Quinoa Superfood Salad


Mike has a charmingly intrepid little six year old nephew.  Jeez, is that guy funny.  From the time he was four he could con a con like you’ve never seen before.  My favorite is always watching Mike play tag with him.  “WAIT!!  What’s THIS?”  He says to Uncle Mike.  “Um, your shirt?”   Wrong answer. “No, what’s ON my shirt!”  Mike squints in closer.  “Uh….. It’s a bus.”  He looks pleased, as if he was starting to think that Mike was a bit slow, until he finally got an answer right. “YES.  A BUS.  Look closer, c’mere……. NO, you’re not close enough…………….TAG!  YOU’RE IT!!!!!” Mike always stands there for a minute, looking a little bit confused, before muttering a couple of expletives and realizing that yes, in fact, he is IT.

The little man loves Godzilla, a bunch of strange animated monsters that I’ve never heard of, and Super Why….which sadly I have heard of.  I’ve heard a LOT of.  More than I would have ever wished, in fact.  As a result, every time that people start talking about Super Foods, all I can think of is Super Why, and  “I LOVE TO SPELL!!!  S-P-E-L-L!!!”  That song gets into your skull and that’s it.  There’s no going back.  For the rest of the day I’m humming along with Princess Presto, and thinking that as somebody with no children of her own, who only has cats for a reason, it’s entirely unfair for my brain to be hijacked by the voice of a tiny little midget in a sweet-pea ballgown.

But back to Super Foods.

Are there some foods that are just…super?  Huh.  I don’t know.  But what I do know is that I’m willing to hedge my bets, and hope that a fistful of blueberries will somehow make recompense for the fifth of whiskey that I drank the night before.  After all, life is all about balance, right?  RIGHT?  Dang, those crickets are back again.  But when you think about it, there are so many delicious and nutrient packed foods out there, just waiting to be eaten.  And you know what?  I like eating them.  To be more exact, I like eating them all.  There is nothing on one of those suspicious Super Foods lists that I would shake my head and shudder at – they all make their way onto our table on a regular basis.  

You know, if only there was some Super Foods list out there that added “Massive amounts of cheese” and “vodka” somewhere down the line, do you even know how Super Fed I would be?  The Super Powers would be shooting through my veins.  I could be a Super Hero, with Super Human Appetites as my claim to fame (“Oh, there goes Super Hero Tina.  After she eats villains, her Super digestive system converts them into ingots of gold.”) .  Sigh.   But I guess there’s no use mulling on what might have been…..

Oh, one last thing that I feel compelled to say:  I love this salad.  I know, I love a lot of things.  But I LOVE this salad.  Maybe, possibly (but don’t quote me on this) even more than french fries dipped in chocolate soft serve.  Unless it’s a choice of one or the other.  And then…well….FINE, quinoa wins – but don’t tell that guy behind the counter, it’ll hurt his feelings and I’ll never get a V-neck-discount again!

Quinoa Superfood Salad

Serves 4-6 

  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 4 cups water
  • 2/3 cup goji berries *
  • 19 oz can soy beans
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 large red onion
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 heaping tbsp orange zest
  • 1.5 lemons, juice only
  • 1/2 tsp hot red chili powder **
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large bunch parsley, (about 2 cups finely chopped)
  • salt to taste

* Goji berries are also called wolfberries, and they’re cultivated mostly in China and the Far East.  The medicinal properties of Goji berries are highly speculated upon, and they’ve recently started to be revered in the same Super Group as flax seeds, soy and acai.    Whether or not there is substance to these claims is not for me to decide, but I can tell you that Goji berries have a slightly bittersweet taste that is reminiscent of dried cranberry…just a bit firmer.  If you can’t find Goji berries at your bulk foods or naturals shop, dried cranberries would be a find substitute.

** I used a Pakistani red chili powder, but chipotle chili powder would also be delicious.  Just don’t use a blended chili powder which is actually a spice blend meant for making chili.  Oh, and if you aren’t a fan of spicy food, have no fear – the hot chili powder adds mostly color with a bit of flavor and zing.  If you did want it spicier you could use a 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper instead.


Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Rinse the quinoa under several changes of cold water, swirling it around with your hands until the water runs clear.

Place the 2 cups of quinoa and 4 cups of water into a medium sized pot.  Salt the water, but not as much as if you were making pasta because the water will not be drained off – all that salt will absorb into the grain.  Put the pot over medium high heat until it comes up to a boil.

As soon as the pot boils, add the Goji berries (and give it a stir), put a tight fitting lid on the pot and reduce the heat to low, close to minimum.  Cooking quinoa is just like cooking rice, and now what you’re doing is effectively steaming it.  Let the pot cook away on minimum heat for 20 minutes, and whatever you do, DON’T lift the lid!  I know, I know.  The temptation is there, and now that I’ve said it even *I* want to go lifting off the lid, but as soon as that steam is released you’ve just set yourself up for some mediocre results.  


Spread the walnuts out on an ungreased baking sheet.  Please pardon the condition of my baking sheets, which look like they’ve seen been through the fires of hell and barely lived to tell the tale.  I consider buying new baking sheets now and then, but then convince myself that these ones are ‘seasoned’.  And yes, I know that you don’t ‘season’ non-stick bakeware.  But look at these jokers, I hardly think that they were non-stick to begin with.

Tuck the walnuts into the center of your hot oven for 3-5 minutes, then give them a shake and a stir to  see how the toasting is coming along.  If necessary, put them back for another few minutes until the walnut pieces are fragrant and browned in certain areas.


So the quinoa is cooking away, the walnuts are toasting (or have toasted), and you still have another 10 minutes to kill before the grains have sprouted.  Well, why not make the dressing?  I’m all about the multi-task.

Mince 1 very large or 2 small cloves of garlic into a fine paste.  Or, if you’re lazy like me, use a rasp or a garlic press to make short work of the cloves.  Wash your orange thoroughly (even organic oranges are often covered in a thin layer of waxiness)  and then zest off slightly less than half the orange peel, which is going to yield about 1 heaping tablespoon full of zest.


Add the red chili powder and salt.  How much salt you use will depend on your own personal taste, but I added about 1 tsp of fine ground sea salt.  Squeeze in the juice of one and a half lemons, being careful not to drop in the pips.  Pips, of course, is a nice way of saying “extremely bitter seeds which are a heinously unpalatable surprise when they end up in your mouth.”  Just sayin’.


Whisk the dressing mixture together, and drizzle in the olive oil while whisking continuously until it’s combined.  That sounds like work, but it’s not.  It’s just vinaigrette.

When the quinoa has been steaming for 20 minutes, take it off the heat and remove the lid.  The Goji berries will have all gathered up on top, but that’s okay.  Fluff the quinoa up with a fork, and mix in the berries at the same time.  They will have rehydrated fully, and become rather fragile.  Some will even have burst.  That’s actually quite nice, because as you mix everything together in about 5 minutes the berries will sort of separate into strands of vermillion confetti stringing their way through the grains.  Lovely.  

But back to the salad, after you fluff the quinoa up just slightly, add the dressing and give it a good toss.  When the quinoa is still warm it will absorb more of the dressing, so you get a bit more bang for your buck.  Leave the pot uncovered for at least 5-10 minutes so that the quinoa can cool down before you add the rest of the ingredients.


Finely chop 1/4 of a fat red onion.  I love red onion.  I don’t know when this came about.  I hated onions as I child, and I still shudder when I think of the time that my mother baked a pie – only to find out that it was onion pie.  There are no words for how offensive that sounds to a child’s ears (ONION PIE!!).  It’s like saying that you’re going to the zoo, but then going to the dentist and having to do math puzzles while your teeth get cleaned. 


Chop the parsley finely, as if you were making tabouli.


Scoop the dressed quinoa out into a large mixing bowl.  

Drain the can of soybeans and give them a good rinse before adding to the quinoa mixture. 


Throw in the parsley like you’re throwing in the towel, because your salad is almost done.


Give everything a quick stir, taste, and season with more salt and pepper if you really feel a yen.  Sprinkle on a handful of the toasted walnuts, and you’re ready to roll.  

I like to spoon this salad out into large cups of iceberg lettuce leaves, which I invariably use as my utensil.  The sweet, watery lettuce is both a perfect taste-pair, and my preferred way to scoop out this salad.


Unless you’re into forks.  Forks are okay too….

You can’t help feeling virtuous when you eat this salad.  There’s the bright sunshine tang of orange and lemon, mixed with peppery parsley, creamy beans and nutty quinoa…all topped with rich, buttery toasted walnuts.  And it’s healthier than all get out.  Tell me, seriously, if you wouldn’t smirk a little bit when you brought this for lunch, knowing that at least one of your coworkers will be eating lean cuisine.  This is lean cuisine, just without the microwavable package.  


And now we get back to Super Foods.  No matter which list of Super Foods you reference, because (of course) they’re all just a helluva a little bit different, you’re bound to see at least 3 of these ingredients popping out.  Whether is the walnuts for the omega 3, quinoa for the fiber, protein and iron, parsley for the chlorophyll and antioxidant properties, soy because….it’s soy, the list just goes on.

I’m hardly a wheat-grass drinking hippie, but what I will say for Quinoa Superfood Salad is:

– my god, does it ever make a good protein and fiber packed lunch for work.
– Yum yum yum yum yum.
– I don’t feel ashamed after eating it, unlike yesterday’s deep fried lunch which shall remain nameless.
– cheap, cheerful, and so full of flavor.  Yes, please.  One more bite.


Throughout the writing of this article that G.D. song has been in my head.  And the pain is transferrable!  Really, take note – Mike was humming the chorus about an hour ago.  No kidding.  Listening to the clip below may be risky, and I can guarantee that you won’t thank me that you did, but….but live on the edge, just a little.  After all, it’s a kid’s cartoon.  

How bad can it be??

(Look into her eyes as you answer that question)

  • http://nilliem.diaryland.com Anne

    I just have to tell you a couple of things, because I’m giggling here. A) the food looks lovely and I hope some year to have time to make it when my husband is not around. He’d never eat it. B) My eight year-old thought the video was ‘…annoying from the beginning’ which, considering she is the queen of listening to her favorite song on repeat for hours, is quite the feat.

    Well done!

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com we are never full

    excellent! like the addition of goji’s – i was thinking currants, but this would be awesome for color too. i bet you it’s good cold too.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike


    • MtC

      Because you;re S-M-R-T!

  • http://bruleeblog.wordpress.com bruleeblog

    You can find dried goji in Chinese herbal shops too – in Cantonese pronounced “gay-jee.”

  • http://morganlily2004.blogspot.com Katie

    I have tried and tried and tried to get my family to eat quinoa. I think I’ll give it one more try because that salad looks delicious!

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com Kristie

    Shit. I really love to spell, too. And I love quinoa. And I love that you used the word “ingot,” which I haven’t seen since oldey-timey princess movies. So yahoo for this post. And yahoo for you.

  • http://kirbyvonscrumtious.blogspot.com Kirby!

    This looks DELICIOUS! Definitely going on my “to try soon!” list!

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Anne – your 8 y old is obviously wise beyond her years.

    Weareneverfull – Ooh, I DO love currants, but they might be just a wee bit too sweet here. And don’t worry, because our kitchen finds a plethora of other uses for the currant.

    Mike/MTC – damn you both. I mean that.

    Brulee Blog – I can’t even pronounce my own name properly half the time, so thank you for your help!

    Katie – keep trying!! Quinoa is one of my favorite grains, so you just need to figure out HOW they’ll eat it. In a bar? Risotto? Stew? Salad? There will be a way, have faith.

    Kristie – I keep thinking that if I say the word ‘ingot’ often enough then someone will just magically give me one. This may not even happen.

    Kirby! – thank you! Let us know what you think!

  • RevJen

    I just made this and ate two bowls of it. Delicious!

    I made the quinoa in a rice cooker on the white rice cycle and put the Goji berries in right at the beginning. It worked fine.

    I ended up ordering the Goji berries from Amazon, but I think I’ll have enough to last a long, long time now!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      RevJen – we’re so very glad that you liked our little recipe!! What a stroke of genius using a rice cooker – I can see how that would make life easy. I know that we have a rice cooker (and a very nice one, mind you, that Mike got from two of our dear friends) and yet it almost never gets used, unfortunately. Whenever somebody asks about our rice cooker, I say, “Yes??” and look pointedly towards my pot….it’s not ambitious, I’m just too lazy to get the other contraption out of the cupboard!

      Good call ordering the Goji berries on Amazon! Here’s the thing though – taste one now: is the texture chewy (like a dried cranberry) or hard and brittle? Even though they’re dried, they still…um…’dry out’ really rapidly. The ‘dried’ but still pliant berries are great in cereals, porridge, salads, etc. When they dry out and are too hard on their own, they work especially well for dishes like this, in rice pudding, or a savory Asian soup. So remember – these puppies are expensive, and if you don’t use them up in good time there are still things that can be done!!

      Take care, and thanks again for popping by our site!!!

  • http://to2sassy.blogspot.com/ Sindy

    I just made Tabouleh with quinoa and found it really was filling and “sticks with me” a long time which is a big bonus when you are trying to limit your intake. So now I found your blog looking for more Quinoa recipes. I can’t wait to try this along with several other of your recipes. Everything looks AMAZING!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Sindy – oh god yes, we’re quinoa fans through and through as well!! If you like Tabouli made with quinoa then I feel certain that this would be a hit with you too. If you try it, please let us know if you liked it! I’m very nosy, and the mystery of not knowing just eats me up inside. Also, if you’re looking for a sweeter treat, the Quinoa Coconut Bars have been a big hit around here with our closies.

      Thanks again for checking out our site!!

  • http://www.foodskulk.com Fig

    This is waaaaay late, but I finally made this tonight (had it on my radar for a while) and what the yum. Subbed orange-flavored cranberries for the goji berries because I’m a lazy bum who doesn’t want to take advantage of any of the five or six Asian markets in my town, and the zest of a tangelo because they were on sale. This was seriously, seriously good. Had to halve the recipe because there turned out to be only a cup of quinoa in the cupboard, which I now realize is so, so sad because I only have enough left for lunch tomorrow.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Fig – Thank you so much for your comment!! I am delighted that you liked this recipe! Frankly, I think that orange flavored cranberries would be just as good as goji berries as well as a lot cheaper and more accessible. Awesome substitution!

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