Super Protein Chopped Salad
My trouble with work lunches goes back to the beginning of my working days out of college. I found it really hard to feel good about my lunches. They were either healthy and boring or delicious and nap-inducing.
This has changed a bit since I work from home. To be honest, most days I eat leftovers, but I’m still constantly on the search for a perfect lunch salad.
Part of the problem is I hesitate to label anything perfect or, god forbid, “best EVER”, but this really is a salad that can answer many lunch issues.
It has a lot to love: It’s relatively light, but has filling elements like crunchy candied nuts, lots of protein and good fats, and a super simple dressing. It doesn’t even really need to be refrigerated for the morning.
I’ve been eating it for lunch this week and have really looked forward to it every day!
1) For dressing, combine ingredients in a bowl and whisk together or shake in a dressing container.
2) For candied cashews, stir together water, sugar, and cashews in a medium pot. Heat over medium heat until simmering. Continue to simmer, stirring regularly until the liquid turns thick like syrup, about 10 minutes. Then add salt, cinnamon, and cayenne, and continue to stir vigorously.
When the syrup is really sticking to the nuts (maybe 15 minutes of total cooking) spread them out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let cool.
3) Cook lentils and quinoa according to package. I recommend rinsing both and simmering in large pots until they are just cooked through. For quinoa, I usually do 2 cups water per cup of quinoa. For lentils do 4 cups water per cup of lentils. The quinoa will need about 15 minutes to cook, slightly covered. The lentils will need closer to 25 minutes.
For quinoa, drain, cover, and let steam for a few minutes. Then fluff with a fork and let cool.
For lentils, drain, rinse with cold water, and let dry slightly.
4) For salad, combine kale and grated carrots in a large bowl. Toss with cooled quinoa and lentils.
Serve individual bowls with dressing drizzled on top and topped with avocado, hard-boiled eggs, and candied cashews.
Quinoa Chopped Salad
I called this a chopped salad because it has some chopped things, but it’s also a grain salad, an egg salad, and a kale salad. It’s many different things chopped together I guess?
Who knows… it’s good though and it all starts with lentils and quinoa.
I wasn’t sure about putting both of these in one salad, but it’s actually a nice mix. You could use just one or the other but you’d miss out on some subtle texture differences.
For the lentils I like French lentils which are a bit sturdier than their yellow cousins.
Rinse off the lentils and simmer them in water (about 4 cups water to 1 cup lentils) until they are tender. They will need to simmer for about 20-25 minutes. You can just taste one occasionally until they are tender.
When they are done, rinse them with cold water and set them aside.
Most people overcook quinoa. It’s easy to do because the seeds are so delicate. The way to nail it is to rinse the quinoa with cold water, then add them to a pot of simmering water (2 cups to 1 cup quinoa). Cook these, lightly covered, until they are tender. It’ll take about 15 minutes and you’ll start to see the little quinoa tails come out.
When that happens, drain out any extra water in the pot. Then cover them, remove them from the heat, and let them steam for 5 minutes.
Fluff the quinoa with a fork and it’ll be perfect!
This is about as easy as a dressing can get. Just whisk together some vinegar, lemon, olive oil, honey, and a pinch of salt in a bowl!
You can also just shake it together in a little dressing shaker!
These might be the highlight of the salad and while they are bit of work, skip them at your own salad peril!
To make them stir together the sugar, water, and cashews in a pot. Bring it to a simmer.
When the mix has simmered for about 10 minutes, the syrup will start to thicken nicely. Then you can add the salt, cinnamon, and cayenne. If you add those too early, they might just burn.
Let the mixture cook together for a few more minutes until the syrup is really sticking to the nuts. This is getting very close.
Then spread the nuts out on some parchment paper and let them cool! These will be so crunchy and delicious when they are done!
Finishing the Salad
Now it’s just a matter of tossing everything together!
Add the baby kale to a bowl with the grated carrots and toss in the lentils and quinoa. It’s important that they are cool or they will cook the kale.
Mix it all together and that’s the salad base. Then for each bowl you can pile on toppings like sliced avocado and hard boiled eggs.
It’s a really filling salad and is great as a dinner side salad also. I would maybe leave off the egg and avocado if you are having it with an entree or something!