In the mountains of Western Pennsylvania it gets cold. I mean, really cold. This past weekend was no exception. It was cold, blustery, snowy, and icy. Did I mention that the day before was sunny and 70? At any rate, it’s good weather (the cold stuff) to have the church Thanksgiving dinner because it gets you in the mood for the warmth and comfort Thanksgiving brings. It is one of my very favorite holidays where friends and family can gather, talk, eat a meal, and enjoy one another. The time spent with loved ones is a treasure to be held and cared for. Do me a favor, don’t talk politics or other controversial topics…just be in the moment and enjoy the company of those around you.
At any rate, our church’s Thanksgiving dinner is a wonderful time of feasting, fun, and fellowship. Many bring a covered dish and the church provides turkey, ham, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. This year I decided to bring quinoa salad. I have a few favorite quinoa recipes in my holster and this may be one of the best! It is fresh and light while bringing in some holiday flavors.
Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a whole grain packed with nutrients. It is best known for having tons of protein and even more than that it is a complete protein meaning it has all of the amino acids (what makes up protein) that you need! Cool huh?! Besides protein, quinoa also contains fiber, iron, omega-3’s, and many vitamins and minerals. It’s fairly flavorless unless toasted which helps it to pair well with most food. Because it is gluten free, you can substitute quinoa for pasta, barley, bulgur, or farro in other dishes.
This ancient grain is one of my favorites to make and as a bonus, it only takes about 15-20 minutes to cook. Warm or cold quinoa can be eaten warm with a meal or as a cold salad. Like this recipe, it goes well with fruit or can be part of a tangy or savory side dish.
One of the most important steps to this dish is super simple but adds so much flavor. Toasting the quinoa. I was told by a seasoned chef that you can toast any grain to bring out a nutty, more flavorful version of that grain. There are a few things you should know about toasting any grain; first you need to warm the pan over medium high heat. After the pan is warm simply add the grain, in our case quinoa. The grain will warm up and start to smell nutty. Quinoa will let you know when it’s toasting by hearing “pops”. Simply let it pop for a minute and then add broth or water (see instructions on the back), turn the heat on high, and allow the water to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and let the quinoa cook and soak in all of the liquid which takes about 15-20 minutes.
The rest of the recipe is chopping, mixing, and pouring. Easy peasy and tastes amazing!
Christmas Quinoa (keen-wah)
- 2 cups red quinoa (if you can’t find red, white is fine)
- 5 stalks celery chopped (cut up the leaves as well)
- 8 green onions chopped (if you can’t find them use 1/2 red onion)
- 1 cup parsley finely chopped (flat leaf or curly)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup chopped dried cranberries
Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing (use this on everything…it’s sooo good!)
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
- 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup canola or olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 2 lemons
- Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Whisk together and set aside until the quinoa salad is ready. This marries all of the flavors together. Yum!
- Toast the quinoa. Place a large pan over medium high heat until the pan is warm (not hot). Place quinoa in warmed pan and wait until the quinoa starts popping. Stir continuously until the quinoa pops for a minute or it starts to smell nutty. Do not leave the quinoa during this point or you will burn it!
- Once the quinoa is popping and nutty add 4 cups of water, turn the heat to high, and allow the quinoa to boil. Once it starts boiling turn down the heat and let the quinoa simmer for 15-20 minutes until the quinoa soaks up the water. (follow the package directions minus the toasting and letting the water boil before putting the quinoa into it)
- Let the quinoa cool for a few minutes and then place in a large bowl. Add the celery, onions, parsley, walnuts, and cranberries.
- Pour the dressing over the mixture and toss lightly until the dressing is distributed evenly.
- Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
- This is definitely a good make ahead dish. You can make it ahead the day before and the flavors will marry and become irresistible!
- You can make this salad with any number of grains including (but not limited to) brown rice, wild rice, barley, bulgur, wheat berries, and farro.
- Nut allergy? Not to worry! Try sunflower seeds or shelled pumpkin seeds instead for an added crunch.
- Like a little more dressing? Just double the batch and save excess for salads later on!
FOOD ALERTS: Contains nuts. Gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free.
Try it. Let me know how you like it or if you did something to make it your own!