Happy Fall, y’all! Even though the weather has been hinting at fall for a couple weeks now, it is now officially the first day of fall today. This past weekend I finally started seeing a lot more trees changing colors—an absolutely beautiful site in Madison. The changing of colors always bring back memories of my very first trip up to Madison two years ago, which was a perfect fall weekend. All the fall colors and the rolling hills were breathtaking to a girl who grew up in the flat plains of Iowa. I almost didn’t want to leave on that very first weekend…er, maybe that was partly because of something (or someone) else. ;)
Let’s just say, I’m so glad I’m back in Madison—both to see the changing colors and to be with that “somebody else.”
Now let’s cut to the chase because this is a recipe I’m this excited for! Seriously, you guys, I know today’s recipe is a salad (I’m sorry, I know you all love ’em, but I can’t post desserts all the time) and it uses that “health food” known as quinoa, but this is so good! The flavors, the textures, the colors…gah, I just can’t get over it all.
Plus, this salad was a breakthrough in our household. It was the first salad—ever—that I served to Philip for dinner. Gasss-puh! Sure, I’ve had salads for dinner and, prior to married-life, it was pretty common for me to throw practically everything but the kitchen sink into a big bowl with mixed greens for dinner. But Philip? He’s not so crazy about the idea. Salads as a side? Yep, those happen all the time. But as an entree?
I suppose it was only a matter of time before I pulled on my big girl panties and made up a big ol’ salad for dinner. I guess I figured I was safe to try after a year of marriage. :) I knew I couldn’t pull it off with just any salad and if any salad could, it was going to be my Asian Quinoa Salad, chock full of hearty chicken and filling quinoa.
And you know what?! Philip really liked it…like a lot! And you know what’s even better? He said it was filling and that he was satisfied after eating it. Double win for the dietitian!
This salad actually all started with a class I was leading for work: Modern Cooking with Mason Jars (a.k.a. using mason jars for anything besides canning). The class got to learn all about how to properly make salads-in-a-jar and then make one of their own. Asian Quinoa Salad was by far the favorite choice of the group (and mine too).
But let’s back up to salads-in-a-jar for a sec. Have you made them? They’re pretty awesome and they’re going to totally impress your coworkers when you come to work with one. Here are the selling points in a nut shell (if you want the full run-down, you’ll just have to come to one of my classes ;)).
- They keep for 5 days (and actually get better after a couple of days “marinating”). Since the dressing or vinaigrette is on the bottom and the greens, nuts, and seeds are on the top, things that need to stay separate will stay separated and everybody is happy in the end. I love that you can make up five salads in one day and have a pre-made salad everyday during the week. It makes is so handy not to have to make a salad every. single. morning/evening.
- One jar for the whole salad. You don’t have to worry about keeping the dressing separate; it all goes in together. You don’t eat out of the jar, though, so you do need another container to pour the salad into.
- Use a wide-mouth jar to save yourself some headache.
- Order matters.
- Layer 1: Vinaigrette/Dressing
- Layer 2: Hearty Vegetables—things that do well marinating or pickling. Tomatoes, carrots, onions, peppers, broccoli or cauliflower are all great options.
- Layer 3: Beans & Less Hearty Vegetables—these are the second defense to the vinaigrette.
- Layer 4: Pasta & Grains—anything from whole grain pasta and brown rice to farro, quinoa, or couscous are all great ways to add a little “staying power” to a salad.
- Layer 5: Protein & Cheese—use up whatever you have on hand such as shrimp, salmon, shredded chicken, chicken sausage (apple-maple is my favorite), tuna, or hard-boiled eggs. Anything goes!
- Layer 6: Lettuce, nuts, and seeds—these are the “fragile” ingredients and the ones that need to stay the farthest away from the vinaigrette.
After the class, I knew I had to make the Asian Quinoa Salad again. It works perfectly in a jar for lunch at work, but is just as good made fresh for dinner.
For this salad, you don’t even have to worry about making up your own vinaigrette. For all you locals, I used Fit Cuisine’s Trim Thai Dressing. Fit Cuisine is owned by a dietitian and is locally made in Fitchburg. It has a little bit of heat to it but is slightly sweet at the same time. The ingredients are simple and nothing that you couldn’t add in yourself (which makes me question why I don’t just make it myself…but it’s just soo good!). To be honest, this salad was probably made 10x better just by vinaigrette, but any Thai, peanut, or Asian dressing would go beautifully with this salad.
I’m tellin’ ya, this salad is one that will appease the salad-lovers and the salad-haters alike. It’s a fast, weeknight meal that will leave everybody happy. Check out the recipe below (including how to make it in a jar!).
Asian Quinoa Salad (Salad-in-a-Jar Friendly)
- Layer 1:
- Asian vinaigrette or dressing (Fit Cuisine Trim Thai Dressing is excellent)
- Layer 2:
- Shredded carrots
- Green or red bell peppers, chopped
- Layer 3:
- Snow peas
- Frozen or fresh corn
- Layer 4:
- Cooked quinoa (about 1/4–1/2 cup cooked per jar or individual serving)
- Layer 5:
- Cooked, shredded chicken
- Layer 6:
- Chopped Kale (or other dark green)
- Shredded red cabbage
- Roasted peanuts
- Sunflower seeds and chia seeds, optional
- To make this salad in a jar, put ingredients in jar by layer, using desired amounts of each. For a general guide, use about 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Seal tightly with lid and store in the refrigerator for up to five days. When ready to eat, pour salad into a large bowl and toss together. Enjoy!
- To prepare this salad as an entree, prepare salad with greens and quinoa on the bottom. Top with remaining ingredients and vinaigrette. Enjoy!