Each week I get at least a handful of comments or emails from people wanting vegetarian meal ideas. So many people seem to be interested in going meatless or at least reducing their meat intake, but don’t quite know where to start. Once the veggie burgers, canned beans, and faux meats get old – where do you go from there?
I’m always amazed that people think vegetarian diets are so limiting. It is easy to focus on what you can’t eat, but it’s so much more productive to think about all the wonderful things that you most definitely can eat!
The biggest concern that is repeated in email after email seems to be protein intake. My first response is usually this – I think as Americans we generally vastly over-estimate the amount of protein the body actually needs in one day. In fact, the body can only physically process so much protein at one time, and beyond that the excess is just converted to waste.
But of course protein IS necessary, and if you are willing to think beyond the usual suspects, you can find that vegetarian sources are actually pretty easy to find. A personal favorite in our house – quinoa. And when summer rolls around and we are looking for light ways to incorporate protein into dinnertime, simple and refreshing grain salads are my absolute favorite.
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
Ingredients: (makes 4 entrée servings)
- 1.5 cups dry quinoa, rinsed
- 1 tbsp coconut oil (other other cooking oil)
- 1 medium cucumber, diced
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 cup olives, minced
- 1/2 cup basil, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- sea salt to taste
- goat or feta cheese crumbles (optional)
Instructions: This was one of those fun summer dishes that came together as I was making it, based on what was fresh in my kitchen. It is incredibly simple, but packed with delicious Mediterranean flavor and tangy lemon juice.
- Rinse quinoa and add 3 cups of water to either a rice cooker or sauce pan on a stovetop. Cook for 25 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed.
- Dice the cucumber, tomatoes, olives, and basil, and add to a large mixing bowl.
- Once the quinoa is cooked, fluff and add to the bowl of vegetables.
- Whisk together oil, lemon juice, and sea salt and pour dressing over quinoa mixture.
- Let flavors marinate for 5-10 minutes before serving. Top with goat cheese or feta crumbles for garnish!
Grain salad are my absolute favorite thing to make in the summer. Served warm or cold, they are perfect for serving at dinner or storing in the fridge when you need a meal in a hurry.
This Mediterranean salad has the saltiness of olives and acidity of lemon juice that my pregnant palate absolutely loves right now.
As always, enjoy!