Tag Archives: craisins

Quinoa and spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette

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Quinoa and spinach salad
or…

The best quinoa and spinach salad EVER!

This salad is so addictive! Inspired by a salad I had at a Kansas City “wine dive,” as well as a spinach and orzo salad I used to make, I created this healthy and delicious cold quinoa salad, and it’s always a big hit at parties and potlucks. I love the contrast of all the different ingredients, as well as the sharp taste of the feta balanced by the sweet-and-sour of the vinaigrette, and the subtle spinach and nutty quinoa.

Quinoa is a healthier alternative to pasta like orzo, because it’s a complete protein in and of itself, plus it’s fairly low-glycemic for a grain. And, for those who care, it’s gluten-free.

It’s best made a few hours ahead, I think. I don’t know if it keeps longer than 24 hours, because if there are any leftovers in the fridge that night, I’m likely to I always polish them off as a midnight snack!

If I were making this just for myself, I would use the full amount of feta, but when I’m serving a crowd, I usually put in half the feta, and serve some alongside for those who would like to add more. If you’re serving a nut-sensitive crowd, you could also leave out the nuts and provide them as a garnish.

Spinach and quinoa salad with balsamic vinaigrette

2 c. thoroughly rinsed quinoa  (a 12-oz. package of pre-rinsed)
2 T. butter
3 c. chicken stock
1/2 of a medium red onion, finely diced
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
2 T. rice vinegar, or a mix
1 – 2 T. maple syrup
1/2 c. olive oil
5 – 6 oz. baby spinach, chopped
2 – 4 T. crumbled feta cheese, to taste
1-1/3 c. craisins, chopped apple, or a combination
2 – 3 T. fresh basil (optional)
pecan and/or walnut pieces, to taste – maybe 1/2 cup

Make sure your quinoa is thoroughly rinsed, until the water runs clean. If not, it will be bitter. More info here.

Melt butter in a large skillet, and saute the quinoa till it just starts turning golden brown. (This step is optional. If you’re pressed for time, feel free to skip it.)

Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer, cover and let cook for 15 minutes. Then remove from heat and let it sit — still covered — for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, dice the red onion and put it in the bottom of a large mixing/serving bowl. Combine the vinegar, sweetener and olive oil in a small jar and shake to combine. Set aside.

Once the quinoa is done, and if there’s any excess liquid, drain that off. Pour the quinoa over the onions and place that mixture in the fridge to cool off. The reason: subjecting the onions to the heat of the cooked quinoa will mellow them a bit, and start them releasing their flavors into the mixture.

Once the quinoa is cooled, pour the vinegar mixture over the salad. Stir gently till well combined. If you have more than 2 hours to serving time, cover and place back in the fridge.

An hour or two before serving, add the spinach, feta, and craisins or apple. Taste and adjust ingredients if needed. More feta for a sharper taste; more Splenda and/or fruit for a sweeter taste.

Add the fresh basil and nuts just before serving.

Serves 10-12

Nutrition data from myfitnesspal.com:

Nutrition Facts
Servings 12.0
Amount Per Serving
Calories 400
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 25 g 38 %
Saturated Fat 5 g 24 %
Monounsaturated Fat 9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 9 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 12 g 4 %
Sodium 188 mg 8 %
Potassium 428 mg 12 %
Total Carbohydrate 39 g 13 %
Dietary Fiber 4 g 16 %
Sugars 13 g
Protein 9 g 18 %
Vitamin A 1 %
Vitamin C 12 %
Calcium 1 %
Iron 112 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Orange-cranberry chicken salad

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I came up with this recipe one day when I was craving curry chicken salad for lunch, but couldn’t find any recipes that didn’t call for chutney. How could I do a quick fake for chutney? I tried onions sauteed till soft, then combined them with orange marmalade. Pretty good!

An alternate and easier approach is to just use green onions, and skip the sauteing step. I’ve tried both, and it’s good both ways.

You can use the nuts of your choice. I prefer the contrast of salty cashews, but since they just disappear in the salad, I decided to use pecans for the photos. Again, both are tasty, and you can use your choice. Sliced or slivered almonds would work nicely, too.

To keep the carbs down, I use a sugar-free marmalade and make sure my mayo has a minimum of sugar and no corn syrup. (Homemade is so easy, and needs no sugar! Here’s my mayo recipe.)

 

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Recipe: Orange-cranberry chicken salad

2 c. cooked, cubed, cold chicken
1/3 c. yellow onion, diced fine (or 5-6 green onions, sliced thin)
1/3 c. mayonnaise (more if your chicken is dry)
2.5 T. sugar-free orange marmalade
1/2 t. hot curry powder
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
dried cranberries & nuts to taste (note: substitute dried currants to avoid added sugar)
hearts of romaine or whole grain crackers, optional

If using yellow onion, saute till translucent. If using green onion, reserve a bit of the green tops for garnish, if you like.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the onion (using the white parts of the green onion), mayo, marmalade and spices; stir till well combined. Add an extra tablespoon or two of mayo if your chicken is on the dry side. Stir in the chicken, and green onions, if using. Add dried cranberries to suit your taste. Don’t add the nuts until just before serving.

You may eat it right away, but the flavor improves if chilled it for an hour at least. It’s also a great dish to make a day ahead.

Just before serving, stir in the nuts. Garnish with green onion and extra cranberries, if desired. Serve with hearts of romaine or whole-grain crackers.

NOTE: To make this Paleo, replace the orange marmalade with 1 clementine or tangerine, cut into bite-size pieces. Use homemade mayo. If you like, replace the dried cranberries (which usually contain sugar) with dried currants or raisins.

Serves 2.

You might also like:
30-second Caesar salad

Winter fruit salad with lemon poppyseed dressing

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This is one of my favorite salads, and it always gets rave reviews. I don’t make it as much now that we’re eating low carb, but you could certainly swap out your sweetener of choice for the sugar. And you could reduce the amount of sugar or sweetener needed by substituting orange juice for the lemon juice. The first time I made this recipe, I was almost out of lemon juice so I used half lemon, half OJ, and it was quite tasty.

Of course, you can swap out pecans or sliced almonds for the cashews, but I think the saltiness adds a nice contrast to the sweetness of the other ingredients. I also like to use smoked Swiss — or smoked Gouda, if I have it — for the plain Swiss. It’s a subtle addition, but I think it adds to the winteriness of the dish.

Make-ahead tip: Mix up the dressing, then chop the apples and pears and toss them with a little dressing. The citric acid in the dressing will keep the apples from turning brown. You can also prep the cheese, craisins and cashews and put them together in a container or baggie. Then when it’s time to serve, just dump the dressing, fruit and topping mixture over your greens and toss. If you dump dressing or anything with salt and sugar in it on the lettuce ahead of time, it will begin to wilt immediately, as these chemicals break down the cell walls of plants.