Where I grew up, we didn’t have ‘food trends.’ Everything we ate was simple, basic, and comfortable – from roast beef and mashed potatoes to chili and mashed potatoes. If we were going to spice things up, maybe we’d have spaghetti or pizza.

So imagine my surprise when the person who did all of the cooking during my formative years, the woman who actually served me lasagna and mashed potatoes (I’m not joking), called me up and started talking to me about quinoa. And she wasn’t just calling for a definition of what quinoa is either – she was talking about her long list of personal quinoa salad recipes. I almost dropped the phone in shock. After all, quinoa doesn’t include ground beef or mashed potatoes in the ingredient list, so this was quite a detour.

You may have already eaten quinoa but thought it was just another type of rice or grain. Quinoa is actually the seeds of the goosefoot plant, and it’s widely known as a superfood. That’s because it has twice as much protein as brown rice and will fill half your recommended intake for magnesium. If you read my post last week on how to survive the time change, you’ll remember how I talked about the calming effects of magnesium, so you can see how a quinoa salad recipe will fit the bill as the perfect side when you want to eat, drink, and relax.

Quinoa salads are easy to serve too. I know many people just cook it up in a pot on the stove, but I’ve found that having a rice cooker makes it easy to create the perfect quinoa salad. Check out these amazing quinoa salads and get ready to change how you serve up your sides:

Quinoa Rice Pilaf
This is a great take on the traditional rice pilaf you might serve with fish or chicken, and the blueberries and apricots give it an extra kick.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp  (30 mL)  butter
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp  (30 mL)  each balsamic vinegar and orange juice
1 tsp  (5 mL)  chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp  (5 mL)  grated orange zest
1/2 tsp  (2 mL)  salt
2 cups  (500 mL)  quinoa
4 cups  (1 L)  chicken broth or water
1/2 cup  (125 mL)  each diced dried apricots and dried blueberries or currants
1/2 cup  (125 mL)  finely chopped chives or parsley

Directions

In shallow saucepan or deep skillet over medium, melt butter. Add onion, vinegar, orange juice, thyme, orange zest and salt; cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

Add quinoa; stir for 1 minute. Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender.

Stir in apricots, blueberries and parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Serve hot or at room temperature. Serve by scooping into ramekin or custard cup and packing lightly.

 

 

 

 

Avocado and Quinoa salad

Avocado is one of the ‘good’ fats, and this quinoa salad is a great way for people to up their healthy fat and protein intake all in one shot.

Ingredients:

1 cup  (250 mL)  quinoa
1 cup  (250 mL)  diced cucumber
1/2 tsp  (2 mL)  salt
1/2 cup  (125 mL)  diced red onion
2 large or 3 medium ripe avocados, diced
1 cup  (250 mL)  diced sweet green pepper
1/2 cup  (125 mL)  chopped fresh parsley
Dressing:
1/3 cup  (75 mL)  lemon juice
1/4 cup  (60 mL)  extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp  (30 mL)  red wine vinegar
2 tsp  (10 mL)  dried mint or 1 tsp (5 mL) dried oregano
Few dashes hot pepper sauce
1/4 tsp  (1 mL)  salt
Pinch pepper

Directions

If not pre-rinsed, rinse quinoa in fine sieve under cold running water. In medium saucepan, bring to a boil with 1-1/2 cups/375 mL water. Reduce heat to medium; cover and simmer until water is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Fluff with fork. Let stand covered for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix cucumber with salt; let stand for 20 minutes. In separate bowl, soak onion in cold water for 20 minutes. Rinse cucumber under cold running water; drain onion.

For dressing, in small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil, vinegar, mint, hot sauce, salt and pepper.

In large bowl, combine quinoa, cucumber, onion, avocados, green pepper and parsley. Mix well with dressing.

 

 

 

 

Quinoa with maple vinaigrette quinoa salad dressing

My husband calls this ‘Canadian Quinoa Salad’ because of the maple dressing. I’ve served this as a main course and as a side at a big family dinner. It’s definitely a dish that keeps people coming back for more.

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1⁄2 cup sliced almonds
1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped apple
1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
1⁄4 cup toasted unsalted sunflower seeds
1⁄4 cup dried cranberries
1⁄4 cup raisins
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
1⁄2 cup Maple Vinaigrette
Maple Vinaigrette
1⁄3 cup pure maple syrup
1⁄4 cup cider vinegar
1⁄4 cup honey mustard
2 tbsp canola oil

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and 2 cups (500 mL) water; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Transfer quinoa to a large bowl. Add almonds, apple, apricots, sunflower seeds, cranberries, raisins and mint; toss to combine. Pour in vinaigrette and toss gently to coat.

 

 

Maple Vinaigrette: In a jar, combine maple syrup, vinegar, mustard, oil and 2 tbsp (30 mL) water. Seal and shake until well blended. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, shaking well before use. Makes I cup (250 mL).

There’s a reason why the quinoa craze has spread into kitchens everywhere—it’s nutritious, delicious, and makes it easy to get your daily protein fix.