Lemon Basil Quinoa Salad

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My local grocery store sells the most delicious quinoa salad in the deli case. It has quinoa, tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese, artichoke hearts, and red onions, all mixed together with a mildly sweet lemon basil dressing. The salad is light and refreshing and has a great combination of sweet and savory flavors. I took one bite and I immediately started thinking about how I could recreate this salad at home.

Lemon Basil Quinoa Salad

I served this salad at my mother-in-law’s birthday dinner last night, and it was a big success! The bowl was practically scraped clean, but I managed to save some leftovers, which I had for lunch today, topped with some left-over salmon (yum!).

I omitted the artichoke hearts and red onions from my recipe, since they are not part of my low FODMAP diet, but feel free to add them to your salad, if you like. You can adjust the ingredients and quantities shown in my recipe below, but be sure to only use fresh basil. I had some trouble finding fresh basil in the grocery store, so I went to my local nursery and bought a basil plant for about the same price I would pay for a handful of basil as the grocery store. Now I can plant my basil plant and have fresh basil all summer long!

The quinoa will need time to cool in the fridge, so be sure to cook the quinoa the day before, or at least a few hours before you plan on serving the salad. This recipe will serve about 6-8 as a side dish.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
1 container of grape tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/3 cup feta cheese
1 tablespoon sliced green onions
2 lemons, juiced (approximately 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper, to taste

To prepare the quinoa, first add the quinoa to a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly under cold water to remove the bitter coating. Add the quinoa to a large saucepan or deep skillet (make sure it has a lid). Add 3 cups of water to the quinoa and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed. I usually stir it once or twice while it’s cooking and check the water level. Burnt quinoa doesn’t taste good (don’t ask me how I know).

Once the quinoa is cooked, let cool for 30 minutes, then transfer to a mixing bowl and place it in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight.

To prepare the salad, remove the quinoa from the fridge (the quinoa should be cold), and add the tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, and green onions. Gently stir to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, maple syrup, fresh basil, and salt and pepper. Pour into the bowl with the quinoa and gently stir until thoroughly coated with the dressing. Have a taste and add additional salt and pepper, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Greek Pasta Salad with Sausage

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I guess I could call this a Mediterranean Pasta Salad since it has Greek and Italian ingredients, but the name isn’t as important as the taste (which is great, by the way!). Tender pasta mingles with olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, chickpeas, and Italian sausage for a main dish salad full of flavor and interesting textures. Be sure to make the pasta salad (not the sausage) in advance, so the flavors have time to develop. 

Ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 pound corkscrew pasta, cooked and cooled
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 can black olives, roughly chopped
3/4 cup feta cheese
1/3 cup diced red onion
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 package Italian sausage

Wisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, oregano, sugar, and ground pepper in a large bowl. Add the cooked pasta, garbanzo beans, olives, feta, red onion, and tomatoes, and stir gently to combine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Add the Italian sausage to a large, cold skillet and add 1/2 cup of water. Cover and place over medium-low heat. Simmer until the water evaporates, and then remove the lid. Brown the sausage, turning frequently, until the sausage is cooked through.

Let the sausage cool slightly, and then cut into slices. To serve, fill bowls with the cold pasta salad, and place sausage slices over the top.

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Pita Pizzas

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These little pizzas are a breeze to put together and much healthier than a traditional pizza pie. Since they come in individual sizes, it’s easy to please the entire family, which is often a challenge in my house since my daughter won’t eat pizza with tomato sauce, my husband likes a meaty pizza, and I prefer vegetarian. Have fun experimenting with different sauces and toppings. Below are the recipes for a vegetarian pizza with pesto sauce and a Mexican pizza with salsa sauce.

Vegetarian Pesto Pita Pizza

Ingredients
6 whole wheat pita breads
1 jar of prepared pesto
Shredded cheese
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch of spinach, rinsed and roughly chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Black pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the pita breads in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake the pitas in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes (this will help keep the “crust” crispy).

Remove the pitas from the oven, and carefully spread the pesto on top of each pita (as much as you like). Top with a small amount of shredded cheese, a few tomatoes, a handful of spinach (really pile it on because it will shrink in the oven), then a bit of feta cheese. If desired, sprinkle a bit of parmesan cheese and some black pepper on top.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until the crust is crunchy and the toppings are heated through. Cut into quarters and serve hot.

Mexican Pita Pizza

Ingredients
Whole wheat pita breads
Jar of your favorite salsa
Shredded cheese
Leftover taco meat, cooked
Tomatoes, chopped
Roasted green chilies, diced
Green onions, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the pita breads in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake the pitas in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes (this will help keep the “crust” crispy).

Remove the pitas from the oven and carefully spread each pita with a spoonful of salsa. Top with a handful of shredded cheese, taco meat, tomatoes, green chilies, and green onions.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until the crust is crunchy and the cheese is melted. Cut into quarters and serve hot.

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