Quinoa Salad with Sweet Bell Peppers, Dried Cranberries and Turkey Bacon

by feastonthecheap on October 3, 2012

Mary Anne here. In early August, as Lil Man grew faster than Mariel could digest the nutrients to sustain his feeding frenzy, I created this protein-packed pilaf. Desperate for meals that my starving girl could grab and go, this particular prize is now on her top 10 list of most requested mama foods. Anyone in the empty nest category will know the exquisite joy this brings me – and Mariel isn’t crying about it either!

FYI: Quinoa is touted as an “ancient grain,” dating back to the Inca civilization over 5,000 years ago. It’s an excellent source of complete protein; low in digestible carbs; gluten-free and has a subtle, nutty flavor. Bonus – after it is boiled it’s pretty in a soft, translucent way.

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Quinoa Salad with Sweet Bell Peppers, Dried Cranberries and Turkey Bacon
Serves 8

Tip: We served this as a main course and kept the dressing on the side to keep the grain and the pecans from becoming mushy. Mariel tossed the prepared dressing with the pilaf each time she attacked the fridge. This is also easily converted to vegetarian. Simply eliminate the turkey bacon and add 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained.

Ingredients:
1 cup organic quinoa – $3.75
2 cups water or chicken/vegetable stock – stock
½ Teaspoon salt – stock
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced – $1.05
¼ cup jalapeno pepper, minced – $0.43
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced – $0.99
¾ cup pecans, lightly toasted and chopped – $3.99
¾ cup dried cranberries – $2.99
4 scallions (green onions), white and green parts thinly sliced – $0.99
5 ozs. Montrachet or plain goat cheese (NOT Feta) – $4.99
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped – $0.99
1/2 lb. Annie’s Nitrate/Nitrite-free turkey bacon, cooked crisply and crumbled – $4.49
9 cups fresh, baby arugula – $3.99
sliced grape tomatoes for garnish – optional
For the dressing:
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 Teaspoon Turmeric or dry mustard – stock
1 Teaspoon Cumin – stock
3 Teaspoons honey – stock
¾ cup olive oil – stock
salt and pepper
Grand Total Assuming a Well-Stocked Pantry: $28.65
Total Per Serving: $3.58

Directions:
1. If not using organic quinoa, rinse in a fine mesh strainer under cold, running water.

2. In a 1½ quart lidded saucepan, combine the quinoa, salt, and water or stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, cooking until all of the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Fluff the grain with a fork and set aside. Allow to cool to about room temperature.

3. In the mean time, prepare the remaining ingredients and dressing. Set the dressing aside.

4. Toss the peppers, cheese, nuts, cranberries, cucumber, onions, cilantro, and crumbled bacon with the quinoa. Season the Pilaf with salt and pepper. Add the dressing if serving all at once, combining well.

5. Divide the arugula between 8 plates and top with the Quinoa Pilaf. Garnish with cherry/grape tomatoes, if desired.