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Gluten Free Greek Quinoa Chicken Salad…and a Night to myself

Gluten Free Quinoa Greek SaladAmy Green, of the amazing Simply Sugar and Gluten Free Blog and soon to be author of an exciting new cookbook focused on quick and easy Gluten Free and Sugar Free Recipes, suggested that her Slightly Indulgent Tuesday round-up be all about healthier snacks.  I thought that this would make a fitting entry.

I have so many recipes that I am itching to share with you all, but somehow I just felt compelled to share this little one that I whipped up (in 20 minutes), simply because of the wonderful evening I had tonight!!  The meal, in and of itself, is nothing too special. The picture will not garnish great oohs and ahhs. But the feeling of the evening was perfect.  Why? Because the Husband went to dinner with some friends, and the kids have been in bed since 6:45pm (without a hint of resistance after spending the entire day in the backyard and the summer heat). For 5 hours straight they were in and out of both the pool and their new tree house (being built by their Dad, their Papa, and a great friend in our favorite shade tree -and yes, upon completion, I am going to have to post pictures of this creation made from scratch). But back to why this night was so wonderful…. I was alone. In total peace.  In unfamiliar quiet. I enjoyed a dinner on the patio, with no one chirping at me, except for the baby birds that just hatched in one of our trees.

Okay, and I do have to insert here that I love my children and my husband with all of my heart, but it is just so so rare that I get to create a meal just for me, without worrying about who likes what, or hearing a million “I’m hungry’s” whined to me (and that is not just from the kids), or having kitchen “help” from my 3 year old.   This is just me!  Some of you may think that I am crazy for getting this tickled, but really, it is the little things that get me going!

It started this morning with the wonderful bounty that I hauled home from our local Farmer’s Market, and really got going after the last lullaby’s were sung and all was quiet on the West side of our house!

Okay, I digress, and will get on with it.  Like I mentioned, this was not a fancy meal, by any means.  But this is the kind of dinner that I usually crave, especially since the triple digits have officially made their appearance here in Arizona and will not be leaving again until September! It is light, SUPER healthy, and goes great paired with a nice chilled glass of white wine (and since I was also the bartender tonight, I do admit to delivering myself a generous pour).

This meal is made with one of my favorite super foods: QUIONOA!  I have a hundred ways that I make it – hot dishes, cold dishes, main dishes, side dishes.  I grind it up in my Vitamix and use the flour for my pancakes, waffles, and other baking.  Anyway you use it, you are getting amazing health benefits.  Rebecca Wood, Author of Quiona The SuperGrain: Ancient Food for Today, says that “Unlike any of the grass-family grains, quionoa’s protein possesses an exceptionally attractive amino acid balance for human nutrition. It has high levels of the amino acid lysine, in which the common grains are deficient.”  It is gluten free and has higher levels of fat, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and the B-vitamins than wheat, corn, oats, or rice.  I actually like to soak my quinoa grains overnight to initiate the sprouting process.  I think it lends a much better flavor and texture and aids greatly in the digestion process.  However, if you are going to soak your grains, make sure that you measure out the correct amount of liquid for the amount of quinoa that you are using.  It is also important to use the same water that you soaked your grains in for your cooking liquid.

Gluten Free Greek Quinoa Chicken Salad

1 cup Organic Quinoa

2 cups Water, or Organic Chicken stock (if not soaking overnight)

1 cup Organic  Romaine, Roughly chopped

1 cup shredded Free Range (Organic, if possible) Chicken (I used the pre-cooked Mary’s Rotisserie chicken that I bought from Whole Foods deli)

1 cup Organic grape tomatoes, quartered

1/2 Organic Red Onion, finely chopped

1 Organic Persian cucumber (super sweet and crunchy), diced

1/2 cup Kalamata olives ( I got mine from the fermented olive bar at Whole Foods), cut in half (Note: I have also added capers to this salad and they lend a great flavor, but since husband hates them, I do not do it often)

2 Tbsp Trader Joe’s Greek Style Feta Dressing (For Dairy Free version of this dressing try this recipe– it is a favorite when I want to make my own)

1/4 cup Crumbled Feta (For Dairy Free version, omit Feta entirely)

2 Tbsp Pinenuts (For Nut Free version, omit entirely)

1.  In a bowl, place your quinoa and enough water to cover initially.  Take the quinoa, a handful at a time and rub between your palms to loosen the bitter outer saponin coating.  Drain and rinse in a fine mesh colander.

2.  If soaking for an extended period, do this next step the desired amount of hours ahead of time.  If not soaking, you can just go ahead and add your rinsed quinoa grains from step 1 and your 2 cups of cooking liquid (water or chicken stock) to a 2 quart stockpot and go to Step 3.  Otherwise, to soak, combine 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water in a your stockpot and soak uncovered for 2 – 24 hours.

3.  Bring quinoa and soaking or cooking liquid to a boil without stirring, then cover and reduce heat  to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Then remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for 5 more minutes.  Then uncover, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool.

4.  Once cool to the touch, place in serving bowl and add your chopped Romaine, I actually like to chop my Romaine much smaller than I did here, but I was not being picky tonight.  Then add your chicken, red onion, cucumber, and Kalamata Olives.  Gently stir to combine.

5.  Drizzle with Dressing and toss to coat.  Add Salt and Pepper to taste, then top with crumbled Feta (unless you are Dairy Free) and Pinenuts (unless you are Nut Free).  Enjoy!

So I sit, listening to the waterfall from the pool while finishing my dinner and a great glass of wine. I savor the peace, enjoy every moment of it,  eat my homemade cookie without  sharing a bite, and  aprepare for the commotion that will begin anew tomorrow!  And as the evening turns to dark and the bugs begin to crowd my computer screen, I will sign off .  This night was just long enough to renew my soul.  I am already excited to see those sweet faces in the morning as they crawl into bed with us, asking for another meal.  And I will savor the time as I whip something up that they will all like, while they are all hollering “I’m hungry”, and my 3 year old “helps”!  Life is wonderful.

Update: I am having slight Mommy guilt as I re-read this.  Please, let me know that I am not alone in savoring a night like this. Please tell me that you, too, covet these moments!

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