Quinoa Panzanella Salad

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Sunday is usually food prep day for me. For an hour or so of effort, I save so much time during the week. I grill a bunch of meats – typically chicken breasts, burgers, and pork chops) – at once. I wash and chop lots of veggies and store them in the fridge in plastic containers. I make batches of rice, quinoa, or another grain.

It sounds complicated if you aren’t used to doing it, but it’s pretty simple. Start the rice or quinoa in a rice steamer. Preheat the grill while you get the meat ready, then put the meat on to cook. Wash the veggies and chop them. After about 6 – 7 minutes, check on the meat and flip them.  Chop a few more veggies and place them in baggies or plastic containers.

Check on the meat and if they’re done, toss them on a plate and bring them in to cool. Once cool, put some in the fridge and some in the freezer for later in the week. Done!  Imagine walking in the door after a stressful day at work, knowing you can just get a few things out of the fridge, nuke for a couple minutes, and dinner is served.

You’ll also be able to quickly throw together salads, wraps, sandwiches and other things for lunch the night before instead of relying on the cafeteria at work or eating out. I pick a protein, add some veggies, choose a carb, and throw on a sauce for my meals. The combinations are endless. Wednesday this week I got trapped running errands most of the afternoon, and I had zero time to even think about what to have for dinner.

I hadn’t even really eaten lunch since I was out for much longer than planned. If I hadn’t had anything prepped ahead of time, I would have hit the drive thru or ordered pizza for sure. Not great for the waistline or my budget. Thankfully I was ready to roll as soon as I hit the kitchen. I opened the fridge, grabbed my containers and threw together a salad made with quinoa.

It reminded me of those Italian salads that you make with crunchy bread. The bread soaks up the dressing and softens. They call it panzanella. LOL, so imagine having no time at all to even think about dinner and whipping up panzanella for the family in 5 minutes. 😉 I added a burger and a side of kale, both nuked for about a minute at the same time. How’s that for multitasking. Dinner was served. Tah dah!

Quinoa Panzanella Salad Quinoa Panzanella Salad

  • 1/2 cup (86g) uncooked quinoa (about 1 1/2 cups cooked)
  • 3/4 cup (100g) grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup (50g) grilled red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup (50g) grilled zucchini, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp capers, drained
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Place in the refrigerator to chill, unless you want a warm version which would still be great. Mix the veggies in a bowl, add the quinoa, and toss with the red wine vinegar to mix well. Salt and pepper as desired, and garnish with cilantro.

Makes 4 servings at approximately 93 calories each – 3g protein, 18g carbs, and 1g fat.

I had made a great panini sandwich earlier in the week and grilled red onions and sliced zucchini for the sandwich. I made extra so I had those in the fridge along with fresh veggies. The grilling really added flavor to the salad but you can use raw red onion and zucchini as well. If you don’t like zucchini, sub in cucumber slices for a fresh version.

You don’t have to be exact with the measurements when making this. Just throw the quinoa in a bowl, and add the veggies a little at a time and stop when you think it looks good. That’s pretty much what I did. Go heavy on the veggies, light on the veggies, change them up and use what you have available. The capers were an after thought since I only had a little bit leftover in the jar from my Lifeguard Soup, Sloppy Joes, and Chicken Scaloppine. Finally that jar is gone! 🙂

So if you aren’t investing an hour or so (at most) on the weekend to plan for your week, I really suggest giving it a try. It makes life so much easier and less stressful.

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