Recipe: Quinoa Garden Salad

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I recently realized how dependent I had become on hot lunches when our office microwave decided to stop working. It was replaced the next day, but I had already started to panic and think about cold lunch possibilities. Desperate to avoid a boring sandwich (or, more likely, a container of plain carrots and a handful of nuts–aka, recipe for afternoon hunger pangs), I came up with this quinoa salad and went microwave free for most of the next week.
 
With a mix of protein, good fats, and fiber, this salad makes a full meal on its own, so it was easy and compact to bring into the office. It’s also tasty enough that when we unexpectedly had a catered lunch at work, I opted to go ahead and eat my salad instead because it really is was that good.
 
The pesto dressing for this salad is intended to be fairly light and subtle. I’ve never been a huge dressing person, but if you feel you need a little more coating, feel free to add an extra teaspoon of oil.
 
Finally, while I designed this salad to be eaten cold or at room temperature, I discovered that zapping it for thirty seconds or a minute in the microwave so that it’s just warm is really tasty. So much for curing my hot lunch dependence.
 
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Summer Quinoa Salad
makes 4-6 servings
 
Ingredients
2 c. cooked quinoa (about 1 c. dry, I cooked mine using 1 c. of water and 1 c. of vegetable broth for extra flavor)
6 oz. green beans, ends removed and cut into approximately 1″ sections
6 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
4 oz. feta cheese, cut into approx 1/2″ chunks
 
For the pesto dressing:
1/2 c. fresh basil
1/4 c. walnuts
1 tbsp olive oil
 
Method
1. Blanch the green beans as follows: Bring a pot filled with 2″ of water to a boil, add green beans, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. While beans cook, fill a bowl or second pot with very cold water (ice water is best). When the 3 minutes are up, drain the hot water from the green beans and immediately transfer beans to the cold water bath.
 
2. Make the pesto dressing: in a food processor, combine the walnuts, basil, and olive oil, and process together until a paste-like consistency has been achieved.
 
3. Place the cooked quinoa in a large mixing bowl. Add the pesto dressing and stir to combine.
 
4. Add the tomatoes, green beans, and feta. Stir again to combine.
 
Can be eaten immediately, or stored in the fridge for 1-2 days.

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