For a recipe to make it into my ‘make often’ list, it needs to be quick to pull together, made of ingredients I usually have in the house, enjoyed by the whole family, and good for leftovers another day.  This simple summer quinoa salad fits the bill, and we’ve been enjoying it at least once a week through the first part of the summer.  Leftovers stay fresh and crisp for 1-2 days and transport well in a reusable container or thermos for lunch away from home.
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) seems to be all the rage right now, and in our house, it’s long been thought of as a miracle food.  It’s a whole grain that cooks up in 15 minutes and is versatile enough to go into just about any dish.  Quinoa is also one of very few vegetarian sources of complete protein, so there’s no need to add meat, beans or legumes if you don’t have them prepared or simply don’t want to add them to a meal.  First cultivated in the Andean region of South America over 3,000 years ago, Quinoa is now readily available at grocery stores around the world and comes in white, red and black varieties.

Simple Summer Quinoa Salad

Servings: 4-6
 Active Prep Time: 15 minutes
 Inactive Prep Time: 30 minutes (use leftover quinoa and skip the cooling time)

1 cup raw quinoa (use a combination of red and white for added color)

1 1/3 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups chopped vegetables your family loves (I like to use ½ cup each tomato, cucumber, yellow bell pepper, red onion)

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced (optional)

1 tbsp capers, minced (optional)

juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp dried oregano
 salt and pepper to taste

•    Cook the quinoa in the water and 1/2 tsp of salt, as per package directions.  Even better, use up leftover quinoa or plan ahead and make up extra earlier in the week to use in this recipe.  If you are cooking it specifically for the recipe, once it’s cooked, cool to room temperature.
•    Combine the cold cooked quinoa with the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  It can be eaten immediately, or let the flavors meld and intensify by letting it rest for 30 minutes or longer.

Once you’ve followed this recipe through once or twice, you can completely customize it to your preferences or whatever fresh vegetables you have on hand; suggested variations include:
•    Vegetables: corn, zucchini, carrots, celery, radishes, green pepper, and mushrooms are all great additions.
•    Herbs: replace the parsley with cilantro or basil and omit the dried oregano.
•    Protein: for an added protein boost try chickpeas, navy beans, black beans, toasted pine nuts, or cooked and diced chicken or turkey.
•    Dressing: swap out the lemon juice for lime or orange juice.

Rachel Assuncao is an internationally acclaimed health coach, working with busy parents and professionals who are seeking support in eating well and living a happy, energized, and  vibrant life.  She’s also the mom of a spirited 3-year old daughter and knows how important it is to get food into our children that looks good, tastes good, and is secretly good for them.Visit Rachel Assuncao
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