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Springtime Quinoa Salad

01 June

Quinoa Salad TextDid you read the article in the New York Times about the woman who killed her whole family with a bad-tasting meal? The food was fresh, but she used herbs that didn’t blend well and overcooked the rice, and they all died.

No they didn’t. No one ever DIED from a bad-tasting meal.

We all have different kitchen personalities. Mine loves to pull random stuff out of the fridge and throw it all together. Usually it comes out pretty delicious. My husband likes to find recipes even for stir-frys {I’m not judging! We’re just two different personality types –who are miraculously compatible}.

Recipes are awesome tools, and even people like me enjoy finding new ones. But finding new recipes also takes a good amount of dedication and time, so being able to improv in the kitchen will save you time and money, and it will also promote a sense of FUN at mealtimes.

But for people like my husband, “throwing stuff together” for dinner sounds like the opposite of fun {at best} or just plain terrifying.

Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

So if you want to practice ad libbing dinner, here’s a recipe to start with. This recipe has protein, fat and carbs in it, so it’s a balanced meal. To keep it that way, use quinoa {which has protein and is a carb}, and be sure to choose at least one of the garnishes listed at the end {they are all fats}.

Beyond those basics, here are the areas that will be fun to play with:

Asparagus – delicious but can be substituted with green beans, broccoli, or any other green veggie that isn’t a leafy green.

Fresh herbs – use whatever you have on hand. In general, all fresh herbs taste good together, I promise!

Lime juice – use any citrus here: lemon, grapefruit, orange, tangelo…

Romaine lettuce – any lettuce or tender leafy green will be good here: spinach, Swiss Chard, bibb, mustard greens…

Toasted pumpkin seeds – any nut or seed will work; if it’s a bigger nut, chop it up

Focus on using what you have on hand for flavor and texture. Trust the backbone of the salad. Feel confident that you can mess around with this recipe, following your heart and your tastebuds, and it will be awesome!

And remember, no one ever died from a bad-tasting meal, they just complained a lot. But don’t worry, this is gonna turn out delicious!

Share your substitutions in the Comments below so we can all be inspired!


p.s. My husband says that he now loves to improv in the kitchen, thanks to practicing {and no doubt the loving tutoring of his wife}.

Springtime Quinoa SaladQuinoa Salad close up

1 ½ cups quinoa
3 cups water
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 limes or lemons
1 teaspoon dry thyme
½ tsp fennel seed
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup fresh herbs, chopped finely {chives, parsley, basil, etc}
1 bunch asparagus, roasted* then chopped in thirds
1 beet, shredded
1 cup Romaine lettuce, finely chopped
¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Garnish: sliced avocado, feta cheese or goat cheese


  1. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until quinoa is tender and water has been absorbed, about10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Whisk olive oil, citrus juice, thyme, fennel seed, Dijon mustard, sea salt, and fresh herbs together in a bowl.
  3. Combine quinoa, asparagus, beet and lettuce together in a bowl. Pour dressing over quinoa mixture; toss to coat. Garnish with Pepitas, avocado or cheese, season with sea salt and black pepper. Serve immediately or chill in refrigerator.

*To roast asparagus: trim the woody ends, toss the spears in oil, sprinkle with sea salt, place on a baking sheet, and roast in a 350 oven for 10 – 15 minutes, or until tender.

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Liz Flint-Somerville, Nutritional Consultant

Liz was a partner in Grub for 3 amazing years and helped author many of our most beloved recipes and posts. She is now dedicating her time to caring for her family, writing poetry, and continuing to cook delicious Real Foods.

2 Responses to “Springtime Quinoa Salad”

  1. Lill June 4, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    For two of us this was a lot of quinoa so day one was without the beets but some kale. Didn’t have time to cook the beets. Day two was with beets and sautéed beet greens added to the leftovers. Delicious both days! Love the improv part and little waste by using both parts of th beets

    • Liz Flint-Somerville June 4, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

      Nice improv, Lill! I just grate raw beets into the salad to minimize prep time, and I love that you added the beet greens too!

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