Ahh, vacation. Re-entry can be tough. Vacation offers an intentional pause in everyday life that serves as a reminder to live life fully. After a trip, I do my best to reflect on what gave me joy in my travels, and how I can put a little bit of “vacation” into my daily routines of life. This quinoa and couscous salad with roasted vegetables is an example of that. One of my favorite vacation lunches included a variety of vegetable forward, light summer salads. So, I tried to recreate it to taste a little bit of vacation while at home.

The Short-Cut

To be honest, this quinoa and couscous salad includes a lot of chopping and time in roasting, so I sought out a short-cut by using the boxed Near East Couscous. My grocery store didn’t have the plain variety, so I used the mushroom and herb couscous and tossed out the seasoning packet. I also bought pre-cubed butternut squash. If you REALLY wanted a short cut, you could also look for pre-chopped red bell pepper on the grocery salad bar. And one more short-cut? Buy a store-bought vinaigrette in lieu of the olive oil and lemon juice. But, friend, fresh lemon juice really brightens this dish up, so if I were you, I would stick with that extra step of slicing a lemon.

Your Way

One of the many things I love about this quinoa and couscous salad is that you can personalize it the flavors your palate prefers. For example:

  • Roasted Veggies: Any roasted veggies would do! Eggplant, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts.
  • Nuts: In lieu of almonds, you could go with chopped pistachios, walnuts or pine nuts.
  • Dried fruit: Swap out dried cherries for currants, raisins or dried cranberries.

A Couple Other Vacation Take-Aways

In addition to recreating vacation recipes, the time away from routines (and children) reminded to:

  1. Drink morning coffee OUTSIDE. Starting my day in nature = lower stress.
  2. Carve out more time to sit and be still. Waves are an amazing teacher.
  3. Disrupt routines more often. Our rockstar sitter took the boys out for fun post camp activities. I’m more apt  to rush home to make dinner, etc. As a parent, I love a good routine, but those aren’t the moments that make memories.
  4. Create more fun opportunities with my handsome hubby. Snorkeling beside my spouse and nurse sharks is hard to recreate at home, but a round of gin rummy before bed is do-able.
  5. Prioritize my people. I can get overwhelmed to please acquaintances or people I don’t even know, but this brief social media cleanse reminded me it’s family & close friends that deserve the majority of my bandwidth.

Vacation or no vacation, this quinoa and couscous salad is a light, fresh nourishing option that reminds us to savor the moments of summer.
Check out our Trader Joe’s Kale and Broccoli Salad McDaniel Short-Cut.

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Quinoa and Couscous Salad with Roasted Vegetables

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  • Author: Jennifer McDaniel
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 60
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 12 1x


  • 3 T. olive oil, divided (1 T. for roasted vegetables | 2 T. for lemon vinaigrette)
  • 1, 10 oz. box Near East Couscous, plain
  • 1 c. uncooked quinoa
  • 3 c. water or broth, divided
  • 1/2 medium to large onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 butternut squash, cut into small to medium cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 2 small zucchini, cut into small to medium cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 c. sliced almonds
  • 1/3 c. dried cherries
  • 1 c. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 c. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. freshly ground pepper


Roasted Vegetables

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. On a greased or aluminum foil covered sheet pan, toss garlic, onion, butternut squash and zucchini in 1 Tbsp. olive oil until all vegetables are lightly coated in olive oil.
  3. Roast for 15 minutes. Toss vegetables and roast for an additional 15 minutes or until vegetables are softened.


  1. While vegetables are roasting, cook 1 cup quinoa according to directions. You can either use water or vegetable broth for the cooking liquid.


  1. While vegetables are roasting, cook entire box (10 oz.) of couscous according to directions. You do not need the seasoning packet, if included.

Quinoa & Couscous Salad with Roasted Vegetables 

  1. Combine roasted vegetables with cooked quinoa & couscous plus remaining ingredients (red bell pepper through freshly ground pepper).
  2. The lemon juice and 2 T. of olive oil should evenly coat the salad ingredients. Add a splash more of olive oil if necessary.


Cut butternut squash in slightly smaller pieces than your zucchini for even roasting time.

Buy pre-cut butternut squash for an additional short-cut.


  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 191
  • Sugar: 4.2 g
  • Sodium: 201 mg
  • Fat: 6.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 29.2 g
  • Fiber: 3.4 g
  • Protein: 5.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg