Gluten Free Quinoa Salad


Gluten Free Quinoa Salad, originally uploaded by Kate Chan.


Some days are pure magic.

MAGICAL MOMENT #1:   Nature and The Chicklet
Like when the sun shines and the breeze kicks up just enough to blow her little pixie hair bangs about her forward… just enough to make her throw her little hands in the air and chuckle with her smoky -I-need-a-nap giggle. Just magic. These are the moments that I thought we would never experience, to be honest. The little ones – even the ones when she is wearing so much more than she actually put IN to her mouth. These little moments are the ones we longed for all these years.. and maybe that is what we all long for endlessly: time to be and enjoy.

MAGICAL MOMENT #2: My Love… Always Magical to Me
Having Zoe here is certainly making me readjust my schedule. I love it. but to be honest, I miss baking and cooking more than I thought I would. Last night I practically BEGGED my husband NOT to cook and clean everything. (Can you believe this… I was truly BEGGING for him NOT to pitch in like this? Yes.. I married a dream boat!). Alas, the little imp was restless and I had play duty. Cooking was definitely all him but at least I got to request my favorite grilled chicken with corn on the cob. I even had him grill a little extra chicken so my lunch would be less “grab-whatever-is-there-NOW” and more healthy and planned.

Well, I shouldn’t say more healthy. I eat great. Being a gluten-free Mom certainly has it’s advantages and disadvantages. NOT being able to grab something to eat through a drive-through is BOTH. It’s much healthier for my body that I can’t but it *IS* hard when I forget to pack something for *me* to eat during the day. I’m great at packing things for the Chicklet… but me? Yea. I often don’t think that I will get very hungry. Three days ago, however, I found myself with a serious urge to start eating my own elbow. Oh, buggers, was I wickedly hungry!

MAGICAL MOMENT #3:   A Miracle… of sorts
Since that was hardly a possibility, I munched on a pack of sweetened Korean rice crackers that I miraculously stowed in my purse one day for the Chicklet but she didn’t want/need them. (Let’s hear it for not having time to clean out your purse!) While I munched, I plotted: how to get back cooking and baking again. And my first step: begging… failed. But the second? Having my Love grill a little extra so I had easy lunch fixings? A snap!

MAGICAL MOMENT #4:  Discovery
My other little learning curve happy-factor was figuring out that I could use my rice cooker to make quinoa! Hooray! Although my husband is Chinese, he has never seen the “need” for a rice cooker. No one is his family has one – they all just have a dedicated pot to cooking rice. And they are right. It’s not a *need*, but DANG, it is SO helpful when I can’t stand in the kitchen to watch a simmering pot because there is a little more action taking place in the living room with the kid. My Love has even declared our gift to ourselves this winter of a rice cooker as a good call now that the little girl is here. He, too, has no desire to stand around a pot when we can be playing with her!

A couple little tips for you rice-cooker owners, however, about cooking quinoa in your rice cooker are as follows:

  • Use the measuring cups that come with your cooker if you want precision, otherwise just be sure to measure the quinoa and don’t eyeball it until you get a hang of it.
  • Wash and rub your quinoa grains together *WELL* in a fine mesh sieve before draining and adding to your cooker. NOT washing quinoa makes for a very bitter bite.
  • Add enough water to meet the “white rice” or “regular rice” settings on your cooker.
  • Cook on the “White Rice” or “Regular Rice” setting.
  • Don’t leave the quinoa to stay warm in the cooker for longer than 90 minutes or so. The smaller grained quinoa will continue to cook and can burn in your cooker if you do.

What veggies do you have in your fridge that need to be eaten? That’s what you could use in this salad. OH, it so hit the spot today. It was lovely to have a *lunch* and not to try to munch something – ANYTHING – over the kitchen sink while the little one meanders about foot.

MAGICAL MOMENT #5:  Left Overs can be Magical too!
Use up your leftover veggies and grilled meats. Or use some tofu instead to make it vegetarian. Try olive oil instead of butter to make it casein free. Whatever you do, munch on, people! It’s summer! There are magical moments that require our keen eyes, healthy bodies and joyous hearts!

Ohh yea…. Quinoa Salad Magic! I hope you try it too!

Gluten Free Quinoa Salad
Everything but the kitchen sink or the baby.
Serves 2.5 for lunch
You can find a printable copy of this “recipe” here.

2 mini-cucumbers, cut into fourths then cut diagonally OR one half of an English cucumber (seedless) prepared the same
1 small tomato, roughly chopped
1 cooked/grilled chicken breast, chopped
3 Tablespoons roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
6 – 8 black or green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 large handfuls of baby spinach, sautéd in a little olive oil with garlic (1 teaspoon minced garlic)
1 teaspoon minced garlic (for the spinach)
1 cup quinoa -washed and prepared following your “white rice/regular” setting on your rice cooker or as you prefer
salt/pepper to taste
3 1/2 Tablespoons butter, melted
zest from one small lemon
juice from said small lemon + 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice to taste
2 teaspoons agave nectar (or honey, if you prefer)

1. Prepare your quinoa as you prefer or with your rice cooker as following: Wash one cup of quinoa thoroughly. Rub together the quinoa while cool water runs over it in a fine mesh sieve. Put into your rice cooker and add water for one cup as though it were white/regular rice. Set your rice cooker to cook as though it were white/regular rice as well. Remove the quinoa from the rice cooker within an hour of it being done. Unlike rice, the rice cooker will continue to cook the quinoa (the grains are smaller) and it will eventually burn if left too long. Pour prepared quinoa into a medium/large salad serving bowl. Set aside.
2. Once the quinoa is prepared (or your daughter is down for a nap and the quinoa is done already), quickly sauté your two handfuls of spinach in a drizzle of olive oil. Add 1 – 2 teaspoons minced garlic to the sauté. Remove from heat and put prepared spinach into the salad bowl.
3. Clean and roughly chop the following ingredients: mini cucumbers, small tomato, roasted red pepper, cooked/grilled chicken breast, and the olives. Place chopped ingredients into the salad bowl.
4. PREPARE the DRESSING: Melt the butter. Zest the small lemon into the melted butter. Squeeze lemon juice into butter. Taste. If you would prefer, add a bit more lemon juice (we add about 2 teaspoons more). Add agave nectar (or honey, if you prefer) and whisk together.
5. Pour dressing over the quinoa and chopped vegetables and toss. Add salt/pepper to taste.



  1. Do you have a wrap or any other sort of carrier so that you can wear her while you’re in the kitchen? I know a lot of mom’s who are able to keep up a little more on baking & such because they just wear baby (or toddler) on their back so she can see what’s going, be close & cuddly, but not able to get underfoot or into something dangerous. Just a thought.

  2. Great post, Kate–on so many levels! You should submit this recipe to Diane at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang blog for her Friday Foodie Fix as the ingredient this week is quinoa. I made a quinoa salad similar to yours. Yours is gorgeous! I like that you added the chicken and spinach–yummy and so good for you. 🙂

    Thanks for the tips on using a rice cooker for quinoa. I think you’ll find more of a balance soon that will allow you to bake and cook more. We actually had a Johnny Jump up that we hung from our kitchen ceiling, so our son could be right there while I cooked. 😉


  3. So glad to hear things are going well with your daughter and you are finding ways to keep cooking! Your quinoa salad looks delicious and perfect for summer weather.

  4. Kate, great post! I, too, am a rice cooker convert! I grew up with pasty, glutinous rice growing up (or worse, Minute Rice, blech!) and was never a fan until I received a rice cooker for a gift and thought I’d give it a whirl! Then, after developing gluten sensitivity and, honestly, getting a little tired of rice, I started cooking all kinds of grains in the thing! Quinoa, millet, amaranth, bulgar… you just have to make sure your H2O to grain proportions are correct, but otherwise, I haven’t had any failures with the rice cooker method! I like to cook a big batch of quinoa and another batch of millet and then use them over the next several days for quick salads, pilafs and breakfasts (millet, raisins/craisins or blueberries (yum!), chopped nut of choice, a dribble of almond milk and agave then zap it til warm! Okay, now I’m hungry! Anyway, you’ll find your balance! Most moms have more prep-time to adjust before their baby is as mobile as beautiful Zoe is, so cut yourself some slack and know that you’ll get there!


  5. The food looks great! I tried Quinoa once and didn’t love it. Guess I should give it another try. Where are the pictures? Haven’t you realized we come here for pictures of food AND Zoe? My kids are both “big” now and have lost all there chubby babiness. (I know that isn’t a word) Thankfully I can live through you and my sister who finally had here baby two weeks ago. Don’t they just smell great. Have you tried pulling her highchair right into the kitchen with you? I have a trick I used but you can only do it if its warm. Put her in her highchair and pour just a little water in her try. She will be happy for along time as long as she likes water! The floor will get a sprinkle but most kids I have done it with stayed happy for a while.

  6. i’ve found that letting my little ones move the spices from drawer to stool and back again provides endless kitchen entertainment. that is, until they learn to unscrew lids.

    I LOVE cooking my quinoa in chicken broth. And great post–quinoa salad makes such perfect summer dish.


  1. […] warm until dinner time. This is definitely a HUGE convenience and time saver.  (And now I’m making quinoa in it for lunch salads.  Any leftovers are just eaten at dinner or lunch the next day.  Piece of […]

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