Hi there! How was your first weekend of fall 2016? Mine was an ideal mix of productivity and active relaxation. A couple of spin classes, ALL the laundry and a Thanksgiving style turkey dinner on Sunday evening have left me renewed and invigorated…and just a little sleepy. I’m no good at inactive relaxation (aka sitting on the couch.) I need to be doing something, which is why this blog makes such a great hobby. If I have the time during the weekend, I love to prep something healthy and yummy for easy lunches or dinners for the week ahead. One of my favorite make-ahead dishes is a veggie filled quinoa salad. I vary the ingredients based on the season. This time of year, butternut squash, kale, cranberries and pumpkin seeds are in season and heavenly. Nothing brightens up a long work-day like a hearty bowl of fall’s bountiful goodness.
This Autumn Quinoa Salad fits the bill. I’ll be happy to face plant in a bowl of this salad during lunch this week. All of my fall favorites make an appearance in this dish. The butternut squash, in particular, steals my heart. It’s roasted in a bit of butter until caramelized, browned and tender. It’s sweet and slightly savory and all autumn. The secret to perfectly roasted squash is two-fold. First, of course, is the butter. Second, you have to let it cook longer than you think it needs to. After about 20 minutes in the oven, the squash will be tender and almost too soft, but have faith. With time, more of the water evaporates from the squash and it caramelizes beautifully. A few handfuls of hearty kale add a healthy, delicious bitterness. Sweet dried cranberries are a must in any fall salad. Pumpkin seeds add a seasonal nuttiness and cheese (of your choice- I used parmesan, but blue or goat cheese would be divine) round out the additions. Toss everything in a sweet and savory maple cider vinaigrette that I would gladly eat with a spoon.
Start by preparing and roasting the butternut squash and everything else will be ready by the time the squash is through roasting. Serve the salad immediately and it’s warm and toasty, or prepare in advance and let the flavors mingle in the fridge. This makes a great side dish to roast chicken or pork. Or, top with grilled chicken or shrimp and serve as a light but satisfying main course.
Autumn Quinoa Salad
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
- 4 tbsp butter, melted
- 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 ½ cup quinoa, rinsed
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups chopped, cleaned kale
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
- ½ cup cheese (parmesan shreds, blue cheese crumbles or goat cheese crumbles)
- Maple Cider Vinaigrette, recipe follows
First, prepare butternut squash. Preheat oven to 425.
Spray large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and add butternut squash, butter and 1 tsp salt and black pepper to taste. Mix ingredients until squash is coated. Bake squash 25-30 minutes, until side resting on baking sheet is browned. Then flip squash and return to oven for an additional 5-10 minutes, until it reaches desired brownness.
While squash is cooking, prepare quinoa. Bring water to a boil in medium saucepan and add quinoa. Once water returns to a boil, reduce heat, cover pan and simmer 12-15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Allow quinoa to rest, covered, for about 5 minutes, then fluff with fork and add to large bowl.
Once quinoa is in bowl, add kale, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and cheese. Add butternut squash once it is done. Season with 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Add about half of the maple cider vinaigrette and taste. Add more vinaigrette as desired. Serve hot, room temperature or chilled.
Makes 4 main course servings, 6 side dish servings.
Maple Cider Vinaigrette:
In mason jar, add:
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- juice of ½ lemon
- 1 Tablespoon thyme leaves
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Place lid on jar and shake thoroughly, until ingredients are well mixed.