blueberry mango quinoa salad

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A kind of light spread out from her. And everything changed color. And the world opened out. And a day was good to awaken to. And there were no limits to anything. And the people of the world were good and handsome. And I was not afraid any more. ― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Running, head-first, into my second week free of dairy, refined flours and sugars has continued to be an awakening of sorts. Every meal has evolved into an adventure rather than a chore, and I’ve suddenly become hyper-aware of food in a way that I haven’t been in a long, long time. Mindful eating doesn’t require one to simply ebb and flow, doesn’t thrive on complacency, rather it endures only through the consistent realization that if I put good, wholesome food in my body I’ll feel GOOD. While friends have noted external changes — a more luminous and clear skin tone (although good genes definitely help) and a slightly leaner frame — I’m more focused on the internal shifts, which have been real and dramatic. I’m continually floored by the fact that my sleep resembles the deep sleep of children, that my cookie cravings have all but disappeared, and I feel light — not in sense of numbers on a scale — but an overall feeling of lightness. My meals are more colorful and infinitely more satisfying, and although I’m still eating A LOT, I feel fuller, content and not prone to over-indulge in seconds and thirds….

All due to a few simple changes in my diet, which oddly have me checking out vegan and gluten-free options.

Instead of a bagel for breakfast, I’m kicking off my day with a protein-packed, peanut butter and banana smoothie. Instead of a sandwich and a pile of sweets and nutrient-empty vending machine snacks, I’m packing carrots, cherries, raspberries, hummus, frozen grapes and Kind bars in portable containers. Yes, I’ve become the sort of woman who stocks and stores Tupperware in her office. Lunch tends to be sizable with beef, chicken or salad in the mix, while dinners are on the lighter side with small portions of pasta, heaping salads, and QUINOA.

I researched the nutritional benefits of this vegetable seed (I thought quinoa was a grain, but it is actually a seed from a vegetable related to Swiss chard, spinach and beets!!), and I was FLOORED. From Health Guidance:

Quinoa is an excellent protein source and contains all essential amino acids (useful for vegans and vegetarians). One cup of ready-to-eat quinoa has nearly 10 grams of protein or twice the amount of protein found in other cereal grains, it also has 5 grams of fiber, for just 220 calories. Quinoa is also a good source of beneficial minerals, including copper, manganese, iron, and magnesium, plus B-complex vitamins. All of these trace elements and nutrients are necessary in chemical reactions for producing energy out of your foods. Quinoa also offers potassium and good fats that are beneficial for your blood pressure and heart.

I’ve been consuming a lot of quinoa lately, and I can’t help but notice that I have more stamina in my workouts and I’m always full after dinner. I’ll be showcasing a lot of quinoa recipes over the coming weeks, but tonight I feasted on a delicious Blueberry Mango Salad, inspired by Veggie Belly‘s post.

INGREDIENTS:
For the quinoa
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water

For the fruits and veggies
1 cup fresh blueberries
½ cup cubed ripe mango
½ cup cubed cucumber
2 tbsp dried cherries

For the lemon basil dressing
1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
10 Basil leaves, chopped finely
Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS
Bring water and quinoa to a boil in a medium-sized pot. The ratio of quinoa to water is always 2:1, so remember that as you double or halve the recipe. Once the water has come to feverish bubble, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered for about 15 minutes, or till the quinoa is cooked. Remove the lid, and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Let it cool to room temperature.

While the quinoa is cooking, combine the fruits and cucumber in a medium-sized bowl and refrigerate until you’re ready to assemble your mis en place. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper, and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Hold off on adding the basil until you’re ready to serve as the acid from the lemon will cause the leaves to blacken.

Once the quinoa has cooled (10-15 minutes), add the dressing to the quinoa, toss in the basil, fruit and cucumber mixture. Enjoy + weep!

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