Quinoa Salad, Chocolate Cake and a Happy Birthday to Me!!

So, in case you haven’t been anywhere near the internet in the last week, I am happy to remind you that today is my birthday. And if you haven’t met me before I should tell you how much I love my birthday. I mean, really love my birthday. So much that I have dubbed August “birth-month”. Which doesn’t mean that people have to celebrate all month long, it just means that I do a little something extra nice for myself or even someone else every day. One day it might be ordering a latte at my favorite coffee shop rather than making coffee at home. And another day it might be that I bake a batch of cookies to give to all my friends that I see during a week in August. You get the point. It’s fun!

But, I digress. Back to my birthday celebration. And this year, since I was to be on holiday with Mr. Giggles and his daughters my sisters families and my parents decided that we should celebrate before Mr.Giggles and I left. oh, twist my arm.  My job was to bring a cake I can eat (gluten free, obvi) and a quinoa salad. And since I knew the days leading up to the party (which was, oh yeah, the DAY before we left for the month) were filled with chaos, I had to order my cake. The first and only place I would order my gluten free cake? Defloured Bakery. First of all, I think the name is hilarious. Second of all the pastry chef who owns it I trust entirely, she has provided baked goods for many of my catering events and everyone is always thrilled. Third, everything I have eaten of hers is so devilishly good I need to put the extras in the freezer so I don’t eat all of it at one sitting!

So, as I was cutting this delicious chocolatey-chocolate cake my whole family (who is usually, btw, of the “oh, it’s gluten free so I’ll pass. It probably doesn’t taste good” mentality) ate some. And then ate some more. Really, it’s that good. You can order from Johanna through her website and you can also pick up some of her tasty treats at Whole Foods locations and various farmers markets around Chicago.

Next, quinoa salad. For every family party now, my family requests a version of quinoa salad. It’s always different and usually depends on (1.) what I already have in my fridge and (2.) what is at the market. This salad was inspired by one that I did for a client a few weeks back and she now asks for it week after week. Sweet sharpness from balsamic vinegar and roasted beets, fresh punch from spinach and herbs, crunch from the red quinoa and the toasted almonds and a nice creamy mix from the feta. Plus, it’s so easy!!

happy, healthy eating! xo~the birthday girl

Quinoa Salad with Pickled Red Onions, Cucumber and Beets
Gluten free, egg free, soy free
Serves 4-6 as a side, 2-3 as a main
·      ½ red onion, thinly sliced
·      2 T. honey
·      apple cider vinegar
·      1 c. tri-color quinoa, rinsed
·      ½ English cucumber, quartered and chopped
·      6 roasted beets, peeled and quartered
·      1 c. packed baby spinach, roughly chopped
·      ½ c. assorted fresh herbs (such as chive, basil, parsley)
·      3 T. balsamic vinegar
·      3 T. olive oil
·      ½ c. crumbled goat or sheep’s milk feta
·      ½ c. toasted almonds or pumpkin seeds
·      salt and pepper, to taste
1.     Place the red onions in a shallow bowl or in a canning jar. Pour the honey over the top and then add enough apple cider vinegar to cover the onions. Stir and set aside.
2.     Place the rinsed quinoa and 1 ½ c. water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer, cover with lid and steam for 15 minutes. Remove from pan, pour onto a rimmed baking sheet and smooth out. Then make an x into the quinoa to allow steam to escape (a little chef trick!) and cool faster.
3.     Once cooled, add the quinoa to a large bowl and then mix in the cucumber, quartered beets, chopped spinach, fresh herbs, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, feta, toasted almonds. Mix to combine then lastly add the pickled onions, using a fork to remove them from the liquid. (reserve the liquid to quick pickle the remaining half of the onion!).