Rinse quinoa under cold running water and drain. Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Stir in quinoa and a pinch of salt, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover and set aside to let cool. In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly add the oil, whisking well. Add quinoa and toss to combine. Add chicken, grapes and almonds and toss again. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Nutrition per serving: 350 calories (130 from fat), 14g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 25mg cholesterol, 260mg sodium, 39g total carbohydrate (5g dietary fiber, 7g sugar), 18g protein
— Recipes courtesy of wholefoodsmarket.com unless otherwise noted.
Three-Bean Salad with Quinoa
Rinse quinoa under cold running water and drain. Bring 1¾ cups water to a boil in a small pot. Stir quinoa and a pinch of salt into water. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until tender and liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover and let cool. Put cooled quinoa, green beans, edamame, peppers, kidney beans, dressing, tarragon, salt and pepper into a large bowl and toss well. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Nutrition per serving: 270 calories (70 from fat), 8g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 460mg sodium, 33g total carbohydrate (8g dietary fiber, 4g sugar), 17g protein
Barley Salad with Fresh Mint
In a saucepan, combine water and barley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until barley is tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Drain barley and set aside.
Place green onions, red pepper, parsley, basil and mint in a large bowl. Add cooked barley and toss to combine.
In a small bowl, whisk together oil, minced garlic and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then drizzle over barley salad, stirring to combine well.
Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature or cold.
Nutrition per serving: 210 calories (90 from fat), 10g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 4g protein, 29g total carbohydrate (6g dietary fiber, 1g sugar), 0mg cholesterol, 200mg sodium
1 cup of cooked pearled barley has 3.5 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, 0.69 grams of fat, 44.3 grams of carbohydrates, 193 calories.
1 cup of cooked bulgur has 5.6 grams of protein, 8.2 grams of fiber, 0.44 grams of fat, 33.8 grams of carbohydrates, 151 calories.
1 cup of cooked couscous has 5.9 grams of protein, 2.2 grams of fiber, 0.25 grams of fat, 36.4 grams of carbohydrates, 176 calories.
1 cup of cooked farro has 8 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, 2 grams of fat, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 200 calories.
1 cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein, 5.2 grams of fiber, 3.5 grams of fat, 39.4 grams of carbohydrates, 222 calories.
When the weather turns hot, many people turn to salads.
Lettuce doesn't have to be the main ingredient. There are plenty of light, fresh, great-tasting salads that highlight grains instead of greens.
Salads made with quinoa, farro, bulgur and barley are healthy, satisfying and filling options to savor on a summer night. With their chewy texture and mild, nutty flavor, these trendy grain salads require little cooking, work as a light meal or side dish, can be made ahead and travel well to picnics and barbecues.
Grains have gained popularity over the past couple of years, and not just with those who follow vegetarian or gluten-free diets, said Jane Beran, owner of Jane's Health Market in Benson.
As people become more health-conscious, interest in grains continues to grow, Beran said. Her sales of quinoa, for example, increase whenever it's mentioned on “The Dr. Oz Show,” a popular daytime talk show.
Rich in protein and gluten-free, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is technically a seed but looks, tastes, and cooks like a grain.
Quinoa makes delicious salads because it has a neutral, slightly nutty taste that complements just about any vegetable, herb, fruit, meat or seafood, said Steve Bell, a chef-instructor at the Institute for the Culinary Arts at Omaha's Metropolitan Community College.
“It's quick, it's filling, it's nutritious,” said Bell, whose students prepare quinoa for cold salads and side dishes, including pilaf.
Quick and easy to make (cooking it is similar to rice), quinoa is an ideal ingredient for home cooks to experiment with because it's extremely versatile. Bell suggests getting creative and tweaking recipes to suit your tastes and trying different combinations of ingredients.
If you're into Italian cuisine, add chopped tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, mozzarella, fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley. For a Greek flair, mix in some kalamata olives, fresh mint or oregano and crumbled feta. Dress it with a simple vinaigrette.
“It's really open to the creativity of the person,” Bell said.
Served chilled or at room temperature, grain salads are a great way to use seasonal vegetables and fresh herbs from farmers markets, grocery stores and your garden.
Cucumbers, bell peppers, radishes, nuts and sunflower seeds add a nice crunch, while dried cherries, cranberries or other fruit lend a tart sweetness and chewy texture. Quinoa itself is high in protein, but for more, stir in grilled chicken, shrimp, beans, chickpeas or tofu.
Barley (available in whole grain or pearled forms) has a fairly neutral flavor, and a texture similar to rice when cooked. To make salads, combine cooked barley with your favorite vegetable, protein or dressing. Barley also works well in soups, casseroles, pilafs and risottos.
Related to wheat, farro is prepared the same way as barley and quinoa — cooked in salted water or broth until the liquid is absorbed and the grain is tender. It's available whole grain or pearled — a process in which some or all of the bran and germ are removed. Plump, chewy and nutty, farro can be used in cold salads, risotto, soups and stews.
An ancient grain from the Middle East, bulgur is made from wheat kernels that are boiled and dried, then cracked. It's the main ingredient in tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern salad, and can be used in pilafs, soups, salads, stuffing and other dishes.
As awareness of whole grains increases, so do the options for consumers. Many of these grains are widely available at health markets and grocery store chains, where they can be purchased pre-packaged or in bulk.
Whole grains, quinoa and couscous (a form of pasta rather than a grain) cook up fast, making them especially suitable for busy home cooks, said Maria Watts, marketing and community relations specialist at Omaha's Whole Foods Market.
The store carries an array of grains in its bulk section and offers a selection of prepared salads with quinoa and couscous in the deli area.
“I think people are kind of intrigued by the different grains available and how great they taste,” Watts said. “There are so many ways to prepare them.”
Adding three daily servings of whole grains to your diet can help lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, said Shannon Muhs, a Hy-Vee registered dietitian and blogger for The World-Herald's LivewellNebraska.com.
While most whole grains are high in fiber and rich in vitamins and minerals, quinoa is considered a superfood because it's a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids.
“The body can't store protein,” Muhs said, “so you need to eat it every day.”
In addition to being a good source of fiber, which helps with proper digestion and provides a feeling of fullness, quinoa is gluten-free, so it's suitable for people with wheat allergies and celiac disease.
Using whole grains in salads, sides and other dishes, Muhs said, is an easy, nutritious way to give your taste buds a change of pace.
“Go beyond your typical rice and potatoes,” she said, “and try a whole grain instead.”