There’s nothing like a room of retired NFL football players to make you feel small and a little nervous. But I shouldn’t have worried. The group participating in the NFL career transition workshop this weekend was easy to talk to AND interested in healthy eating.

You might think these big guys would be chowing down on roast “beast” and fries. But, a surprising number of them told me that they were regularly eating quinoa, and several of them were either vegetarians or close to it.

When asked to do a healthy cooking demo for the workshop, I thought long and hard before picking my menu. The demo was set in a conference room in Midtown Atlanta, so no kitchen for prep and cleanup. Quinoa pita pockets seemed like a perfect choice.

You may know that quinoa is the only grain that is a complete protein – with all 8 essential amino acids. And, that its actually the seed of the goosefoot plant, we just cook it like a grain. Chewy and nutty tasting, the people of Peru have eaten it for years, we just started to enjoy it in the late 1980’s when it was imported into the United States.

I love shaking up traditional ideas. So when making the quinoa salad, I decided to stuff it into whole grain pita pockets – making it the perfect protein-packed sandwich on-the-go. You benefit from the protein in the quinoa and the rich creamy black beans, the fresh taste of the tomatoes and artichokes and the super anti-inflammatory properties in the turmeric and capers that are in the dressing.

Delicious, easy and better-for-you. What could be better?

Quinoa Salad Pita Pockets

1 1/2 Cups of Quinoa, Prepared as Package Directs
1 Can Black Beans, (or two cups of Black Beans that you have cooked)
1 Can of Quartered Artichoke Hearts, rinsed and drained
1 Can of Ripe Black Olives, drained
2 Cups of Halved Grape Tomatoes
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 TB Sherry Vinegar, (can use Balsamic or Red Wine Vinegar if you prefer)
1 TB Dijon Mustard
3 TB Capers
1/2 Tsp Turmeric
1/4 Tsp Black Pepper
1/2 Tsp Sea Salt
1 Tsp Honey or Pomegranate Molasses
6 Whole Grain Pita Pockets
6 Cups Spring Greens, (or use “Power Greens” a mixture of baby kale, collards and spinach)

Step One
Toss the prepared quinoa with the beans, artichoke hearts, olives and tomatoes in a large bowl.

Step Two
In another bowl or jar, whisk or shake together the oil, vinegar, mustard, capers, turmeric, pepper, salt and honey. Drizzle the dressing over the bowl of quinoa and toss well.

Step Three
Cut the Pita Pockets in half and stuff some of your greens into the bottom. Top with the quinoa salad and enjoy!

*The salad keeps great in the fridge for 3-4 days, it just keeps getting better as the dressing marinates the quinoa.

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