I had some girlfriends over for lunch last week, something I love to do. Entertaining is a different story when it’s a smaller group of adults versus a few families. I love to do both but it was bit more relaxing to just prep food for a few other moms. One of my friends is vegetarian and another is a tri-athlete often training for the next big race. I wanted to make something that would suit everyone, taste delicious and not require a lot of heavy lifting in the kitchen. I drafted up several menus beforehand, which is typical me, even for a casual small lunch I still had so many ideas and plans, but I kept coming back to this easy, delicious quinoa salad.
I love quinoa for so many reasons: taste, texture, its filling, quick to cook, very versatile, gluten-free, a great source of vegan protein, plus it is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Quinoa, unlike most grains (though technically it is a seed) is a complete protein, which means it contains all the essential amino acids. When we workout intensely our bodies burn through our stored levels of glycogen or the energy stored in our muscles and we also create micro tears in our muscles. This is why it is important to eat a proper meal after working out, given we need to replenish our glycogen storage (carbs) and consume amino acids (protein) to rebuild and repair the muscles.
Quinoa is a great post-exercise meal item because it provides both all of the amino acids and the carbs needed for recovery. It’s a staple in our house given its key elements (vegan and high in protein) it was perfect for both my friends.
Given we all love Mexican, I decided on a Fiesta-Mexican style salad. All of the ingredients are currently in season, I could make this ahead of time and serve left overs for dinner or lunch the next day. I served the salad below with a Pomegranate Baby Kale Salad with Portobello Mushrooms, a fresh baguette and a Pearlicious Smoothie.
Fiesta Quinoa Salad
This is a great salad to make Sunday night to pack for weekday lunches or take on a picnic or for a family barbeque. It can easily be made ahead of time and travels well. Try cooking the quinoa ahead of time in either salted water or broth. Be sure to either pre-soak or rinse the quinoa well before cooking.
Yields about 4-6 side servings
2½ -3 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
1 cup cucumber, diced
1 red pepper, deseeded & chopped
¼ cup red onion, diced
2 scallions, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (optional)
½ cup corn, cooked
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained & rinsed
¼ cup cilantro or parsley, minced
1 avocado, pitted & chopped
1 lime or lemon, juiced
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- In a small bowl or mason jar, mix together the dressing ingredients.
- Measure all of the salad ingredients except the avocado into a large serving bowl. Mix everything together until they are well blended. Pour the dressing over the quinoa and stir to evenly distribute.
- Place in fridge to chill.
- Before serving add the chopped avocado on top of salad.
For a different spin, try replacing the corn with fresh mango. It delivers a sweet contract to the sourness of the lime.