EXPERIMENTING WITH QUINOA – Cranberry Walnut Quinoa Salad

      Quinoa (KEEN-wa) has been referred to as . . . the whole grain super-food! It’s become quite popular and most grocery stores have added it to their shelves – check under the specialty grains or natural foods sections.
     I’ve been on the search for tasty recipes that incorporate this ancient grain. This one actually is a combination of several – using ingredients I had on hand and adding others that I thought would go well with those I started with. We happened to have lemon-infused balsamic vinegar (it is light in color) and olive oil on hand – they were a nice addition but regular balsamic and olive oil can be used (if you are using regular balsamic, it will darken the salad slightly). Since I liked the lemon flavor imposed by these specialty products, I would recommend adding a squeeze of fresh lemon (and maybe some grated rind) if using them in their usual form.
     And finally, for just two of us I cut the salad in half. It was good but I don’t want to eat it day after day!
     Check out other Healthy Alternatives using our tab at the top of the page.

Cranberry Walnut Quinoa Salad    6 side dish servings
1 cup quinoa 
2 cups water
1⁄2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1⁄2 cup chopped toasted* walnuts
1⁄4 cup chopped chives or sliced green onion
1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar (I used lemon balsamic vinegar from The Tasteful Olive)
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil (I used lemon-infused olive oil from The Tasteful Olive)
Coarsely ground black pepper and Kosher salt

1.     Rinse the quinoa in several changes of water. Combine the 2 cups water and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and continue cooking until all water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, uncover, and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

2.     In a medium bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, dried cranberries, walnuts, and chives or green onion until well mixed.
3.     In a small bowl, whisk the balsamic vinegar and olive oil until well blended. Pour over the quinoa mixture. Toss until well blended.
4.     Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Analysis per serving (235g): Calories 142, Fat 6.1g (Saturated fat 0.8g, Cholesterol 0 mg), Sodium 2 mg, Carbohydrate 18.1g, Fiber 2.2, Protein 3.8g, Calcium 1%, Vit C 2%, Iron 7%.

Other Ideas:  Add cooked chicken to make this a main dish salad. Think some crushed or chunked pineapple also might be a nice addition.

About Quinoa (KEEN-wa)
     Quinoa has delightful and unique characteristics that give it an appearance and texture all its own. The taste is a mild, delicate, slightly nutty flavor.
     It is an easy-to-prepare and an excellent alternative to white rice or couscous; it can also serve as a high-protein breakfast food mixed with honey, almonds, or berries.
     The quinoa seed is high in protein, calcium, and iron, and it is a relatively good source of vitamin E and several B vitamins. It contains a nearly perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids, making quinoa a complete protein food. Quinoa is 12% to 18% protein. Four ounces per day, or approximately 1/2 cup, is sufficient to meet a child’s daily protein needs.
     Before cooking, the seeds must be rinsed to remove the bitter resin-like coating, which is the phytochemical saponin. Although quinoa is rinsed before it is packaged and sold, it is advisable to place the seed in a strainer and rinse again at home before use to remove any remaining residue.

To Toast Nuts -- Click on . . . Toasting Nuts
For this salad, I toasted the nuts in our  Breville Smart Oven. It looks like a counter top toaster but bakes like real oven with convection features. Nice for something like toasting nuts as you don't have to heat up the entire oven to do a small job. We bake pizza, pies, chicken . . . . etc., etc. in the oven and love the results! 

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