Fall Squash Quinoa

Fall Squash Quinoa | Cook it Pretty
Cutting right to the chase, you need this dish in your life. This recipe is full of fall flavor bombs: squash (or pumpkin), dates, dried cranberries, almonds, balsamic, and warm spices. It’s also healthy (because spinach), gluten-free, and vegetarian. I have made it with acorn squash, butternut squash, and gem pumpkins. You can impress guests by stuffing the quinoa mixture in a roasted acorn squash. It looks really cute. But this deconstructed method tastes the same. I’ll leave it to you to decide if you want to go the extra mile in presentation. I know this looks like a lot of ingredients but that’s ok because they’re all bringing something to the table.

Fall Squash Quinoa
1 Squash of your choice (butternut or acorn), halved and scooped
1  cup uncooked Quinoa
2 cups Water
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 small Red Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
S&P to taste
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup Honey
1/2 cup fresh Spinach
1 tsp Red Pepper flakes (more to taste)
1/4 cup chopped raw Almonds
6 Medjool Dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup dried Cranberries
1/4 cup crumbled Feta
1/2 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped

Roast the Squash
Preheat the oven to 400F. In a roasting pan, drizzle the squash halves with 1 Tbs of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place them cut side down and roast for 20-25 minutes. Turn the halves over and return to oven for 10 more minutes. They’re done when you can easily stick a fork all the way through the flesh of the squash.

Cook the Quinoa
While the squash is roasting, bring your quinoa and water to a boil on the stovetop. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking the quinoa covered for 15 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Set aside.

Ready the Flavor Bombs
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet. Add the chopped onion and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and stir. Add a dash of salt and pepper, cumin and cinnamon. Add the balsamic and honey and allow it to reduce for a couple minutes. Add the spinach and stir until the leaves cook down. Turn off heat. Add your cooked quinoa and mix well. Add red pepper flakes,  almonds, dates, cranberries, crumbled feta and cilantro and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Combine Forces
If you’re going for presentation points, spoon the quinoa mixture into the roasted squash halves. If your halves aren’t so pretty or you just don’t care, go ahead and scoop the cooked squash out of its skin and add it to the quinoa mixture.

Enjoy!

© Cook it Pretty 2016

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Southwest Quinoa Salad

Southwest Quinoa Salad | Cook it Pretty

My Dad is a nutritionist’s, personal trainer’s, and doctor’s dream. He follows instructions and has admirable levels of will power. Over the past several years, he has gradually lost weight and completely changed his lifestyle, all under professional guidance and with no extreme diets or fad exercise routines. He’s definitely the healthiest septuagenarian I know.

When I visit him in California, I benefit from all this because all I have to do is wake up and get dressed and I have a ride and a gym buddy every morning. We usually do some grocery shopping afterwards, for lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and the occasional pre-made dish from the Whole Foods salad bar. One day his favorite one of these, a quinoa salad with corn and black beans, was no longer available. It had become one of my faves as well, and I was disappointed to not see it in the fridge when I was home in June. I decided to recreate it myself, and Father’s Day seemed like just the occasion for it.

Southwest Quinoa Salad | Cook it Pretty

Shopping for produce in California is AN ABSOLUTE JOY. I never really appreciated this before moving to Dubai. The availability of local produce in California is exceptional, and the summer haul is hard to beat. I still come across some California fruits in Dubai, but it makes me sad to think about how long they must have been sitting on a boat to get here. Not exactly fresh from the farm. Not to mention the sticker shock of all the imported goods, and by imported goods I mean nearly everything.

Enter this fresh sweet corn from Northern California! I admit, it’s been a very long time since I’ve actually shucked corn and cut it off the cob myself. I tend to just keep frozen corn stocked and had convinced myself it “tastes the same.” NO it does not! The extra effort is definitely worth it. That said, of course you could still make this recipe with good ol’ frozen kernels.

Southwest Quinoa Salad | Cook it Pretty
I roasted the corn on a cookie sheet with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. This was definitely the star of the dish. Of course, the local avocados also helped. Lately it seems I don’t eat much without adding avocado to it. I can’t help it, I’m Californian. It’s what we do.

I made a pretty huge batch so that Dad (and I!) could enjoy the leftovers for the rest of the week. Good thing it was a hit, because we sure did have a lot of it! That day I served it as a side for some roasted salmon, along with some truly special heirloom carrots. It’s also great on its own for a light and healthy lunch (Dad-approved, vegan and gluten free, btw) and would be the perfect dish to bring to a summer BBQ. In Dubai we can only have winter BBQs, but you get the idea.

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Big Batch of Salad
2 cups uncooked white Quinoa
3 ears of Corn, cut off the cob
2 large Avocados, diced
1 red Bell Pepper, diced
1 medium Red Onion, diced
1 can Black Beans, rinsed
Handful Cilantro, chopped or cut with shears
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

For the Dressing
Juice from 2 Limes
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1 Tbs Honey
1/2 to 1 tsp Chili powder
Salt & Pepper to taste

NOTE: This is a big batch, but you can easily reduce amounts of everything if desired!

To cook the quinoa, bring the 2 cups of quinoa plus 4 cups of water to a boil in a sauce pan on the stove. (If you are cooking for fewer people, try 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water. Just remember it’s always a 2:1 ratio of liquid to quinoa). As soon as it’s bubbling and boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low. Let cook for about 15 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for a bit before adding other ingredients, as the salad should be served room temp or slightly chilled.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Add corn kernels to a cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper, tossing to coat. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Combine cooked quinoa with prepared vegetables, beans, and cilantro, adding the corn when it has cooled. In a separate bowl, whisk together ingredients for the dressing. Treat the given measurements as a guideline, adding more or less of what you like to suit your tastes. Skip the chili powder if you’re averse to spicy (like my Dad!). Taste it to make sure it’s not too tart or too spicy, and add a little more honey and/or salt and pepper if needed to balance out the flavor. Drizzle over the salad and lightly toss together.

If you want to garnish with some pretty avo slices like in the photo, this is how to do it:
Slice the avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Gently peel off the skin, which should be easy if it’s ripe. Lay the avocado half flat-side down and slice lengthwise in narrow strips. Pick a few pretty bits to fan out and place on top of your salad so when you enter the party everyone says OOOOOOH briefly before eating it all and telling you how awesome you are.

Enjoy!

© Cook it Pretty 2016

A House Divided …Over Quinoa

Some consider quinoa a food trend, but I consider it a staple. I get it, you’re sick of hearing about it and seeing it on menus, you’ve seen it all before, foodies! The thing you might be overlooking is that quinoa is both delicious and good for you – a rare combination that never goes out of style in my book. I’m not mad at the trend because it provides me with an endless supply of new recipes to try. Quinoa bites? Yes. Quinoa for breakfast? Let’s do it. Quinoa salads? E’ryday.

Quinoa

I first learned of quinoa at a vegetarian restaurant in LA when it made a sneaky appearance in an otherwise typical salad, and was described on the menu as a superfood/protein booster. I was intrigued. I Googled. I bought it next time I saw it at Trader Joe’s. I tested a few Pinterest recipes and loved them all. I’m ALL IN on this super grain.

Except when I try to serve it to the man, who doesn’t even like the word quinoa. But…but…it’s a versatile grain with high protein content! A house divided. So I’m pretty determined to prove that I’m right on this issue. Especially when we are trying to eat healthy, how (and WHY) would I eliminate quinoa from my already small repertoire?

Broc n Toms
I’ve tried serving him things without telling him what he’s eating. But I have a terrible poker face and when I say it’s “fancy cous cous” or “just some salad thing” he’s sooo not falling for it. So when the other day I was told I could make anything I wanted for dinner as long as it contained a lot of vegetables, I took the opportunity to try to win him over to team quinoa once and for all.

This recipe features roasted broccoli and is topped with creamy goat cheese. The technique of cooking the quinoa in stock gives the dish a fuller and more satisfying flavor. I have a bad (or great) habit of adding more and more goat cheese to my bowl when I eat this…what can I say, goat cheese makes me happy.

Broc Quinoa
You guys, it worked! He liked it. Must have been the goat cheese.

I found the original recipe on Design Sponge. (Only now in re-reading it do I realize it’s from the creator of What’s Gaby Cooking, which I’m a big fan of as well). I’ve made a couple modifications, such as using broccoli instead of broccolini and roasting the tomatoes, so I’ll include my “Cook it Pretty way” below. Maybe it will win you over too!

Roasted Broccoli & Quinoa With Goat Cheese

Broc Quinoa Goat
1 bunch broccoli
Olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup quinoa (mix white and red quinoa)
2 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
Crumbled goat cheese to taste
10 or so cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Bring quinoa and stock to a boil on the stove top. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Cut the broccoli into bite-sized pieces.

Place broccoli on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

Roast for 10 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven to add tomatoes. Return pan to oven and continue roasting another 5 minutes.

Combine the cooked quinoa and roasted broccoli and tomatoes in a bowl, topping with goat cheese. Serve warm, and keep that goat cheese handy!