Black Bean & Quinoa Stir Fry

Let me tell you a little secret: a good stir fry is a busy cook's best friend. Step 1: Saute some vegetables and meat in a pan while some sort of grain cooks on the back burner. Step 2: Add some seasonings. Step 3: Mix the grain and veggies/meat together. Step 4: Eat. Dinner can be on the table in no time at all, particularly if you have pre-cooked or leftover meat or beans in your freezer.

This past week was relentless, and left no time for "real" cooking. I was driving at least 40 minutes each day, hopping back and forth between home and school. Then, there was L's birthday and the ensuing cake adventure, and driving another few hours to see him. Needless to say, I did a lot of thawing, recreating, and reheating. I did, however, take advantage of some of the black beans I had frozen a week ago, and put together a nice little stir fry. It was a little rushed, and I was a little scatterbrained (re: I forgot to look at the "recipe" I had written down and instead just kind of did my own thing), so it didn't go exactly as I had planned. Still, it was tasty, and a very quick fix.

I got the idea originally from, who else, Smitten Kitchen. I had saved a recipe from there for Confetti Salad, and I meant to make mine a lot closer to her original than I wound up doing. I meant to add lime juice and corn kernels, but completely forgot. I also added spinach, mostly because I needed to use up a bag in the fridge that was on its last leg, and I stuck in some tomatoes for the same reason. I also mixed it together with quinoa to make it more of a meal. Really, it wound up being a largely different dish, and will more than likely wind up trying the original the way it was actually intended, before too long.

Black Bean & Quinoa Stir Fry, inspired by Smitten Kitchen
Yield: 1 serving
The Ingredients
1 section from a large bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/4 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
pinch minced garlic
1/4 C dry Quinoa
1/4 C black beans
1/3 - 1/4 tomato, chunked
fresh ground pepper
1 pinch each paprika, cumin
1/4 C spinach

The Method
1. Add the bell pepper, onions, garlic and olive oil to a pan and saute over medium to medium-high heat until the onions just begin to brown. Start the water for the quinoa to boil, and add the tomato and beans to the pan with the pepper and onion. Season the vegetables with ground pepper, paprika, and cumin.
2. Once the quinoa is finished cooking, add it to the pan with the vegetables and lower the heat to medium or medium-low. Adjust seasonings and mix around.
3. Remove pan from the heat and add the spinach to the pan. I ripped mine into smaller pieces, but that's really just a personal preference. Mix the spinach into the rest of the ingredients, allowing it to wilt slightly.

This might as well be a formula rather than a recipe. Think of it as a skeleton to which you can add any sort of ingredient: protein + grain + vegetable, and you have yourself a well-rounded, pretty healthy meal (depending upon, of course, which proteins, grains, and veggies you use). You can add a little bit of cheese, pile it up into a baked pepper or other vegetable, wrap a tortilla around get the picture. It's easily reduced to a single serving or expanded for a larger crowd, and because you can use frozen vegetables, it can be ridiculously inexpensive.

Should I get off of my stir fry soap box now? Yes? Alright, well for now, I'll just leave you with these words: rum-soaked apples, cinnamon cake, and peanut butter cookies. Interested? Stay tuned.

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