By now, you may be thinking I sound like a broken record when I say that quinoa and kale are healthy. Duh, right? We’ve been hearing it a lot lately and it’s almost overkill, but besides knowing that we should all eat more, do you know the reasons? I don’t know about you, but for me, when I learn or am reminded of why a particular food is so beneficial to me, it makes me more motivated to eat it regularly.
Take kale, for example…It’s a green and seems to be all the rage lately, but knowing it is high in fiber, at 5 grams per cup, and that it is high in Vitamins A, C, and K, makes me want to jump on the bandwagon even more, what with its ability to protect my eyes and bones and reduce my risk for heart disease and cancer. And while kale is truly one of the most nutrient-rich foods, it’s a really poor source of calories (as if we’re looking for those!), with only about 35 calories per cup of raw kale.
Quinoa come in several varieties, with the most noticeable differentiation being the color. I like to buy a bag of mixed varieties of quinoa because it adds different colors and textures to the finished dish (ie. red quinoa has a slightly crisp texture, even after cooking). Quinoa is one of the only plant foods that contains all the essential amino acids (building blocks for protein) our bodies need (and can’t make), making it a good choice for people who don’t eat meat. It is the grain with the highest amount of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure and protect against heart disease. Here again, I can definitely see the logic of trying to eat more quinoa!
I like to make salads that can work well as a side dish or as part of an entertaining buffet, but that can also work as more of the main event for a lighter lunch or dinner (or even a mid-afternoon snack). This salad is packed with vegetables, flavorful, and a good complement to most any protein – shrimp, chicken, salmon, or even pork or lamb would pair well. I especially like the addition of mint, but if you have thyme, parsley, or basil instead, they would be great options too.
Side Note: I can’t help but tell you that amount of fiber in one serving of this salad, meets almost 1/4 of the daily recommended amount for fiber – what an easy, delicious way to get more fiber!
Kale-Quinoa Salad How-To Photos:
Dry quinoa (several varieties), before rinsing
Cook the red pepper strips for 2 minutes, just to soften
Kale is as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside!
The skillet will be full when you add the kale.
Kale will brighten, wilt and shrink in size when it’s tender.
Mixing the salad ingredients
This salad contains a good variety of colors, shapes and textures!
Yield: 6 servings (about 2/3 cup per serving)
Nutrition Info (per serving): 179 cals, 7 g pro, 26 g carb, 7 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g sat fat, 6 g fiber, 234 mg sodium
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3/4 cup dry quinoa, rinsed well and drained*
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small red sweet pepper, seeded and cut into thin, bite-size strips
7 cups coarsely chopped, trimmed fresh kale (about 2 bunches)
1 medium carrot, coarsely shredded
2 tablespoons snipped fresh mint
2 tablespoons lemon juice
- In a large saucepan cook onion in 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add quinoa; cook and stir for 1 minute. Remove from the heat; add the water and salt. Return to the heat. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook sweet pepper strips in remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add kale (skillet will be full). Cook, tossing occasionally with tongs, for 3 to 5 minutes or until kale is just tender. Remove from the heat.
- In a large bowl combine quinoa mixture, kale mixture, carrot, mint and lemon juice. Stir until well combined. Serve warm or cold.
*Note: Ever wonder why quinoa has to be rinsed before using? Quinoa naturally contains a coating, called saponin, which wards of pests and makes it easy to grow quinoa without using pesticides (bonus, right?). Rinsing the quinoa removes this bitter coating.