Quinoa

One of my favorite things to bring for lunch is quinoa. The grain-like seed is very versatile and can recreate itself on a daily basis simply by pairing it with new ingredients and flavors. The following five ways to pack a quinoa lunch pay ode to quinoa’s diversity and hopefully inspire you to bring its protein and fiber-packed powers to your mid-day munch.

The question often arises of how one can get enough protein from a plant-based diet. A shining example of a protein-packed, animal-friendly food is the superfood quinoa. With nine grams of protein in one cup, quinoa is also a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids. It is also rich in fiber, digests slowly and provides a feeling of fullness, contributes to healthy digestive track, promotes liver health, supports strong bones and provides 15 percent of the U.S. recommended daily allowance of iron in just a one cup serving. Quinoa is also gluten-free and easy to digest.

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1. Chocolate Protein Cereal

Lunch doesn’t have to be savory. In fact, when using simple, clean ingredients, it can be an excuse to enjoy something sweet like a dessert. This recipe allows chocolate to be okay to have in the middle of the day. And what else will boost your spirit during a tough work day quite like it?

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup + 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Dash of sea salt
  • 1 banana, 1/2 mashed, 1/2 cut into slices
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh mint for garnish

Directions

Bring the quinoa to a boil in 1/2 cup water and 1 cup almond milk. Add a dash of sea salt. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer until the water has fully been absorbed and the quiona is cooked through. Remove pot from stove and transfer quinoa to a bowl. Fold in the mashed banana along with 1/4 cup almond milk and honey. Garnish with banana slices and fresh mint.

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2.Black Bean Veggie Burgers

Skip the meat and embrace the power of veggie burgers. Black beans are packed with protein and fiber and will help keep you full and energized at work. The quinoa helps bind it all together and adds some extra depth of flavor. These burgers are also easy to transport and can be served in a number of ways, so you’ll never get bored.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 can black beans (15.5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (prepared according to package directions)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

 Directions

Drain and rinse the black beans. Squeeze the beans with clean hands or mash with the back of a fork to make them less chunky and more moisty and paste-like. In a medium bowl, combine the beans and cooked quinoa with the remaining ingredients. Divide the mixture into four equal balls, and form each into a patty between 1/4 and 1/2 an inch thick. In a medium saucepan over high eat, cook the patties in 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil for 1 minute on each side, or until lightly browned. Transfer the patties  into a lightly greased tray and place in 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven and bake for 15 minutes. Serve in a whole-grain bun or with veggies. 

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3. Rainbow Quinoa Salad

The beauty of this dish is not only in its utter simplicty but also in its array of colors and textures. The soft, comforting texture of quinoa is balanced by the crunch of the raw veggies, the creaminess of the avocado, and the sour bite of the lemon vinaigrette. This quinoa salad is so rounded in flavor and nutrition, you won’t be craving more after it.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red quinoa, cooked according to package instructions
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1 avocado
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Dice the scallions, red onion, red bell pepper, ginger, avocado, and cucumber into small, uniformly-sized pieces. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon, and salt and pepper. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss together the cooked quinoa with the chopped veggies and vinaigrette. You can store in the refrigerator overnight and for a few days. The longer it sits, the more flavor the quinoa absorbs from the other ingredients. 

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4. Vegetable Quinoa Patties

I find these patties exceptionally convenient and the perfect portion size for a midday snack or lunch, depending on your mood. Instead of readying yourself up for the bulk of a burger, simply take one big bite to finish off one of these quinoa patties.

Makes 10-15 patties

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 yellow red pepper, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons oat flour
Directions

Add two cups of cooked quinoa to the veggies in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together salt, pepper, olive oil and juice of 1/2 a lemon. Fold into quinoa mixture until all is evenly coated. The dressing helps break down the toughness of the raw vegetables, evening out the textures and making for an awesome bite. Put the ground flax seeds into a small bowl with 3 tablespoons of water. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes or until it congeals slighty. Add the flax egg to the quinoa mixture along wth the the oat flour. If you have oats, simply food process the oats until they are fine a like flour. Mix thoroughly. Shape the mixture until into little palm cup-sized patties. Place delicately on a baking sheet, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, or until the patties hold together and are crispy on the outside. 

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5. Lemon Pepper Quinoa

While it’s always fun to enjoy a quinoa dish packaged in some interesting way, such as in a burger or a salad, there is most definitely a place for a simple quinoa dish. This lemon pepper quinoa recipe is an example of how just a handful of ingredients can turn otherwise neutral quinoa into a crave-worthy delight.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper (or just regular pepper)
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • Lemon zest for garnish

Directions

Let a medium-sized pot rise to medium heat. Add the salt to the lemon zest and smear into the table surface with the side of a knife, allowing the juices of the lemon zest to release. The salt will break down the cell walls and extract the juice of the zest. In a heated pot, add the olive oil, lemon zest, and shallots. Saute for about 5 minutes, or until the shallots begin to become transparent. Add the quinoa and pepper and mix until well combined. Pour the water into the pot and cover until the mixture reaches a boil. Reduce the temperature to low, allowing it to simmer until finished, about 15 minutes. Serve with a lemon zest garnish. Eat hot or cold.

Photo Credit: t-dubisme, glowkitchen