Quinoa Chicken Salad with Vegetables: A Quick Meal for Every Season
Quinoa Chicken Salad
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Quinoa Chicken Salad Is A Favorite Recipe
I suppose most people have a favorite recipe they fall back on when they can't decide what to have for lunch or dinner. Ours is Chicken Qunioa Salad, or one of my many variations of it. We are retired and self-employed, and work at home, so we have our main meal at lunch time. I often don't have a lot of time to cook, so I often just make this. One recipe normally lasts us about three days as a main dish.
I make it easier for myself by having all the ingredients on hand. I buy the double packs of broiled chicken strips at Costco and keep about two-three packs in the freezer. They are easy to thaw when I need them. I normally cook one cup of quinoa a week and freeze half. Each half batch will make one recipe of the salad. I use whatever fresh vegetables I have on hand. At various times I use sweet red or green bell peppers, celery, cherry tomatoes, red onions, and cucumbers. I have also added canned olives or artichoke hearts. (I prefer Trader Joe's unmarinated whole artichoke hearts packed in water. Your taste may be different.)
If you have you chicken and quinoa already cooked, about all that's left on the day you make the salad is to cut up the chicken and vegetables, make the salad dressing if necessary, and mix the ingredients together.
One reason we serve this so often is because we have to watch what we eat. We prepare the Italian dressing with extra-virgin olive oil. The quinoa (pronounce KEEN-WA) itself is one of the most nutritious of all grains, high in fiber and protein. It contains all eight essential amino acids, and is a good source of iron. I cup of cooked quinoa contains no cholesterol, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of protein, and only 2 mg of sodium. Even with the chicken, it's a light meal. It can be served with a green salad or crisply raw carrots or radishes, and bread, for a complete meal any doctor should approve. If you don't want to eat meat, you can substitute black beans for the chicken.
We like this so much we eat it in every season. In winter we will sometimes serve it in smaller portions as a side dish for a hot soup lentil or split pea soup. But it is really refreshing on a hot summer day. I normally cook the quinoa the night before I need it so it can chill. At the same time I let the frozen chicken breast strips thaw. If you have it left over, all you have to do is pull it out of the refrigerator and eat, with no fuss at all except getting anything you want to serve with it ready.
Some Handy Things to Have
This is the brand of quinoa I always use. Since it's prewashed, all I have to do is put a cup in a 2-quart saucepan with 2 cups of water, bring it to a boil, cover, and simmer for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. I let it sit for another few minutes after I turn off the burner. Then I divide in half and put half in the refrigerator to chill and freeze the other half until I need it.
This contains one bowl just right for making the salad, and two bowls the right size to hold leftovers as you eat the salad. They are, of course, also good for making casseroles and holding any other leftovers you may have. All three bowls have lids, and you get a bonus slotted spoon and serving spoon. It's a great deal with the Super Saver shipping.
I like this pan because you can watch grains and other foods cook, and know if they are about to boil over so you can prevent it.
Main Ingredients for Quinoa Chicken Salad
- 3 cups quinoa, already cooked and chilled
- 8 oz chicken breast, cooked and chilled
- 3 cups mixed fresh vegetables chosen from red or green sweet peppers, celery, red onion, or cucumbers, chopped
- 3/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 cup or more, according to taste, dry-toasted slivered almonds
- Add to taste, Italian salad dressing of your choice
- Make salad dressing if you don't have it prepared. I normally use packaged Good Seasons Italian Dressing, which I have to mix.
- Cut cooked chicken breast into bite sized pieces.
- Chop or dice the fresh vegetables you want to use. One of my favorite combinations is sweet red pepper, celery, and cucumbers. Sometimes I also add halved canned black olives or chopped artichoke hearts if I have some.
- Mix chicken, cooked quinoa, chopped vegetables, crumbled Feta, and almonds in large serving bowl of at least 8 cups. That's what I used here and it came to the top.
- Add about 1/2 cup of the Italian dressing to the salad and mix well.
- Chill until ready to serve.
- Make additional Feta cheese and Italian dressing available on table for those who want to add more.