Ever since I discovered quinoa, I’ve loved packing my lunch for work. Planning ahead has never been so simple: at the beginning of the week, I simmer a couple of cups on the stove for about 10 minutes, then combine the cooked quinoa with . . . anything and everything.
This nutritious, high-protein grain makes an inexpensive base for satisfying salads, and it combines well with almost any legumes, vegetables, nuts or cheeses you may have on hand. Make a big batch on Sunday, divide it between storage containers, and you can check “pack lunch” off your to-do list.
Sound boring? The beauty of quinoa is its versatility. If I use black beans and tomatoes one week, I’ll try olives and peppers the next. Often I simply season the mixture with salt and pepper, but you can also toss in a vinaigrette for added flavor.
Even though my lunch base stays the same, I promise I still look forward to lunch every single day. Here are a few tasty combinations to try:
- Mexican: Mix quinoa with black beans, corn, mango, halved cherry tomatoes and chopped cilantro. Try this Black Bean, Corn and Quinoa Salad for a similar dish.
- Mediterranean: Combine cooked quinoa with Kalamata olives, bell peppers (roasted or fresh), cucumbers, chickpeas, artichokes and feta cheese.
- Autumn: Add dried fruit and toasted nuts to quinoa, as in this recipe for Quinoa with Dried Cranberries and Toasted Pecans. Toss in grilled chicken or roasted winter squash to make it a complete meal.
If you do begin to tire of quinoa, grains like millet, couscous (instant or pearl), bulgur or wheat berries make delicious substitutes.
What’s in your lunch box for work?
About the author: Olivia Terenzio grew up in Mississippi, where she cultivated a love of sweet potatoes, crawfish and cloth napkins at a young age. A passion for sharing food with friends and family led her into the kitchen and later to culinary school, where she learned how to roast a chicken and decorate a cake like a pro. As a Williams-Sonoma blog editor, she’s now lucky enough to be talking, writing and thinking about food all day.