Cranberry Orange Quinoa Salad

I love combining the flavors of orange and cranberry – sweet and tart all in one.  This light and healthy salad is made with quinoa, often referred to as a “superfood”, and provides a good amount of protein. This makes a great dish that you can prepare ahead of time. Chilling the salad for a few hours (or overnight) allows the quinoa to really absorb the dressing. The mandarin oranges provide some juicy bites and the cranberries are soft and chewy. I have included a few optional ingredients that can really boost the flavor of the salad.

1 cup organic quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup mandarin oranges, rinsed and drained
1 shallot, finely chopped
Optional ingredients:  Crumbled goat cheese, 1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

Orange-Flavored Dressing
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp orange zest
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

In a medium sauce pan, bring the quinoa and water to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until water is absorbed.  When there are five minutes remaining, add the dried cranberries and they will plump up during the final minutes of the quinoa being cooked.  Remove from heat, place in a serving bowl and fluff with a fork.

Combine all ingredients for the orange-flavored dressing in a small bowl and mix well.  Drizzle over the cooked quinoa, add the chopped shallot and mix well.  Let the quinoa sit so the dressing can absorb and flavor the quinoa.  Serve at room temperature, or chilled if desired.  Add the mandarin orange slices just before serving.  For an extra boost of flavor, you can sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese.  Or, for an extra protein punch, mix in some garbanzo beans when you add the chopped shallot.

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