Category Archives: 31 Before 30

Ratatouille Quiche

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It’s just a matter of time until my 30th birthday and that 31 Before 30 list doesn’t look any smaller. REB told me to re-purpose or rewrite certain things on the list, but I told that would be cheating and I couldn’t live with myself [dramatic moment]. I’ve come to the realization that I am not going to even be able to tackle half the items on that list.

But that’s life. And life has taken over. Everything.

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I’ve made myself too busy for words and I’ve literally dug myself into a hole. Deadlines at work, working longer, later hours, being a grouch at home, obligations on weekends… I need to learn to say “no” to people. But I also have this compulsive need to please people, so this hole I dug has become home.

So in an effort to decompress and not think about anyone but myself, I looked at my bucket list and decided I was going to tackle something. Making a meal entirely out of farmers market finds. Done.

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I have been waiting almost a month to share this recipe with everyone, and I am so happy I finally get to!

I went to the market a while back with a plan of what I wanted to make, and then completely changed it when I walked by several tables with the most delicious looking peppers, eggplant, squash, zucchini and tomatoes. I instantly thought of ratatouille, but then thought that would be more appropriate for a fall-time dinner. The only way I could think to lighten and “summer” it up was to make a quiche and pair with a light, refreshing salad. So that’s how this quiche came to be.

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Aside from some basic ingredients (like balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper) and crust (because I am not a baker and I hate making pastry shells, so I bought a frozen whole wheat crust), everything for this meal was from the market.

This quiche was perfection. It wasn’t too heavy and I paired with a side salad of fresh arugula and basil. The basil was purchased at the farmers market, but also from my friends who have a community garden. They had an abundance of basil and were generous enough to give me some leaves!

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 I may not get everything done on that list, or even come close to crossing a few more items off between now and the big 3-0. But, it was at least still a fun experiment to try and I did get to cross off some things! So that makes me pretty happy. And I get to eat something delicious here and there when my life hasn’t taken been taken over by work. That’s always a good thing in my opinion.

Ratatouille Quiche
 
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Author:
Recipe type: quiche, vegetarian
Cuisine: brunch, French
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 frozen whole wheat crust (take it out while you are prepping and cooking, so it’s ready to use when you’re done – does not need to be fully thawed)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup eggplant, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup zucchini, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup summer squash, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup bell pepper (red and/or green), cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ cup red onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh Thyme, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup Gruyere cheese (or similar), shredded
  • 5 large eggs
  • ½ cup skim milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a large skillet or pan heat 1 teaspoon olive oil until hot
  3. Add eggplant, zucchini, summer squash and onion and cook 8-10 minutes until softened and tender
  4. Sprinkle salt, pepper and fresh thyme, and stir
  5. Transfer cooked vegetables to a bowl and set aside.
  6. In a separate, large bowl, beat eggs
  7. Add milk and whisk until combined
  8. Place prepared crust on a baking sheet (will prevent any spills!)
  9. Pour cooked vegetables into crust
  10. Sprinkled with shredded cheese
  11. Carefully pour egg mixture on top of vegetables
  12. Bake for 30-40 minutes until eggs are cooked, or when knife inserted in middle comes out clean.
  13. Serve immediately

 

 

Cookbook Challenge #4 and #5

It’s time to recap two cookbook challenges I had last week. One was a complete disaster (#4) and one was totally boss (#5). I’m now two cookbooks done and only have 9 more to get through and 17 more recipes to finish!

Let’s talk about the kitchen disaster first. I tried making Isa Chandra’s Samosa smashed potato cakes from her Vegan Brunch cookbook and it failed miserably.

The mixture looks like it would hold!

The mixture looked promising. Looks can be deceiving.

I followed the recipe exactly and even used a blog online that also referenced the recipe and it still failed. The only difference was I didn’t use 4 pounds potatoes because we didn’t need 30 of these potato cakes for just us two. But that shouldn’t have made a difference. Whenever I make any kind of savory cake, I almost always use cooked quinoa, Panko or even an egg as the binder. Since this recipe was vegan, I couldn’t use the egg, but it suggested using flour. Which I used. It still turned into a gloppy, horrible mess, but it tasted great.

Following the recipe method of frying them. Yuck!

Following the recipe method of frying them. Yuck!

Again, this looked promising! They just wouldn’t hold so when I would flip them (waiting almost 6-7 minutes per side; double the time suggested in the cookbook!), they turned into a mess. So I decided to try it again but without any oil in the pan.

More promising - still didn't hold.

More promising – still didn’t hold.

Since it was like samosa filling, it was totally boss. I’m just disappointed the end result couldn’t be classified as food. So we ended up getting takeout since it was already like 8 by that point. Lame. Screw the cookbook. Use Panko or quinoa next time. Lesson learned.

But moving onto Friday, we had our successful recipe! I found the risotto and pea recipe from Giada’s Everyday Italian cookbook and decided to make it. Except, learning my lesson from the disaster the night before, I just made my own version of it. I used my mushroom risotto for two recipe but added peas. Simple enough and oh so delicious.

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I’ve sort of perfected my risotto making process and now it’s foolproof. I do like the addition of peas, too. I didn’t think I would, but it was actually really good. And it reheated well the next day, too! You can’t go wrong with risotto though. It’s probably one of my favorite foods and since I don’t get to eat it all the time, when I do, it’s the most glorious experience. Truly.

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Mushroom Risotto with Peas
 
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Combining my risotto recipe with the peas from Giada de Laurentiis
Author:
Recipe type: risotto, main dish, vegetarian
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 1 oz. package dried porcini mushrooms (Earthy Delights brand or similar) – soaked in hot water to reconstitute
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 8 oz. Cremini mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed and sliced
  • 4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed and sliced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine (Pinot Grigio or similar)
  • ½ cup frozen green peas
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Start by adding the dried porcini mushrooms to some hot water to reconstitute them. Set aside for 20-25 minutes.
  2. Next add 4 cups of low sodium vegetable broth to a medium saucepan and bring to slight simmer over medium heat.
  3. In a large, deep skillet heat the 1 teaspoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat.
  4. Add the shallot and cook for 3-5 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Next add the sliced cremini and shiitake mushrooms and cook 8-10 minutes or until tender and most of the water has evaporated.
  6. Remove mushrooms from pan to bowl and set aside.
  7. Heat the other teaspoon of oil and tablespoon of butter in same pan.
  8. Add the arborio rice and stir until slightly toasted.
  9. Add the white wine and cook for 1-1½ minutes or until alcohol evaporates.
  10. Then add the broth ½ cup at a time, stirring the rice, and let it thicken. When you notice the liquid is almost absorbed, add another ½ up of broth. Continue this until the broth is used up.
  11. Add the cooked mushrooms to the pan.
  12. With a slotted spoon, take the porcinis out of the water and add them to the pan.
  13. If you need to use more liquid, you can use the mushroom water.
  14. The risotto is done when it is thickened and the rice is cooked and no longer hard – about 25-28 minutes.
  15. Add the frozen peas and cook for 1 minutes to heat through.
  16. Stir in the Parmesan cheese last.
  17. Serve immediately
  18. Optional garnishes: freshly chopped parsley or shavings Parmesan cheese

Cookbook Challenge #3 – Mushroom Bolognese

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Look at me go. I’m down 3 recipes and still have….19 to go! I’ve finished the two recipes from Isa Chandra’s Appetite for Reduction, so I moved onto a cookbook I own that now doesn’t suit my diet whatsoever: Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis.

First off, I’m not the biggest fan of Giada. I don’t know if I ever was, but I was gifted this cookbook probably because I wanted cookbooks from all types of cuisine and figured “Hey! She’s bone thin and seems relatively healthy, I’ll get her cookbook.” Except, her cookbook isn’t made up of the healthiest recipes, definitely not lower carb and she only eats like 2 bites of food a day so no wonder she’s bone thin.

Either way, I figured I should tackle this cookbook next since carbs are my enemy and I need to just get it over with. So I made a version of her mushroom bolognese.

I forgot how much I love Italian food. I also forgot how heavy it can be. And I also forgot that carbs aren’t my friends and eating a lot of them in one sitting after not doing so for months did not make my stomach feel happy. I just felt full. Talk about carb binging.

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Nonetheless, it was done. Now I can check it off my list and go scouring through the book to find another recipe to make. Maybe I’ll just stick to something simple, like a vegetable appetizer.

Mushroom Bolognese
 
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A heartier version of Giada de Laurentiis’s recipe.
Author:
Recipe type: sauce, main dish, mushrooms
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pound (2 8-oz. containers) mushrooms: I used creminis, shitakes and oysters – wiped clean, stems removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • ½ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 15-oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the onion and red bell pepper and cook until tender, about 5-8 minutes.
  3. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
  4. Remove peppers and onion from pan and transfer to a bowl and set aside
  5. Add the remaining teaspoon olive oil, then add the mushrooms and cook until softened and tender – 5-10 minutes.
  6. When the mushrooms have reduced in size and most of the water has evaporated, add the peppers and onions back to the pan.
  7. Add the tomato paste, whole tomatoes and crushed tomatoes to pan and stir well.
  8. Add dried oregano, thyme, salt and pepper and stir well.
  9. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until thickened.
  10. Serve over pasta of choice and enjoy.

 

 

Cookbook Challenge #2 – Quinoa Pilaf

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I brought Isa Chandra’s Appetite for Reduction cookbook to work with me and read through it as I had my morning cup of coffee. I ended up looking at her recipe for cranberry-cashew biryani and knew I needed to make it.

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However, as much as I love her recipes and love that in this cookbook everything is 400 calories or less per serving, I wanted to change the recipe to fit my taste buds better.

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My sister and I were emailing each other all day talking about recipes, our mom’s recipes, cooking and planning my visit to Chicago in March (hooray!). I told her about this recipe and how I wanted to change it to fit my dietary needs. She reminded me that “biryani” is actually all spice. It does not usually have dried fruit in it, and I wanted to use some kind of dried fruit. So we both realized what I wanted to make, was really a pulao or pilaf.

The biggest changes I made were the cooking process in general, using quinoa over Basmati rice to help keep it low-carb for me, and using dried apricots instead of cranberries.

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garam masala made fresh

If you didn’t know, apricots and cumin are two of the most yummy flavors when combined. Next time you make a curry dish with cumin, add a little dried apricot in there – your world will change completely.

This dish turned out amazing. How do I know that? When REB got home from class and had it for dinner, he said, and I quote, “Whole Foods should have this in their hot bar.”

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This is how I know this recipe is a keeper. And how I know he’s a keeper too ;)

Quinoa Pilaf
 
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A low-carb twist on classic Vegetable Pulao that uses Indian spices, mixed vegetables and dried fruit. Adapted from Isa Chandra (and my mom)!
Author:
Recipe type: vegan, vegetarian, main dish
Cuisine: Indian, vegetarian, vegan
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup quinoa
  • ¼ cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1½ cups frozen mixed vegetable blend (my blend has carrots, peas, green beans and corn kernels)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (I make mine fresh, but you can use store bought)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup unsalted whole cashews, toasted
  • Cilantro (optional garnish)
Instructions
  1. In a rice cooker or medium pot, cook quinoa according to packaging instructions. I used ¾ cup quinoa, with 1½ cups water in my rice cooker.
  2. Add the chopped dried apricots directly to the quinoa so they cook together — the quinoa took about 20-25 minutes to cook in the cooker. May take longer on stovetop.
  3. When the quinoa is cooked, pour into a bowl and set aside
  4. In a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil.
  5. Add the mustard and cumin seeds, cover the pot with a lid and let the seeds start to pop.
  6. Next add the minced garlic and grated ginger and cook for one minute.
  7. Add the frozen mixed vegetables, garam masala, turmeric, salt, red pepper flakes and stir well for one minute.
  8. Add the tomato paste and water and stir.
  9. Cover the dish and let it come to a boil and reduce so the curry is slightly thickened and most of the water is gone- about 3-5 minutes.
  10. While the curry is boiling away, toast the cashews in a small, dry pan until golden
  11. When the curry has reduced, add the cooked quinoa to the skillet and stir well to combine all the flavors. Give it a taste and adjust your spices if needed.
  12. Toss in the toasted cashews.
  13. Serve immediately with pickle, chutney or additional curry dish.
  14. Optional garnish: chopped cilantro

 

After doing the math, I found that this recipe was only 229 calories per serving, almost 5g of fiber and almost 8g of protein. I think next time I might add some garbanzo beans or mushrooms to up the ante on the protein.

What are some of your favorite cookbook recipes?

DIY #2: Holiday Gifts in a Jar

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I can finally say: I have ALL my holiday shopping DONE! This is a huge deal. I’m usually the one scrambling around trying to figure out what to get everyone, while everyone else seems to have me pegged pretty well. Apparently the exact opposite is happening this year. I have gifts for everyone, and my sister and REB are having a hard time figuring out what to get me.

I made a list for them, but it was seriously things I wanted for the house, that I would prefer to buy myself.  I realize how lame that is, but what I honestly want are two things that are way out of any normal person’s price range and I would prefer to get them myself: upgrade my DSLR and buy a new Macbook Pro. There’s no way I expect anyone to get me these items. They’re on my list to do before I’m 30 ;)

However, for those of you who follow me on Instagram have probably seen the posts about what I’m doing for REB: the 12 days of Christmas! This is the first year in the 7 years we’ve been together that I finally can surprise him and not just get something he knows he wants or is getting. Usually when we play the “what do you want for Christmas” game, we say what we want, then we go out together and buy it for each other. It’s pretty lame. The element of surprise isn’t there, but it’s worked! But this year, I got him! I do plan to do a post about all 12 days when all is said and done!

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So, the point of his post? If you’re like me, and want to include a homemade, personal gift in addition to a materialistic gift, then why not a gift of yummies in a jar? I don’t know about all of you, but I love hot chocolate, especially in the winter. I’m also on an incredible peppermint/candy cane kick, so I had to throw those in there too.

Bottom line: it’s quick, easy and face it, it looks cute.

Peppermint Hot Cocoa
 
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All the ingredients needed for peppermint hot cocoa in the convenience of a jar. Perfect DIY gift for this holiday season. Recipe adapted from Tisano cacao, tea & chocolate.
Author:
Recipe type: DIY, Jar, drinks
Cuisine: drinks
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 cup Instant dry milk powder
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (or regular size)
  • ¼ cup white chocolate chips (optional)
  • ¼ crushed candy cane pieces
Instructions
  1. Layer all items in a jar, starting with the dry milk, ending with candy canes.
  2. To prepare:
  3. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Measure ⅓ cup into a cup. Stir in 1 cup boiling water, and enjoy!
  4. Put remaining mix back in jar, seal tight and save for next time!
  5. Recipe adapted from Tisano cacao, tea & chocolate

Divine Redesign

Yay!! I get to cross an item off my 31 Before 30 list!

Number 14 to be exact! I had someone make me a one-of-a-kind banner/logo for my blog! I had a lot of themes in the past, but it just wasn’t my thing. While it would be so awesome to pay someone to actually make a blogging web site for me, I would much rather put that money towards the photography web site.

So I decided I would vamp up this personal blog and have someone create me a banner.

I found a graphic designer on Etsy, named Jessica, and I absolutely loved her work. After one conversation, she had visited my blog and told me she had an idea of my aesthetic and what I was going for.

She read me perfectly! Knowing that I love earthy tones, paisleys, and simplicity, she designed me a banner I absolutely love! I also love that we kept the same color scheme as my photography web site so the web sites I have on the Interwebs are consistent though not related (in terms of business model).

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy it! It was a lot of weeks of discussions, drafts, etc., but the wait was well worth it! Thank you so much, Jessica! :)

DIY #1 – Mason Jar Centerpiece

With the holidays here already, people are always looking for fun DIY decor ideas for holidays parties, fun crafts to do with family or kids.

Since we hosted Thanksgiving in our house, I wanted to have a cute centerpiece for our dining table (which was more like a buffet table for us). I have lots of mason jars at home, that we use as drinking glasses. Well, why not use them as centerpieces? Everyone is doing it these days so why not for the holidays?

All you need:
• Twine
• Scissors
• Mason jars
• Flowers or embellishments (using up scrapbooking embellishments is great for this!)
• Your favorite plants or flowers

The steps are super simple!
Cut a piece of twine almost a foot in length. Wrap the twine around the rim of the mason jar 3-5 times. Tie a bow then embellish! I used some fun Martha Stewart flowers I found in the craft aisle.

The last step is finding some flowers, fillers and arranging the bouquets. I went to Whole Foods and all their Gerbera daisies were on sale. So I picked up 6 bouquets all in different colors. I also picked some cranberry-looking-stem-flower things. And some green filler plants. My sister helped me cut the stems and create the little arrangements, and we put them into the jars! We very soon realized all 6 jars would not work on the table, so we put 3 on the table and 3 around the house: on each coffee table and our entrance table.

The possibilities of what you want to add in the mason jars is endless. You could also use old tea tins or mugs and pitchers would work too!

Happy Crafting!

Are there fun DIY projects you have lined up for the holidays?

Cookbook Challenge #1 – Isa’s Quinoa Salad

Remember that list of 31 things I want to do before I turn 30? The 31 Before 30 list? Yeah, I kind of forgot about it, too. I always do this to myself. I make an awesome list, set of goals, or even resolutions and usually only get 75% done.

So I happened to take a peek at the list, scrolled through it, and came to number #25 and literally said, “Oh shit.”

Read it and weep, Aparna:

Prepare and cook at least two recipes from each cookbook I own.

Now for any normal person, this is not a big deal. This is actually something very easy to accomplish for most. But for someone like me, who constantly forgets she owns cookbooks because she either alters recipes she finds online, puts a twist on her mom’s recipes, or creates new recipes all together, this is a problem.

I don’t even own a lot of cookbooks. I own, like….[counting] 11 cookbooks. So this should be easy. That’s 22 recipes I need to get done in a year. Well, at least 22 recipes (damn technicalities).

The only one I’m kind of pissed and/or worried about is cooking from The Pioneer Woman’s cookbook aka ALL MEAT, BUTTER, FAT AND CARBS RAWR. Quite frankly, I’m not as big a fan of hers as I used to be, and I don’t even know why I have this cookbook or ever wanted it. Her demeanor, her show and her overall premise is not very appealing to me nor do I relate to it in any way. [Pause for gasps and people leaving blog]

But I digress…

So as I was perusing through this cookbook, and on the phone with REB as he was driving home from work, we were playing the “what should we make for dinner?” game. It’s a game we hate and one we play almost every night. I mentioned I was reading Isa Chandra’s cookbook to him and maybe an idea for dinner would come from it. He seemed intrigued. Actually, he didn’t, but he did say, ” Yeah, that sounds good.” I’ll take that as intrigue and interest.

I love Isa Chandra. I love that I relate to her food aesthetic and I love her recipes. I looked through her cookbook and post-it’ed the hell out of it with recipes I want to try. And while on the phone with REB, came across this recipe, which we happened to have almost all the ingredients for in the kitchen.

Isa’s Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Toasted Cumin Seeds was perfect. Everything in the Appetite for Reduction cookbook is 400 calories or less per serving, uses fresh ingredients and is full of proteinalicious recipes! REB and I are newbs to quinoa, and we can’t get enough of it. It’s easily becoming our favorite substitute for pasta or rice. Plus, anything with cumin seeds? Duh. Has my name all over it.

So one recipe down, 21 (excuse me, at least 21) to go!

Quinoa Salad w/ Black Beans and Toasted Cumin Seeds
 
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Our twist on a low-cal, full-of-protein, fresh-ingredient salad! Adapted from Isa Chandra
Author:
Recipe type: main dish, vegetarian, quinoa
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 4 on-the-vine tomatoes (it’s all we had. I would prefer Roma), finely diced (remove some excess liquid if you can)
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted in dry pan
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ⅓ cup scallion, chopped
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (more if you need it – we didn’t)
  • Juice of two limes
Instructions
  1. Cook quinoa according to directions on package. Once cooked, put into a mixing bowl, and let it cool.
  2. In a dry pan, toast cumin seeds until aromatic. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a separate large mixing bowl, add chopped tomatoes, lime juice, honey, olive oil and cumin seeds and mix.
  4. Stir in the cooled quinoa, add the salt, scallion and black beans.
  5. Enjoy at room temperature or cold!
  6. Optional garnish: chopped scallion or cilantro
  7. Vegan option: use agave nectar instead of honey