Last night I had a gaggle of teenagers—my daughter’s friends—at my house for dinner.

At times like these, I struggle with what food I should offer. The “health coach side” of me wants to serve up boatloads of hearty nutrition while the “practical side” of me knows I can’t push too hard or they’ll never come back.

I settled on organic cheeseburgers, garden salad, quinoa salad (a stretch), and ice cream sandwiches.

“A seed, huh?”

One of the teens was Malcom. At age 19, he’s not the picture of health. His “basketball belly” reveals little regard for diet and exercise, and he’s a smoker. I suspect he knows better (doesn’t he?), but feels invincible…like we all did at that age.

Quinoa was new to him.

He asked a lot of questions.

“What’s that?” he asked, pointing.

“It’s a quinoa salad,” I said.

“It’s what?”


“What’s quinoa?”

“Tiny seeds. Kind of like a grain.” I said. “It’s got lots of protein. And lots of nutrients.”

One of the girls rolled her eyes and said,  “You’ve never heard of it, Malcom, because it’s healthy.”

“Seeds, huh?” he said, ignoring her.

“Yeah. Tastes kinda like rice, but not,” I laughed.

“Well, I’ll try a little,” he said, placing a small serving on his plate.

Here’s what happened

“Oh. This is good!” Malcom said, slowly chewing his first bite. He smiled.

Malcom finished his first serving, then spooned more onto this plate. He opened his hamburger bun and put some quinoa salad on top of his burger before closing it back up again.

“Hey, that’s a good idea,” I said. “I never thought of that.”

Dinner continued, three generations chatting together as the summer breeze swept over our skin and the wind chime lightly danced. One by one, we sat back in our chairs after we’d had enough. I eyed the food still sitting on the table, satisfied there’d be leftovers.

“Uh,” Macolm spoke up. “Would it be okay if I some more of that quinoa salad? It’s really good.”

“Absolutely,” I said. “Have as much as you’d like!” I restrained myself from doing a happy dance in my chair.

“So is this what quinoa always tastes like, or is there a dressing on it?” he asked.

“Oh, I made a dressing,” I said.

“What’s in the dressing?” he asked.

I rattled off the ingredients and enjoyed the stunned look on his face.

“Oh wow,” he said. “Well, it’s really good,” he repeated.

I think this means he’ll be back.

In honor of Malcolm, I’m sharing the salad I made. Give it a try. If you serve it to teenagers, let me know how it goes!

Malcolm’s Quinoa Salad

  • 2+ cups of cooked quinoa (follow the package directions to prepare)
  • 1 diced red bell pepper
  • 3 diced green onions
  • 1 can of black beans
  • Fresh chopped cilantro to taste (I used about ½ bunch)

Directions: combine ingredients in a large bowl.


Note: These amounts are approximates since I rarely measure anything. Feel free to play around with the quantities of each ingredient until you discover a flavor that suits you best. (You can’t do it wrong.)

  • Juice from ½ lime
  • ⅓ c. olive oil
  • 2-3 tbls. raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 tbls. maple syrup
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Combine dressing ingredients in a small blender (I use a Magic Bullet) and pulse until combined. Taste and adjust ingredients as needed. Pour over salad ingredients, mix together, and serve.

Looking for more teenager-y tips? Check out 9 Stress Busting Foods For Teenagers.