Category Archives: Salads

Asian Quinoa Salad with Almond-Soy-Ginger Dressing

Asian Quinoa Salad |

Healthy eating can be like mind-twisting voodoo.  If I’m trying to amp up my body’s natural defenses to fight disease, what should I eat?  What shouldn’t I eat?  What if the paleos judge me for not eating meat?  What if the non-paleos judge me for eating meat?     You’re a veggie?  Where do you get your protein?  What?  No dessert?!  You’re too skinny!  Dessert?! You’re too chubby! Don’t know how you do the voodoo that you do, well, it’s a spell, hell, don’t know what to eat, eat, eat! (if you spend any amount of time listening to pop music in the 90s, then you know what I mean!).   

Asian Quinoa Salad |

Asian Quinoa Salad |

Should, shouldn’t.  Feed, deprive.  Avoid, indulge.  High carb, low carb, complex carb, no carb.  Trans fats, unsat fats, hydrog-ed fats, no fats…  WHAAAAAT?  Why does every choice feel so loaded?  Why do we eat?  I eat to fight cancer.  I eat to bring my body to optimal health, so that my natural defense mechanisms can thrive.  I eat to feel energetic and vibrant.  I eat to fuel my body and my brain.  I eat to give my body needs, but also what it loves (still leaving room for a genuine straight up treat every now and then!).   The enjoyment of food is one of the best parts of life!  How do you think about what you eat?  

Asian Quinoa Salad |

Asian Quinoa Salad |

I’ve got my mind on my healing, and my healing on my mind.  More and more I’m feeling drawn to share recipes for nutrient-dense foods that are still exciting to eat.  It’s easy to find very “pinteresting” recipes for quick and easy cheesy crockpot dip, and a little harder to find tasty healthy foods . Let’s remininsce about our spooning thus far.  Here on Spoon With Me, it’s always been about whole ingredients used to create beautiful food you actually want to eat.  I have occasional dabblings with completely indulgent chocolate truffle cakes, and that’s okay!  The world needs occasional truffle cakes here and there (and no judgement if you get sidetracked, click on the cake link, and decide to spend the 6 hours making it!).

Asian Quinoa Salad |

Asian Quinoa Salad |

Right now, my body needs the most fuel to give it the best chance for healing.  So my mission stays the same–well, sort of.  This site isn’t about rabbit food, low fat substitutes, gimmicks, or fad diets.  It never has been.  It’s about being creative in the kitchen.  It’s about flexibility and improvisation, and eating and living well even in the face of challenges.  It’s about riding the waves of life with a sense of humor and grace.  But most of all, it’s about colorful beautiful whole foods you can get excited about cooking and eating!

Asian Quinoa Salad |

In today’s recipe, quinoa serves as the canvas for veggies of all shapes and textures, crunchy toasted almonds and crackly sesame seeds, tied together with a soy-ginger almond butter dressing. Salads are like elementary school art projects; the more colors, shapes, and textures, the better!  This salad also offers your body protein, fiber, complex carbs, healthy fats, and a truckload of veggies! 

Asian Quinoa Salad |

Asian Quinoa Salad |

This is not the one night stand cooking that will leave you feeling regretful and empty.  This is the kind of cooking that will keep giving.  Hence, my new slogan, Spoon With Me:  The foods you love, that love you back!  

Asian Quinoa Salad |

Asian Quinoa Salad with Almond-Soy-Ginger Dressing

Serves 8 as a side dish

This is not one of those recipes found in a fancy schmancy molecular gastronomy cookbooks that needs to be followed to a tee. The basic idea is to use vegetables of every color and texture, chop them well, and weave everything together with the dressing.  I have found that blanching the green beans makes them vibrant and easier to eat.  I created this recipe for a dinner party of 8, and we still had leftovers, so keep that in mind and halve the recipe if you’re cooking for a small crowd (or, it makes a great lunch to enjoy throughout the week)!

For the Salad:

  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 lb green beans, trimmed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, julienned, and roughly chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 cups thinly sliced and roughly chopped red cabbage (about 1/2 small cabbage)
  • 3/4 cup almond slivers
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (1 small bunch)

For the Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons peeled and finely grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce (check for gluten-free tamari if needed)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup almond butter

Bring the quinoa to a boil with a scant 3 cups water (quinoa will retain some water when you rinse it, so I always use less water when cooking). Immediately reduce to a simmer, and cook for 12 minutes, or until the quinoa is soft and the germ ring (white outline) is visible around each grain.  If there is excess moisture in the quinoa, set it in a fine sieve to drain.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Blanch the green beans:  Fill a medium saucepan with water and a couple teaspoons salt, and bring to a boil.  Set a large bowl of ice water to the side of the stove.  Cook the green beans for about a minute, until bright green and still crisp.  Immediately plunge them into the ice water to cool.  Once cool, slice on the bias (diagonally) into 1 inch pieces.

Toast the almonds in a medium frying pan over medium heat until lightly golden brown and fragrant.  Allow to cool. 

Whisk together all dressing ingredients in a bowl or liquid measuring cup.  Combine and toss the cooked quinoa, and all salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour the dressing over top and stir until evenly coated.  Chill in the refrigerator or serve as is!



Filed under Salads, Side Dishes, vegetarian, Vegetarian and Vegan

Summer’s Not Over Yet Quinoa Tabouleh Salad

Summer vacation is over.  It was bound to happen at some point.  I’m back to wearing real shoes.  “Big girl shoes”, as my co-worker at school calls them.  The days of my requisite summer uniform of flip flops and gardening boots, cotton skirts and ponytails are drawing to an end, although one wouldn’t know it, with the hundred-degree weather.  I feel it may be inappropriate to complain about the ending of a 2 1/2 month vacation, so I won’t, but allow me to regress, back to the month of July, hot in the middle of prime summertime fun!

Still in the midst of  summer vacation, the mister, his mom, and I drove Grand Mesa to visit the aunt and uncle at their summer cabin.  I was expecting rustic, but I never thought I’d be in an old forest service cabin from the 1800’s with a wood-burning stove, a claw-footed bubblegum-pink dining room table, and chock-full of antique dishes built up through the years, passed down and added-to by each generation.  For my aunt and uncle-in-law, the cabin is a beloved once-a-year get-away–a slowing of pace from their busy jobs in Mercer Island, WA.  They looked on with amusement as I snapped away at doorknobs, chairs, and other antiques.  For my new eyes, it was a photographic wonderland!

We only stayed for a long weekend, but felt like proud Coloradans, as we managed to bike, hike, row, ride ATVs, and photograph our way around the mesa.  At the end of each busy day, we buzzed around the kitchen, cooking on the wood-burning stove, snacking on cherries out of antique bowls.  Cornmeal-crusted trout, caught fresh from the lake one night, stir-fry and fried rice improvised from our combined resources the next. The third night, we made Moroccan lentil soup, and a fresh tabouleh salad, made with quinoa (because of my obsession with the grain, and also due to a gluten-free dietary needs in the group).

I first found this tabouleh salad in my Native Foods cookbook, and had a “duh, of course you can make tabouleh out of quinoa” moment.  Since then, I have tailored the recipe to fit my tastes.  Tabouleh is all about texture.  I like my tabouleh with plenty of chopped curly parsley, mint, green onion, and tomato, dressed in lemon, and of course, garlic.  After you make it a few times, you won’t really need a recipe.  Just throw in a little of this and a little of that, and tweak until your taste buds sing.

My big-girl shoes are begrudgingly on, but can you blame me for wanting to squeeze the last bit of fun out of summer?

Summer’s Not Over Yet Quinoa Tabouleh Salad

Inspired by the Native Foods cookbook

Makes 6 Servings

The art of making salads isn’t an exact science, and I’ve been known to add whatever is fresh and available…a garden cucumber, some diced avocado, or whatever else is around at the time.

Salad Ingredients:

1 cup dry quinoa (to yield 3 cups cooked quinoa)

1 bunch green onions (about 6), finely chopped

4 cups chopped curly parsley leaves (about 2 bunches)

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves

1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, chopped (3-4 medium)

Dressing Ingredients:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Rinse the quinoa in cold water and drain well.  Place in a medium saucepan with a scant 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 12 minutes, or until a white ring is visible around each grain of quinoa, and the water in the pan has been absorbed.  If the quinoa looks cooked, but there is still moisture in the pan, uncover the pan and cook the quinoa over medium heat, stirring frequently for about a minute.  Set the quinoa aside, uncovered, to cool to room temperature.

Whisk the lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper together in a large bowl.  Allow to sit while you chop the remaining ingredients.  The lemon juice will mellow the garlic as it sits.  

Place the cooled quinoa, chopped green onion, parsley, mint, and tomatoes in the large bowl with the lemon-garlic mixture.  Drizzle in the olive oil, and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste.


Filed under Salads, Side Dishes

Zaalouk (Moroccan Eggplant-Tomato Spread)

“Welcome to Morocco!”

We stepped off the plane, surrounded by the sounds of French and Arabic airport chatter.  The mister and I sticking out like sore thumbs–Peder, 6’4, blue-eyed and German-looking, and fair-skinned me in my very American clothing.  Without a word of Arabic between us, and hardly a word of French between us, we made it through customs and were greeted with a reassuring “Hey Guys!”. We spotted Karissa, looking well-traveled, and completely comfortable in her surroundings.  Following her like two deer in headlights to the snack shop, we watched her chat candidly in French with the workers to buy us three bottles of water.  I felt way out of my comfort zone, and tried to blend in.  Will people accept us here?  This is a Muslim country.  Do they hate Americans, like the news leads me to believe?  In the middle of my musings, one of the shop workers exclaimed, “You’re American?  We love Americans!  Welcome to Morocco!”  

After making our way out of the airport, Karissa immediately started bargaining in French with a taxi driver to settle on a fare.  Being a passenger in a Moroccan taxi is an experience that one never forgets.  It’s the first initiation into Morocco that every traveler must endure.  Drivers squeeze cars, motorbikes and donkey carts into every available slot, and shuffle themselves around like decks of cards.  Lane lines are suggestions, and honking is used as a form of communication as if to say, “I’m here, don’t hit me!.”  Ever played the game Frogger?  Then you know how to cross a five lane Moroccan street.

We rode past fruit carts and run down buildings, flowering bushes and dirty sidewalks, simultaneously taking in the scene around us, and chatting away with Karissa, trying to catch up for the past year she had been abroad, teaching at Casablanca American School.  Next, the interrogation.  The Mister and I fired off questions in rapid succession.  How do we blend in?  You won’t.  You’re going to stick out.  You just are, and that’s okay!  What about eye contact?  I made eye contact with a man at the airport, and he looked very surprised.  How very forward of you, Karissa laughed. Women don’t make eye contact with men.  It is okay for women to make eye contact with other women.  We learned to say “thank you” in Arabic as we exited the taxi, and Karissa began to argue with the taxi driver who insisted that she should give him a big tip because of his nice big car.  From what I gathered, Karissa told him “I am not a tourist, I live here, I don’t have to pay you a tip!”  Karissa gave the driver a smaller tip than he had asked for.  He gave her his business card and said, “Next time you need a driver, you call me, and you can give me a bigger tip!”

A little later, our other good friend Tom joined us, and we set out to eat dinner.  The four of us walked down dirty sidewalks and past flowering bushes, gritty stucco walls, and children laughing and playing soccer outside five story buildings.  We stepped through a keyhole-shaped door and into the restaurant, a pristine tiled courtyard garden, complete with a fountain and a traditional Moroccan band filling the space with beats I had never learned in any of my music education courses.  I thought I’d gone to heaven when the waiter brought us a basket of squat round seeded breads and two bowls full of olives, and reached a state of enlightenment when I had my first taste of chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons.

At dusk, we walked along the beach outside the largest mosque in Morocco, the Hassan II.  It was brilliantly lit against the electric blue sky.  I didn’t know what to expect, and wondered if we were intruding on a sacred space that didn’t belong to us. When we reached the front of the mosque, we saw families and friends out for evening walks, dressed in traditional djellaba and hijab.  Children ran and played on the shining marble steps, and birds weaved in and out of the ornate arches.  Women held hands with women, men with men, and I sensed a deep kinship as they socialized and chatted.  The mosque exuded peace, and was a refuge from the speeding motorbikes and honking taxis.  We were met with curiosity and acceptance, as evening strollers glanced at our very different appearance.  I knew then and there that I wanted to step outside my comfort zone, in order to experience Morocco fully.

Join me next time as we eat as the Moroccans eat, cook as the Moroccans cook, and do as the Moroccans do.  We’ll walk through medinas and markets, meet new friends, and learn another recipe from Fatima, a kind Moroccan woman I had the privilege of cooking with.  The first recipe I’ll be sharing with you, is for a warm eggplant and tomato spread/salad called Zaalook.  Just as with most recipes, every home cook has his or her own version.  Here is Fatima’s, as illustrated below.

Eggplant and tomato, fresh from the underground market

Fatima quickly peels the tomatoes and trims the eggplant,

and dices it, with her crazy paring-knife skills.

She chops the parsley, 

and layers everything together on the stove, finely grating the garlic overtop.

Next, Fatima drizzles the vegetables with oil.  Lots of oil.  She cooks the vegetables without stirring until the tomatoes have released their juices, and then stirs everything together.

Now, the spices:  salt, paprika, harissa, and cumin seeds, which she toasts and rubs between her fingers to release the aroma.

She seasons to taste, and adds more harissa paste (to my delight).  Perfect to eat as a spread on bread, or as a salad.  Voila!  Zaalouk!  


Serves 4-6 as and appetizer or small salad

  • 4 medium tomatoes, peeled, trimmed, and diced
  • 2 medium eggplants, trimmed and diced
  • 4 medium cloves garlic
  • 1 small bunch flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped (stems and all)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted until fragrant in a small frying pan
  • harissa to taste*
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat.  Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of the pan to thinly coat.  Layer the vegetables in the pan as follows:  tomatoes, eggplant, then parsley.  Add another drizzling of oil over the vegetables.  Increase the heat to medium-high.  Cook, shaking the pan back and forth occasionally (to prevent sticking), until the tomatoes have released most of their juices.  Thinly grate the garlic over top, and stir the vegetables to combine.  Add the paprika, salt and pepper, and harissa to taste.  Rub the toasted cumin seeds between your palms to release their aroma, then add to the pan and stir.  Cover the pan, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the eggplant has softened and the tomatoes have almost broken down completely (The eggplant and tomato will have formed a paste with some remaining texture from the eggplant.)  Serve warm or at room temperature, alone or with bread.

*Harissa is a spicy Moroccan chile paste, which can be found in some Middle Eastern markets and specialty stores.  If you can’t find it, chile-garlic paste (sambal oelek), cayenne powder, or crushed red pepper would make decent substitutions.  


Filed under Appetizers, Salads, Side Dishes

Springy Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snaps, Mint and Ginger-Yogurt

Things are beginning to look up.  I spent the entire day last Sunday working on the garden; turning the soil, working in compost, and planting my spring seeds while Luca tore around the garden like a little hellion, leaping across raised beds and over tomato cages, jumping through hose water, and finally, lounging in the shade with her tongue hanging out.   I got a bit carried away this year, as I already planted onions, shallots, radishes, spinach, romaine, kale, shelling peas, and sugar snap peas–and that is just the spring crop!  Every year around this time, I feel like the world is waking up again.  We’re peeling off our winter layers, airing out our houses, and getting some much needed sunshine.

Well, here in Colorado, the first blossoms just arrived on the trees, random crocuses and tulips are appearing everywhere, and my chives have returned in full force.  Sugar snaps won’t be ready until May or June, but planting inevitably got me anticipating my spring crops.  When I went grocery shopping later that day, impatience trumped local, seasonal eating (oops).  I couldn’t help but buy a handful of sugar snap peas to hold me over until the time arrives to pick my own.

I welcome the switchover to each season.  At the first hint of spring weather, I immediately crave more delicate, brighter flavored foods as opposed to the heavier fare of winter.  I mean, come on.  Eating a belly-warming vegetable or meat braise when the sun is shining and the trees are blossoming is like wearing a cable knit sweater and mittens on a tropical vacation.  It just doesn’t balance out.

One of my favorite foods in any season is quinoa (think “keen-wa”).  During the summer,  it’s my Southwest Quinoa Salad, laden with peppers, tomatoes, and farmers market corn, tossed with chile-lime vinaigrette.  In this springy version, I toss quinoa with sugar snaps, chopped mint and toasted almonds, and coat with a gingery yogurt dressing.  The flavors are fresh and crisp, slightly sweet, hinted with lemon and laced with ginger and garlic.  The sesame oil is almost imperceptible, except that it adds a rounded depth to the dressing.  This salad makes a great light lunch on its own, or would pair nicely with some grilled salmon.

I can’t wait until I can make this with peas straight from the garden, although I’ll have to have a little self control; most of my sugar snaps never actually make it into the house since I consider them gardening snacks and eat them straight from the vine.  Colorado is always a little late on the warm-weather front.  I’m curious to know what sorts of spring signs are popping up around you…do tell!

 Springy Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snaps, Mint and Ginger-Yogurt

Makes 4 servings

Use this recipe as a starting point, and feel free to improvise additions or substitutions using the vegetables you have available.  I imagine julienned carrot and green onion would be a nice addition to the sugar snaps, and chopped broccoli might be a good substitution.  

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup fresh roughly chopped mint leaves
  • 3/4 cup plain low fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 medium lemon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste

1. Thoroughly rinse the quinoa, drain well and place in a small saucepan.  Add a scant two cups of water and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 12 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and a what looks like a white thread spirals around each grain. Transfer to a plate to cool.  If the quinoa appears to be cooked, but there is excess water in the pan, uncover, increase heat to medium, and cook for an additional minute or two, stirring constantly, until the water has evaporated.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sesame oil, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, honey, salt and pepper.

3. Place the cooled quinoa, sugar snap peas, almonds and mint in a medium bowl.  Stir to combine.  Add the yogurt dressing and gently toss to coat.  Garnish with additional almonds and mint if desired.  Serve cold or at room temperature.


Filed under Salads, Side Dishes

Southwest Quinoa Salad with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette



Some recipes are good because you know you shouldn’t eat them very often, which makes them a treat.  Others are good because you can eat them as often as you’d like, with no guilt whatsoever. My food life is filled with foods from category two, and polka-dotted with treats from the first category.  Food should always be a delight, no matter from the first or second category, don’t you agree?

My favorite kind of cooking happens when categories one and two collide.  Making this quinoa salad is an indulgence in itself, and feels more like an art project than a chore.

The art project begins at the garden…or the farmers market…or at your favorite grocery store. Pretend you are reaching into your deluxe box of Crayons, and have fun choosing your colors.  My Crayola box is filled with black bean, limey green, purple power onion, electric habañero orange, and sweet corn yellow.  What about you?

Cooked and cooled quinoa (prounounced “keen-wah”)  is the perfect background to splash colors upon.  Not only does this little seed have a light nutty flavor and crunchy texture, but it is packed with all sorts of things that are good for you, like protein, iron,  and amino acids.  Lets suffice to say that if Popeye the Sailor Man were around today, he’d probably choose quinoa over spinach.

Now, it’s chop-chop time.  Here’s where a sharp knife will be your best buddy.  Layer your colorful veggies over your quinoa, drizzle your chile-lime vinaigrette, toss it all together, and then stand back to look at your work–a piece of (albeit abstract) art.

I’ll bet your mom would display it on her fridge if she could.  I think my mom will eat it instead.

Southwest Quinoa Salad


This is a Summer salad, through and through.  Choose an array of peppers, taking into consideration level of heat, sweetness and color.  I like to keep a big bowl of this salad in the fridge to eat for lunches.  Refresh with a splash of lime and a pinch of salt the day after you make it.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa (any color), cooked and cooled (see instructions below)
  • 1 or 2 avocados, peeled, pit removed, diced
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed
  • kernels from 1 cob corn, or 3/4 cup thawed frozen corn
  • About 1 1/2 cups diced mildly spicy peppers (a mix of bell peppers, anaheim, etc…)
  • 1/2 to 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 1/2 to 1 small habanero, minced (optional, for heat)
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Chile Lime Vinaigrette:

  • 1/3 cup grapeseed oil or olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 3/4 tsp ground cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the Quinoa:

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly  in cold water and drain.  Place 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until all all of the water has been absorbed.  When fully cooked, the germ ring will be visible along the outside edge of each seed (a white circle).

If the water has evaporated, but the germ ring is not yet visible, add a splash of water, and simmer for a few more minutes.  Set aside until cool.

For the Vinaigrette:

Place all vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake until combined, or whisk in a small bowl.

For the Salad:

Put all of the salad ingredients into a large bowl.  Drizzle with the vinaigrette, and gently toss to combine.


Filed under Main Dishes, Salads, Side Dishes