Southwestern Quinoa Salad

Adrianna made me realize something in the most recent post on her blog (which is one of my faves BTW). I am a snacker.

Since they often need to be planned ahead of time, I’m usually pretty regimented in my breakfasts (yogurt or oatmeal) and lunches (tostadas if I have time to go home, soup cups or low-fat microwave burritos if I don’t). But dinner and weekend meals…That’s another story. This is what most of those meals look like:

Want a tip for living life as a snacker, but not gaining weight?

Don’t keep tortilla chips in your apartment.

Using carrots, celery and bell peps instead makes eating 1/4 of the tub of hummus in one sitting a little less guilt inducing…..a LITTLE.

Basically what I’m saying is, if I don’t get a huge urge to rush home from work and try a recipe I saw that day RIGHTAWAY, or if I don’t prepare something on Sunday and separate it into Katie-sized Tupperwares for later weekday meals…I will likely eat hummus or vegetables, or chips, or granola bars for all my meals.

That’s why I’ve created a new ritual of preparing my weekday meals on Sunday afternoons. Last weekend, I made a huge batch of this Southwestern Quinoa Salad, and it was the perfect amount for 2 lunches and about 5 nibbles straight out of the fridge.

Then, I made it again and served it when an old friend came over for dinner, alongside cilantro-lime chicken. And it was gobbled up quicker than my homemade pizzas. Even bean-hating T-Man kept going back for more, picking around the black beans as he does.

The key is in the cilantro-lime dressing. If you have a food processor, USE IT! Gone are the days that I live life getting some bites full of cilantro and some bites without any. (Been there, done that, with not as good pictures!) Blitzing the cilantro into smithereens in the dressing ensures the perfect balance of cilantro throughout. And with just a small dose of oil in the dressing, I’d say it’s a pretty healthy snack to munch on straight out of the fridge. It clocks in at around 7 grams of fiber per serving and lots of protein from the quinoa and beans, which ain’t so bad either!

Make this quinoa. Eat it. Love it.

Southwestern Quinoa Salad
Makes 2 servings
(is great warm or chilled!)

1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
1/4 green bell pepper
1/2 small onion (preferably red, but it isn’t mandatory)
1/4 red bell pepper
1 tomato, seeds and juices removed
1 ear corn, cooked, kernels removed (or ~1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed)
1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed

1 handful cilantro leaves
juice of 3 limes
zest of 1 lime
pinch of cumin
1-2 tbsp olive oil (or other neutral cooking oil like canola)

Prepare quinoa according to package instructions. While it’s cooking, prepare peppers, onion and tomato by dicing into similar sized pieces. When the quinoa has finished cooking and is still warm, stir in the onions and green bell peppers. I find this takes the edge off the veggies, since they’re usually pretty strong flavors if not cooked. Set quinoa aside (in fridge, if you want to serve it chilled).

Start on the dressing. Grab a large handful of cilantro leaves, taking care to remove most of the stems, and pulse a couple of times in a food processor. Grate the zest of one of the limes into the food processor, then add lime juice and cumin. Pulse a couple more times, being sure to use a spoon or spatula to push down the stuff that is probably traveling up the sides. Turn food processor on and drizzle olive oil until it reaches desired consistency. You won’t need much!

Add red bell pepper, tomato, corn and black beans to quinoa, stirring to combine. Then add dressing, toss to coat, and serve! The salad tastes great warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Note: If you don’t have a food processor, free to chop the cilantro by hand as small as you can, then whisk in the lime zest, lime juice, and oil. Also, leftover dressing is GREAT as a marinade for chicken!

Quinoa 3 Ways

QUINOA. Say it with me now: Keeeeen-wah.

Have you tried it? Have you ever had one of those grocery market deli counter pasta salads with the little crunchy balls in it and you didn’t quite know what they were? Yeah, that was probably quinoa.

Quinoa is a protein-packed grain similar perhaps to couscous (in shape/size). It starts out looking like seeds, then you cook it like rice and it puffs up, evolving into tiny balls.

After my mom and I took a cooking class at the Co-op, they gave us gift certificates to the actual grocery store part of the Co-op and we had a grand ol’ time scouring the bulk bins. While my mom went for a bunch of freshly ground spices that we had learned about in the class, I went straight to the quinoa and scooped up a pound or 2, which has lasted me all the way until this month!

I used to only make cold salads with quinoa, but when I bought that huge sack of it at the Co-op, I decided to branch out. Here are some ways I’ve prepared it. I’m sorry these photos are abysmal…they are iPhone photos and I have a broken hand!! Give a sister a break!

Quinoa-Stuffed Zucchini Boats

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