Picnic in a Jar: Easy Quinoa Salad with Spinach & Tomatoes
Summertime means a lot of eating on-the-go for our family. It isn’t the running to and from activities like the school year, but the good stuff like picnics with my people, poolside lounging and road trips to the neighboring Michigan beaches.
Thankfully, the fresh produce and deliciously grown convenience food that we all love is in season. A container of cherries shared by the pool, bunches of grapes on our car trips, and strawberries by the fistful in the sunshine until we think we might turn into berries ourselves. It’s all such good stuff, isn’t it?
Salads are my go-to in the summer thanks to their amazing portability factor. Not only do I love fresh green salads made with romaine or spinach, but I adore a healthy topping of quinoa on top for that protein punch.
Quinoa is one of my favorite summertime ingredients because it is filling and gluten-free. Have you had quinoa before? It couldn’t be easier to prepare or more delicious!
Quinoa, pronounced (KEEN-wah) is a very nutritious gluten-free seed that originates from the Andean region of South America. It’s a fantastic source of protein, contains all eight amino acids, is a good source of dietary fiber, and it contains B Vitamins and iron.
Though it is smaller than rice, barley, farro and bulgur, quinoa looks like a grain, thanks to its neutral coloring and hard exterior. In reality, it is actually a seed that originates from the cousin of the spinach plant. When cooked, these seeds expand rapidly and significantly, becoming tender but chewy, and expelling spirals that boast the slightest crunch.
To add more flavor to my quinoa I love to cook it in veggie or chicken broth.
To make these salads portable, I layer the salads in jars. You want to layer the salads in a way that everything stays fresh and delicious for as long as possible. For these salads, I start with a scoop of cooked quinoa and add a drizzle of olive oil and squirt of lemon. I then allow that all to cool completely and then start the layer of veggies. The tomatoes go in first and then I fill the jar up to the tippy top with as much spinach as possible. I learned a lot from all those episodes of Popeye as a kid!
Quinoa With Spinach & Tomatoes in a Jar Recipe:
- 1 pound spinach
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1-2 lemons
- 2 cups cooked quinoa (follow the instructions for preparation on the packaging)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Prepare quinoa as directed on package (it’s just like rice with a 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups liquid ratio- veggie broth, chicken broth, or water all work in this one). Season with salt and pepper.
- Halve grape or cherry tomatoes with a paring knife and add them to the mixing bowl.
- Once the quinoa is done, scoop it into equal amounts into four jars. Squirt the juice of your lemons on top of the quinoa and add a light drizzle of olive oil to each one. Allow these to cool fully before adding the rest of your ingredients.
- Next layer on your tomatoes and then add your layer of spinach.
- Lid your jar and store in your fridge for up to five days. Eat directly out of the jar or pour into a bowl for an easy picnic feast!
For a sweet little picnic touch, use a little twine to tie on forks or tape a plastic fork with washi tape on your lids. You now have the makings for the perfect summertime lunch wherever your summer adventures might take you!
Amy Allen Clark has been the driving force behind MomAdvice since 2004. In addition to running a successful community for women and running after her two kids, she has appeared on The Early Show, and in Parents magazine, Redbook, Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, MSN Money and The New York Times.