Healthy Square Meal in a Bowl

Carrot, Quinoa, Chickpea Salad

This über healthy, vegan, gluten free Carrot Quinoa Chickpea salad is more than a salad and better for you than popular fast-casual “bowls”, in fact, you could call it a square meal. For some reason this term crossed my mind and struck me as ironic – when, why and how did the expression “square meal” come to mean a nutritious and balanced meal? What makes it square? A plate or bowl is generally round, or was when “square meal” was a regular part of our vernacular. So, I had to “look it up” on the world wide web – another phrase that is rarely used.

If you can’t bear with me as I go off on this nerdy tangent – you’re welcome to skip this part and go directly to the square meal in a round bowl, best-carrot-salad-ever recipe.

Rioja wine with Carrot, Quinoa, Chickpea Salad

Turns out that the term stems from a meaning of square that has nothing to do with the shape:

The word square has many meanings, including ‘proper, honest, straightforward’, and that’s the meaning in ‘square meal’. This isn’t a rectilinear meal on right-angled crockery, but a good and satisfying meal.

The phrase is of US origin. All the early citations are from America, including this, the earliest print reference I have found – an advertisement for the Hope and Neptune restaurant, in the California newspaper The Mountain Democrat, November 1856:

“We can promise all who patronize us that they can always get a hearty welcome and ‘square meal’ at the ‘Hope and Neptune. Oyster, chicken and game suppers prepared at short notice.”

{Source: The Phrase Finder}

USDA My Plate

From the “square meal”, nutritional guidelines moved  to the Food Pyramid (2005) and, in June 2011, the USDA updated nutritional guidelines and adopted the use of My Plate (a round plate) as a more appropriate and understandable depiction of what a balanced and nutritious meal should look like.


Carrot, Quinoa, Chickpea Salad

Now, about that best-ever carrot salad. I have never liked carrot salads – ever. The store-bought potluck varieties, or even homemade ones at get togethers, are either soggy and tasteless or heavy-handed on the mayo and equally tasteless…. and why, oh why, do they always have raisins. Not a fan. But that’s me…you could have a totally different outlook on this orange concoction.

Carrot, Quinoa, Chickpea Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Sweet carrots, crunchy orbs of chickpeas and fluffy quinoa napped in garlic, olive oil, and lemon punctuated with tiny, juicy bursts of sweet wine before its time.
Serves: Serves 10
  • 1 - 15 ounce can unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups peeled and shredded carrots
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup Champagne grapes
Cilantro-Almond Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic clove, minced
  • ⅓ cup slivered almonds, toasted (divided use)
  • 1 cup (packed) cilantro leaves
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 Boston (Bibb) lettuce leafs
  • Garnish - cilantro leaves, almond slivers,
  • Avanti Natural Shichimi spice (optional)
  1. Cook the quinoa - like rice, use 1 cup quinoa + 1½ cup water. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and cook for 20 minutes. Refrigerate to cool. Makes about 3 cups - enough for this recipe and another meal.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, use a blender or food processor to combine the lemon juice and garlic and let stand for 15 minutes. Add half (2 tablespoons) the almonds, cilantro, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper and pulse until chopped. to the Add the olive oil and process to a chunky paste. Transfer to a large bowl and mix in the quinoa, carrots, and chickpeas. Stir in the grapes. Serve in lettuce leafs and garnish with cilantro and chopped almonds.
Low Sodium, Vegan, Vegetarian, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Wheat Free, Egg Free, Peanut Free, Soy Free.

191 calories/serving: Fat13 g -Saturated 2 g, Trans 0 g; Carbs15 g; Fiber 3 g; Sugars 5 g; Protein 4 g; Cholesterol 0; Sodium 74 mg

Nutritional Analysis powered by Edamam
Nutrition Information
Serving size: ½ cup serving

Carrot, Quinoa, Chickpea Salad

When I came across this healthy carrot recipe on Google+, on a Monday after a particularly indulgent weekend, I dealt it a +1 and decided to rework it to suit my tastes –  it included raisins… and didn’t seem to have enough wet ingredients to moisten the amount of quinoa and chickpeas included. I cut the amount of quinoa and chickpeas (garbanzo beans) almost in half, eliminated the raisins and substituted fresh champagne grapes for a little pop of sweetness and was very happy with the results. No mayo, no raisins, no soggy carrots. Only sweet carrots, crunchy orbs of chickpeas and fluffy quinoa napped in garlic, olive oil, and lemon punctuated with tiny, juicy bursts of sweet wine before its time.

I hope you like my version of carrot salad as much as we did – it comprises a vegetable, fruit, grain, and protein all in one and brings vibrant color, great textures and nutritional value to any meal.  It was perfect as an appetizer served alongside Fig and Caramelized Shallot Crostini for tapas paired with Rioja wine.  I adore the tiny Champagne grapes from Melissa’s Produce which were a component in my tapas presentation, but it dawned on me that they would be great mixed into the salad as well. Presented in lettuce cups, the Carrot,Quinoa, Chickpea salad made an excellent Meatless Monday dinner.



3 Responses to “Healthy Square Meal in a Bowl”

  1. Alice D'Antoni Phillips July 29 at 8:49 am #

    I could eat these off my screen! So deeeelish! Thanks for another great recipe! xo

  2. Kim Kelly (Liv Life) July 29 at 4:06 pm #

    Printed for my menu this week!!! I LOVE everything about this salad and this is one that my husband will love too. Thanks!!

  3. Lisa {AuthenticSuburbanGourmet} August 2 at 12:00 pm #

    Love, love this salad! This is a must make. Hope you are doing well! Happy Weekend!!

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