Remember my innovative playgroup I was telling you about? (See my earlier post about our Busy Bag exchange here.) Well, a few weeks ago, my friend Hailey (motivated by a cleanse food swap some of us had participated in) suggested our playgroup continue the idea.

It’s so simple and makes life so easy. Spend an hour or two making one meal and come home with multiples. As Hailey said, “It’s a great way to get out of food ruts and keep things simple.”

We meet twice a month at someone’s house. We usually have at least five but sometimes up to eight mommies participating at a time.  You can make as many portions of food as you want. The more you make the more you get to bring home. We decided early on to do a 2-cup container—so basically a lunch portion. The food isn’t necessarily cleanse friendly but “clean”—so whole grains and veggies are encouraged.

Other rules: non-processed, little to no dairy, little to no sweeteners.

The hostess chooses first and then we each take a turn until everyone has the correct number of portions.

For the first food swap—hosted by Hailey—we had curried couscous with carrots, currant and almonds, turkey chili, hand rolls (with seaweed paper, rice and toppings), quinoa with black beans, (amazing) chicken curry, polenta with white beans and spinach, and apples with silvered almonds and cinnamon and a side of banana ice cream. Yes, it was fabulous! So, every day that week when I opened my fridge I had something yummy for lunch without having to give it a second thought. (Plus, it’s always fun to have friends gush about your dish on Facebook.)

We just had our second swap—hosted by Angela, a contributor here at (cool) progeny. There was roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower with balsamic and raisins, quinoa cups with salsa and black beans, granola and breakfast hermits, chicken fried rice with cashews, cold soba noodles and lentil and barley soup.

Next on our agenda: a Google document filled with recipes.  And speaking of, here are some of the dishes we’ve made …

Mexican Black Bean and Quinoa Cups

By Cassie Johnston

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed under cool water
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1-15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup skim milk

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray the cups of a mini muffin tin liberally with cooking spray, or insert liners and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan over high heat, add quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all water. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine cooked quinoa, black beans, salsa, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin, cheddar, salt and pepper until well mixed.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Add egg mixture to quinoa mixture and stir until combined.

Spoon about a tablespoon of the mixture into each muffin cup. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until cups are solid and tops are slightly browned.

Soba Noodles

By Angela Mirra
Serves 2-3

  • 1 pkg soba noodles
(noodles are individually wrapped inside package are usually 1 serving each)
Grapeseed oil (or veg oil for sauté)
  • 1 c frozen shelled edamame
  • 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic
2 c Shredded green cabbage
  • 1.5 c chopped/sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • Tossing dressing
 (3 tbl tamar, 1.5 tbl Mirin OR 1.5 tbl Rice vinegar, 
2 tbl sesame oil , ½ lime of juice, Hot chili paste optional
(to taste))

Cook soba noodles as directed. When water comes to a rapid boil, throw noodles and edamame in about the same time.

When finished drain REALLY well and rinse with cool water—make sure all noodles are cooled down and set aside.

Sauté in grapeseed oil (or veg oil) minced ginger, 2 minutes on med high then add chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute. 
Add shiitakes and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring well. Add the sesame oil and tamari here. Then add cabbage, toss to coat and let cabbage sauté until cooked but not to mushy. You want it to retain a little crunch but still have the flavor of the sauté—about 8 min on med high heat. Add a dash of mirin or rice vinegar at the end.

In separate bowl add rest of tamari, limejuice, rice vinegar and mirin. Can add a hot chili paste like siracha here too. Whisk in bottom of the bowl and add cooled noodles, toss to coat completely then add vegetables. Toss again

I toasted sesame seeds ahead of time and added with chopped green onions as a garnish.

Curried Couscous

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Serves 6

  • 1 1/2 cups couscous
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup small-diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
1/4 cup blanched, sliced almonds
2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
1/4 cup small-diced red onion

Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in the boiling water and pour over the couscous. Cover tightly and allow the couscous to soak for five minutes.

Fluff with a fork. 

Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, curry, turmeric, salt, and pepper.

Pour over the fluffed couscous, and mix well with a fork. Add the carrots, parsley, currants, almonds, scallions, and red onions, mix well, and season to taste.

Serve at room temperature.