Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Spicy Southwest Quinoa Salad

If you're one of those people who eats a salad for lunch and gets hungry 3 hours later (or 2 hours later if you have my appetite), this recipe is for you.

Not only is it extremely delicious and quick to put together, it's packed with protein from the chicken and quinoa, making this salad a meal that will truly last you through the day.

I was inspired to make this salad after my summer in Chicago. I regularly visited a restaurant called The Protein Bar, which was famous for stocking its entire menu with protein-heavy and quinoa-filled burritos, bowls, and salads. After having their burrito (or Bar-Rito as they call it) several times, I opted for a southwest salad one day, but requested to have buffalo dressing instead of the much spicier Cholula hot sauce doused on top. What emerged was a delicious combination of flavors that come together quickly to make an easy and filling meal. 

After re-creating it myself several times, I feel it's finally ready to be shared with the public.

To make this salad, you will need:

1 chicken breast, diced into bite-sized pieces
olive oil
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 container Trader Joe's Super 8 Veggie Mix (or bagged salad)
1/2 avocado, cut into chunks
Franks Buffalo Wing Sauce 

Start by making your quinoa. Follow the directions according to the package (I generally boil 1/2 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water until the kernels crack)

Next, heat a glug of olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Add your chicken and toss on some salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until chicken is browned.

Next comes the layering. You'll start with your veggie mix as the base. I went with Trader Joe's version because it gives you a nice variety of pre-chopped nutritious veggies for only $2.99. (Side note: I've found this veggie mix to be extremely versatile in other dishes as well - I'll add a cup or two into salads, a stir-fry, a noodle dish, etc. I highly recommend it for new veggie recipe experiments.)

Then add on your sprouts - I went with organic pea shoots for this part, but you can choose whatever is most convenient for you.

Next, add your quinoa.

Then your chicken.

Then your avocado.

Now here comes the fun part. Grab your bottle of buffalo sauce and toss on as much or as little as you'd like, depending on your spice preferences. Give the bowl a stir, sample your creation, and add more if you need to. Enjoy your hearty salad with a glass of cold water.

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