Citrus Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

~ Full of vibrant flavors! Nutty quinoa, creamy feta, crunchy carrots and refreshing citrus. A quick and easy salad that’s loaded with nutrition! ~

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This past summer, my family took a trip to the most magical place in the world. Yep, we went to Disney World! And let me tell you, it was the most fantastic vacation. Ever.

I’ve been there lots of times. My mom and I used to go every summer (my dad was afraid to fly), and I’ve got tons of awesome memories. Every trip has brought new adventures and more memorable moments.

One of my most favorite memories (then and now!) are the fun character meals. (I mean, does it get any better than hugging Mickey and the gang at your table?!) And the Disney magic extends into the food! I mean, it’s just so good. That’s all. Just. Plain. Good.

This year, while we were visiting Winnie the Pooh and his friends, I had an incredible quinoa salad. Of all the amazing food on the buffet, I just had to have an extra helping of that quinoa salad with citrus dressing! Between autographs and pictures with our friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, my husband and I kept saying how good it was! My kids even liked it!

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I wish I had taken a picture of my plate. When I got home, I totally wanted to make that salad! But I’d enjoyed so many awesome foods that I couldn’t remember exactly what was in it. I was so sad.

But I was determined! About a week later, I emailed Disney and asked for the recipe. They ever-so-kindly sent me a recipe for the quinoa salad that’s usually on the menu, but it wasn’t at all the same as the one I’d had. Shelley thought maybe it was a chef’s special the day I was there. She might be right. I thought I might never find it.

I’d almost given up hope. But then I was watching The Chew while running on the treadmill (since that’s about the only time I get to watch 30 minutes of uninterrupted television!) and – BOOM! – there was a segment about quinoa salad! It was quite different from what I’d had at Disney, but it got my wheels turning!

I was super inspired. I went home and started cooking quinoa … lots and lots of quinoa. (Not sure how to cook quinoa? Check out our tutorial!) My family happily tried several batches (and so did Shelley’s!) as I perfected just the right balance of flavors.

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The sweet orange juice and the tart lemon, the creamy feta and crunchy carrots, all combined with the nutty quinoa … mmmmm! A dash of salt makes this totally pop – and it’s so incredibly good. (Pssssst … wanna learn the best way to zest a lemon? It’s all in our post on zesting and grating!)

I’m happy (and satisfied and full of protein and fiber!) to have this for lunch, dinner, or a side salad. And I do. Often.

It’s quick, easy, loaded with nutrition and full of vibrant flavor. It tastes great the moment it’s made (I can’t help but dig right in!), but it’s also a lifesaver as a make-ahead you can throw together a day or so before a potluck or picnic.

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No, I did not buy these Mickey-shaped Rice Krispie Treats the size of my head. But I definitely thought about it!

I sure do miss you, Mickey … but we’ll be back soon!

THK by Gretchen

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Ok – if you’ve ever been to Disney, then you’ve definitely splurge-purchased a crazy souvenir! Come on – fess up! Was it an enormous Goofy hat? Light-up Mickey ears? Maybe a life-sized Minnie Mouse? (Ummmmm … ok … in the spirit of fessing up: I can tell you that my littlest just HAD to have a ginormous stuffed animal. Yep – we almost needed an extra plane ticket!).

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Love Quinoa as Much as We Do? You’ve Gotta Try:

Citrus Quinoa and Chickpea Salad
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Yield: About 6 cups
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 16-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup matchstick or shredded carrots
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1 cup pulp-free orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon (to equal approximately 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 cup reduced-fat feta cheese
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Preparation
  1. Prepare quinoa according to package directions. After cooking, allow to cool completely and fluff with a fork.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cooled quinoa, chickpeas, carrots, parsley, orange juice, lemon juice, lemon zest, feta, salt and pepper. Eat immediately or refrigerate until serving.
  3. If refrigerated overnight, taste and adjust seasoning again before serving if needed. (The right amount of salt takes this salad from good to great!)
Notes
This is delicious served immediately but also if made ahead. It can easily be refrigerated for 1-2 days prior to serving.

 

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Comments

Citrus Quinoa and Chickpea Salad — 13 Comments

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  5. Grethen that salad looks delicious! I could eat it up right now! Funny, I seem to always end up watch cooking shows when I’m on the treadmill. The entire time I’m thinking of how I can make or adapt a recipe. Of course, when I’m done I starving because I’ve been thinking of food the whole time. lol

    • Yes, that’s exactly what happened! I couldn’t wait to get home and start cooking! (After a shower, of course!) And I sometimes have my best thoughts while running – when I can’t stop to write it down or even a voice memo! I don’t want to lose momentum! 🙂 ~Gretchen

    • Yes, Abbe, the kids seem to be ever-so-patient … it’s the grownups who are antsy! But I love watching the little ones see their favorite princess (or any character!) for the first time! It’s so magical!! We’ve got all of our autography books as well – and I’m surprised how often the kids go through them! It really is a fun souvenir!
      This quinoa salad is a favorite at our house – I’m sure you’ll love it, too! ~Gretchen

  6. I remember when I went to Disney as a kid we were on a mission to get as many characters ‘autographs’ as we could! Disney sold little autograph books that you could use and my sister and I fought hard to see who could get the most! This salad looks delicious!!

    • Hi Christine! They still sell those little books … and you’d be surprised how long you have to stand in line to meet some of the characters! We didn’t get quite as many during this trip – my little ones are getting more interested in the rides. My husband was happy about that – the last trip we took, we spent hours just standing and waiting for photos and autographs.
      Hope you’ll try the salad – let us know what you think! 🙂 ~Gretchen

  7. That photo of you, Gretchen, is hilarious!! Holy cow—one of those Mickey rice krispy heads could feed a family of 6!

    • Sue – I don’t know why, but the rice krispy treats at Disney World are just so good! (Must be all that Disney magic!) I was so excited when I found those humungous ones – but I realized it would take me the better part of a year to eat one! I seriously considered buying one (or two …) 🙂 ~Gretchen

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