We officially began our back-to-school countdown last week. Which means every day we take a look at the giant August calendar that hangs in my office, and practice real life math skills. As of today, there are officially eight days until school starts. Eight days left of sleeping in well past the alarm rings, and enjoying late night walks and movies (or the Olympics).
And while our sleeping-in habit may come to an end in eight days, we’re incredibly excited about the start of a new school year. As I mentioned last week during our school lunch gear chat, the start of a new school year brings routine and consistency to our days, both of which seem to help everyone in our family live happier and more productive lives.
This year, both kids will be going to school full-time. Londyn will be a full-time preschooler, and Piper will be a full-time kindergartener/first grader. We absolutely fell in love with Montessori last year, so both kids will be going to the same Montesorri school that Piper attended last year.
With both kids about to start full-time school, I’m thinking about prepping a couple of easy lunch options each weekend. Nothing crazy, of course, just simple lunch options that I can store in the fridge and easily pull out during the week: salads (usually meat-based salads, like chicken salad), shredded chicken, soup, muffins, and cut fruit and/or veggies. A few simple options that are pre-sliced or pre-cooked, and just sitting in the fridge, really help our daily lives run smoothly; particularly during a busy school week.
Today’s recipe is just one of the easy-to-make-and-prep meals that I’ve started adding to my back-to-school lunch plan: Easy Mediterranean Quinoa Salad. This cold salad features fresh vegetables, a hearty and protein-packed grain, olives, and feta cheese! Because a salad just isn’t a salad without cheese. Amen? Amen!
The entire salad, once the veggies are sliced and the quinoa has been cooked (which may be prepared in advance), only takes five minutes to toss together. I’ve been cooking extra quinoa on the weekend, and using some of the quinoa for this salad and another portion as a side for Piper.
Piper, my opinionated foodie ;), isn’t a big fan of a mixed salads, but he will eat the quinoa on the side along with a few of the veggies. I plan to continue this practice as school starts, so that way everyone can have a ready-made lunch prepped in the fridge.
I’m usually not a fan of prepping veggie salads in advance, but this salad is a make-ahead game-changer.
Since this salad doesn’t require any delicate greens, it lasts for days in the fridge without getting soggy and gross. There’s nothing worse than a gross salad when you’re hangry (nope, not a typo…hangry is a real feeling!). This means I can prep the salad on a Sunday evening, enjoying a bit of the salad on the side of a whole chicken or grilled burgers, and store the extra quinoa salad in the fridge for several days. Effortless food prep = a total win!
Easy Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
- 3 cups cooked quinoa cooled
- 1 cup sliced cucumbers I like Persian cucumbers---any cucumbers will work.
- 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 cup diced red onions
- 1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives or your favorite variety of olives
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil and parsley
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1 TB red wine vinegar
- 1 garlic clove minced
- salt and pepper
- In the base of a large salad bowl (or you can whisk this dressing in a seperate small bowl and pour the dressing over the salad), whisk together the salad dressing ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, and just a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Add the salad ingredients to the bowl, and gently toss until the dressing and salad ingredients are combined.
- Serve immediately, or store the salad in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.
To make the quinoa: Rinse 1 1/2 cups of quinoa in a fine mesh sieve under water. This is optional. I believe it helps take away the bitterness of the quinoa. Set aside. In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, combine the quinoa and 3 cups of broth or water. Bring the broth or water to a boil, then cover the pan with a lid, and reduce to a lively simmer. Cook the quinoa, covered, for 15-20 minutes, until it’s fluffy and the liquid has been fully absorbed. Once the quinoa is fluffy, remove it from the heat. Fluff the quinoa with a fork. Allow the quinoa to cool before making this salad.
If you don’t have any red wine vinegar, try white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar.