Warm Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is a wonderful Earthy tasting small round grain that is higher in protein than many other grains and is really easy to prepare. It takes on the flavor of almost anything you cook it with and can be used in breakfast, lunch or dinner recipes. Today I made a delicious and delightfully warm cucumber and quinoa salad and I share that recipe below. You can use the basis of this recipe to think up a number of other sauces and veggies you can make it with in a similar manner. Some suggestions are also provided. I find that all ages enjoy this grain, so it makes an ideal toddler meal! It is also very fun for them to fluff with a fork in the serving bowl as you mix in the sauces and vegetable additions.

The Grain

Quinoa means “mother grain” in the Inca language, and has been consumed by those who inhabit the east coast of South America (Chile, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia) for over 5,000 years now. Because of the high protein content of quinoa, it makes a wonderful grain flour as well, and can be used in baking (especially pizza crust!) but is traditionally cooked and served as is. It is a round grain about the size of millet but is less grainy than millet is, and I prefer it over millet for that reason in most baking recipes using alternative grains. When cooked, it increases in size 3 fold! For these nutrient and cooking properties, it makes a really affordable and nutritious option to keep in stock in your pantry.

The Recipe

Remember my suggestion to clean, deseed and then blend whole lemons and limes to keep frozen in your freezer to use at a moments notice. I find this way of storing lemon and lime juice makes for a very superior tasting recipe than using the store bought bottled juices. The following recipe is best with freshly squeezed lemon juice, but can be equally as good with the frozen variety. If using bottled lemon juice, add in 1 teaspoon quantities and taste your sauce before adding it to the cooked grain. This recipe is very lemony, so adjust to your liking. If you are not a lemon person but like the tangy that citrus juice provides to recipes, experiment with various vinegars instead.

1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed and drained before cooking

1 3/4 cups water (or follow the instructions on your bag)

2-4 chopped (about 1 cup) baby cucumbers, or other vegetable of choice

2 1/2 Tbsp tamari (a gluten free soy sauce), or coconut aminos if soy-free

2 Tbsp tahini (or sunflower seed butter)

1/4-1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (for a more fragrant taste, include 1/2 tsp zest)

1/2 tsp garlic powder (or garlic salt if you want a saltier taste or are using low sodium tamari)

1/2 tsp onion powder

(Optional) a pinch of pepper and additional salt to taste

(Optional) a tsp or two of chopped cilantro (add it to the sauce to incorporate the flavors well)

  1. In a large saucepan combine your quinoa and water and cook over medium high or high heat until it comes to a boil. Stir then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes, depending on your altitude (check for water level/doneness at 10 minutes).
  2. In a small bowl make your sauce by mixing all ingredients using a small whisk until well combined. It will be coffee colored due to the tamari and tahini/sunflower seed butter.
  3. When your quinoa is done cooking remove it from the heat and let it sit for 1-3 minutes, then fluff it with a fork before adding your sauce and chopped vegetables, stirring it to combine well. For the best flavor, cover the pot with a lid again to allow the flavors to mix for 5 more minutes before serving.

This recipe makes a generous serving. My recommendations are to make a few varieties for the week if you are only cooking for you and your child. If you are cooking for a family of 4-6, this recipe should go in one serving. If you want to just cook less, halve the recipe or quarter it.

Toddler dinner made out of this recipe with the addition of roasted rec bell peppers and black beans.

Variations To Try

As mentioned in the introduction, quinoa takes on a variety of tastes very well and you can get really creative with these delicious warm salads or side dishes. Try some of the combinations listed below.

  • Veggie: jarred red bell peppers. Sauce: tamari, tahini, garlic and onion powders, balsamic vinegar.
  • Veggie: cucumber. Sauce: hummus, sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar (blend together), and salt/pepper to taste.
  • Veggie: beets. Sauce: rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame seeds, tamari, tahini.
  • Other veggie choices to go with this recipe’s sauce include celery, asparagus (cooked then cooled; esp. delicious with some capers added to this!), cauliflower, fresh chopped bell peppers, and chopped cherry tomatoes all taste wonderful.
  • Your suggestions? Leave a comment below after you try the recipe!
This is a version of the current recipe with chopped roasted red bell peppers and rinsed and drained black beans. Experiment with the taste as you add ingredients to make sure it is to your liking.

Repurposing Leftovers

I am a BIG FAN of taking my leftovers and challenging myself to create new delicious meals with them. This salad lends itself very well to use in wraps, pitas, and burritos, so try some of these options out. If you are using balsamic or rice wine vinegars you can easily transform these warm salads into next day lunches with falafel and pita bread. If you use this cucumber recipe with the added roasted red peppers and black beans, you can mix it with some veggie chili in a burrito for breakfast or lunch the next day! Get creative and don’t forget to share your suggestions below in the comments.

Repurposed quinoa and cucumber salad to make a burrito with some of Amy’s black bean veggie chili and a vegan mozzarella shredded cheese.