Sunday, June 5, 2016

What interns eat: Quick quinoa salad aka how I ripped off Whole Foods to save money

Yes, I do enjoy cooking: It is an outlet for stress relief, a way to express creativity, but it is also a necessary task to save money. Washington, DC is an expensive place to live...No matter which nebulous internet story you choose to believe, this city ranks in the top 5 most expensive cities in the US.  My friends in Texas might cry a little if they knew how much I pay for my almost 400 square foot box of an apartment. My studio apartment rent + student loans carves out the majority of my resident salary...and then there are all those other necessary costs to keep me happy like a gym membership, online yoga subscription, Netflix, Spotify, etc.  To have any money left over to actually enjoy living in Washington, DC, I HAVE to make most of my three meals a day, drink coffee at home and just be mindful of how I spend my money. But don't feel sorry for me. This Wednesday I'm going to a techno show at the 9:30 Club and next week I'll be seeing Taming of the Shrew at the Shakespeare theater. In the end, all my money gets spent, it's just a matter of how I want to spend it. (No, I have not been saving money as an intern. That comes later in life when I'm an attending.) 

Lunch for Monday

Sometimes I get lazy, and I run around the corner to my local, super yuppie, attractive, fit ( half the people are dressed in fashionable work out gear) Whole Foods to get a quick meal from from their ready-made-foods bar. I usually regret this move and just wish I had eaten fried eggs or a stale peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I can never gauge the weight accurately and end up spending $13 on food I could have prepared at home if I had more motivation.  I really enjoy ready made grain and pasta salads but now avoid buying at Whole Foods to avoid regret verging on guilt. 

Whole Foods makes a delicious fresh and sweet Quinoa salad with many elements including
edamame, red pepper, red onion, mango, almonds, raisins, coconut, lime juice and balsamic vinegar. Finally I copied the ingredients off of the To-Go container and told myself I would just make it and try not to buy it again. Full disclosure, I also make my own muesli cereal, so I have a lot of random ingredients on hand like dried coconut, raisins, dried cranberries and different types of nuts.  

So here you have it, a thrown together version of a great quinoa salad. The beauty of grain and pasta salads is you really can throw in random ingredients to a base of carbs and get a pretty good salad that will yield enough for 3-4 meals. I think the key to success is a common theme ie Mediterranean, Greek, antipasto, roasted vegetables, sweet additions. You can never go wrong with some crunch like almonds, pepitas or celery. I like to keep my dressings simple like citrus juice + vinegar + a touch of oil. 

A couple other tips: 
  • You actually have to rinse the quinoa or it tastes like soap. I use my french press to wash the quinoa. I pour in the cup of quinoa I plan to boil and add water and drain it three times before cooking. 
  • Let the edamame and quinoa cool before mixing all the salad components together
Final product
Sweet Quinoa Salad: 
(it is a lot of ingredients, but this salad comes together quickly) 
1 cup of uncooked quinoa--rinsed and cooked according to the instructions on the bag. The final product is about 2 cups of cooked quinoa
1 8 oz bag frozen edamame
1 red bell pepper diced 
4-6 green onions, thinly sliced including green part
(you can also use half a red onion, finely diced...this is what Whole Foods uses)
1/2 mango diced (you could definitely use the whole mango if you like sweet)
1/2 cup sliced or coarsely chopped almonds
1/2 cup or less of dried unsweetened coconut flakes
juice of one lime
(1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped is optional but encouraged)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse the quinoa, cook according to directions on bag. Once it is done cooking, fluff with a fork and let it cool until the grains separate easily
2. In a shallow pan, steam the frozen edamame for 5 minutes. Drain and let them cool. 
3. Slice the green onion, chop the peppers, dice the mango, slice or chop the almonds. Add these ingredients and the raisins and coconut to a large mixing bowl. Set aside while the quinoa and edamame cool. (I let mine sit for 30 minutes)
4. Into a jar, squeeze the lime juice, add the balsamic vinegar and oil. Shake the jar until the dressing is emulsified. 
5. Once the quinoa and the edamame have cooled, add them to the mixing bowl with the other ingredients. Gently mix to incorporate the ingredients. Then pour over the dressing and mix gently again, trying not to smash the quinoa. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
6. Eat alone as a salad for lunch or serve with a protein or roasted vegetables for dinner. 


  1. I miss the days when you made my lunch. I ❤️ JP

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