Roasted Vegetable Couscous Salad

When I made this familiar dish the other night, I said to my husband, “This is my favorite vegetable experience.” Spoken like a real food nerd, I know. But seriously, as vegetable experiences go, this is a smokin’ good one. Broccoli, zucchini, and carrots at their roasted crispy-sweetest, layered in fluffy couscous with perfectly al dente feta, held together with the undergirding tartness of a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Holy couscous salad, Batman!

While you may assume this is a side dish–and it very well serve as one–it always serves our family as an entree. (Well, an entree that leaves a little room for dessert.) As a vegetarian meal, it’s got it all: carbs, protein, and veggies.

Here’s the lowdown on how to make it:

Roasted Vegetable Couscous Salad
(Recipe is original except for dressing from Food.com)

Ingredients:

For the salad:

2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 in. x 2 in. matchsticks
2 carrots, cut into 1/2 in. x 2 in. matchsticks
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 c. dry couscous

For the dressing:
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss zucchini, carrots, and broccoli with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast 25-30 minutes, turning vegetables every 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, make the couscous according to package directions.

Also make the dressing: mix all ingredients except the oil together. Add oil to mixture and mix well with a whisk/fork.

Toss couscous with roasted vegetables, feta, and dressing.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side dish.

Mexican-Style Pan-Roasted Pork with Pineapple

If this dish were a person, it would be that eccentric, crazy-dressing English teacher who had a really good heart. The one who could make the most embittered 17-year-old dude love Shakespeare, even as she paired yellow leopard-print tights with purple snakeskin boots. You know what I mean? With pork, I would never think to pair the flavors of pineapple and onion, but that is exactly what this unusual main dish does, and to great success. Because the onions caramelize as you cook them in the pan, they attain a sweetness that melds beautifully with the tangy-tart pop of pineapple. A hint of cumin and oregano reminds the palate that this is indeed a savory dish (we’re talking pork chops, after all), rounding it out as one of those heavenly sweet-and-savory Gestalt combos.

I found this recipe while perusing a library book I recently checked out, Real Food for Healthy Kids. I’m always on the lookout for healthy dinners my kids won’t turn their noses up at. Frankly, I’m a little surprised the authors included this recipe, though, since the flavor is so unconventional. Maybe they figured the pork and pineapple theme would remind kids of Hawaiian pizza? Whatever their reasoning, I’m glad they left it in. Paired with rice and a vegetable, it makes a straightforward weeknight meal I will make again. Look for a review of this cookbook on the blog in the near future!

Mexican-Style Pan-Roasted Pork with Pineapple
Adapted from Real Food for Healthy Kids

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. thin-sliced pork chops
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 20-oz. can pineapple chunks in juice, drained, juice reserved
1 c. chicken broth

Combine flour, cumin, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl. Dredge pork chops in mixture to coat and set aside on a plate.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork chops and cook until the underside turns golden brown, about 2-4 minutes. Turn and cook until the other side browns, 2-4 minutes more. Remove from pan and keep warm under foil on a plate.

Add the onion and oregano to the pan and cook until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the pineapple and cook and stir for 1 minute. Add the broth and 2 Tbsp. of reserved pineapple juice. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 3-4 minutes.

Serve pork on individual plates (with rice, if desired) and spoon pineapple-onion sauce over the top.

Baked Falafel and Tzatziki Sauce (with a side of Phineas and Ferb)

If you’re a parent of young children, you are familiar with that incredible window of productivity known as your child’s nap time. Since my 2-year-old blessedly still takes an afternoon nap, I try to get as much done as possible during those couple of quiet(er) hours of the day. My 6 and 4-year-olds are still very much awake at that time, but Legos are a beautiful thing for keeping them entertained…well, Legos and pummeling each other to the ground in what they call “Wrestle Fight.” (Did I mention they’re girls?…haha, just kidding.)

When my 2-year-old was younger and wouldn’t sit through a TV show while I made dinner, I relied on nap time to get prep work done on dinner, easing the pain of her standing at the baby gate screaming her guts out while I chopped vegetables…really not fun for either of us. Since then, the routine of doing dinner prep in the afternoons has become second nature, especially if I want to make a meal that takes longer than a Phineas and Ferb episode. When I meal plan, I typically gravitate toward recipes that I can chop/grate/mix/layer ahead of time.

This is one such recipe. You can mash the chickpeas, chop and process the onions, parsley, and garlic, mix it all up with some egg, spices, and bread crumbs, and mold the result into patties in maybe 20 minutes:


Finished patties before cooking

Stash in the fridge until dinner time and it’s ready to bake. Same goes for the tzatziki…without the baking, obviously. This leaves your 24 minutes of Phineas and Ferb for things like checking Facebook and enjoying a glass of wine.

Baked Falafel and Tzatziki Sauce
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

3/4 c. Greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber–peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, drained
1 small onion, chopped
2 1/2 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 egg
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1 dash pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4-1 c. dry bread crumbs

In a small bowl, mix the Greek yogurt, cucumber, dill weed, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, mash chickpeas until thick and pasty. In a blender, process onion, parsley and garlic until smooth. Stir into mashed chickpeas.

In a small bowl combine egg, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice and baking powder. Stir into chickpea mixture along with olive oil. Slowly add bread crumbs until mixture is not sticky but will hold together; add more or less bread crumbs, as needed. Form balls and then flatten into patties. (I got 13 smallish patties.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray foil with high-quality vegetable oil cooking spray, then place falafel on foil and spray them as well. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip and spray falafel again. Bake another 10 minutes. Finally, broil 1.5-2 minutes on each side.

Serve with tzatziki sauce (and other fixin’s as desired, such as pita, tomato, spinach, etc.)