How to make healthy choices every day

Reader Request: Confetti Quinoa Salad

I’m back in the saddle everyone. After a very nice break and some time to think, I realized that what I really needed to do was call in the troops for some healthy reinforcement to cure my writer’s block. I want to thank all of you who responded to my email – I now have an entire warehouse of ideas, well stocked the next year of blog entries!
Your emails inspired me so much in fact (and I received so many) that I have decided to add a section to the blog called “reader requests”. Once or twice a month I will respond directly to a relevant question or two and indicate this in the post’s title. I will also post the question in the article – so look for yours!

This post will cover several questions:
What can I do with quinoa!?
Do you have any recipes that are good for traveling?
How can I incorporate fresh herbs into my food?
I am single and unmotivated to make huge, one-off meals just for myself. Do you have any ideas for fast, healthy food that can keep for a few days?

Sigh…I just happen to have the perfect answer to all of these questions. Introducing Quinoa Confetti Salad, otherwise know as my “life saver salad”. It is easy to make when I’m short on time (because quinoa only takes 15-20 minutes to cook), and it uses up whatever I have on hand in the fridge. You can also adapt it to the seasons – raw fresh vegetables in the spring and summer, and a blend of fresh and steamed or roasted veg when the weather cools down. I love it with garlic-roasted sweet potato and beets on chilly fall days. Holy delicious! When fresh herbs are no longer in season, just use good quality dried ones. And we all know the goodness of quinoa – high in protein, rich in fiber, loaded with health-promoting minerals – it’s the seed of the gods. Read more about the benefits of quinoa here.

The other bonus about this salad is that it travels very well, which is important for me, as I don’t often find a lot on the menu at drive-through highway Wendy’s, and quite frankly, plane food scares me. In fact, as I write this, I am on a trans-Atlantic flight from Copenhagen to Toronto and you can guess what I ate for lunch. That’s right.

Quinoa Confetti Salad
1 cup dried quinoa (any colour you like – white, red, black, purple – or mix it!)

An array of seasonal vegetables – be creative!
-rainbow carrots (pictured)
-string beans
-cherry tomatoes
-spring onion

A lovely legume – for a complete protein meal!
-chick peas
-navy beans
-black beans
-lima beans
-kidney beans

A selection of fresh herbs – don’t be scared!
-flat-leaf parsley

Sunshine Dressing
2-4 Tbsp. Cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 un-waxed organic lemon
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp. Honey
pinch of sea salt

Place ingredients in a jar and shake. If you have extra, you can use this dressing, for up to 4 days, stored in the fridge (but the sooner, the better). You can drizzle this on just about anything – green salad, steamed vegetables, cold rice, or pour it into the center of half an avocado and scoop it out with a spoon – my favorite snack!

1. Rinse quinoa very well 2-3 times in the pot you are cooking it in, draining it with a strainer. Add 2 cups fresh water, and about a teaspoon of sea salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until cooked.
2. While the quinoa is simmering, make the dressing by zesting and juicing the lemon, mincing the garlic and combining all ingredients in a jar and shaking. Set aside to allow flavours to blend.
3. Chop the vegetables and herbs you are using. Place in a large bowl. Pour dressing over. (I like to add the dressing before the quinoa, because quinoa will continue to absorb liquid and you risk it becoming a little soggy.)
4. Once the quinoa is cooked you can add it directly to the dressed vegetables. The quinoa will cool down quite quickly as you mix it in.
5. Devour.

This salad is rather large, but like I said before, it can keep for at least a day or so in the fridge. If you really want to plan ahead, mix the vegetables, herbs and quinoa when you have time and dress it when you’re ready to eat. This will help the salad keep for 2 or more days in the fridge. If you’re eating for one, this will undoubtedly save your life – or at least save you from eating those weird microwave-popcorn-and-peanut-butter-cracker dinners.

I hope that this delicious, and simple recipe comes to your tummy’s rescue, and feel free to change things up to suit your preferences. If you have a favorite dressing, pour it on. If you don’t like chick peas, leave them out! If you love nuts, throw those in too. For me, this recipe is a little different every time, so be creative and have fun with it.

Thanks again for writing in and giving me some great ideas. Over the coming months I will try to answer as many questions as possible. Keep up that healthy curiosity!

Copyright 2012 My New Roots at

15 thoughts on “Reader Request: Confetti Quinoa Salad”

  • This has been one of my go-to’s for forever. I’m finally commenting because I had to write up my adjustments for a friend who wanted the recipe link. My main takeaways are: 1) You must use fresh herbs. I usually don’t buy them (budget) but you have to have 1-2 fresh ones in there. I use fresh basil and parsley, and dried oregano. 2) Increase the dressing by at least 50%, or it’s not flavorful enough – and add more garlic! You could also just double the dressing and add to the salad to your liking. 3) Garnishes are your friend, and equally versatile as this salad: cheese, ground lemon pepper, scant red pepper flakes, avocado, cashews, pine nuts, lemon wedge for those who want more lemon, etc.

    My proportions for the veg and legumes: ~20 chopped baby carrots; 1 bell pepper; 1 med-small zucchini – cucumber gets too soggy – and 1/2 can white cannellini beans + 1/2 can black or kidney – can easily add peas on top of that.

    Doubles easily.

  • My version featured goats cheese and roast courgette as well as the salad, herbs and seeds I had available. So pretty different but deliciously inspired by the recipe. I will definitely be trying other combos and I can see this becoming a regular part of my cooking. Thought you might like to know I’ve enjoyed reading the blog so much I’ve bought the book, looks great and gonna start reading as soon as I’ve finished my salad!

  • Just made this salad to take to a friend’s for a BBQ supper last night. I had a load of freshly harvested carrots, tomatoes and lettuce from the garden to use so those items featured highly in my version. I found it delicious and very filling – perfect for me as a vegetarian who wasn’t going to be eating anything from the BBQ! Thank you – I shall most definitely be making it again!

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  • Hmm. I made this and just felt it was missing something. Maybe the chickpeas I didn’t have? I used tomato, green capsicum, cucumber, carrots, shallots, mint, quinoa and the dressing, sprinkled with some cumin, salt and pepper. I actually found the dressing too sweet-perhaps it needs some mustard. I kept trying to work out what it was missing and added some homemade chilli sauce to it, more lemon, and then some sambal, and eventually some cooked chicken also seasoned with cumin and salt and pepper. So I’m not sure why this doesn’t work for me.

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