Quinoa Salad

Are you running out of lunch ideas to take to work? I’m getting so sick of sandwiches at lunch, so I asked Divya from Flavour Fiesta to channel her creative cooking genius to come up with something healthy, good for your skin, and easy to take on the go. Leave it to Divya to spice up the monotonous weekday lunches – this week, she shows us how to make a delicious quinoa salad… mmm!

When it comes to food blogging, we’re always posting our most creative and interesting recipes- we forget about the simple meals that are perfect for busy days. Thanks to some inspiration from Connie, we have a quick and easy recipe for a healthy lunch that will have your skin thanking you! Fluffy quinoa with sautéed onions, mushrooms, broccoli “dust” and a tomato sauce that packs in the flavour – simple, easy, healthy and a great option to take to work on a busy weekday.
I was first introduced to quinoa a few years ago and since then it’s been a staple at my place. For those of you who have never tried quinoa, I urge you to hop over to the local supermarket and buy some. It’s surprisingly easy to make and is a great alternative to rice or couscous. Did you know that it’s one of the few vegetarian sources of complete protein? So, it’s a good choice for people trying to cut their meat intake. It’s also high in minerals.
Note: Make sure you rinse the quinoa well before cooking, otherwise it will taste a little bitter due to the saponins on the surface.

Enough about why quinoa is good for you, let’s talk about the broccoli “dust”. I’m sure you must have thought “never heard of that”! Yes, I had never heard of it either until I watched a show called ‘Everyday Exotic’ on the Food Network. It airs in Canada on Tuesdays and I try to catch it whenever I can. Chef Roger Mooking is unbelievably creative in the kitchen. A few weeks ago, he made “broccoli dust”. For broccoli-averse people like me, it’s a good way to eat some broccoli without having big chunks of it. Just shave off the dark green tips of the broccoli with a knife and use that “dust” in your dish. Don’t throw the rest of the broccoli away though -use the remaining floret and stalks in other dishes like soup or curries, where it is less conspicuous.

serves 3-4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 package brown mushrooms, sliced (~200g)
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
2/3 cup broccoli “dust”
1 cup strained tomatoes
1.5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp light cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: In a medium-sized pot, bring the quinoa and stock to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cover. Cook for 15 minutes on medium-low heat.
Step 2: While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the broccoli “dust”. Shave the dark green tips off of the broccoli florets with a knife. Chop finely if there are any large pieces remaining. Keep the rest of the floret for use in another dish.
Note: I like to use the remaining florets in dishes such as soups. You can also dice them and add to stir-fry dishes.
Step 3: In a frying pan, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until golden brown. Add the mushrooms and stir for a few minutes until cooked through and browned. Add salt and pepper and mix well. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Step 4: Five minutes before the quinoa is done, toss the broccoli “dust”, salt and pepper into the pot containing the quinoa and stir well. Cover and continue to cook for the remaining five minutes.
Step 5: Prepare the sauce by sautéing the minced garlic in the frying pan with a few drops of oil. After 30 seconds, add the tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and heat for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Turn the heat off and add the cream cheese. Cool and blend the sauce in an electric blender till smooth.
Step 6: Once the quinoa is done, fluff with a fork and add the mushroom and onion mixture. Spoon the sauce over the quinoa just before serving (to prevent the quinoa from becoming soggy).

If you’re taking it to work, pack the quinoa and sauce separately and mix just before eating. Enjoy!

I literally feel re-invigorated and energized as I write the following beauty + health benefits for this delicious ‘packed lunch’ idea. Wait till you see me after I’ve been eating it for a week! I may just have an extra little spring in my step :)

Quinoa: The trend in beauty and fashion seems to follow this motto: “What’s old is new again”. I’d like to extend that motto to food as well. Take quinoa, for example. Known as the ‘ancient grain’, it has been recently rediscovered and touted for its health benefits. Why? Not only is it high in protein, but it achieves top scores for its content of manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus. I’d have to say, this ingredient is a beauty must!

Mushrooms: Oh how I {heart} mushrooms… lucky for me, they boast impressive antioxidant benefits as well. Its excellent source of zinc, selenium and manganese helps our antioxidants ‘work’ better. Read: better functioning antioxidants will help minimize the oxidative stress imposed on our DNA (stuff that contributes to skin ageing).

Broccoli: I used to wrinkle my nose in disgust every time my old roommate boiled broccoli as part of her diet ‘du jour’… but now I’m thinking she may be on to something… Loaded with phytonutrients and fiber, broccoli possesses anti-oxidant, detoxification and anti-inflammatory benefits. The next time your skin has a freak out – fill your diet with broccoli!

Tomato sauce: Tomato sauce contains tomatoes. Tomatoes contain the red carotenoid, lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant known to protect your skin against photo-damage and environmental pollutants. And this is the very logic that has resulted in various beauty companies launching lycopene- infused beauty supplements. But, in my opinion, why pop a pill when you can eat the real thing??

Let us know how it goes – leave a comment!


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