Friday, January 30, 2015

Strawberry Balsamic Quinoa CousCous Salad

During the week lunches.  Ugh.  Is there anything harder to make exciting than a workday, brought-from-home lunch?  I struggle with making lunches from home appealing enough to keep me from going the take-out route, or worse off, hitting up the vending machine.  Sandwiches are not a favorite meal of mine to begin with, and the idea of bringing one every day makes my eyes roll with boredom. 

So, I've been trying to add colorful, pretty, healthy(!) salads into my routine.  They're quick to assemble, easily adaptable to whatever you have in on-hand & ready to eat, no need to wait in line for the breakroom microwave!  

One of my favorites lately, has been this bright quinoa & couscous salad with strawberries.  It's delicious & so filling.  Perfect for a weekday.  And the berries add a little something special.  Berries are quickly becoming my go-to for adding some pop to a dish.  They bring a ton of extra flavor, the deep colors add some interest to the plate & it seems there is always a berry fresh & on-sale in my local grocery store.  

I came up with this one thinking about a seasonal salad I used to eat often during my college days, when I waited tables on the side at TGIFridays.  After many shifts, I would order one of my favorite items on their menu, a salad full of strawberries, parmesan, & a pecan crusted (I'm sure fried) chicken breast with a rich balsamic vinaigrette.  It was incredibly tasty, but I'm sure bursting with lots of extra calories.

All of the same elements of my college favorite are here, but in a much more figure-friendly way.  Because I definitely do not still have the metabolism of my 20 year old self.  Sigh.

Strawberry Balsamic Quinoa CousCous Salad

2 cups cooked & cooled couscous
2 cups cooked & cooled quinoa
1 cup rotisserie chicken
1 pint of strawberries, hulled & diced
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1/2 bell pepper
3 scallions, sliced
1 -2 cups arugula
1 large bunch basil, torn
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 cup pecan pieces

2 T. Balsamic Vinegar
1 t. dijon mustard
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 -2 roasted garlic cloves, minced (optional, but tasty)
salt & pepper to taste

Begin by cooking couscous & quinoa according to package directions. (I prefer to use chicken stock instead of water to add more flavor to the dish, but it's completely optional).  Fluff grains & put in a large bowl in the fridge to cool.
Meanwhile, shred chicken, and dice strawberries, cucumber, bell pepper & scallions.  Tear or chop arugula & basil & shred cheese.  Chop pecans if necessary.  

Next, make dressing by placing all ingredients in a small mason jar, placing lid on tightly & shaking vigorously.  Remove grains from the fridge & coat them with the dressing, using a fork to mix.  Add in all other ingredients & quickly toss together to incorporate.


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