Quick Tabouli Salad

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When the weather gets warmer I make this salad a few times a month. It’s fresh, easy and reminds me of one of my favorite Middle Eastern restaurants.

The quickness comes from using a boxed salad mix and adding some fresh ingredients to liven it up. On its own the boxed salad is just pre-measured couscous with some herbs and spices so it definitely needs a helping hand. I’ve made tabouli salad from scratch before with bulgur, fresh mint and a clove of garlic which is amazing. In the summer though I like the simplicity of this quick version. This package uses couscous, not bulgur which means you don’t need to turn on the stove.

The most time consuming part is prepping the parsley. The fastest way I have found is to cut the leaves away from the stem using kitchen scissors.

 

 

Ingredients

Casbah Tabouli Garden Wheat Salad Mix (make as directed, hot water & olive oil)

2 bunches curly parsley

2 medium tomatoes

2 lemons, juiced and strained

3-4 green onions, finely sliced

salt & pepper to taste

Directions

1. Make the Tabouli Salad according to the directions on the box (mix package with 1 1/2 cups hot water & 1/4-1/3 cup olive oil and let stand covered for 1 hour).

2. Trim parsley, put in a colander and rinse very well. Let parsley air dry or wrap it up in a tea towel to remove the moisture. Finely chop parley (I use my mini chopper for this!).

3. Cut the tomatoes in half and gently squeeze them to remove the seeds and juice, then chop finely.

4. Once the Casbah salad mix has absorbed the water and oil for 1 hour fluff with a fork. Add all ingredients, stir and serve!

 

 

 

If you get a chance, try this salad out, its great this time of year and can be stored in the fridge for a few days! Hope you are having a great summer!

Lv, Julie♥

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Canada Day Brunch or Lunch Tablescape

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Tomorrow Canada turns 150 years old! It’s been fun over the past few months seeing themed displays, décor and gift items in stores to commemorate this special event. I had never really decorated for Canada Day, I’ve just celebrated by going to a cottage, watching fireworks or having a simple BBQ for the long weekend. There were never any decorations beyond a few flags. This year more than anything I felt inspired to go all out and have fun and be festive.

I have a philosophy on tablescapes, decorating and planning for special occasions. The theme for my blog is to ‘enrich the everyday.’ I have always felt that setting a nice table and putting effort into special occasions makes for a more memorable experience. Simply put, living life to the fullest also means going the extra mile with creativity. The trend of minimalism looks amazing, clean and polished but you can go too far in stripping too much away. By ‘keeping it simple,’ it can also end up feeling incredibly void of personality. Placing a value on ambiance puts more importance on the event itself and always creates a fun and meaningful atmosphere.

On Canada Day it’s our 10 year anniversary. My husband and I have been married for 2 years and have known each other since we were teenagers but didn’t start dating until July 1st 2007. We’ve got some plans for that but will definitely head over to a community fireworks display for some Canada Day celebrations!

I thought it would be fun to put together a little mock tablescape as I was so inspired with all the excitement surrounding the 150th this year. I’ll use some of the elements on the day of but really just wanted to share in all of the excitement and show some ideas for a Canada Day brunch or lunch.

I’ve never bought Canada Day decorations so I checked out some party stores, grocery stores and dollar stores for inspiration. I started by finding a cute wood utensil box at Winners with a gold flag on the side which I knew could be used for years to come. I got a few more small things and decided to make my own garland. I mostly used things I already had in the right colors, putting together a table that was more what Canada was to me than all red and white.

Instead of using the plastic garlands I saw at most stores when out and about I decided to make a more sturdy paper garland that I could get multiple uses out of. I stumbled upon some Canadian flag playing cards and knew they would work. I simply glued two cards together, punched two holes and then strung them with some red and white bakers twine. I thought it was pretty inexpensive and quick for something with such a big impact.

 

The utensil container I found worked well for holding straws, water and a simple mason jar of wild flowers. When thinking of what Canada means to me, I’m reminded of my childhood cottage. Summers up in Carnarvon, Ontario on beautiful Lake Boshkung will forever be etched into my mind as the place that makes me feel most like myself and so proudly Canadian. The landscape in Ontario’s north is so unique to Canada that my mind always goes there..any cottage really… when thinking ‘Canadian.’ I always picked wildflowers for dinner every summer and still have the vase I used. It’s been glued back together but I will always treasure it for the memories. 

 

I love this Canada tray that I got last year from Indigo. You can still buy the navy version, check it out here.

 

I found a little maple leaf cookie cutter and used it to cut out some cute watermelon slices!

I also used my Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) napkins as there is not a fabric more quintessentially Canadian. They are the same stripes used on the famous HBC wool blanket used for over 200 year in homes across Canada and passed down generation by generation.

My wood chargers, place card holders and napkin rings really tied everything together for that Canadian cottage feeling.

I loved sharing this tablescape! It was so much fun to create I was on cloud nine through the whole process! I’m feeling patriotic and ready to share in the big day, I can’t wait to make decorating for Canada Day a new tradition!

Hope you have fun on Canada’s 150th birthday!

Lv, Julie♥

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Weekend Avocado English Muffins & Poaching Problems

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By now most people have tried avocado toast, a new breakfast staple. So many versions of this recipe exist online but I wanted to show my version with eggs and a bit about my struggles with poaching eggs. I’ve been making this as a weekend breakfast on and off for a few months and it really makes me think, what did people do before avocado toast?

Poaching Eggs

Story time…my first foray into poaching eggs didn’t go so well. I set out to make restaurant quality poached eggs, the kind you would see on Eggs Benedict that you might have while out for a nice brunch. They are always pure white with a velvety matte exterior, perfectly oval in shape, looking fresh as could be. They also taste better than fried or scrambled eggs as they have so much moisture from the water. ‘No problem,’ I thought. If I researched and watched a few you tube videos how hard could it be? I got out my pan, boiled my water, used vinegar in the ‘swirling method,’ and popped the egg in. What happened next could only be described as an unsavory invention-watery egg soup! I watched sadly as the egg swirled around, fell apart and decided it no longer wanted to be an egg.

All is not lost, things started to look up when I found silicone poachers at Homesense and gave them a whirl. They are not the perfect solution, if you don’t have the right level of water and temperature they too can turn into a bit of a mess and spill out. I’ve figured out how to use them and now have a great way to poach eggs. They do look a bit like flying saucers and their silhouette is no where near ‘natural,’ but I’ve grown to accept their appearance as they taste great! I will leave the perfectly poached restaurant eggs to the experts, it creates something to look forward to whenever I get a chance to ‘brunch.’

Line them with a bit of coconut oil so the eggs slide out easy

 

Poaching eggs using silicone poachers such as these is easy once you have the right level of water. You will get water in the eggs from the steam but you don’t want them to be completely water-logged (I’ve had to throw out a batch). Its important to cover the pan (leave lid a bit ajar) with the lid to allow them to poach properly.

Experiment with your pan to find the right water level!

 

When I can find them, I use ‘Food for Life,’ Ezekiel sprouted grain English muffins. I have been learning all about sprouted grains and love all of the health benefits. Sprouted grain breads use the whole grain that has germinated, it is in fact ‘alive,’ as you are eating it. There are so many benefits to this type of bread that it’s worth looking into the two articles I read here and here.

 

Weekend Avocado English Muffins

Ingredients

whole wheat english muffins

coconut oil

4 eggs

1 small avocado

1/2 lemon, juiced

pinch cinnamon

pinch red chili flakes

salt & pepper to taste

Directions

1.) Poach 4 eggs

2.) Mash the avocado, add lemon juice, cinnamon and a little salt and pepper

2.) Toast the English muffin

4.) Top each muffin half with the avocado mixture, add an egg to each half, sprinkle with freshly ground salt, pepper and red chili flakes

*Recipe is for 4 english muffin halves

 

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Lv, Julie♥

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Avocado Chicken Salad on a Salad

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Avocado Chicken Salad on a Salad

This is a recipe that I often make on the weekend for lunch. You can change the type of salad base and/or salad dressing. For the chicken salad topping you can add, change or replace pretty much anything in it as well. If I whip it up unplanned (usually because I have a sad avocado staring at me that’s on its last legs) I’ve even used dried basil in a pinch. This is primarily why I love this recipe, it is a great way to use up a ripe avocado! I could imagine swapping the walnuts for other nuts or seeds (I want to try pumpkin or sunflower seeds), using a different dried or fresh fruit (dried currants or cranberries) and even trying a lime instead of lemon. Anything goes with this recipe! The mashed avocado replaces the typical mayonnaise you would find in a tuna or regular chicken salad.

A word on avocados…the past few years I have been into avocados but always know it is so hard to have them perfectly ripe on the exact day I am using one. We (try to) grocery shop once a week so if available I buy avocados in different stages of ripeness to use one every 3 days or so. On average one goes to waste every few weeks but this method is usually great if the grocery store has variety. If the grocery store has hard green avocados I skip using them until the end of the week and just let them ripen. This avoids the dark spots that come with people squeezing and testing them out at the grocery store. If they are bought hardened you almost never will find them bruised inside so it is definitely the way to go. I leave them out in a bowl on my counter to ripen.

 

Avocado Chicken Salad Recipe

Ingredients

1 ripe avocado

1/2 lemon (use more depending on ripeness)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 cups cooked chopped chicken (season however you would like)

handful chopped dates

small handful cup chopped walnuts

few pinches of garlic salt

ground black pepper

 Directions

  1. Season & grill chicken either on an indoor grill or BBQ. Make sure chicken has cooled down before adding to the avocado mixture.
  2. Mash avocado in a mixing bowl. Squeeze lemon on top. Add basil, chicken, dates, walnuts, garlic salt & pepper and mix well.

Makes 2-3 servings, add extra lemon to store in the fridge for a day

 

Basic Caesar Salad

This salad is so basic it’s almost silly to even list, but I have a few tips & ideas for it so I wanted to share! I didn’t go over the quantities of each ingredient because it really is to each person’s taste.

My best tip is to ‘water down,’ a dressing. Whether it be a creamy dressing or a vinaigrette I do the same for both. This is so the salad mixes easier without having to use more dressing all the while keeping the calories down. I always bust out a measuring spoon and use a tablespoon of dressing and then ‘water it down,’ using freshly squeezed lemon or balsamic vinegar. Years ago I started doing this and just got so used to it that I can’t have it any other way. A freshly squeezed lemon is the most amazing addition to any salad! I am lemon obsessed and it’s a bit of a problem when they get expensive to buy in the winter. I use them in cold and hot water to drink, salads, marinades you name it. I got my first Costco card this year and pretty much go there for the lemons, they are a great price point and are usually superior in quality!

I’ve also gotten into buying aged parmesan (usually 30 months). It completely changes a typical caesar salad into a restaurant quality salad by adding so much more flavor. I used to use a rotary grater but found mine has gotten dull over time. I just started using my electric mini chopper and you can do quite a bit at once, store it in the fridge, and it still has the ‘freshly grated,’ smell and taste for several weeks.

I really like Newman’s Own Parmesan & Roasted Garlic Dressing. It’s a vinaigrette and when you add lemon or balsamic it comes alive, but in the spirit of keeping it real I like it because it is caesar in nature, sans the anchovies.

 

Basic Caesar Salad Recipe

Ingredients

romaine lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces

Newman’s Own Parmesan & Roasted Garlic Dressing

fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar

freshly grated aged parmesan

freshly ground pepper

Directions

Of course just toss all together! I do want to add that I count my tosses and do about 25 to make sure everything is mixed really well (a little Martha tip from years ago)!

 

Hope you enjoy this recipe, let me know of any twists you put on it, I’m interested in how many ways this dish can be changed!

Lv, Julie♥

 

 

 

 

 

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Valentines Tablescape & Why I Love Setting a Nice Table

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This year we decided to stay in on Valentine’s Day and cook a nice dinner together. We’ve decided to wait to celebrate on the weekend so we have more time! In the spirit of the 14th I’ve put together a Valentines Day tablescape so it is ready in advance, allowing me to be a bit more creative with it. I wrote more about tablescapes in another post which you can read here.

I’ve always heard of people getting special dishes when they get married but hardly using them or ending up not liking the pattern they chose. I get it!  It’s a lot more work to drag them out, wash them by hand and put them away properly, not to mention the fear of breaking these expensive pieces. The special dishes I have are definitely not dishwasher safe and get stored between felt disks in special zip-up containers. They are not exactly easy to just ‘whip out.’ However, I really enjoy and value the tradition of using them at least 2-3 times a year as part of a special table setting. My blog tagline is “enriching everyday life,” and to me, putting more effort into special occasions is part of a well-balanced and rich life. Memories are created when you set aside time to spend together and are more vivid when you put creativity and work into really making that time different than your every day routines.

My mom works for a charity and these roses are from their annual event, The Great Valentine Gala. I enjoyed volunteering this past weekend and got to bring these beautiful flowers home!

Setting a beautiful table can be done inexpensively when you think outside of the box. When I look back at old photos I love to remember what I was thinking ‘creatively,’ when I set a table (some of my ideas have been ‘hit,’ or ‘miss,’ so it can be funny) . In some photos there were definite budget concerns. I have photos where a houseplant was my centerpiece or when in the summer a few wildflowers were picked and thrown into a water glass. Budgets can really allow for more creativity and a more unique result, just out of necessity.

It has taken me a long time to collect all of my china and crystal and I try to take good care of them. My first sets of china (Royal Doulton ‘Harlow’) were bought by my mom when I graduated University. This is an odd graduation gift for some but china is something we both love. Her aunt started her on her set when she was younger and she wanted to continue the tradition. Slowly over time she would give me a place setting or a few pieces to keep adding to the set. I really value the idea that the collection formed slowly as part of a long family tradition. I remember picking them out when I was in my early 20’s and knew then, that I should choose something traditional not trendy. I am happy I somehow had that figured out.

I love the creative process of setting a themed table! The right atmosphere is just as important as the dinner!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lv, Julie ♥

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Cauliflower Topped Shepherd’s Pie

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I’ve been experimenting with unique ways to use vegetables for the past year. Just searching on Pinterest, I’ve found so many ways to use cauliflower! It can be used as a main ingredient in homemade taco shells or a pizza crust as well as treating it as a substitute for rice recipes! Using vegetables differently is a great way to replace routine meals with gluten-free or carbohydrate reduced options. I’ve tried using julienned zucchini or baked spaghetti squash to replace pasta in many dishes. Vegetables can be so versatile and mimic other foods in a healthier way when you add the right spices.

Last night I experimented and made a really awesome shepherd’s pie using puréed cauliflower to replace the traditional whipped potato topping. It turned out amazing! The potato wasn’t missed at all and I was surprised how smooth the cauliflower got in the food processor! Not only did it look like whipped potatoes, it had lots of flavor and you didn’t miss the potato at all. I also put a spin on the dish by adding a few new spices to my standard recipe to see how it would turn out. It was so fantastic I decided the recipe must go up on the blog!

 

Cauliflower Topped Shepherd’s Pie

 

INGREDIENTS

Puréed Cauliflower Topping:

1 head of cauliflower

1/2 tablespoon coconut oil

2 tablespoons of milk

pinch of cinnamon

salt & pepper to taste

Pie Filling:

1 teaspoon of coconut oil

1 medium chopped red onion

2 cups thinly chopped carrots

2 cups sliced celery

1 teaspoon salt, divided (I use pink himalayan salt)

1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 pound lean ground beef or lean ground turkey

1 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)

3/4 cup chicken stock (I use 1 Knorr 25% less salt packet)

1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce

¼ cup tomato paste

1 cup peas (thawed if frozen)

1 teaspoon thyme

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Puréed Cauliflower Topping:

Place cauliflower florets in a steamer basket over boiling water, cover and steam until very soft, 15 minutes.

Put cauliflower and garlic in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the milk, coconut oil, cinnamon & salt and pepper. Pulse a few more times and then blend until cauliflower mixture is smooth (like the consistency of whipped potatoes!) Transfer to a mixing bowl, give a good mix and set aside.

*note: adjust milk & coconut oil amounts accordingly, heads of cauliflower vary in size depending on the season, you want the same consistency of whipped potatoes!

Pie Filling:

Add oil to a large sauté pan over low-medium high heat.  First add carrots and cook for 4 minutes. Then add celery and onion and cook for 3 more minutes. Add half the salt & pepper and cook until carrots are slightly softened (they will cook more in the oven) Add garlic and cook for another minute.

Put the vegetable mixture into a mixing bowl and set aside.

Using the same pan add ground meat and sauté on medium heat until cooked, breaking it into small pieces as you go. Add the fennel seeds and the remainder of the salt & pepper and cook for 1 minute longer or until the fennel becomes fragrant.

Add the vegetable mixture back to the meat mixture in the sauté pan.

Add in the peas, chicken broth, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and thyme. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring every now and again for a few minutes until mixture thickens.

Transfer the pie filling to a large casserole dish. Spoon the pureed cauliflower evenly in dollops over the top of the dish. Take a spatula to smooth the puree evenly and smoothly over the top. Sprinkle with a bit of freshly grated pepper and salt.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the edges of the pureed cauliflower are golden. Set the pie out to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Add a bit of water instead of more coconut oil if the vegetables start to stick!

 

Try using different vegetables, if you have leftovers in the fridge!

 

This cauliflower looks like whipped potatoes to me!

 

Serve with a little side salad!

 

Dinner is served!

I hope you enjoy this dish! It’s a great winter staple and I’m going to make one with ground turkey next week!

Lv, Julie ♥

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Christmas Eve Tablescape

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This year I’m having some family over for Christmas Eve and decided to get the table set on Thursday night. I like to get it done beforehand so I can have time to be creative and spend the days before, grocery shopping and working on the meal prep. My mom has always set the table in advance as well, so I’ve learned from her it makes the day of, that much easier!

I used a lot of white with touches of red and gold. I only have 4 beaded chargers so at the other end of the table I mixed in some gold plastic chargers which worked out just fine. I got the Christmas crackers last year on boxing day and was happy they worked well into the color scheme. I used my grandma’s ‘art deco,’ flatware. I am pretty much in love with this set, the pattern is ‘Deauville,’ by ‘Community Plate.’ Pieces can still be purchased online at Replacements Inc, an amazing online china shop that specializes in discontinued patterns. Click here to check it out, you can find so many interesting patterns here for a great price!

I picked up some mini roses at my local grocery store and couldn’t find any Christmas greens this late in the holiday season. I remembered we had a few boughs from our Christmas tree in our backyard waiting to go into a yard waste bag so I used those which worked out great! Check it out below!

 

 

 

For the napkin rings I headed over to the dollar store and grabbed some decorations with bells on them and some nice gold trimming that I used as ribbon. I took the bells off and glue-gunned their attached ribbons into loops. I was able to make an affordable, festive and unique accent for the plain white napkins!

 

Now that the table is ready I need to get to work on the rest! I’ve prepped by washing & cutting my veggies and trimming any herbs I am using. I also baked the dessert and covered it up to finish tomorrow. I did up a trivia game which included questions about each guests’ interests. I know they will find it pretty funny when the others try to figure them out! This provides people with something fun to do while I’m in the kitchen! Now I’m just thinking through the timing of my recipes for tomorrow. I’m trying new recipes so I need to be more organized than normal to execute them and am crossing my fingers there are no major disasters!

Excited for tomorrow, hope you all have a fantastic Christmas Eve!

Lv, Julie ♥

 

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Tablescape Thursday 2 Ways

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This week I visited a floral wholesaler and got so much decorating inspiration. I’ve been really interested in the “copper,” trend so I got a new copper colored mercury glass vase.

I decided to do up a few tablescapes of how I would do a rustic-elegant look for a simple dinner and a special-occasion dinner. I had so much fun with it, especially arranging the flowers. After taking photos of the special-occasion setting, I paired it back and it was nice to eat a regular Thursday dinner on a done up table. It was worth the little bit of extra clean up time as it really felt like we had a special experience. It’s just fun to have something different to look at on the dinner table.  I’m inspired now to do up a nice tablescape one night a week. I like to do meatless Mondays…now I’m going to add “Tablescape Thursday!”

 

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Simple dinner tablescape

I got these wood chargers from Homesense recently and love them, my plates are a bit too big for them but I think just seeing the edge still works nicely. My dinnerware is “Baroque,” from Wedgwood and I just love their shape, they look pretty without chargers! The wood slice napkin rings are from Indigo and are a great staple for the fall. I like how my simple stripe runner, wood slice coasters and agate rock make the table a rustic theme.

 

New copper colored vase
New copper colored vase

I love my simple arrangement of cream roses, peach hypericum and boxwood. They go so well with the copper vase, I am finding that the copper color adds so much warmth and works well with browns, pinks and creams.

 

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Special occasion dinner tablescape

For this tablescape I added the extra plates, cutlery and glassware you would have for more than one course. I added gem cut candle holders. The pink mercury glass candle holders are from my wedding! I put out place cards and the grey m&j “initial,” coasters I got from Anthropologie in the summer. I have such a big collection of coasters (mostly from Anthropologie) and I need to be stopped! I justify their purchase by just buying two and then mixing and matching…but who am I kidding I’m a coaster fanatic! I like to use them when I can in place settings as so many of them are so beautiful and its a way to use them more than just on the coffee table.

 

Looking back I can remember so many old family photographs having copper accents in them, from light fixtures to kitchen items. I sure wish I had a few of those items today. I think I’m going to buy more copper items when I’m out & about, the color gives such a warmth to a table. Its a color that I would use from summer through to winter and I’m already dreaming up all the different ways I can decorate with it! I had fun setting up these tablescapes and can’t wait to continue with “Tablescape Thursday!”

I hope you are inspired to use copper in your tablescapes!

Lv, Julie ♥

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Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

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At the beginning of most every week you will find me in the kitchen making this salad. It makes a great lunch on the go or side at dinner. I started making this recipe when a nutritionist I was talking to advised me to have more protein throughout the day. At the time I was going through a phase where I was not that into meat, I wasn’t a vegetarian but was having meat only a few times a week. That phase is behind me and I grew to love this salad as a staple. Quinoa is well known for its health benefits. It’s actually a seed and is incredibly high in protein. It is also gluten-free and high in fiber and iron. I’ve tried serving different quinoa recipes as a hot side but prefer quinoa as a cold salad. This salad is so fresh and full of flavour, but is better on day two when all of the flavours come to life!

 

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Ingredients:

2 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry quinoa
3 diced red bell peppers
1 cup thinly sliced green onion (white & green parts)
1/4 cup sliced pimento stuffed green olives
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I use almost 3/4 of a cup because I love lemon juice!)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup or whole package of chopped fresh basil

Directions:

1. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in quinoa and reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. The liquid should be absorbed and the quinoa should be tender, if not cook for 1-2 minutes more or I often take the pot off the stove, set aside and cover for 10 minutes. Make sure to take the lid off the quinoa and cool completely before transferring to a large serving bowl.

2. Whisk the oil, garlic, dried basil, dried oregano, lemon zest and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside.

3. Add the red pepper, green onions, olives, feta and freshly ground pepper (to taste) to the cooled quinoa. Pour the dressing over the quinoa mixture and toss 25-30 times (yes I count my tosses! I have found this makes all the difference in the world for a perfectly mixed salad!) Garnish with fresh basil & serve!

This is a great go-to quinoa salad. I happen to like acidic tasting dishes, hold back some of the lemon zest and juice if that is not your thing. This salad lasts 2-3 days, make sure to hold back the basil and add daily so it doesn’t get soggy!

Hope you like this recipe!

Lv, Julie ♥

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