Mexican Quinoa Salad (with Bonus Wrap)

It’s not easy when a member of your family announces that they are radically changing the way they eat. I was in my mid-30’s when I embarked on a plant-based diet and this threw a real curveball at my meat-and-potato loving parents. Although I had long since moved away from home and started my own family – it still meant that every holiday and visit became a head-scratcher when trying to prepare a menu that would appeal to everyone. Thanksgiving and Christmas with no turkey?! Easter with no ham?! A BBQ with no burgers?! Holy crap!

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I must admit that we’ve had more than a few heated “discussions” over the years about being flexible and open to trying new things. And there was also the inevitable questioning of the health benefits of a diet with no animal products. “You mean you aren’t giving your kids milk? How will they get strong bones?” “How will your family get enough protein?” “What the hell is quinoa?” and “Why do you have to be such a pain in the ass Lori?” All valid questions.

In the beginning I stood up on my soapbox and was overly eager to share all of the wonderful information I was learning about my new diet. I told them about the fact that there is actually more digestible protein in leafy greens and legumes than in meat (not to mention the animal cruelty associated with the meat industry). And that chickpeas and sesame seeds are much richer sources of protein than dairy. And that milk has been definitively linked to cancer. AND I made my entire family watch Forks Over Knives over one Christmas holiday (yes I was insufferable).

Nowadays, I’ve learned to shut my mouth more often and to be appreciative of how far we’ve come in incorporating more plant-based foods into all of our diets. But I’ve gotta give credit especially to my mom for really giving vegetarian cooking a college try. My family recently spent a few days at my parent’s home and I was totally delighted when she announced that she would be making Zesty Quinoa and Black Bean Wraps for dinner. She’s come a very long way from the woman who once told me she would never eat a vegetarian diet because there just wasn’t enough variety.

This recipe evolved from that wrap – which was delicious by the way (my son even turned down cheese pizza to gobble up a second helping). It’s simple to prepare and packed with protein, fresh veggies, herbs and spices. It just might be the best salad I’ve ever made! And as a special bonus, I turned the leftovers into a grilled wrap the next day that rivals the gourmet quinoa wrap sold by a very well-known coffee chain.

So if someone in your life announces that they are suddenly going to eat a different way – be it gluten-free or paleo or vegan or flexitarian…..be patient with them. When they come down off of their high horse – they just might make you something yummy to eat.

Mexican Quinoa Salad (with Bonus Wrap)

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1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pepper (any colour) diced
2 ears of corn- cooked, cooled and cut off of the cob
1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, diced
Juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, corn, garlic, pepper, tomatoes, cilantro and avocado. Squeeze the lime juice over top. Pour on the olive oil and toss to coat. Add red pepper flakes, cumin, chili powder and salt and pepper and toss again. Enjoy!

*Bonus Wrap*

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2 whole wheat or gluten-free wraps of choice
1/2 cup grated regular or vegan cheddar cheese
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups Mexican Quinoa Salad (above)

Heat a frying pan with olive oil over medium heat. Lay wraps on a flat surface and put a line of quinoa salad down the middle of each. Top with cheese. Fold in both ends of the wraps and roll together. Place the wrap in the frying pan and grill on both sides. Remove from heat after both sides are gold brown (approx. 3 minutes per side) and let cool for a few minutes. Slice and serve. (You could also use a Panini maker in place of the frying pan to make life easier).

Quinoa, Black Bean and Fresh Cilantro Salad

My kids aren’t the biggest bean fans (even though I keep telling them they are the musical fruit) so I have to be a bit sneaky to get them into their diets. This salad has a generous helping of nutrient dense black beans and against all odds – my kids will eat it. Although you can see the beans in this salad, they are so mixed together with the quinoa and other ingredients that the kids kind of forget about them.

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This is a flavourful and fresh grain dish that can be served either warm or cold and keeps beautifully in the fridge for a few days. I like to make up a big batch on Monday and have it for a hearty lunch or quick dinner a few times during the week. You can even pop some into a wrap with a bit of hummus or throw it over some mixed greens for a more traditional salad.

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Quinoa is considered a superfood because of its wide range of nutritional benefits. It is high in protein, fiber, iron and calcium and it is gluten-free which makes it easy to digest. And when you combine the quinoa with protein-rich beans and super-detoxifying cilantro you end up with a power-packed meal that is tasty and a breeze to throw together.

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Yes, the beans can make you a bit…ahem…gassy. But this is actually a good thing to mention around your kids. Trust me, nothing works better than a good fart joke when you are serving a new dish to your family.

Quinoa, Black Bean and Fresh Cilantro Salad

quinoa salad

1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup uncooked organic quinoa
1 1/2 cups of low sodium vegetable broth
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame beans
1 15 oz can of black beans (I like Eden Organics brand)
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in the onion and garlic and sauté for 5-6 minutes or until lightly browned.

Rinse and drain quinoa at least 3 times under cold running water. Add to saucepan and cover with broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir in corn and edamame and continue to simmer (covered) for 5 minutes until heated through.

Mix in black beans and cilantro. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!