I’ve introduced grain salad recipes to my dinner rotation this summer and it’s been a really great thing. These simple fix-ahead recipes are served cold, which means that I get to make them when it’s convenient, then actually sit and enjoy dinner with my family, whether around the dinner table, at the pool, or while picnicking in the park.
After you get your grain of choice cooked just right, all you have to do is mix and serve. So easy! And the longer you let these salads sit, the more flavorful they will be. Add some meat off of the grill or a rotisserie chicken from the market and you have a really fast dinner that’s packed with vitamins and veggies. Not that the kids have to know that.
My family loves Mexican food, but whoa, the carbs! A bowl of Southwestern Quinoa by Aim for Healthy Bites (above & top), on the other hand, has all the flavor they crave with a lot more fiber and protein. (You can get a great nutritional comparison of rice vs. quinoa at Huffington Post.) Serve this bright salad with slices of perfectly grilled steak or mix in pulled chicken or pork for a yummy burrito bowl and save your calories for one of these amazing margarita recipes.
My five-year-old recently surprised me by finishing off my plate of Israeli couscous (which he very adorably calls “is it really goose goose”). I think he loves the texture of those tiny pearls of grain and I know I love how easily it makes a base for a salad. Israeli couscous goes with nearly anything, but you can make use of in-season veggies with this recipe for Israeli Couscous with Asparagus, Peas, and Sugar Snaps from Very Culinary.
This Barley and Wild Rice Salad from Cooking Light is one of my go-to salads, especially when I have guests over. The nuts and chickpeas give it an earthy bite, the raisins and basil give it a bright pop, and the tangy dressing pulls everything together. Scrumdillyicious suggests adding pine nuts and cranberries, too, which is a nice twist. To make a perfect summer dinner, this salad needs nothing more than rotisserie chicken—either on the side or shredded and mixed in—and one of these awesome white wine cocktails. You know, for the grown ups.
If you happen to shop at a Whole Foods Market, maybe you’ve tried their curried wheat berry salad. I’m a huge fan—like, I’ll drive past my suburban Whole Foods, which doesn’t carry it, into the city just to get a fix. So imagine how excited I was to find Ellie Krieger’s very similar Wheat Berry Salad at Food Network (and not just because I’ll save on gas money). Wheat berries don’t have a lot of flavor on their own, but they have a great chewy texture and fill you up. The dressing gives this salad great flavor along with the roasted cherries (you can substitute dried cranberries) and walnuts give this salad the perfect crunch. You really need to try this one—trust me.