Thai-Style Chicken Quinoa Salad

IMG_6194I figure it’s about time for some “real food” to appear on this here blog of mine. I mean, there are only so many delicious cookies, cakes, muffins, and bars that one can consume before a desperate longing for wholesome, nutritious meals sets in. Hah! I kid. But seriously, I really do cook actual non-dessert-type food. It’s just that I rarely have the motivation to haul out all my picture-taking paraphernalia and set up a photo shoot right when dinner is ready to be served. And after dinner, whatever I’ve cooked has almost always been devoured. And if there are leftovers, they often aren’t the most photogenic. Or I’m too tired. Or I have somewhere to be. Or I’m just not feeling it. I could throw out excuses all day, but it doesn’t really matter because this time I finally pulled myself together and managed to actually snap photos of this ridiculously delicious Thai Chicken Quinoa Salad, the star of tonight’s dinner. It was just too good not to document.

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My family members are all big-time lovers of quinoa, and it often appears in the form of side dishes, salads, and even entrees in our house. Whether it’s Mango & Black Bean Quinoa Salad, Black Bean & Corn Quinoa Salad, or a simple side to this¬†Spanish Chicken and Kidney Beans, we love our quinoa. It’s healthy, cheap, quick-cooking, gluten-free, a complete protein, and is the perfect “base” for multiple dishes.

Though I’ve tried so many great quinoa recipes that I could never pick a favorite, this Thai Chicken Quinoa Salad definitely comes out near the tip-top. Cubed chicken, crunchy veggies, edamame, dry-roasted peanuts, and fresh cilantro are all loaded into the quinoa and tossed with an amazing Thai-inspired dressing. The dressing has a hint of spice that’s rounded out with a bit of sweetness and is packed with a multitude of flavors from lime juice, coconut milk, peanut butter, garlic, and ginger.¬†The myriad of tastes and textures all come together into a one-dish meal that will leave everyone fighting for leftovers. I had to restrain myself from taking a third helping when I made this for dinner, and everyone in my family loved it. It’s hard not to!

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Thai-Style Chicken Quinoa Salad

Makes 6 servings

For the salad:

1 & 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup water

2 cups cooked, cubed chicken (about 1 pound, or 2 medium chicken breasts)

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup diced bell pepper

1/2 cup shelled edamame

1/2 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the dressing:

1/4 cup sweet chili sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 1 small lime)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons canned coconut milk (light is fine)

1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons creamy peanut butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

Pinch of ground ginger

Directions:

Combine the quinoa, chicken broth, and water in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender.

While the quinoa is cooking, whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Prepare the rest of the salad ingredients if you haven’t already.

Transfer the cooked quinoa to a large bowl and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Then pour the dressing over the quinoa and stir to combine. Add in the chicken, scallions, bell pepper, edamame, carrots, peanuts, and cilantro. Mix well. Serve the salad warm, chilled, or at room temperature.

(Recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, originally adapted from How Sweet Eats)

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