Gaby From What’s Gaby Cooking Dishes on the Brown-Bag Challenge

by in Events, Recipes, September 8th, 2011

quinoa cowboy caviar salad
In case you haven’t heard, FN Dish is participating in Healthy Eats’ Brown-Bag Challenge. The challenge: Bring your lunch to work each weekday for the month of September. We know this isn’t an easy feat, so we’ve asked some of our favorite food bloggers to share their experience and favorite recipes to help keep everyone motivated.

This week, Gaby Dalkin from What’s Gaby Cooking is getting us through the work-week with her easy Quinoa Cowboy Caviar.

I’ve always been a brown-bag luncher. It wasn’t always by choice, but I’m glad I started this habit early in life.

My mom always sent my sister and me to school with a lunchbox. To be honest, I was totally embarrassed because all my friends got to order the hot lunch at school, and I was stuck with something from home. But my mom wasn’t into us eating pizza every day for lunch so there was just no way around it. In high school I had a little more freedom, and I bought lunch a few days a week. After the initial excitement of eating whatever was in the cafeteria that day, I decided I preferred bringing my lunch from home and begged my mom to continue to pack my lunch. In college I strategically scheduled my classes so I had time to run home and whip up a quick salad or something semi-healthy to get me through the day. And now, in the real world, I’m still all about packing lunches and planning ahead.

It’s pretty safe to say that the brown-bag lunch challenge is totally my jam. I’m so excited to be participating in this challenge with other fabulous food lovers across the country and reading about their journeys while sharing my own. It’s been a little tough, only because, as much as I love packing my lunch, I usually schedule quite a few lunch meetings during the week — but I’ve just started pushing them back to dinner or suggesting picnics in the park here in Los Angeles.

One of my all-time favorite brown-bag lunches is a loaded quinoa salad. Quinoa not only fills me up, but it’s full of protein and is a great base for whatever else you plan on adding. Lately, I’ve been throwing in some cowboy caviar, which consists of fresh corn, black beans, red bell peppers, red onions, avocado and a quick squeeze of lime juice to give it that pop. It’s amazing — it’s filling and gets me through that 3 o’clock slump. Not to mention it’s ridiculously easy to make.

To make my life even easier, I usually make a big batch of this Sunday night and then just divvy it up for lunch every day and throw in my avocado right before it’s time to eat. You could easily throw in other ingredients if you want; it’s excellent with chopped grilled chicken, skirt steak or sautéed zucchini.

Quinoa Cowboy Caviar

1 cup cooked quinoa
¼ cup fresh corn, cut off the cob
¼ cup cooked black beans
¼ cup red bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup chopped red onion
½ lime, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 avocado, cut into small pieces (or guacamole – whatever you prefer)

Cook the quinoa according to the package instructions.

Meanwhile combine the corn, black beans, red bell pepper and red onion in a bowl. Toss to combine.

Add the cooked quinoa into the mixture, and add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Add chopped avocado right before serving.

Related: Brown-Bag Lunch Etiquette

If you’d like to share your brown-bag lunch story, email

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Comments (29)

  1. marla says:

    LOVE this. I mean really cowboys, caviar and quinoa are some of my all time favorite things. The Brown Bag lunch thing is my jam too. Count me in on the fun! Gaby, can you please explain to my kids how cool it is when your mom packs your lunch like every day ;)

  2. Lauralizzy says:

    Always looking for a new fast, simple and tasty quinoa dish!

  3. monika says:

    This has everything in it that I love! I must start packing my lunch again.

  4. Bruce says:

    As a health food junkie this one is right up my alley! How can you beat corn, beans and avocado – all at once. Great idea – glad I finally checked out this site.


  5. anon says:

    Just wanted to note that the recipe calls for lime but the instructions say lemon…

  6. Jenenk says:

    Love this! I love quinoa and am always looking for tasty ways to incorporate it! This fits the bill perfectly! Thanks for sharing this!

  7. Emily says:

    this looks like the PERFECT lunch to bring to work. i'm definitely going to try it next week!

  8. Mary says:

    I have never thought of an idea like this before to bring for my lunch! Such a creative idea and it looks absolutely delicious…can't wait to try it!!

  9. julieojewel says:

    Tasty as always, Gaby! Think I'll also throw in some purple hull and black eyed peas for some extra protein and for tradition's sake.

  10. Lou says:

    Couldn't they have come up with a more appetizing picture? That looks disgusting!

    • Wanda says:

      You're joking right? I think it looks fabulous! All the yummy stuff that I love to eat.

    • Stasha says:

      I'm guess you're probably used to the super-fake, not-food they take pictures of for most food advertisements. Quinoa as a rule is a pain to make look pretty, as well, and I think Gaby did a great job!

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