Moms. Today was just one of those days. You know the kind I’m talking about. I’m kind of cranky…kind of lazy…kind of tackling work projects one minute but find myself distracted by the teeniest of things ALL morning long. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten up to check on the little noise my dryer was making, or why I kept clicking on facebook articles that I had absolutely no time for. When suddenly it dawned on me… I forgot to eat breakfast!!

Actually, my amazing husband was so awesome to have made me a breakfast this morning, but when I realized he was making a grilled cheese sandwich, I had to pass as he had already made it with butter (I have a weird thing where I actually hate butter on toast…I know I know). So instead I said that I would drink my tea and get up and make something for myself after he left for work. But then I DIDN’T! How? I honestly don’t know… I’m usually super hungry in the morning but I suppose the tea supressed my appetite and I forgot that I just didn’t really eat anything. And there explains the unproductiveness that was the rest of my morning.

Of course, as soon as I realized I immediately got up and made the best “power up” meal I could think of. Protein was at the forefront of my mind, and what better way to get a quick dose of protein than quinoa? Afterall, it only takes about 10 min to cook and I could mix it with any ingredients I had in my fridge quickly for a salad. It’s perfect because it doubles up as a whole grain as well, so two of four criteria for a high energy meal were satisfied by this one ingredient! Fueling your body with a complex carbohydrate like quinoa or oats is great for sustaining your energy over a longer period of time and maintaining concentration throughout your day. This is because the glucose is slowly released into your bloodstream over a longer period of time, rather than quickly over a short period of time (as would happen when eating a simple carbohydrate, causing you to crash shortly after eating it)

The other two criteria for a good energy containing meal besides protein and a complex carb, is a healthy fat and of course, vegetables. I immediately grabbed an avocado as one of my”go-to” healthy fat sources, and then chose my veggies based on what I had in my fridge and pantry. I decided that while the quinoa was cooking, I would roast the avocado slightly in the oven to add a bit more dimension to the salad. Roasting avocados (if you haven’t done it yet) is so amazing for adding a slight smoky flavour to your meals. It also slows down the browning of the avocado so it will hold better for longer! I recommend always adding avocados to your salad at the end as a topping, rather than mixing it in, so that you avoid browning and can keep the salad looking and tasting fresh for more than a day.

I then mixed in some canned beans (no salt added) for more protein, corn (slightly steamed from frozen), diced red peppers, diced tomato, and a bit of feta cheese for some creaminess. The great thing about this (or any quinoa salad) is you can modify it any way you like and it will always taste great! The quinoa will soak up any flavours you add to it, so it’s definitely not a bland tasting grain. I simply used lime juice, cumin, cilantro and a bit of pepper for my dressing, which kept it light and not too overpowering of the other ingredients.

These are just a few of the many easy power foods that you can reach for in a pinch to give you the energy you need for a productive day. Try this recipe or modify it your own way to quickly get you out of that rut when you’re just having one of those “off” days.

P.S. Check out my Top 5 Recipes for Busy Families for inspiration for meals ready in under 25 min (plus BONUS meal planning template!)

Power up Quinoa Salad

Serves 4

1 cup quinoa, cooked
2 cups water
1 avocado, ripe
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup cooked or canned beans of your choice, drained of all liquid and rinsed (black, kidney, or white beans all work!)
1 cup lightly cooked corn (fresh, canned or frozen)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp ground cumin
Juice of 1 lime
3 Tbsp good extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place quinoa in a medium sauce pot with 2 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook about 10 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, cut the avocado in half lengthwise and place on a baking sheet. Season with a bit of black pepper and drizzle on the olive oil. Place the avocado in the oven and let roast for 10 – 15 minutes.
3. In a large mixing bowl combine the black beans, corn, diced pepper, diced tomato, feta cheese, cumin, lime juice, cilantro and olive oil. Mix in the quinoa when ready. Take the avocado out of the oven and slice lengthwise. Top each serving of quinoa salad with 1/4 of the avocado and enjoy.

Happy eating,

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