A light and tasty twist on chicken salad – grilled chicken, quinoa, green peas, apricots, and raisins tossed with orange juice, rice wine vinegar, and olive oil and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts. This healthy and delicious chicken and quinoa salad with dried fruit and pine nuts is packed with protein that will keep you satisfied for hours.
This week our little group of bloggers continues it exploration of grains and legumes with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), which technically isn’t a grain at all, but rather the seeds of a plant related to spinach, Swiss chard, and beets.
Though relatively new on the food scene here, according to researchers, it’s popularity in the Andes regions of South America dates back to approximately 3000 BC.
When I first tried quinoa, I wasn’t a fan. It’s taken my taste buds a while to adjust, but the more I experiment, the better I like it. (An important food rule I learned from the enlightening book, French Kids Eating Everything.)
What Gives Quinoa It’s Power Food Status?
Because quinoa has all nine essential amino acids, it’s considered a complete protein. It’s also rich in vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and magnesium, two nutrients that may help reduce the occurrence of migraines, and a good source of vitamins B6 and E, as well as iron, zinc and fiber. And because it’s not a grain, quinoa has no gluten, making it a great alternative for those with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivities.
How Do You Prepare Quinoa?
You basically cook quinoa the same way you do rice, using one part quinoa and two parts liquid and cooking it for about 15 minutes. Definitely quick and easy.
The Skinny on Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Dried Fruit
This chicken and quinoa salad with dried fruit is slightly adapted from the Weight Watchers I LOVE LEFTOVERS Cookbook, currently being sold at Weight Watchers centers here in Arizona.
Instead of using the grilled chicken called for, I substituted leftover cooked chicken breast.
I also skipped the ground fennel and pine nuts because I didn’t have them.
Both Rod and Mom liked it too, which is always a good sign since our tastes and preferences can be quite different.
- ½ cup red or white quinoa
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup thawed frozen green peas
- 4 (5-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 16 ounces leftover rotisserie chicken instead)
- ½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds (I left them out)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup dired apricots, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup golden raisins
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts, optional
- First cook the quinoa by placing it in a small saucepan along with the water. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat, cover the pan and let it simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 12 minutes. Add the peas during the last 2 minutes of cooking time.
- Drain the quinoa and peas in a fine mesh strainer, rinse under cold water and then drain it again, before transferring the mixture to a large bowl.
- Meanwhile cook the chicken. First sprinkle the breasts with the ground fennel seeds (if using) and salt. Spray a large nonstick skillet or grill pan with nonstick spray and set it over medium-high heat.
- Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes and then cut it into thin slices.
- Add the apricots, raisins, scallions, orange juice, vinegar, and oil to the bowl of quinoa and peas. Add the chicken and toss everything gently to combine.
- Just before serving, sprinkle with the pine nuts if desired.
You can make this chicken and quinoa salad up to 2 days ahead. Just omit the pine nuts (if using), place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Then sprinkle with the pine nuts just before serving.
Source: slightly adapted from the Weight Watchers I LOVE LEFTOVERS Cookbook,
Be sure to check out what these other participating bloggers have cooked up quinoa. (If you are interested in joining us, contact Mireya at My Healthy Eating Habits. We’d love to have you join us.)
- Alyce - More Time at the Table
- Ansh - Spice Roots
- Jeanette - Jeanette’s Healthy Living
- Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits
- Sarah - Everything in the Kitchen Sink
- Chaya - My Sweet & Savory
- Minnie - The Lady 8 Home
- Power Foods: 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients
- The World’s Healthiest Foods
- Weight Watchers I LOVE LEFTOVERS Cookbook
If you liked this chicken and quinoa salad you might also like:
- Camilla’s Lemony Lentil & Quinoa Salad
- Southwest Stoplight Quinoa Salad
- Lightened Up Quinoa Corn Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
- Skinny Pumpkin Spice Quinoa & Cranberry Granola
- Low Fat Pumpkin Quinoa Cookies (using quinoa flour)