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.

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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Sweet-n-Easy Coleslaw

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This sweet coleslaw is super-delish, and the perfect side for barbecued chicken or pulled pork. The addition of chopped apple adds extra crunch and flavor to the coleslaw. You could shred your own cabbage for this recipe, but I prefer the bagged coleslaw mix that contains thick shreds of red and green cabbage, and carrots, because it makes the prep time really quick! The slaw will need about an hour to marinate, so be sure to prep this in advance.

2/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon poppy seeds
2 tablespoons diced onion
1 medium apple, chopped
1 (16 ounce) bag of coleslaw mix

Whisk together the mayonnaise, oil, sugar, rice vinegar, salt, and poppy seeds in a large bowl.

Stir in the onion and apple, then add the coleslaw mix and stir until thoroughly combined.

Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving.

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Cheesy Quinoa Casserole

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I love quinoa, but my usual preparation method was getting boring, so I was delighted to discover this recipe. It’s creamy, cheesy, hearty, delicious, and even my kids gobbled it up. It is an excellent side dish, but the high-protein quinoa makes it a wonderful vegetarian main dish too! My version below includes a few changes to the original recipe, which can be found here. If possible, save yourself some time and cook the quinoa (see instructions below) ahead of time.

1 cup quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 cup frozen corn (no need to thaw)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
8 ounces light sour cream
1/2 cup chunky salsa (you choose the heat)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

To prepare the quinoa, first rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer to help remove the bitter tasting coating (called saponins). While the quinoa is draining, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or deep skillet over medium heat. Add the quinoa, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 15-25 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a casserole dish.

In a large bowl, stir together the corn, black beans, red bell pepper, sour cream, salsa, cheese, salt, cumin, coriander, and black pepper. Add the cooked quinoa and mix thoroughly.

Spoon mixture into the prepare casserole dish and bake for about 30 minutes, or until heated through. Serve hot and enjoy!

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Fall Salad with Cranberries and Candied Walnuts

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I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! We had a lovely time with family and friends; I feel truly blessed! Okay, back to the recipe . . .

This simple salad, topped with dried cranberries, candied walnuts, and creamy goat cheese is so delicious that it feels like I’m eating dessert, rather than vegetables. This is a great salad to have during the fall and winter months when tomatoes and other common salad vegetables are out of season.

1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
6-8 cups of your favorite salad greens (I combine mixed greens with baby spinach)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup creamy goat cheese
Vinaigrette salad dressing

In a medium pan, over medium heat, add the walnuts and sugar. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar melts and the walnuts are thoroughly coated. It will take several minutes before the sugar begins to melt, so be patient. Melted sugar gets extremely hot, so if a walnut happens to pop out of the pan during the cooking process, don’t try to pick it up with your bare hands, or you will get a bad burn (unfortunately I know this from experience). When coated with sugar, pour the walnuts out in a single layer on a sheet of waxed paper or foil to cool.

Wash and dry the salad greens and place them into a salad bowl. Sprinkle the dried cranberries and candied walnuts (after they have cooled) over the salad greens. Toss gently to mix.

Plate individual portions of salad, and then place a few pieces of goat cheese on each portion. Drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette dressing and serve.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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Brussels sprouts may have a bad reputation among many, but I believe this is often due to how they are prepared. Roasting is one of my favorite cooking techniques, and brings out the bliss in Brussels sprouts. The sprouts are tender, with a mild sweet and salty favor. Excellent with roasted chicken!

1 pound Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse Brussels sprouts well. Cut each Brussels sprout in half and then remove part of the stem by cutting a “V” into the bottom of the stem (see photo for an example). Removing part of the stem will help eliminate the bitterness.

Put the trimmed sprouts in a medium bowl, then add the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat. Place on a baking sheet, cut-side down, and roast in the oven 25-30 minutes, or until the outer parts of the leaves are dark brown. You may want to shake the baking sheet a couple of times, while they are cooking, to prevent them from sticking.

Remove them from the oven, and sprinkle with additional salt, if needed (this gives you an excuse to try one of these delectable sprouts right away!).

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