This past month while I was writing about my real food journey and how I quit processed food, I thought a lot about how to navigate challenging situations with real food. You see, I was experiencing one of these times firsthand.
This June my son graduated from high school, so my ex-wife and I decided to celebrate by throwing a grad party for him. She has the bigger home with more open spaces, so she hosted the party. But she has no issues with processed foods, and to top things off, my son requested a food truck from a chicken fingers and fries place (sigh). Yes, this whole celebration was one huge lesson in letting go of control, while somehow bringing my food values to life.
We all face situations like this. Whether it be a block party, a cookout, or just going over to a friend’s house—there are plenty of places where we can’t control what’s being served. And what do we do? We can either be “that person” and make a fuss, or we can get creative and figure something out.
I’m much more of an option two/figure something out kind of guy. So what did I do for my son’s grad party? I volunteered to bring some healthy options to the party which included a tray of organic veggies, a big bowl of fruit salad, and this delicious recipe for Southwestern Quinoa Salad. It’s absolutely wonderful on it own or served on a bed of lettuce. You can even mix in some arugula and create a “grains and greens” dish. And with July 4th celebrations right around the corner, maybe this quinoa salad is the perfect dish you can bring if you’re not hosting. 🙂
- 1½ cups quinoa
- 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth (you can also use water instead)
- 1 cup corn (fresh or frozen), cooked briefly and still crisp
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced into 2-3 pieces
- 1¼ cups cooked black beans (approximately one 15 ounce can drained and rinsed)
- ½ cup green onions (use white and green part)
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped
- ½ cup chopped dried cherries or currants (optional)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- cilantro leaves and sliced cherry tomatoes
- Rinse quinoa thoroughly with fine mesh strainer until water runs clear. Don’t skip this step—unrinsed quinoa tastes bitter.
- Pour olive oil in saucepan, enough to coat the bottom. Add rinsed quinoa and roast grains over medium heat for about 5 minutes stirring often.
- Add broth or water and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. Quinoa is ready when the grain is soft and has spiraled out from its shell. Then drain thoroughly (reusing the mesh strainer). Fluff and spread the quinoa out on a cookie sheet or plate to cool quickly.
- Mix together southwestern seasoning and dressing.
- When the quinoa is cool toss with corn, tomatoes, black beans, green onions, cilantro and southwest seasoning and dressing. If you like the contrast of a little sweet in your salad, add the optional dried cherries or currants.
- Adjust the seasoning to taste by adding more cumin, coriander, salt, and / or pepper.
- Refrigerate and serve. This salad tastes best when the flavors have a chance to blend for 2-3 hours or overnight.
What do you do if you’re not hosting a gathering? Is there a favorite, real food dish you like to bring? Share some suggestions below. We’d love to hear your ideas!
Kitchen Tips and Resources:
- When making quinoa, I have several tips I follow: (1) always wash the grain well before cooking, (2) don’t overcook the grain and wait for all the liquid to be absorbed—15 minutes and if the grain is tender, drain, and (3) let the grain rest and cool off before mixing stuff in.
- A fine, mesh strainer is great kitchen accessory for so many tasks including washing your quinoa before cooking it.
- A great, non-slip cutting board is an invaluable kitchen asset when cutting up the vegetables. I upgraded to these Epicurean non-slip boards last summer, and I’ve been really pleased with them.
- A set of stacking serving bowls is a must for any kitchen and perfect for serving all different kinds of salads. I purchased a great set from Crate & Barrel several years ago. Although they don’t sell them any longer, they’ve got some great options here!