Three Variations of Orange Tahini-Based Sauces or Dressings

3 jars of orange tahini based sauces with orange segments in foreground and oranges in background
Front to Back: Orange Ginger, Orange Turmeric and Orange Miso

Of the citrus fruits, oranges are probably one of the most popular.  Although they are commonplace now, at one time they were considered exotic and precious. I recall from my own childhood, it was a tradition to add oranges to Christmas stockings. As children we were restricted to one piece of fruit a day because of the cost so a juicy and sweet orange was always a treat! 

Oranges and their origin

According to Nuovo, botanists believe that citrus trees are native to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and have been around for 20 million years. Arab traders first brought them from India and Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) to some of the wealthiest families of the Roman Empire. Groves then appeared in Italy, North Africa, Spain and Portugal until at the end of the thirteenth century, they were bought by a Spanish boat to the United Kingdom. Since then, oranges have evolved from the fruit of European royalty and aristocrats to a kitchen staple for the masses.

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Spiced Almond and Quinoa Salad

aerial view of white bowl with spiced almond and quinoa salad on bed of arugula

We often hear about the benefits of eating a diet rich in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses, and grains. As this advice is very general in nature, I was interested to read about the suggested goal to aim to eat at least 30 of these plant-based foods a week. Research suggests that the health benefit of this mix will promote a more varied gut bacteria which will ultimately lead to a healthier gut microbiome.

I was curious to see how many of these foods I actually included in my diet and so started to track my intake at the beginning of the year.  On the first day, I had consumed about 12 on the list and by the second day it was up to 19.  This seemed easy and I thought I would have no problem achieving the goal of 30.  However, as the week wore on my total didn’t really budge much. Although I eat plant-based foods, as a creature of habit, it appears they tend to be the same ones!

close up of white bowl with spiced almond and quinoa salad on bed of arugula

Introducing quinoa

In an effort to vary my diet, I started to look at adding foods I don’t normally eat and quinoa (keen-wah) was one of them. Quinoa cooks up fairly quickly (about 15 minutes) and can be used in a variety of dishes including soups and salads. It is naturally gluten free, rich in fiber, minerals and antioxidants. It is also one of the plant-based complete proteins which means it contains all nine essential amino acids. In fact, some say quinoa is one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet!

aerial view of white bowl with spiced almond and quinoa salad on bed of arugula

The origins of quinoa

Referred to by ancient grains as an ancient food, quinoa originated with the Incas in the mountains of Bolivia, Chile and Peru about 5,000 years ago. Although it served as a staple food for the Incas, they also considered it a sacred crop. Known by them as the mother of all grains, the legend states “that the Incan emperor would ceremoniously plant the first quinoa seeds every year”.

white bowl with spiced almond and quinoa salad on bed of arugula and fork on the side

Recipe for Spiced Almond and Quinoa Salad

This quinoa salad was inspired by Deliciously Ella and can be prepared relatively quickly for lunch or served as a side salad to a main dish.  It is a great mix of flavours, textures and colours with crunchy nuts and seeds, soft roasted vegetables and fresh greens. In addition, this one dish will provide a whopping 9 out of the 30 plant-based foods for the week! Serve it with some avocado or hummus and the number keeps rising!

Salad:

  • 1/2 cup (100g) quinoa
  • 1 x 400g (14oz) can of chickpeas
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/3 cup (50 g) whole almonds
  • handful of sunflower seeds
  • handful of pumpkin seeds
  • handful of rocket (arugula)
  • 1 tsp gound cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Dresssing:

  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup
  • pinch of salt
white bowl with spiced almond and quinoa salad on bed of arugula with fork resting in bowl

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (375F)
  2. Drain the chickpeas and pat dry
  3. Place diced pepper and red onion on one end of a baking tray with a drizzle of olive oil and salt
  4. Place chickpeas, almonds and seeds at the other end of the tray and sprinkle them with the cumin, paprika, chilli flakes and salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Mix well so chickpeas, nuts and seeds are evenly coated.
  5. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes (until nuts and seeds go crunchy)
  6. Cook quinoa by following instructions on packet (usually twice as much water to quinoa and boil for about 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa is light and fluffy. Remove from the heat and stir the dressing ingredients through.
  7. Either serve the salad warm by mixing everything together with a handful of rocket, or wait until the quinoa and veggies and seeds have reached room temperature before tossing them together.
close up of white bowl with spiced almond and quinoa salad on bed of arugula

Closing Thoughts

Quinoa was not part of my diet growing up and so, like a lot of the popular health foods today, it almost seems like a “new” addition to our diet despite the fact that it is actually part of ancient history. Quinoa didn’t really become popular in the modern world until around the 1970s but it has proved its worth in the past and, as such a highly nutritious and versatile staple, I imagine it will continue to remain as part of our modern diet.

As it was interesting to see the reality of how little variety I was actually eating, in terms of gut health, I am definitely trying to be more aware of maintaining variety in my diet and am glad to now have quinoa to add to the mix!

dragon's picnic icon - red dragon standing and leaning on three peppers

Additional information on gut health:

One Pot Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew with Cashew Coconut Lime Cream

arial view of pot of red lentil and sweet potato stew with limes and cilantro on the side

When the weather turns cold and food is scarce, some animals such as bears hibernate to survive. Although people do not have the same metabolic characteristics needed to hibernate, I often feel the inclination to cocoon during the cold months of the year.  However charming this concept seems, the “not eating” aspect of hibernation has far less appeal. In contrast to the fasting bears, during these dark and cold days, I feel that nothing beats the comfort of a simmering pot of a hearty stew.  

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Three Variations of Lime Tahini-Based Sauces or Dressings

Three jars of lime-based tahini sauces: lime cilanto, ginger lime and spicy lime. Scene decorated with cut limes and scarf
Front to Back: Lime Cilantro, Lime Ginger and Spicy Lime

Tahini, the paste of crushed sesame seeds, is rich in nutrients, protein and healthy fats and it continues to be one of my most used and versatile ingredients. As well as adding protein and nutrients to a meal, the earthy flavour of tahini lends itself to both sweet and savory dishes making it an easy addition to sauces, dips, dressing or desserts.

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Quick and Easy Lunches (Vegan and Gluten Free)

plate of avocado toast and tomato tahini toast

Most of us have grown up with the idea of eating three meals a day which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even though lunch is now established as the second meal of the day, it hasn’t always been this way. According to Denise Waterman of BBC News Magazine, during Roman times to the Middle Ages, “lunch as we know it didn’t exist – not even the word.”

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plate of avocado toast and tomato tahini toast

Most of us have grown up with the idea of eating three meals a day which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even though lunch is now established as the second meal of the day, it hasn’t always been this way. According to Denise Waterman of BBC News Magazine, during Roman times to the Middle Ages, “lunch as we know it didn’t exist – not even the word.”

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Raw Sweet Potato Salad with Curry Almond Sauce

When it comes to eating vegetables, I am not a big fan of crunching them uncooked and generally prefer roasted, stir fried or even boiled. It is a similar story with fruit.  Although I do enjoy more raw fruits over raw vegetables, the cooked version of many fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, berries and even bananas definitely has more appeal.

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Sweet Potatoes and Yams – What is the difference?

Bowl of mixed orange, white and purple sweet potatoes, roasted with paprika and cinnamon.

When I was first introduced to whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) eating, I followed recipes by Deliciously Ella who is based in England. Sweet potatoes were often used, however, from a North American perspective, the sweet potato looked suspiciously like a yam! Then, during my last trip to England, I noticed that the supermarkets were full of what I understood to be “yams” but were abelled as “sweet potatoes.”

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Farro, Kale and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing

serving dish with farro, kale and roasted sweet potato salad

As we move towards the holiday season, it can be challenging trying to cook for a “mixed-eater household” or, if you are a vegetarian/vegan, visiting family and friends when “traditional” holiday meals are being served. In a household with a mix of meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans, the Farro, Kale and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad can make either a hearty lunch or a tasty and satisfying side dish that everyone can enjoy.

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Lemon Tahini Based Sauces and Dressings

two bowls one with lemon tahini sauce and one with golden lion tahini sauce and one small jar with basic tahini sauce
Tahini Sauces: Basic Tahini, Lemon Tahini and Golden Lion

In plant-based cooking, I have come to believe that it is all about the sauce!  Previously, the idea of preparing a meal with a sauce would not have been entertained.  For one thing, I was haunted with flashbacks from school days and the intricacies involved in making items like a lump-free roux sauce! The whole idea of cooking a sauce from scratch seemed too time consuming and required more energy than I had.  However, store bought sauces and dressings can be expensive and, more importantly, there is no control over the ingredients.

When making your own sauces, you decide exactly what goes into it and this was a big motivation when I moved to whole-foods, plant-based eating. Sauces have quickly become a big part of my food preparation and it turns out it does not have to be an ordeal.  There are many quick and easy recipes that can be made ahead of time and I now keep a few batches on hand. A sauce can transform any dish from ordinary to extraordinary and with the great variety of seasonings available, the possibilities are endless for preparing new and different creations.

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Tahini as a Plant-Based Staple

two brighly coloured bowls one with homemade tahini in and the other with store bought tahini
Home-made Tahini (Top Left) and store-bought Tahini (Bottom Right)

Since moving to plant-based cooking, Tahini has become one of my staple ingredients. Previously, my only experience of Tahini had been many years ago when I tried it as a spread on toast. At the time, I found the taste extremely unappealing and did not go near it again until recently.  Little did I know back then, but it turns out that Tahini is highly nutritious and highly versatile in cooking adding a nutty flavour and creamy texture. Although I still don’t care for the taste as a spread, I now use it regularly for hummus, as a base for dressings and sauces and have even found it a tasty addition in granola.  

Not only has Tahini proved extremely useful today, I was surprised to learn of its rich history and the fact that references can be found as far back as the 13th century regarding its uses as a food dish, medicine, and currency. Although it has been a staple in many cuisines, especially in North Africa, Turkey, Greece and the Middle East for thousand of years, it did not make its first appearance in the USA until around 1940 and then only in health food stores. Now it is widely available in most supermarkets.

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