Last year, I made it a point to get my diet in order. I've mentioned several times here that I have migraines, so wanted to experiment with my diet to see if they would get better or go away all together. While I can't report that the migraines are gone, I can report that overall I feel so much better. I just feel more awake that I did before I made the changes. My diet involved lots of smoothies (this one is still my favorite), fresh vegetable juices, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. I kept sugars and processed foods at a minimum by only indulging on the weekends and holidays. All of that was a gradual change that is now pretty permanent and it feels great...
Healthy food can be - well boring. So during the year, I experimented with different dishes and ingredients so that this new way of eating would stick. Quinoa was one of those ingredients that I fell in love with. It is a nutty whole grain that is really high in protein. It is also rich in magnesium, which has been shown to reduce the frequency of migraines. Other than that, I love quinoa because it tastes great, cooks in 12-15 minutes and is very versatile. It's good in soups and salads and makes for a good breakfast when made warm almond milk and topped with fresh fruit.
This salad is one of my favorite salads. It includes pretty much all of my favorite ingredients in one dish, is extremely flavorful, and it is super easy to make. I mix quinoa, spinach and dried cranberries with butternut squash that I roast with pure maple syrup, which is another ingredient I fell in love with last year. The butternut squash and the dried cranberries along with the apple cider maple vinaigrette dressing adds a little sweetness to the salad. The quinoa takes in all of those flavors, which makes it taste even better.
I've used red quinoa here, but this salad can be made with regular quinoa. Red quinoa is a little nuttier in flavor than the regular quinoa and takes a few minutes longer to cook. I particularly love the color of red quinoa in this salad...
Here is what you need and what to do: (makes 4 large servings)
4 cups butternut squash cut into 1 inch chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil (regular or extra-virgin)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red quinoa (regular quinoa works, too)
1 3/4 cups water
Pinch kosher or sea salt (I like to use Maldon Salt when cooking quinoa)
2 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
Roasted butternut squash
Feta cheese, to taste
Dried cranberries, to taste
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil. Place the butternut squash on the sheet pan. Drizzle the olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper and toss well. Arrange the squash in one layer and roast for about 30 - 40 minutes until fork tender. Toss the squash about halfway through with a spatula. Once the squash is cooked, set aside to cool.
2. While the butternut squash is cooking, prepare the quinoa. Place the dried quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse it thoroughly under cold water. This will remove any grit and the soap-tasting coating from the quinoa. Add the quinoa, water and pinch of salt to a medium saucepan. Cover the saucepan with a lid and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it comes a boil, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until all of the water has evaporated from the quinoa.
Once the quinoa is cooked, remove the saucepan from the heat. Remove the lid and place a paper towel on top of the saucepan. Put the lid on top of the paper towl and let the quinoa sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the paper towel, fluff the quinoa with a fork and set it aside to cool. That extra step puts moisture into the quinoa and makes it extra fluffy.
3. To make the dressing, add all of the ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until everything is combined.
4. To assemble the salad, add quinoa, butternut squash, spinach, feta cheese and dried cranberries to a serving bowl. Pour the desired amount of dressing over the salad and gently toss to combine.
* This makes a big salad, so store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Images original to Savor Home