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I am on a mission to find more veggie side dish recipes. I already messed up today and had meat for lunch on the first Friday of Lent, so I want to get better at not having it be so hard to avoid and have more options around the house.

Living with my meat and potatoes guy has caused me to eat less vegetables than I used to.  He has also become more open to incorporating some vegetables in meals, but I am still craving more. It’s been a big area of compromise in living together on both sides. But it’s an easy solution: I just need to find some vegetarian side dish recipes to add to the weekly rotation to make my stomach happier. This way I can be satisfied with my plate full of veggies with a side of meat, and he can be satisfied with his meat, and maybe pick at the veggies.

Discovering Trader Joe’s and its variety of specialty whole foods has been really helpful. I just need to find some easy, tasty recipes to get me going and make this a weekly norm. Today I picked up some Trader Joe’s harvest grains blend. This is mostly compromised of Israeli couscous, along with red and green orzo, split dried garbanzo beans, and red quinoa.

I found a combination of recipes all over blogs mixing couscous with every possible vegtable or herb, so it was very hard to choose what I would try first. I took the basic concept of this recipe, and adjusted it with my own more attainable ingredients (and strong craving for garbanzo beans), so that the only item I had to buy was goat cheese.



garbanzo beans

goat cheese

toasted walnuts

lemon zest

AK is out of town today so this will serve as my main dish for dinner, as I wait for my Mama and sister to arrive from NY.

Grain Salad w/ asparagus, garbanzo beans, walnuts, and goat cheese


  • 1-3/4 cups vegtable broth (or water works too)
  • 8 ounces uncooked pearl couscous, or Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1- 15 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts (I toasted them myself in the oven for no more than 8 minutes)
  • 4 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled and crumbled
  • 1  lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Simmer 1 & 3/4 cups water in a small saucepan. Add the Harvest Grains blend, stir, cover and turn to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then remove the lid and cook, stirring, until any remaining moistness evaporates.
  2. Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and cut each spear into a 2-inch piece. Heat a little olive oil over medium heat, and cook the asparagus until just barely crisp-tender – about 1-2 minutes. Add to the grains and toss.
  3. Use pan from asparagus, and throw the garbanzo beans on it to heat through for no longer than 5 minutes. Add beans to the grains.
  4. Add in the toasted almonds, goat cheese and lemon zest.
  5. Mix the  lemon juice with the olive oil, taste, and adjust. Pour over grain salad and toss, along with salt and pepper to taste.

I have a hard time making simple salads because I always want to add on any other ingredients around the house. I was dying to add garlic or more herbs. But since it’s my first time trying this recipe, I’m glad I didn’t. Less is definitely more – to appreciate all the different specialty flavors. Next time though I don’t think I will put in as much lemon, I’m not a fan of the sour taste. Instead I will replace the zest with garlic.