As I mentioned, things are getting crazy in August, and it all started a couple weeks back when Steve left for a brewery-touring Maine bachelor party. I want to go! To the Maine part, not the brewery part. Beer and me are no longer friends, which is unfortunate sometimes, because summer is punctuated by occasions on which an icy Bud Light Lime would be the perfect beverage. Luckily, it’s also punctuated by occasions which necessitate travel-friendly food–pot lucks, road trips, days at the beach or pool, and maybe even a picnic if you’re organized. That’s where this “salad” of sorts enters the picture.
You have to admit, it’s darn near impossible to throw together a healthy, much less gluten-free, lunch or snack for the road. Steve and I have both been eating really well at home, and I wanted to at least give him the opportunity to balance out all that beer. So of course, I packed snacks! And lots of them. Yes, I was the girlfriend sending food to a bachelor party, but it seems that at this age (i.e., not 24 and just out of college) it’s welcomed openly with no taunting whatsoever.
I wanted to do manly food with a healthy spin. Buffalo chicken was one of the first flavors to pop into my head and it can be pretty flexible. You might call this a salad, except it doesn’t involve any greens. It’s more like a Burrito Bowl (yum, Chipotle). It starts with a layer of fluffy, fun-to-eat garlic parmesan quinoa, followed by a saucy chicken and veg mix, and is topped off with the essential accompaniment–blue cheese crumbles. If you have access to a microwave, these would be even better warmed up before eating, but I designed them with the idea of eating them straight out of the cooler. Just stir everything together to loosen the quinoa from the grip of the creamy parmesan goodness, and you’re ready to go! These did indeed get devoured and approved by a couple of grown men (grown men who are still frequenting bachelor parties), if you need convincing that they’ll satisfy your crew.
Be sure to adequately (or even slightly over) season the components if you’re traveling with this. It’s usually harder to find salt and pepper on the road (unless you keep a couple shakers in your vehicle–I’m impressed), and if you’re not eating the bowls immediately the quinoa tends to soak up some of the seasoning, weakening the flavor. Keep cold in a cooler or refrigerator so the chicken stays safe to eat.
I also sent some other snacks and treats, and I’ve compiled the full menu on a new page of menu ideas! I love to plan out a full meal for a holiday, party, or any other gathering (those above and beyond your typical dinner at home), so watch this page for ideas for your next get-together. Soon to be added: the menu for the preppy southern couples wedding shower I hosted for my sister this past spring. Fried. Chicken.
- 1 ¼ C dry (light colored) quinoa, rinsed in a strainer and drained
- 2 ¼ C water or vegetable broth
- 1 ½ T olive oil
- 4 or 5 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ C + 2 T grated parmesan cheese
- 3 C shredded cooked chicken (from a rotisserie or two very large skinless boneless chicken breasts)
- 4 T butter (or olive oil)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ C (or more, to taste) hot sauce (such as Frank’s)
- ½ C crumbled blue cheese (pre-crumbled may contain gluten)
- 4 – 2 C food storage containers
- Make the quinoa. Heat the oil over medium heat in a 2 qt. or larger saucepan. Add the garlic and stir constantly until it just begins to brown. Add the quinoa and stir for another minute or two, to toast the quinoa, which adds flavor and keeps it from sticking together during cooking. Add the water or vegetable broth and a pinch of salt, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid and is soft enough to eat. Stir in the parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste (remember to season on the liberal side) and set aside.
- Make the chicken, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onion, celery, and red bell pepper. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally (5 to 10 minutes). Add the chicken and garlic and cook for another minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Pour in the hot sauce and stir, then increase the heat to bring to a simmer and cook for a couple minutes to reduce the sauce slightly. Remove from heat, taste, and season with salt and pepper if desired.
- Build the bowls. Fill each container halfway with the quinoa. Follow with a layer of the chicken, split evenly amongst four servings, then sprinkle each bowl with 2 tablespoons of the cheese.