Tag Archives: healthy

Vegetarian Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Olives with Fluffy Lemon Quinoa


VegetarianTagine_spoonwithme-31I love that food can take us back to places we’ve been before, and places we dream of going.  This tagine takes me back to a trip to Morocco I took with the Mister to visit my soul sister Karissa while she was living there for a couple of years.  Morocco was a place I had never imagined I’d visit, but when given the opportunity, I thought, I’ve got to do this! My favorite thing about visiting someplace new is experiencing a different speed and rhythm of life, and observing the way that everything works like clockwork with its own moving parts, in its own way.  

VegetarianTagine_spoonwithme-17VegetarianTagine_spoonwithme-32VegetarianTagine_spoonwithme-15On our first night in Casablanca, our friends took us to a magical restaurant outdoors surrounded by garden, with live local musicians playing traditional Moroccan instruments.  It was the perfect place to make us feel that yes, we are indeed in Morocco!  I felt out of my comfort zone, a sense of nervous excitement the whole time, wanting to see and experience all I could, to be warm and friendly while clumsily and earnestly trying to observe and follow the cultural norms.  I probably had a goofy smile on my face that night, trying to soak in everything I could, experiencing it like a new puppy, seeing even the mundane things of everyday life like dishes, plants and doors as new and exciting.

VegetarianTagine_spoonwithme-12The first dish I ate in Morocco is forever burned into my memory– chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives.  At that point I had never tasted anything like it–A thick vibrant yellow stew filled with braised chicken, onions cooked into almost collapsing tenderness, soaking up all of the cooking liquid seasoned with ginger, saffron, and dotted with little salty exclamation points in the form of olives and and strips of bright preserved lemon rind. It’s a lemony, thick and savory stew, and ours was served with traditional pillowy rounds of traditional Moroccan breads covered with cracked seeds, perfect for soaking up every last bit of the stew.  



Traditionally, this tagine would be made in a conical earthenware cooking vessel called a tagine (ha! Imagine that!).  If you happen to have a tagine lying around, by all means use it!  I don’t have one and like to use my enameled dutch oven–any sturdy pan with a tight fitting lid will work just fine.  I even like to saute the ingredients in my Instant Pot and cook it in a ridiculously short amount of time.  I’ll include IP instructions below if you happen to have one.  


Since I eat a (mostly) plant-based diet now,  I wanted to create a vegetarian tagine to satisfy  the same craving as the original recipe– In my version, I’ve added potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and chickpeas, braised to soak up the same lemony, savory, onion-laden stew of onions, punctuated with olives and preserved lemon rind of the original.  Traditionally, the dish is colored and seasoned with saffron, which does add a roundness and complexity.  Karissa told me that many people in Morocco use safflower (in the US it’s called Mexican Saffron) to add color to dishes because true saffron is so expensive.  I’ve made it optional in this recipe, as it’s delicious without it and you’ll still achieve a lovely golden yellow stew from the turmeric.  


Lately, I’ve been into making “mega-batches” of foods that freeze well, and this is one of them.  I freeze small portions in quart bags so that I can quickly thaw them for lunch or dinner.  It is so nice to have a home cooked meal when you’re too tired or busy to make a home cooked meal.  I’ve saved myself many times this way, and present me always thanks past me for being so thoughtful to prepare such a delicious meal in advance. This tagine is great over couscous or quinoa, and you can make it fresh on the night you’re ready to heat up the tagine.  


As Spring approaches, I’m starting to dream of new destinations and foods.  I hope this tagine either takes you back to your own trip to Morocco, or transports you there and gives you a little taste if you’ve never been.  Enjoy!  

Let’s talk ingredients!

Preserved Lemons:  

•I like buying my preserved lemons from Savory Spice Shop.

•Got some extra time on your hands?  Why not make your own preserved lemons? I love making them myself. You can find my recipe here.  

•I’m curious about using this method for making “speedy” preserved lemons (speedy, as in one week instead of a whole month.)  Will update the post when I try!

Vegetarian Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Olives with Lemony Quinoa

Adapted to be vegan from two of Paula Wolfert’s chicken tagine recipes from her book The Food of Morocco.  If you happen to have an Instant Pot, I’ve included instructions below!  Although couscous is a more traditional accompaniment, I like eating this tagine with quinoa because it’s more nutrient-dense.  If you prefer, feel free to serve with couscous!

Tagine Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Nigella seeds (also known as kalonji or charnushka), optional*
  • 1 large tomato, chopped (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons powdered ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 pound (12 ounces) cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
  • 3/4 pound yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3/4 pound carrots, peeled and cut into thick slices
  • 3/4 cup pitted brined mixed olives, rinsed to remove excess salt
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • 1 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or equivalent cooked chickpeas from dry)
  • 1 pinch saffron threads, about 1/4 teaspoon, optional*
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth (I like vegetarian no-chicken broth for its more neutral flavor)
  • juice of one lemon, or to taste
  • fresh parsley leaves, to garnish
  • salt to taste
  • lemony quinoa, for serving (recipe follows)

Rub the saffron between your fingers to crush the threads a bit, and put them in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons warm water and allow to soak for 15 minutes to infuse the water and release the flavor.

Quarter the preserved lemon and remove and discard the flesh.  Rinse the rind and chop into 1/4 inch strips.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a dutch oven or large heavy pot with a tight fitting lid.  Add the onion, and sprinkle with salt.  Sauté for 3-4 minutes, until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Add the chopped tomato, turmeric, ginger, black pepper and ground cumin.  Sauté for 2 minutes longer.

Add the cauliflower, potato, carrot, olives, chickpeas, 2 1/2 cups broth and the saffron water (including any saffron threads left in the water).  Add some salt to taste.

Quarter the preserved lemon and remove and discard the flesh.  Rinse the rind and chop into 1/4 inch strips.  Add rind strips to the pot.

Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 55 minutes to and hour and ten minutes, or until potatoes and carrots are tender.  Season to taste with salt, and lemon juice to bring out the flavors.  Serve over lemony quinoa.

While tagine is simmering, make the quinoa (see recipe below).

Instant Pot Adaptation:  

Push the sauté button and allow the Instant Pot to heat up.  Sauté and add the ingredients in the same order as in the recipe above through the vegetable broth.  The   Hit the cancel button on the Instant Pot, then secure the lid and cook on high pressure (or push the meat/stew button if yours doesn’t have a manual pressure button) for 9 minutes*.  Make sure the valve is set to “seal” not venting.  Release manually (be very careful, the hot steam will shoot out.  I like to put an oven mitt on and use tongs to turn the valve.  Make sure you are standing far away from the pot).

*Note:  I have tested this recipe at many different cooking times, each resulting in very tender vegetables.  9 minutes cooking time still left the cauliflower very soft.  When I test again, I’ll start with 7 minutes.  If you test a different cooking time, please leave a comment below!

Fluffy Lemony Quinoa 

  • 2 cups quinoa, rinsed well
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (again, I like vegetarian no-chicken broth)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • juice from a lemon, to taste
  • additional salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put quinoa, broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and garlic cloves in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil, then immediately turn down to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 12 minutes, or until quinoa is fluffy and the little white tails are visible around the outside of the grains.  Fluff with a fork, and add olive oil,  lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.


*I like using Nigella/ Kalonji for the specks of color, and the slightly nutty, toasted onion flavor they impart.  I like to get mine from Savory Spice Shop.

*This tagine is wonderful without the saffron–if you have some around and would like to use it, by all means do!  It adds a rounded depth of flavor.  If you don’t want to invest in this expensive little spice, your tagine will still taste great!



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Lemon-Herb Cashew Sour Cream Dip (v, gf)



Vegan Herby Sour Cream Dip at Spoonwithme.com (1 of 1)-8

Lactose intolerants and L.I sympathizers, gather round!  This is the holy grail of creaminess for all who can’t eat dairy yet still crave dip.  Sour cream, oh, how I’ve missed you these past few years!  I came across this recipe for the “best damn vegan sour cream” on Gluten-Free Vegan Pantry, and I thought to myself, we’ll see about that. I felt like I was anticipating a blind date (which is how the Mister and I met, by the way).  Don’t get your hopes up too high.  This could be really good, but it could also end up like all those other train wrecks.  I’ve been holding out hope for a sour cream substitute that a) doesn’t taste like cashews, b) doesn’t taste like plastic, c) has the texture of sour cream, and most importantly, d) Is made with real, whole ingredients, not chemicals.  Is that asking too much?  To say the least, I was very pleasantly surprised (both by the sour cream and the man)!  The Mister and I are celebrating our 9 year wedding anniversary on Thursday, and I’ve got my 9th batch of vegan sour cream in the fridge.  I’d say things are going quite well!  

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When cashews are soaked, something magical and ethereal happens.  See their halo?   Soaking the cashews softens their flavor, and most importantly, makes them blendable and transformable.  If you read my last post, you know the name of the game for me right now is to eat, eat, eat.   My strategy is to devour as many nutritious, calorie-dense whole foods as possible.  Whether you’re trying to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain, I am convinced that there is no fad diet or quick fix better than just eating real food.  Enter, delicious herby dip.  

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What is the history of dip?  Is it an american thing?  Or did we just create a blanket term for any kind of thick sauce scooped up by a vehicle such as a veggie or a cracker?  David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria  exhaustively researched the subject, and I can sum it up with the following: the 50’s, the invention of potato chips, the emerging American couch potato class, and the need to deliver food to one’s mouth while watching the glowing box…  Another proud example of American ingenuity.  Americans loved dipping so much that we changed the word from a verb to a noun.  The emergence of the first recipe for crudité also emerged in France around the same time.  Crudité sounds so much more sophisticated than dip, but it’s a means to the same end: Use something delicious and crispy to deliver something saucy and flavorful into your mouth. Repeat if needed. 

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Luckily, dip doesn’t have to be that packet of processed powder that we have probably all stirred into sour cream and devoured at some point or another.  Although admittedly addictive and tasty, the first three ingredients are maltodextrin, salt and monosodium glutamate.  That doesn’t sound like food to me! I like to whip up a batch of this real food dip to snack on throughout the week (or, let’s be honest–over the course of a few days).  It’s cool and herby with hints of garlic and onion, creamy, and smooth.  The hardest part is remembering to get those cashews soaking.  The rest comes together quite quickly!  I’m looking forward to the tenth year sharing life’s crazy adventures with the Mister, and I’m sure my 10th batch of vegan sour cream will be close to follow!  Enjoy your maiden vegan sour cream voyage!  

Vegan Herby Sour Cream Dip at Spoonwithme.com (5 of 8)

Lemon-Herb Cashew Sour Cream Dip

This cashew sour cream has become a staple in my house.  One of my cookbooks has a rule:  Always be soaking.  I agree, it’s best to be ready to whip up this dip when the craving strikes!  I use my high-powered (Vitamix) blender to achieve an extra- smooth texture.  Any blender will do, but just make sure to scrape down the edges as you go, and add a little extra water if needed.   This dip can be made a day or two ahead of time, and the flavor improves when chilled overnight.  If you would like to make plain sour cream, which has an infinite number of uses, just omit the dip ingredients!  

For the sour cream:

  • 1 cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked 8 hours or overnight
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TB fresh lemon juice (finely grate and reserve 1/2 tsp zest)
  • 1/4 cup water (plus additional if needed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the dip:

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon minced dill leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
  • Salt to taste
  • Additional minced herbs to garnish

Make the cashew sour cream:

Drain the soaked cashews, and put them in a blender with the lemon juice, water, nutritional yeast and salt.  If it is too thick and won’t blend, add additional water, a tablespoon at a time.  Blend for about 3-5 minutes until very smooth, stopping to scrape down the edges if needed.  Chill for 2 hours or more (or, in a pinch, put in the freezer for 20 minutes until cold and slightly thickened.

In a medium bowl, mix the cashew sour cream with all of the dip ingredients.  Season with salt to taste and garnish with the herbs.



Filed under Appetizers, Condiments, Sauces, Snacks, vegetarian, Vegetarian and Vegan

Mexican Veggie “Super Bowls” with Chili Lime Vinaigrette

Veggie Super Bowls at Spoonwithme.com-13

What was I doing on Sunday, you ask?  Well, I was making a super bowl, of course!  Superbowl Sunday is always a great day for three things.  Yummy food, socializing, and knitting on the couch for extended periods of time.  Oh, and I suppose I left out the football!  Don’t get me wrong, I wore my orange and blue for the occasion.  I am a Denver-ite after all.  I daresay I actually watched and enjoyed the game between knits and purls (GASP, a personal first)!    There’s hope yet!  On Sunday morning, while the Mister was excitedly watching the pre-game, my mind was on the food.  I made some gluten-free samosas with chickpea flour wrappers to take to the game, and these “super bowls” for lunch.

Veggie Super Bowls at Spoonwithme.com

Veggie Super Bowls at Spoonwithme.com-7

The previous day, my friend Karissa and I created these bowls together, and then proceeded to chow down.  I just had to make it again on Super Bowl Sunday so I could record the recipe and share it!  I’m always looking for healthy, colorful lunch ideas.  For me, a mostly raw diet is not a good fit.  In ayurveda, my body constitution is “vata”.  I’m always cold and need warming foods to keep my system in balance. If you’re unfamiliar with ayurveda, here’s a good explanation.

Veggie Super Bowls at Spoonwithme.com-8

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This lunch (or dinner) bowl is easy, healthy, lime-y, spiced and colorful.  It’s a great warm lunch for these winter days, and you can add or subtract ingredients as you like, change up the sauce, and add raw greens or other veggies.  If you like to eat your veggies raw, scatter the rice and veggies over a bed of greens to create a salad.    You can also roll everything into a tortilla or wrap.

Every good get-together needs good food.  If you bring the football enthusiasm, I’ll bring the eats!  I hope you enjoyed your Super Bowl.  I sure enjoyed mine!

Veggie Super Bowls at Spoonwithme.com-12

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Wild Mushroom Wild Rice with Caramelized Onions


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Rice, gone wild!  Double wild!  Mushroom madness!  All this Thanksgiving recipe testing and eating has put me into a food-induced euphoria.  Wild two times in one title is two too many wilds for one recipe, young lady!  Bring your torches.  Ban.  This.  Site.  Hide your childrens’ eyes!  With all this fungus among-us, it’s gettin’ crazy up in here.

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I bought a gigantic bag of assorted dried local Colorado mushrooms at the farmers market this summer.  We’re talking two freezer bags worth.  There will not be a mushroom shortage for the foreseeable future in the Spoon With Me house, in case anybody was wondering. What does one do with so many dried mushrooms, you ask?  You know that mouth-coating savory depth that can be hard to achieve in plant-based recipes?  Think of them as a way to boost the umami factor, especially in vegetarian and vegan dishes.  I love to grind them into powder to add savoriness to sauces gravies, and soups.  In this recipe, I used the broth from rehydrating them as part of the cooking liquid for the rice. If you’re a full or part- time vegan or vegetarian, you need dried mushrooms in your arsenal if you want to up the ooooh mommy!

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Filed under Side Dishes, Vegetarian and Vegan

Tangerine-Port Cranberry Sauce


We all have our food quirks.  The Mister likes to figure out the best flavor combination on any given plate, then repeat that experience as many times as possible.  Salads are evenly tossed and big ingredients chopped up so that each bite has the optimized flavor.


I once ate dinner with a girl who had a phobia of her foods touching each other.  We were at an Asian restaurant.  Plain shrimp, plain vegetables, plain rice.  No sauce, not even soy.  Each part of the meal was eaten by itself, before moving on   I kind of wanted to put a carrot slice on her rice, just to see what would happen, but I figured that was a bit immature.  Phobias ain’t no joke.  I’m the mixing queen.  I like to see how many unique combinations of flavors I can put into each bite.



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Filed under Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Vegetarian and Vegan