Vegan Balsamic Quinoa Salad

I'm loving this quinoa craze that has been going around. I first learned about quinoa in college and I remember being mad that I hadn't learned of it sooner. It is so tasty and stocked full of protein (and other good things). I love using, and eating, quinoa and experimenting with it. Pairing it with all different kinds of flavors is fun. This is one of my favorite quinoa salads I have made. It is similar to a pasta salad I use to frequent, but honestly tastier and so much healthier. I've made it on two separate occasions, for a graduation party with my extended family, and for a summer party with friends. Both times it was very much enjoyed and quickly gobbled up.

Balsamic Quinoa Salad, makes a big ol' bowl full:

2 cups quinoa
2 quarts vegetable broth

1/2 a red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 a cucumber, peeled slightly and chopped
1 13.75 oz can quartered artichoke hearts, chopped
1/4 cup pepperoncinis, chopped
2 cups baby spinach

2 teaspoons garlic powder (or to taste)
2 teaspoons italian seasoning (or to taste)
ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Feta Cheese to top, optional

Directions: Bring 2 quarts vegetable broth and 2 cups quinoa to a boil. Reduce heat and cover, let simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover and check the quinoa's tenderness; you'll want it nice and tender. If still crunchy, let simmer longer. If it is fully cooked and still has some liquid remaining, drain the excess liquid in a fine strainer. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool. If you are impatient, or late to party like I was, you can rinse the quinoa under cold water. This will make the quinoa loose some of it's flavor from the vegetable broth, though (I stirred in some bouillon to get it back).

Directions(cont): As your quinoa cools, chop up all of your veggies and place them in a large bowl. Once the quinoa has cooled, add it to the chopped vegetables and stir to combine. Mix in the baby spinach as well. Then, for the dressing, add the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, italian seasoning, and pepper. These measurements are approximate, and I always add a bit of each at a time and taste as I go. You may need to add more or less balsamic vinegar than what I suggested to get a good flavor. Chill in the refrigerator until serving but can be eaten right away. This is delicious topped with a sprinkle of feta cheese. When I serve this at parties, I like to set a little tub of feta cheese next to it, so those who want/eat cheese can top it with a bit of feta. It is just as tasty without cheese too!

Enjoy! And don't be surprised if it gets eaten rather quickly.