Edamame salad can be a side dish or the star of the meal

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I'm a fan of stocking my kitchen with healthy, nutrient-dense ingredients that can be used on the fly on those busy days when 5 p.m. sneaks up without notice. Even if I pay a little more at the store for "healthy convenience food," I'm still coming out ahead, financially and health-wise, if it keeps me from ordering takeout.

Frozen edamame, or soybeans, are a great example. Buy both shelled and unshelled versions and keep them in the freezer. The edamame in the pod are perfect to grab to stave off hungry kiddos while dinner is being prepared — a quick steam or microwave visit, plus a bit of garlic or spices, and a healthy nibble is ready. Edamame pods are also great for boosting the protein and fiber in lunchboxes, or as a perfectly-placed dinner party appetizer.

Shelled edamame are also a worthy purchase, even if they cost a bit more than other frozen beans, such as lima (which, by the way, are a reasonable substitute if you can't find shelled edamame).

Toss a handful of frozen edamame into soup before serving, slip into taco fillings, blend up into hummus, or add some straight to your pasta water in the last minute or two of cooking to bulk up dinner.

Half a cup of edamame adds 11 grams of protein and 9 grams of dietary fiber for about 120 calories, so you'll feel fuller longer with those little beans in there. Or, combine this freezer staple with fellow weeknight staple quinoa to make a power side dish whose leftovers can easily be taken to lunch as a main dish the next day. Cooking once and eating twice is the ultimate weekday time saver.

Start to finish: 10 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed

1 cup cooked quinoa

1/2 cup small grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

1/4 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped

1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles

Vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

1 small shallot, minced

1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Place the edamame, quinoa, tomatoes, parsley, almond and feta in a large salad bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mustard and lemon juice. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking into an emulsion. Add the dill, shallot, salt and pepper and mix. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water if the dressing is too thick.

Pour the dressing on the salad and toss. Serve immediately, or chill.

Nutrition information per serving: 238 calories; 129 calories from fat; 14 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 8 mg cholesterol; 277 mg sodium; 21 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 9 g protein.

Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook "Supermarket Healthy." Online: http://www.melissadarabian.net


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