and flavours.

Quinoa Confetti Salad
Print Recipe
A deliciously light and bright quinoa salad - the perfect lunch on a hot summer's day!
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Quinoa Confetti Salad
Print Recipe
A deliciously light and bright quinoa salad - the perfect lunch on a hot summer's day!
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Ingredients
For the salad:
For the dressing:
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl until well incorporated.
  2. Mix in the lemon juice, olive oil, agave, salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.
  3. Serve on a bed of greens of your choice with sliced avocados, pomegranate seeds and cilantro strands for garnish - devour!
Recipe Notes

Add sea salt and black pepper to taste for the dressing.

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There’s something about pomegranate and cilantro in a salad that just screams summer.

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The sweetness of the bell peppers and pomegranate pairs wonderfully with the citrus dressing – and the crunch of the fresh veggies contrasts with the nutty quinoa, soft chickpeas and creamy avocado. I would say it’s akin to a party in your mouth – but that would be slightly cliche given the chosen recipe title.

 

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As an additional note, I should mention that this serves four people as an appetiser, but two people as a main. A while ago I found myself feeling utterly unsatisfied with my packed lunch salads. It wasn’t until I read the nutritional guide of my current workout program when it dawned on me that I was including such meager portions of legumes (1/2 a cup of chickpeas – what?). Nowadays I typically include 1 – 1 1/4 cup of beans/lentils and 1/2 – 3/4 cup of grains – which I’m happy to report are adequately satiating.

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I couldn’t resist having some of this for lunch the day I whipped it up, alongside a baked sweet potato and steamed broccoli – happiness on a plate.

What are some of your go-to lunches, work or otherwise?

Until next time, friends!

Vegan Beauty Product Picks of the Moment

While the last four years have seen me become pretty adept at building a vegan pantry, I’m the first to admit that veganising my wardrobe and make-up bag has been a slow and gradual process. Last summer I shared some of my top vegan beauty product picks, and I’m happy to report that my repertoire is ever expanding. So here are some of my beauty product picks of the moment – all natural and of course leaping bunny approved.

1. Jasmin and Henna Fluff Eaze Hair Mask and R&B Hair Moisturiser – Lush

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During my last trip to London I seriously stocked up at Lush – one of my all time favourite stores. One of my hardest battles when it comes to replacing conventional beauty and haircare products is my obscenely curly, simba from Lion King-esque mane. For years I’ve been using a leave-in conditioner from Pantene post-shower to help tame my frizzy which works brilliantly. The only down-side? Pantene is owned by manufacturing giant Procter and Gamble, who despite best efforts unfortunately still test on animals.

That said I was thrilled when the saleslady at Lush recommended these two products to me. The Henna Fluff Eaze is incredible, packed with organic jojoba, almond, Brazil nut and extra virgin coconut oil – it leaves hair feeling unbelievably silky not to mention smelling like a garden thanks to the jasmine fragrance. I used it as a mask overnight diluted with a little coconut oil and was stunned with the results.

As for the R&B hair moisturiser – If you have curly or frizzy hair I urge you to try this product out. First of all – it smells irresistable. Secondly it softens and defines curls without any of the unwanted frizz even when just using a small amount.

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Other Lush products I love are:

  • 9 to 5 cleansing lotion (great as a make-up remover)
  • Vanishing cream (the best day moisturiser I’ve ever used hands down)
  • Tea Tree Water toner
  • Vanilla Dee-Lite body lotion

Where to buy: Unfortunately we don’t have a Lush in Bahrain anymore but the UAE store does deliver if you order online here.

2. Prtty Peaushn – The Jamila

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Earlier this year I got sent a wonderful package of cruelty-free goodies courtesy of the gorgeous Reem from The Jamila (which means beautiful in Arabic) – a online store based in the Middle East that prides itself in stocking some of the best organic, holistic and pure beauty brands.

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She generously gave me a pouch of one of their best sellers, the Prrty Peaushn, to try out. Described as “photoshop in a pouch” it’s a full body moisturiser that tightens the skin and imparts a natural glow via subtle light reflecting particles. Developed by a hollywood make-up artist, it was designed to conceal imperfection, and lift, firm tighten and diminish the appearance of cellulite, stretch marks and veins. It’s also all natural, vegan, toxin-free, paraben-free, cruelty-free and PETA approved.

Needless to say I was pretty excited to give it a whirl.

I really loved this product – everything from the packaging to the heavenly light scent drew me in at first glance. I use it almost exclusively on my legs whenever I’m wearing a skirt or dress in the evening. What I liked about it was that it was really adds a touch of glam to your overall look, although as a cream I’d have to say it’s a little heavier than I’m used to. I tried using it on my face to highlight my make-up a couple of times but wasn’t a fan of how it sat on my skin. A pro-tip, if you’re planning on using it, go for a darker shade than your skin tone to give you a deeper glow. It’s the perfect product to use on vacation to enhance a natural tan and make the most of those skirts/shorts and tank tops.

If you’re looking for a high quality Argan oil as well – I would seriously recommend the Kahina brand stocked on The Jamila, it did wonders for my skin and even helped clear up and oncoming breakout.

Where to buy: TheJamila.com – international and GCC shipping available including a cash on delivery service for the latter.

3. Calming Lavendar Pure Natural Deodorant Stick – Jason

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I have long struggled with finding an all-natural aluminum-free deodorant that actually works – I’ve tried several versions of the “crystal” deodorant to no avail and have come crawling back to my mainstay Dove spray version time after time. When I came across this product I was intrigued, but skeptical. After a couple months of using it I’m happy to report that we have a winner. It goes on smoothly and the scent is perfectly mild and not too overbearing, and best of all it has great odor protection. My only qualm is that on super hot days (ie. every day here in Bahrain) I sometimes feel the need to re-apply – which isn’t a big deal since it’s the perfect size for a handbag, but obviously not the most practical. I’ve heard good things about the tea-tree variety of the same deodorant so might try that one next to see if it makes a difference in terms of longevity.

Where to buy: Amazon.com, or the health food store opposite Geant in Bahrain Mall.

4. Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar

These two are a bit of a cheat since they’re not “technically” beauty products – but I’m putting them in here because they’ve replaced two of the most pivotal products in my bathroom. Shampoo and conditioner!

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I found out about the “no-poo” method a while ago but was never really motivated enough to try it out or look into it further. “No shampoo?” I thought, “That doesn’t sound right. In fact, it sounds a bit gross.” Rewind to a couple of months ago where I found myself on a newfound quest for all-natural beauty and haircare products. I did some more research and found out that the “no-poo” movement boasted a whole host of benefits including healthier, fuller and softer hair. I won’t go into too much details, but here’s an excerpt that sums it up nicely via the TreeHugger.com.

The No ‘Poo method allows the scalp to rebalance itself. If you stop stripping the hair and scalp of its natural, protective oils with the many chemicals that exist in conventional shampoo, then the scalp won’t need to compensate by producing excessive amounts of oil. Issues such as itchiness, dryness, and greasiness will clear up, as long as you can get through the initial adjustment period, which shouldn’t take more than two weeks. During that time, hair “may feel waxy, frizzy, or ‘off’,” but eventually it will become silky and soft.

The basic ratio I use is 1 tbsp of baking soda dissolved in one cup of filtered water for the “shampoo” mixture, and 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in one cup of filtered water for the “conditioner” mixture. While I didn’t experience much of an adjustment period, I did have to play around with ratios to see what worked for me. I was shocked to find that within a week I was able to let my hair air-dry into soft curls with absolutely no product at all – something that hasn’t happened since I was under the age of 10. When I feel the need for a deeper clean (washing out a hair mask for example) or I miss the lather of conventional shampoo I sometimes use a bar of all natural olive oil soap which works just as well.

What are some of your favourite all-natural/cruelty-free beauty products?

Vegan Tofu Halloumi

Like most vegans, I’m often asked what I foods I “miss” the most – and to be frank with you it’s a hard question to answer purely because I genuinely don’t find the taste of most animal products appealing. I’ve even been known to stop eating mock meat products like sausages or chick’n strips halfway through a meal because it reminded me too much of the real thing.

That said, if push came to shove I guess  I could identify two things that I kind of maybe sort of miss recall fondly; the first is the flavour sensation of seafood. This makes a fair amount of sense since prior to going vegan, seafood was the one form of animal protein I still consumed semi-regularly and enjoyed having. Nowadays however, I have no desire to dig into a fillet of grilled fish – but surprisingly I do miss that “fishy” flavour from time to time. Luckily for me that is easily remedied by a seaweed salad, a miso soup, nori rolls (and a host of other menu items from my favourite Japanese restaurant).

The second thing would have to be Halloumi cheese – hands down. For those of you not in the know, Halloumi is a dense, salty, chewy white cheese usually made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. Usually served grilled or fried as a mezze or appetiser, it features heavily in Levantine cuisine and is also widely popular in countries like Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. It’s also delicious.

Halloumi was really my one weakness – even when I was dairy free for a year before going vegan, I still caved and bought the occasional block every now and again. I have of course tried to recreate a vegan version with varying rates of success across the years – but something was always off, the texture and consistency were never quite right. That is, until I discovered the wonder that is waffle-iron tofu.

 

If you find yourself without a waffle iron or grill, you can of course use a regular pan with a sturdy spatula and some elbow grease. If you’re using a pan you may have to grease it with some olive oil to avoid sticking – use a spatula to press down the tofu as it’s grilling on both sides to achieve the desired texture.

 

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That said, this really works best if you have some sort of grill apparatus that closes on itself. I mean, just look at those crisped edges.

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Tofumi? Hallofu? Whatever you want to call it, it is a life changing, salty, chewy and mint infused cheesy waffle-ironed wonder. Not to mention full of protein, and of course cruelty-free to boot.

Enjoy dear readers, until next time!

Building a Plant-Based Pantry

One of the hardest things about making the switch from an omni to vegetarian or vegan diet is having to completely reassess the contents of your kitchen cupboards. Regular readers of this blog will know that my journey to veganism was gradual – I stopped eating red meat and poultry at the age of 12, and many moons later cut out dairy in my penultimate year of university. So when I finally decided to make the switch to veganism in 2011 – it wasn’t exactly difficult to stop buying eggs and tuna, and start buying a little a lot more chickpeas.

That said, I empathize greatly with those trying to make the switch – it’s not easy and even the slightest road bump can set you up for a derail or cause your motivation to wane. A well-stocked pantry however, is your secret weapon. In my  vegan supermarket guide post I answered the persistent “where do you buy your food?” question – today I’m revealing what I call my Plant-based Pantry Essentials list complete with images of my preferred brands and a where to find section for Bahrain based readers. Enjoy!

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Plant-based Pantry Essentials

grains

Grains

  • Gluten-free, old-fashioned oats
  • Short-grain brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Millet

Where to find:

Organic/health food sections of all leading supermarkets and hypermarkets including Al Jazeera, Alosra, Geant, Carrefour and Lulu. GF oats are sometimes hard to find so I buy them in bulk when possible – Nature Valley in Juffair usually stock them as well.

flours

Flour

  • Gluten-free all purpose flour blend (Dove brand)
  • Chickpea flour (this is one of my core staples)
  • Unbleached/organic white flour (good for baking)

Where to find:

Organic flour and GF flour blends can be found at most Alosra and Al Jazeera supermarket branches. Chickpea flour is called Kabab flour locally and can be found at every and any supermarket or corner shop in Bahrain, I buy local brands.

LEGUMES

Beans/Legumes/Pulses

  • Red lentils
  • Brown lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans
  • White beans
  • Mori-nu/Firm/Super-firm organic non-GMO tofu

Where to find:

The legumes section of any supermarket will do you fine for all beans, both dried and canned. If you’re buying in bulk definitely head to the bins section in one of the hypermarkets like Lulu or Carrefour. Tofu I usually buy from either Al Jazeera, Geant and Lulu Hypermarket. My preferred brands are House Foods and Wildwoods, the latter is sold only at Lulu Hypermarket.

nutsandseeds

Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Organic peanut butter
  • Organic almond butter

Where to find:

Loose raw nuts can be found at the bulk bins in all leading hypermarkets. Hemp seeds are hard to find but your best bet is the organic/health food sections of Geant or Alosra. Chia, flax, pumpkin seeds and nut butters can be found in the organic/health food sections of most supermarkets as well.

oilsandvinegars

Vinegars/oils

  • Raw apple cider vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Organic extra virgin coconut oil (a must at all times)
  • Rapeseed/Canola oil (ideal for baking)
  • Earth Balance/Pure vegan butter

Where to find:

Raw ACV and coconut oil can be found in the organic/health food sections, with everything else in the regular oils/vinegar aisle. Earth balance is sold almost exclusively at Lulu in all it’s varieties, Pure vegan butter can be found at Alosra.

sweeteners

Sweeteners

  • Agave Syrup
  • Date Molasses (or any type of molasses)
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Organic dark brown sugar or organic golden sugar
  • Dates
  • Stevia

Where to find:

Agave, maple syrup, stevia and organic sugar are usually in the organic/health food sections. Date molasses and dates will usually be in a section of their own along with the tahini.

 

Milks

  • Organic unsweetened soy milk
  • Almond milk
  • Light Coconut milk (good for curries etc.)

Where to find:

Most leading supermarkets and hypermarkets have a dedicated section for non-dairy milks – coconut milk can be found in the baking or oriental foods sections of supermarkets.

Spices/Flavourings

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Organic low-sodium vegetable stock (I love Kallo brand)
  • Tamari/Nama Shoyu/ Braggs liquid aminos
  • Basil
  • Cayenne
  • Chili powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Curry powder
  • Cumin powder and seeds
  • Coriander
  • Cardamom
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Paprika
  • Rosemary
  • Turmeric
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

Where to find:

Nutritional yeast is sold at Geant in the health food aisle along with Braggs liquid aminos – these are two of my core staples. The spices you can find in your generic old spice aisle or at bulk bins at the hypermarkets.


And there you have it – a comprehensive vegan pantry starter list. While this is by no means a complete summary of everything I have in my kitchen (I’ve been cultivating my spices collection for years now) – it’s definitely a great starting point and paired with a bounty of your favourite fresh fruit and vegetables, can take you a long way.

Until next time, dear readers!

Gluten-free Vegan Samosa, Two Ways

Greetings dear readers, and a very warm Eid Mubarak to all those who celebrate!

I mentioned earlier this month that this past Ramadan was one of the toughest yet for me, a rumination only affirmed by the unfortunate bout of pharyngitis accompanied by an admission into the ER with low blood pressure and a high fever. But alas, some antibiotics and many days of much needed rest helped me combat the fatigue and I am feeling almost as good as new.

One thing I find fascinating is that when it comes to eating while sick, old habits die hard. Take a health-nut, superfood-loving, refined-carb hating vegan like me and riddle her with a lousy old virus and what do you get? Someone who won’t eat anything but boiled potatoes with cumin powder, salt and olive oil. When I’m sick, it is by far the only thing I can stand to look at without (excuse my French) resisting the urge to hurl. What’s even more shocking? I actually craved soft drinks. I’m not proud to say it, but I washed down many a plate of potatoes with some ice cold 7UP topped off with freshly squeezed lime.

In my defense, I can’t help it. I think anyone from my generation can attest that we’ve been bred to drink 7UP in the case of a) an upset stomach b) a fever c) any state of being unwell whatsoever. There’s just something about Arab doctors and recommending 7UP!

Anyways, as per usual, I digress. Part one of today’s recipe features our friend the white potato, but in a more wholesome version of a true Ramadan classic, samosas – or as they’re referred to here in the gulf “samboosas”.

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While samboosa is a staple at most any Ramadan table, it’s also a pretty popular street food that can be purchased from hole-in-the-wall type vendors along with chapathi. It typically comes in two varieties, cheese and vegetable and is served piping hot, crispy and deep fried.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say I don’t indulge in the occasional 1 (or 4) when the opportunity presents itself – I do. But hey – all the more motivation to come up with a healthier and more nutritionally dense alternative, right?

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Working with rice paper is tricky at first, but it holds up extremely well in place of wheat pastry – and is deliciously light and versatile.

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And thanks to my wonderful air fryer, and the result of this recipe development session, I can now have samboosa all year round – guilt free!