A nourishing and light summertime strawberry quinoa salad with asparagus and a honey lemon vinaigrette is the perfect side dish for picnics and barbecues. It’s full of plant-based protein, antioxidants, and seasonal flavors and definitely belongs on your table this summer!
Today is the official launch of my nutrition and healthy living blog, Honestly Nourished (just in case you forgot where you were or something).
Welcome! Welcome! I’m SO thrilled you are here.
You might be wondering how there is already a blog post from yesterday if today is supposedly the official launch date. I knew I couldn’t get anything past you, nor would I try. Confession: I invited my lovely newsletter subscribers to browse the site a day early via a super secret VIP link. But like I said, there’s only been one other post so it won’t take you long to get caught up. Visit the About Page to learn more about the site and Meet Katie to learn more about my story.
I’m totally humbled by all the positive feedback I’ve already received about the site. You all sure know how to make a girl feel loved.
Thank you to each of you who commented on my first post and to those of you who reached out via email to share your excitement and kind words. It means the world to me.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that last week I asked for help deciding which recipe to share first on the blog. I loved all of your responses and especially your enthusiasm (seriously you guys are the best). It was a tough race—both this recipe and my Grain-Free Double Dark Chocolate Zucchini Muffins got a lot of votes. Based on the photos above, you have probably figured out which one won.
Hey now, no pouting.
Given that I am registered dietitian nutritionist who is legit obsessed with epic salads (have I mentioned that once or twice?) and this is, after all, a healthy living and nutrition blog it seemed appropriate to start with a salad.
But if you were Team Muffin, don’t go! I promise you will love this summery recipe and that the mouthwatering muffins are coming your way next—cross my heart.
And by next, I mean Tuesday so you only have to hold out for another week.
I know, I know I am the nicest ever.
Go tell all your friends.
The salad recipe seemed fitting because when the weather gets warm, I naturally gravitate toward lighter meals that are easy to prepare. Anyone else?
I’d much rather be outside enjoying the longer days and company of friends versus sweating over the stove and I know you all likely feel the same. Even though the salad is light, it’s still super nourishing , satisfying, and full of flavor. The best part is that the components of this salad can be made a few days ahead and assembled on the fly whenever you’re ready to eat it.
NUTRITION NERDS UNITE
Fair warning: My goal is to convert you into as much of a nutrition nerd as me one blog post/recipe at a time. You’re cool with that though, yes? Read on!
This salad is made with quinoa [KEEN-wah], which I’m pretty confident most of you have heard of by now.
Still it’s always good to remind ourselves why certain foods are healthy and what it is about them that makes them so honestly nourishing.
Quinoa, while actually a seed of a plant, is considered an ancient grain known by the Incas as the “mother grain.” It is native to the Andes mountains and can endure the harshest of climates—high altitude, cold, intense sun, drought, frost, etc. That alone is enough to give it superhero status in my book.
This pseudo grain is gluten free making it a safe option for anyone with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance or sensitivity. Quinoa also has the highest protein content of any grain. According to the World Health Organization, its protein is at least equal to that found in milk in that it shares a similar amino acid profile (take that, cows!).
Plant-based proteins have many obvious benefits for vegans and vegetarians, but are also perfect for omnivores looking to eat less meat.
Quinoa is high in lysine—an amino acid that is not found in abundance in other grains or vegetables. This is a bonus since lysine has been shown to reduce anxiety and basal cortisol (a.k.a. the stress hormone). I don’t know about your stress level—maybe you are all super chill—but I’ll take all the help I can get.
It is also a great source of manganese (essential for many enzymatic reactions, bone formation, and blood sugar regulation), magnesium (essential for carbohydrate metabolism), iron, phosphorus, B vitamins (support energy metabolism), and vitamin E. Plus it’s SUPER pretty—especially when you combine the red quinoa with the white. I mean. Swoon.
MAKING QUINOA HEALTHIER
When it comes to preparing quinoa, it’s important to both soak and rinse it really well because of the antinutrients and saponins it contains—especially if you suffer from any digestive woes or distress.
Saponins are a protective coating on seeds and grains that prevent birds and other animals from eating it; if not properly rinsed, the quinoa will taste quite bitter.
Anti-nutrients are compounds that inhibit the absorption of key nutrients (rude!) and are found in most grains and seeds.
By simply soaking the quinoa overnight in warm filtered water with 1–2 tablespoons of yogurt, whey, kefir, or lemon juice (essentially any acid), those antinutrients won’t stand a chance.
I prepare a big batch of quinoa each week to enjoy alone or in side dishes and salads like this one. This salad also uses fresh organic strawberries, spinach, asparagus, and red onion—all of which are currently in season and thus, likely readily available at your local farmer’s market.
If you had a chance to read the Honestly Nourished Philosophy, you’ll know that eating seasonally is something I encourage for a multitude of reasons.
Quinoa isn’t the only superstar in this salad. Asparagus is a high fiber, low-calorie and low-carbohydrate vegetable that is very alkaline, which helps keep the body’s pH in balance. Some of its other health benefits are attributed to antioxidants that inhibit the production of inflammatory compounds. It is also a source of iodine, which is needed for fat metabolism and thyroid health.
Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and are also packed with antioxidants lending them many preventative and protective properties including anticancer and blood pressure lowering effects. Red onions are also considered a high alkaline vegetable and they contain more antioxidants than white or yellow varieties.
Oh and the dressing!
The lemon dressing is one of my favorite go-to simple dressings.
It really adds a nice punch and brightness to any salad, especially this one. It’s a perfect side salad for a grill out or picnic and makes for a great lunch all week long.
If you want to make it more of a meal, you can always add a bit more protein—organic free-range chicken, feta cheese, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, really whatever you like!
Now, let’s get to it!
- 1 cup cooked quinoa (prepared using either soaked method** or quick method***)
- 6–8 asparagus spears (roasted or steamed ahead of time)
- ¼ cup red onion, diced
- ¾ cup organic strawberries, sliced
- 4 cups organic baby spinach
- zest of 1 organic lemon + juice of lemon
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 tsp raw local honey (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare quinoa according to preferred method as outlined in notes below.
- Lightly steam asparagus spears for 5 minutes and then run under cold water to preserve their bright green color and halt the cooking process. (This will keep them firm and snappy!). You can do this a few days in advance, along with preparing the quinoa.
- Chop asparagus and combine with strawberries, quinoa, and diced red onion.
- Whisk lemon juice + zest, olive oil, salt and pepper (add honey now, too, if desired) and pour over quinoa salad.
- Divide baby spinach between two bowls and top with half of the quinoa salad.
**Quinoa Soaked Method: Simply place 1 cup uncooked quinoa + 2 cups warm filtered water + 2 tbs of any cultured acidic solution (kefir, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, or whey) in a glass bowl and cover for 12–24 hours. Once soaked, drain water and rinse thoroughly until water runs clear. Place soaked and rinsed quinoa + 1¾ cups filtered water + 1 tsp sea salt in a saucepan, bring to a boil and then immediately reduce heat and cover for an additional 12–15 minutes until water is absorbed. Let quinoa cool in pan uncovered for 10 minutes then fluff with a fork.
***Quinoa Quick Method: Rinse 1 cup quinoa well and drain. Place in saucepan with 1¾ cups filtered water and 1 tsp sea salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and cover for 15–20 minutes until water is absorbed. Allow quinoa to cool for 10 minutes uncovered and then fluff with a fork.
****Both methods will yield around 2–3 cups cooked quinoa, which is more than what's required for this recipe. Reserve the extra to incorporate into other meals throughout the week!
Give it a try and let me know what you think by leaving a comment below! I also think you should totally share it on Instagram and if you do, be sure to tag me in it (@honestlynourished) and use #honestlynourished or #hnrecipes so I can give you a high five!
See you back here next week for dessert—Grain-Free Double Dark Chocolate Zucchini Muffins! Oh yes.