quinoa — which is actually a seed, not a grain — is a superfood that i’ve used before (see exhibit A and exhibit B). but since getting on the tone it up nutrition plan, which requires me to avoid starchy foods in the evenings, i’ve been turning to it more frequently as an accompaniment to lean proteins or as the base for refreshing salads. the salad in today’s lunchbox is a perfect “summer chill” concoction, full of fresh seasonal veg and piquant flavor — i made it for some girlfriends coming over to hang out and drink wine on my roofdeck. click through recipe and nutrition info.
“summer chill” quinoa salad — recipe of my own creation, serves 6
- 1 1/4 cups dry quinoa (i used roland’s “roasted garlic” flavor)
- 3 cups washed and dried baby zucchini (i quartered mine)
- 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
- 6 oz. crumbled feta (i used president’s fat-free version)
- 1 cup chopped raw red onion
- 4 tbsp. capers
- 2 large handfuls fresh basil, torn instead of chopped
for the dressing:
- 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp. dijon mustard (trader joe’s version with white wine is a favorite in this household)
- 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- juice from one lemon
- 1/4 tsp. each kosher salt and ground black pepper
- in a small saucepan, bring 2 1/2 cups of water to boil. add the quinoa, stir thoroughly, cover and reduce heat to LOW simmer. set your kitchen timer for 16 minutes and be prepared to check if all water is absorbed at that time (it may take approx. 2 more minutes of cooking).
- steam your baby zucchini and then shock in ice water; drain and dry.
- in a large salad bowl, mix the zucchini, tomatoes, and feta.
- put all the dressing ingredients in a small, lidded container; shake to mix.
- dump the dressing over the veggies and toss to coat.
- when your timer has gone off, check your quinoa — i find that turning the heat off (once the cooking time has elapsed) but allowing it to steam another few minutes makes it perfect. when it’s done (it should still be chewy, not mushy but certainly not hard), fluff it gently with a fork and allow to cool.
- once the quinoa has cooled, mix it into the dressed veggies. finally, gently fold in the torn basil.
- if you wish, top with chopped scallions.
so… despite the minor dairy component here (just 1 oz. per serving), i think this is a great meal 3 or meal 5 on the plan. i’ve noticed that since adopting the the “eat lean, clean and green” mentality, i’ve focused less on calories and more on whether i feel hungry or full, tired or energetic. after all, i LOVE food and always want to enjoy flavors, but ultimately it’s the fuel that our body runs on… and this salad is great fuel!
- salad served on a bed of 2 cups chopped romaine — 15 calories (20 mg. sodium, 4 g. carbs [1 g. fiber, 1.5 g. sugar], 50% vitamin A, 30% vitamin C, 2% calcium)
- quinoa salad — 235 calories (4.9 g. fat [0.3 g. saturated, 0.4 g. poly, 1.7 mono, 0 trans], 5 mg. cholesterol, 765 mg. sodium, 345 mg. potassium, 32 g. carbs [5 g. fiber, 5 g. sugar], 15 g. protein, 15% vitamin A, 60% vitamin C, 20% calcium, 16% iron)
quite high in protein and iron for a salad — not to mention the expected vitamin benefits. sweet!