Meatless Mondays: Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Greek Yogurt-Avocado Dressing

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One of the things I enjoy most about cooking, is discovering how to adapt flavors that I’ve grown to love in new and interesting ways. Some of my favorite cuisines do just that by elevating simple dishes into the realm of extraordinary by focusing on key ingredients and allowing them to shine. Mexican food is no exception.

Now, you say Mexican food and people have a pretty broad idea of what that means for them. You’ve got your ooey-gooey cheesy variety of tacos and burritos that makes up the staple of supermarket frozen food aisle Mexican food and their fast food counterparts. You’ve also got your Tex-Mex which blends the best of Southwestern cooking and south of the border specialties. And then you’ve got your truly authentic Mexican food which is regional, unique, and incredibly delicious. Fast food aside, you’ve got a tremendous array of beautiful, vibrant foods that lend robust flavors to your dishes that I believe make a great foundation for all kinds of vegetarian recipes simply because they’re packing so much goodness as is.

I decided to go back to one of my basic super ingredients, quinoa, as a base for this Mexican-inspired salad.  This recipe is packed with all sorts of nutrients including fiber, protein and good fats from the avocado which makes this a great go-to for a healthy and filling meal that’s easy to make. I also wanted to have a bit of fun with this one by taking it one step further and including a brand new ingredient I’ve never used before: jicama.

I’ve seen dozens of recipes with jicama but I had no idea what to expect from this potato look-alike. Upon learning that it’s native to Mexico, I thought, I have to give this a try. I’m so glad I did because it’s a yummy addition, providing a nice sweet crunch (similar to an apple) and an extra boost of fiber and vitamin C. It can be cooked or eaten raw which gives you a variety of ways to add this to do your meals and is in season from late autumn through spring, although it’s available year-round.

Without further ado, my Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Greek Yogurt-Avocado Dressing:

Southwestern Quinoa Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

Southwestern Quinoa Salad

  • ¾ cup cooked white quinoa
  • 1 can of black beans, no salt added and rinsed
  • 1 cup of whole kernel corn, no salt added
  • ¼ cup red pepper, diced
  • ¼ cup cubano pepper, diced
  • ¼ cup red onion, diced
  • ½ jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 green lime
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • ½ tsp granulated garlic powder
  • Freshly ground salt and black pepper, to taste

 Greek Yogurt-Avocado Dressing

  • 1 ripe Hass avocado
  • ½ cup plain 0% greek yogurt, (I used Fage)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 lemon
  • Freshly ground salt and black pepper, to taste

Special Tools

  • Food processor

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Make your quinoa ahead of time.  Be sure to rinse thoroughly before cooking. For this recipe, I used 1.5 cups of salt-flavored water in a microwave-safe bowl, placed the washed quinoa inside, covered with a lid, and cooked in a microwave set on HIGH for about 8 minutes. *I only had white quinoa on hand, but this recipe would work great with red quinoa. Flavor your liquid by either using salt and lime juice, or a vegetable broth to create a more flavorful quinoa. 

2. Prep all of the ingredients by peeling, rinsing and chopping. Set aside.

3. Place the cooked quinoa in a large mixing bowl and fluff with a fork.

4. Now here’s the easy part: just toss everything into the bowl! Save the cilantro and seasonings for last, but really, it’s just that simple. Mix well, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary, and set aside.

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5. Make your avocado dressing. Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and set to mix until the dressing is at a smooth consistency. You can add more lemon and oil to make the dressing less thick. * This dressing is VERY versatile! You can keep it fairly thick and use it as a vegetable dip or topping. You can also add any number of herbs like dill or tarragon if you have it on hand.

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6. Scoop some of the quinoa salad on your serving plate and drizzle the avocado dressing over the top. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve!

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Next time you’re craving a bit of Mexican, ditch the cheese, fat and the preservatives (and the meat!) of the fast food stuff, and go for a Mexican-inspired dish like this one to keep yourself healthy and satisfied. See you all next Monday. 🙂

Do you like cooking with quinoa? What are your favorite Mexican foods and how would you  make them healthier if possible? Drop me a line- I’m curious!

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