Brown Rice & Quinoa Salad With Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette

During the cooler months I roast 2 chickens almost every week to take some of the pressure off life when it comes to fixing meals.  Now that the deep south is heating up, I am trying to use my oven a little less and send my husband out the back door to the grill.  I just found my rotisserie attachment and I can’t wait to use it on my whole chickens, but this week he grilled up some boneless skinless breasts for us to use in meals.
I must say boneless skinless meat is not my favorite for flavor at all and it tends to get dry easy.  I do however recognize how convenient it is and I can tell from cruising Pinterest that it is the most popular form of chicken people use.  My husband is AH-mazing on the grill, but even his perfect chicken breast, I won’t just sit down and eat.  But they do make a perfect addition to grain-based salads or tossed salads, where I can soak them with lots good fats like my Homemade Probiotic Ranch Dressing or this simple Vinaigrette I want to share today.
This is a salad a friend of mine created a few years back, and after she shared it at a picnic it became a mainstay in the spring and summer months in our house.  You can use green beans or asparagus, which ever is in season.  You can even use the frozen and it will still be good.
It was originally made with all quinoa, but when forced to improvise (like at 4:45 when I realized I had only 1 cup of quinoa and the nearest store that sells it is 20 minutes away), I tried making it with brown rice.  I have to say I think it is a little better.  The chewy texture of the brown rice melds well with the creaminess of the quinoa.  It also doesn’t hurt that brown rice is quite a bit cheaper!
This recipe makes a lot of salad.  You could easily half it or keep the extra in the fridge for quick lunches.  Because it’s mayonnaise free and is good cold or at room temp, it would be great for all of those summer picnics too!

Simple Brown Rice & Quinoa Salad w/Lemon Basil Vinaigrette

For the Salad mix together in a large bowl:
4 cups of cooked & cooled Brown rice and/or Quinoa (important that it is cooled or it will melt your cheese)
12 oz of asparagus or green beans, steamed and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
3 grilled chicken breast cut into bite size chunks (shredded chicken would work too)
4-6 oz of dried cranberries
4 oz of crumbled Bleu or Gorgonzola Cheese
A handful of sliced almonds (optional)
For the Vinaigrette:
Juice of one large lemon, seeds removed (approx. 1/8th of a cup)
1 tsp. of honey
1 tsp. of salt
2 tsp. of dried basil or 2 Tbsp. of fresh basil chopped finely
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Whisk together ingredients and pour over salad.  Mix well and serve.
This will save well for extras for a few days.  If you leave out the chicken it makes a great side dish.  And just in case you are like I was when I first started cooking, here are directions for how I make fool-proof brown rice.
2 cups of uncooked Brown Rice or Quinoa (I like a combination of both best 1 1/2 cup rice, 1/2 cup quinoa)
4 cups of filtered water or chicken stock
1 tsp. of sea salt
2 Tbsp. of butter
To cook rice combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan over high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Turn to low and cover for 30 minutes to an hour.  Try not to stir, this is easier said than done.  When liquid is absorbed, remove from heat and let set 10 minutes before fluffing and serving.  For the salad, add rice to a bowl and put in the freezer until it cools.
I know you are thinking, seriously lady?  I know how to cook rice, but I do have to say this was not a skill I had.  I was perplexed by the burned pot of sticky goo years ago and would only use those nice little “minute” bags.  I was finally very thankful when someone broke down the process for me.  We all have to start somewhere!  And trust me my “somewhere” was a very sad place.
Well, keep enjoying the summer, I know I will a little more when my tomatoes come in.