Lemon quinoa poppers with basil spinach pesto & zucchini noodles

Lemon quinoa poppers with basil spinach pesto & zucchini noodles | A Dash of Compassion

I’m back after spending five days in hot and humid Austin, Texas with some of the best people in the world. I was there to attend Vida Vegan Con, an incredible conference that brings together vegan bloggers, cookbook authors, entrepreneurs and other such influencers to network, eat awesome food and share secrets of success.

Travelling to a new place and being in a large social setting where I don’t know people well is a really scary thing for me. I’m naturally a very shy girl and can easily become overwhelmed with anxiety, especially around those who are popular and outgoing. I feel somewhat intimated and, well, awkward.

I somehow managed to work through the fear to attend what was the trip of a lifetime, for the third time—this was the third and final VVC and it was one I will never forget. Of course, once I got there it wasn’t nearly as hard as I imagined it would be. Since I had met many of my online friends in person during previous conferences, it was like one big, happy reunion. And it was bittersweet.

Lemon quinoa poppers with basil spinach pesto & zucchini noodles | A Dash of Compassion

As my dear friend JL Fields captured in a periscope video she created during Saturday’s lunch gathering, conferences like these are all about building community. Sure, the conference sessions are wonderful and insightful and it is clear how much time and effort the organizers spent taking care of every last detail, but what was most apparent was how much love and compassion radiated from each person I spoke with. I realize now more than ever how essential this community is to my life, because I wouldn’t be able to grow my efforts in changing the world for animals without their encouragement, steady engagement and ongoing support.

And the food, my goodness. What a feast it was! Just imagine an entire buffet of deliciousness that is all vegan (no labels to read and no need to inquire about ingredients!). There were some pretty fantastic vegan cafes in the area, and I particularly loved our visit to Counter Culture.

Now that I’m back at home, I’m getting reacquainted with foods outside of a soft taco shell. I’ve been enjoying lighter fare, like this delicious bowl of zucchini noodles with homemade pesto and protein-rich poppers. This is the perfect meal for warm spring and summer nights. From the juicy roasted tomatoes, the freshness of the basil pesto and the zestiness of the quinoa poppers, every bite screams “hello summer!” It’s light and refreshing and bursting with flavour. 

Lemon quinoa poppers with basil spinach pesto & zucchini noodles | A Dash of Compassion

If you don’t own a spiralizer, you can just as easily thinly slice your zucchini into ribbons using a mandoline, and it will be just as gloriously delicious.

I should note that the quinoa poppers make more than you will need, so feel free to store leftovers in the fridge or freezer and add them to salads or pasta sauce or serve as a snack alongside your favourite dip. You can also make the poppers and pesto ahead of time (the night before, for example) so all you’d need to do is spiralize the zucchini and you’re good to go. Enjoy!

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Lemon quinoa poppers with basil spinach pesto & zucchini noodles

Yield: Serves 2

Ingredients:

For the quinoa poppers:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (19oz.) can cannellini beans (about 1 3/4 cups), drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons tamari
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper or ground black pepper

For the basil spinach pesto:

  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach, lightly packed
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the noodles:

  • 2 zucchinis, spiralized into noodles
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes

Directions:

To make the quinoa poppers:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the water has completely absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer the quinoa to a food processor along with the remaining ingredients. Process until it turns into a thick, smooth paste.
  4. Scoop out 1 tablespoon of the mixture and form into a ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mixture. You should get about 20 balls in total. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on how crispy you like them. I like them crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, so I bake them for at least 40 minutes. You can bake them for less time if you'd like. At about the 20-minute mark, add the grape tomatoes to the pan, and bake until shriveled and nicely roasted, about 15 to 20 minutes. While they bake, you can go ahead and make the pesto.

To make the basil spinach pesto:

  1. Using a food processor, process the spinach, basil, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper until coarsely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides of the processor bowl if needed.
  2. While the machine is running, stream in the olive oil and process until distributed. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve:

  1. Mix the zucchini noodles with the pesto, stirring until all the noodles are coated (you can use clean hands if it's easier). Divide into two bowls and top with a few quinoa poppers and roasted tomatoes. Serve immediately. You'll likely have leftover quinoa poppers. Store them in an airtight container or Ziploc bag in the fridge or freezer.

Lemon quinoa poppers adapted from Fine Cooking.

Basil spinach pesto adapted from my basil spinach pesto hummus.

      

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8 Responses to “Lemon quinoa poppers with basil spinach pesto & zucchini noodles”

  1. Emma — June 4, 2015 @ 3:32 pm

    It’s sad to hear that this year was the last VVC but it sounds like it’s really been a special event. I’d love to have been there and to have met all my favourite bloggers! It’s sadly just too expensive to travel all the way from England.
    This looks such a lovely summer meal. Pinning!

    • Nicole — June 5, 2015 @ 1:48 pm

      We missed you, Emma! It was interesting to see people coming from all over the world for the conference. The farthest was Australia! :) But yes, it was an expensive weekend even for me, and I’m just in the next country over!

  2. Cadry — June 4, 2015 @ 6:48 pm

    It was so great connecting with you again in person at VVC. I agree that it was much easier this time around since I’d already met a lot of the attendees. (At the last Portland VVC, it was very intimidating meeting everyone for the first time and introducing myself.) It is so rejuvenating to spend time with other like-minded people with similar passions and compassion. I look forward to seeing you again in Toronto someday in the hopefully not too distant future.

    • Nicole — June 5, 2015 @ 1:49 pm

      It was so lovely to see you too, Cadry! Would love to see you in Toronto one day. Come for the Toronto Veg Fest in September :)

  3. Anna — June 5, 2015 @ 6:25 am

    aww it reminds me of the Lady and the tramp meal…. so cute hehe looks amazing :)

    https://aspoonfulofnature.wordpress.com/

    • Nicole — June 5, 2015 @ 1:51 pm

      I could see Lady and the Tramp sharing a zucchini noodle ;)

  4. Jess — June 9, 2015 @ 12:04 pm

    I totally hear you on the shy thing – It took a lot for me to fake my way through uncomfortable introduction after introduction! It was such an inspiring weekend for me too and I’m SO grateful that I had the opportunity to spend such quality time with you Nicole. Looking forward to seeing you & Lisa again soon! XO

    • Nicole — June 15, 2015 @ 12:46 pm

      You totally rocked it, Jess! I would have never known you were shy at all. I’m so happy we got the chance to hang out too! xo

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