A Cozy Lunchbox: Southwestern Red Quinoa & Rice Salad, Revitalizing From The Inside Out

Red Quinoa and Rice Salad

Something surprising yet wonderfully necessary happened in southern California this past week that happens only on rare occasion, unfortunately; it rained. And it rained down-right hard. And though my drive on the 101 freeway towards my client’s house moved at a lethargic and sleepy snail’s pace as people tried to figure out what the clear, liquid substance falling from the open sky was, I couldn’t help but feel so very comforted by that sweet, precious, cleansing water that fell in cascading sheets onto my windshield, and made a pitter-patter-like sound reminiscent of rice krispies when they snap, crackle and pop in a bowl of milk, only louder. I love the rain; especially since I feel like I see it ever-so rarely. And my oh my, has it ever been needed. The parched earth has been turning dusty and a pale grey, and the grass had been yellowing and snapping under foot; a sure sign that some life-giving liquid, some refreshing and rejuvenating water from the heavens, has desperately been thirsted for. The rain has a way of cleansing and purifying; it has a way of seeping deep-down into the soil and the earth and nourishing, giving fresh vibrancy and renewed life to the roots of all living things that their leaves and stems may flourish and be lush. It has a way of washing away all of the grime of our surroundings, clearing the heavy air and helping the scents of pure nature come alive. We would die without the rain; what a merciful thing it is, indeed, that it rains on all of us, from time to time. And what a thing it provides for us in the way of the food we eat when it drenches the fields and causes the sown seeds to burst and the shoots to sprout and change into the good, healthy things that we can then put into our bodies; those things that, in-turn, also go on to cleanse, refresh and revitalize us from the inside out, just as the rain does for the earth.

Red Quinoa and Rice Salad

Good food is more than just pleasing to the tongue; it is nourishing down to our very core. Healthy ingredients are not only beautiful to behold, they are life-sustaining when taken into our bodies and allowed to work their magic. The turning of a season brings fresh and new options to our tables in the way of produce that comes in all colors of the rainbow; and creative combinations of these very ingredients make for delicious meal-time options that can benefit us in the way of flavor and refreshment. Red quinoa, packed with amino acids, when combined with fragrant rice, fresh corn cut straight from the cob, sweet and juicy cherry tomatoes, grilled chicken, black beans and grassy herbs creates a totally balanced and texturally pleasurable Southwestern-flared salad; a lunch-time option that will work deep within to provide the body with the energy and nutrients that will replenish a physical vessel and help to cleanse it from the the inside out. What a rejuvenating effect the food that we eat can truly have on us; it’s a bit like the rain that is drawn into the hungry ground and thoroughly appreciated and used.

Red Quinoa and Rice Salad

Red Quinoa and Rice Salad

So on those rare occasions in southern California when I see the skies become darkened as the clouds pull closely together, and I begin to sense the thick dampness move in just as the sky opens up and begins dropping fresh, cleansing water down, I feel a little cozy as I anticipate the glorious renewal that will begin to take place once the sun makes it face known again, afterwards. The rain cleanses, refreshes and revitalizes our surroundings, just as the healthy food we eat can revitalize and cleanse — nourish — our physical bodies, from the inside out. What a gift it is to treat our body lovingly with the deliberate decision to provide for it what it craves, so that it may then, in-turn, provide for us in the long-run. Thank God for the rain and for all that it brings along with it in the way of rebirth. And may we take a moment, a cozy little lunch-time break, to enjoy the positive effects of what it provides from the inside out.

Taste what’s good and pass it on.


Red Quinoa and Rice Salad

Smoky Southwestern Red Quinoa & Basmati Rice Salad with Grilled Chicken, Black Beans, Fresh Corn, Sugar Plum Tomatoes and Cilantro, with a Tangy, Honey-BBQ Vinaigrette
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(Makes a touch over 1 lunch portion, or a “generous-sized” lunch portion)


• Olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed through garlic press
¼ cup red quinoa, uncooked and not rinsed
¼ cup basmati (or jasmine) rice, uncooked and not rinsed
• Pinch or two salt
1 cup water
2 chicken tenderloins, cooked and diced
¼ cup black beans
¼ cup tiny, sugar plum tomatoes, halved
• Kernels from one ear of fresh corn (or about scant ¼ cup frozen and thawed)
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, roasted and salted
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
• Honey-BBQ Vinaigrette (recipe below)


-To prepare the red quinoa and rice, place a small or medium-size pot over medium heat, and drizzle in about 1 tablespoon of oil; once hot, add in the garlic, and once it becomes aromatic, add in both the red quinoa and the basmati rice, plus a pinch of salt, and toast them in the oil/garlic for about 1-2 minutes; add the water, bring to the boil, then cover and reduce the heat, and allow the quinoa/rice to gently simmer together for about 18-20 minutes, or until tender; spoon the quinoa/rice into a bowl to cool completely.

-To assemble and store the salad, add the cooked and cooled red quinoa/basmati rice plus all ingredients through the chopped fresh cilantro leaves into a bowl, and toss together to combine; add the salad ingredients into a tupperware or glass container with a snap-top lid, and keep in fridge until ready to enjoy; keep the Honey-BBQ Vinaigrette in a separate, small snap-top container, and toss with the salad when ready to eat.

Honey-BBQ Vinaigrette ingredients:

1 clove garlic, pressed through garlic press
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ tablespoon smoky BBQ sauce
½ teaspoon lime zest
• Pinch or two salt
• Pinch of two cracked black pepper


-In a small bowl, mix all of the ingredients with a fork or small whisk until well blended; keep in a small, snap-top container in the fridge until ready to enjoy with the salad.

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Peggy May 13, 2013, 12:09 pm

    Goodness this looks amazing!

  • Lynda Rice May 16, 2013, 11:05 am

    I agree w/Peggy. This looks so lush and tasty. What fun to try this recipe out and share in our lunch room @ the office.

  • chelsey October 21, 2013, 7:04 am

    This is seriously amazing. I’ve made it about 5 times now. I’ve also used it to entertain for a casual dinner with family. We have a few pescetarians in the family, and I love subbing salmon for the chicken. I use a modified version of the BBq-honey dressing as a marinade/glaze for preparing the salmon, also. Adding red onion, flax seed, and avocado is so delicious! Thanks for the recipe! I’m making it right now! :-)

    • The Cozy Apron October 21, 2013, 3:23 pm

      Chelsey, I love that! Thanks so much for stopping by to share…great additions/substitutions, by the way! Enjoy! :-)

  • Kristen Berry October 20, 2015, 3:07 am


    Could I double or triple this recipe to make a salad for 4-6 people? What would you suggest? Thank you for the great recipe!

    • The Cozy Apron October 20, 2015, 2:36 pm

      Hi Kristen, great question! I would probably go “times 4″—in other words, instead of the a 1/4 cup, use 1 cup, etc. Better to have a little extra than not enough. And for the dressing I’d probably triple to be sure. Hope you enjoy!

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