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Sunny Days, Kayaking and Couscous Salad

The wet side of Washington State isn’t known for having spectacular weather on Memorial Weekend so a sunny Saturday was amazing, especially as it got into the low 70’s. Although it wasn’t looking that way on Friday afternoon when we caught the edge of a huge thunderstorm system that slammed into the Cascade Mountains around Mt. Rainier. Thunder isn’t common so I took the kids back inside to wait it out. It was good and noisy but no lighting – ah well!

Alistaire is so strong I decided to see if he was ready to face out in his BABYBJÖRN Classic Original Baby Carrier. He was, but I still need to lower it more, he was riding too high. Frankly I think I need to use the second larger  BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier Active, Black/Red instead, it goes bigger. Mostly it is length issues, he is over 26″ tall and the Classic is designed for smaller babies. That and his weight is a neck killer, the Active should work better (it did with Walker). I need to find my solution soon, hiking season is upon us! (And yes, I know the front is supposed to go over his shoulders….I needed to drop the sling down so I cheated).

Saturday Kirk took the kayak down to the lake we live above. We always joke about our “lake views”, the kids can see it from their rooms, but not us. Still, no complaints as we are less than a block away.

Birds all over and lots of blooms:

Walker sat on one of the docks and watched Daddy come in closer:

Kirk has a new kayak coming, one that we can go out together in, with the two youngest. It should be here soon! I am very excited.

Although Walker finds the sea kayak interesting enough…..

Kirk paddling off, he went through the narrow crossing to the second lake after that.

Then off to play! (Alistaire was having fun in the jogger stroller….)

Then home to a simple but filling couscous salad for an easy dinner:

Green Pea & Chickpea Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups lower sodium vegetable broth
  • 1½ cups couscous
  • ¼ cup white balsamic or apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp honey or agave nectar
  • 1 Tbsp dry or fresh parsley
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1½ cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or 15 ounce can, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed

Directions:

Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan, add the couscous. Stir, cover and take off heat, let rest for 10 minutes.

Whisk the vinegar through pepper in a large bowl. Fluff the couscous with a fork, add to the bowl and toss to coat. Gently stir in the peas.

Chill for a couple of hours before serving, also good warm.

Serves 4 to 6.

~Sarah

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Balsamic Chickpea Couscous

This turned out tasty although one has to love the taste of balsamic vinegar as it is very strong ( i happen to love it). Kirk commented that dried cranberries would have gone well with the dish, I think he would be right on that. It would a bit of chewiness and a tart/sweet flavor to play with the vinegar.I may work on this again and add a ¼ cup or so with the liquid (before boiling).

Balsamic Chickpea Couscous

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups lower sodium vegetable broth (or chicken for non-veg’s)
  • 15 once can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 15 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1½ cup couscous
  • ¼ to ½ cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Add everything through the pepper to a large skillet, bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, add in the couscous, stir well and let sit covered, off the heat, for 10 minutes. Fluff up and stir ¼ cup cheese.

Serve with more cheese as desired.

Serves 3.

~Sarah

Chickpea Stew over Couscous

I adapted this recipe from Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet–All on $5 a Day or Less, on page 139. The book has solid ideas but I’d say that the recipe needs a little tweaking. Although those tweaks would raise the price of the meal up, it would have given a bit deeper flavor. Still, the recipe I chose was solid – it just needed a little more liquid! I do note in my version below what to add. I subbed in a bag of frozen bell pepper strips for the fresh one called for. Here in fall it is just cheaper to use frozen and they are a blend of colors – and I get more as well!

Chickpea Stew over Couscous

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 14 ounce bag frozen bell pepper strips, broken up
  • 2 carrots, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 tsp garlic, diced (jarred is fine or 2 cloves)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt (or more as desired)
  • 15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup lower sodium vegetable broth (my addition)
  • ½ cup raisins

Couscous –

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1¼ cups lower sodium vegetable broth (my addition, recipe called for water + salt)

Directions:

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil, peppers and onion and let cook. Meanwhile cut the carrots in half lengthwise and then into half moons. Add the carrots to the skillet. When the onions are tender add the garlic and spices, stir in and let cook for another minute. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, broth and raisins, bring to a boil, turn to medium-low and let cook covered till the carrots are done (takes about 10 minutes).

Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil in a small saucepan, add the couscous. Take off the stove and cover tightly, let sit for 10 minutes.

To serve, divide the couscous between bowls and top with the stew.

Serves 3 to 4.

~Sarah

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

An easy, quick and tasty pasta salad – the key in affordability is bulk jars of the ingredients – Costco is your friend here! I am of the mindset I always try to have the large jars on hand so I can indulge in the flavors!

I was at the final day of our local farmers market this year and stopped by A Taste of Eden’s booth and came away much poorer in cash but loaded up in amazing tasting dipping oils and balsamic vinegars. Yum to say the least and using the oil in a couscous salad was just the perfect blend!

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1¼ cups water
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 15 ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup drained marinated artichokes, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup drained marinated sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup kalamata olives, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • ¼ cup flavored dipping oil or oil based dressing (I used A Taste of Eden’s Parmesan Garlic)
  • Parmesan cheese for topping if desired

Directions:

Bring the water and salt to a boil in a small saucepan, add in the couscous and stir. Take off the heat and let sit tightly covered for 10 minutes. Fluff up and let chill in the refrigerator covered.

When cold fluff up again and add to a large mixing bowl.

Stir in the artichokes, tomatoes and olives and then the beans. Add the parsley and oil, gently stir to combine. Let refrigerate for a little while (or even overnight) for the flavors to meld.

Top with cheese as desired.

Serves 3.

~Sarah

Roasted Butternut Couscous

An experiment that happily turned out, although it is a niche recipe. Butternut squash is lovely but can be overpowering for non-squash lovers so the old YMMV applies here 😉

Roasted Butternut Couscous

Ingredients:

  • 1 Butternut Squash (2-3 lbs, mine was 3)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 cups lower sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup sweet chili sauce (Thai)
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 1½ cups couscous (10 ounces)
  • Parmesan cheese to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. Peel the butternut squash and then halve it (it will take a strong hand and large knife). Discard the seeds and innards (although some love roasting the seeds separately). Cut into bite size chunks and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto a baking sheet and roast for 30 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown and tender to a fork.

You can either chill the squash at this point for later use or use right away.

Add the squash, broth, butter, chili sauce and cranberries to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add in the couscous, stir well and cover tightly, taking off the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes, then gently fluff up. Serve with Parmesan cheese as desired.

Serves 3.

~Sarah

Lamb and Couscous

While we tend towards a vegan diet I am by no means a vegan, call me a flexitarian if anything. I also run anemic most of the time and currently am pretty bad. And when it gets like that outside of being dosed with more supplements I just eat red meat. It works and I feel better quickly. Keeps the doctor happy as well. I had picked up some lean ground lamb and was thinking of what to make with it for a quick dinner last night, dinner ended up being one of the “what do I have” recipes and it was quite delicious.

Lamb and Couscous

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 lb ground lamb, preferably lean (or sub in lean beef or turkey)
  • 1 Tbsp roasted garlic (jarred)
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil packed, chopped small
  • 2 cups frozen green peas
  • 2 cups lower sodium broth (beef, chicken or vegetable works)
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 10 ounces couscous (1 box plain)
  • Parmesan cheese for topping, if desired

Directions:

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high, add the oil, onion and lamb, cook until fully browned, breaking the lamb into small pieces. Stir in the garlic, tomatoes and peas and then broth and flavorings. Turn to high, bring to a boil. Add in the couscous, stirring well. Cover tightly, take off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Stir well and serve.

Serves 4.

~Sarah

Lentil and Couscous Salad

This easy couscous salad is vegan but I cheated and had some Queso Fresco cheese crumbled on the top…there is something about that cheese which tastes so delicious!

Lentil and Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

Dressing –

  • ¼ cup lemon juice (bottled is fine)
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp agave syrup (or honey for non-vegan)
  • 1 Tbsp dry parsley
  • ¼ tsp each ground black pepper and kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salad –

  • ½ cup bell peppers, chopped (frozen is fine)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 15-ounce can lentils, rinsed and drained (Westbrae Lentils)

Directions:

Whisk the dressing together in a large bowl, add in the bell peppers and lentils. Meanwhile bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan, add in the couscous. Stir well and cover tightly, let sit off the heat for 10 minutes. Fluff up with a fork, then toss with the dressing.

Let chill for a couple of hours or overnight. Taste for seasoning and add more as needed.

Serves 4.

~Sarah

Couscous Pudding

Is it breakfast? Dessert? It could work either way really. Consider it a variation of rice pudding. The texture may not be to liking if you are not used to couscous though, I liked it but I also eat a lot of couscous. Unlike rice, couscous is loaded with protein, it is made from Semolina flour. You can change the ingredients easily enough to make it vegan as well. Fair warning: It is not very sweet, but as well, I liked it that way.

Couscous Pudding

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup raisins
  • 3 cups low-fat milk (or soy/rice/coconut/hemp, etc)
  • ¼ cup honey, or favorite sweetener
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest (about 1 medium orange)
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Put the raisins in a medium heat-safe bowl and cover with boiling water, set aside. In a medium saucepan bring the milk, honey, cinnamon and orange zest to just below a simmer (around 180 to 190°). Take off the stove, stir in the couscous and vanilla. Cover tightly and let sit for 20 minutes. Stir in the raisins and serve. Depending on taste you may want more honey drizzled on top.

~Sarah

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