Quinoa + Sweet Potato + Spinach + Dried Cranberries + Gorgonzola? Sold. About two years ago I jumped on the quinoa train and never looked back. It's fluffy and springy in texture, a complete protein (contains all the amino acids which cannot be produced by the body) and is actually a seed not a grain. Who knew?!
Beyond the science, it's a great replacement for rice or pasta during our weeknight meals. But even more, for get togethers or to make in a big batch and use throughout the week. Though incredibly messy to feed a toddler quinoa, Shea gives it two thumbs up too...well if she gave thumbs up, but she gives high fives so let's say she's gives it two high fives.
The combination of ingredients for this dish should be credited to my dear friend Becky, who threw together a random combination of items in her refrigerator and pantry, brought this masterpiece to our Best Friends + Babies Day, and now is required to bring it every get together. Though the original recipe calls for couscous rather than quinoa, feel free to use whichever suits your preference. I've never been a huge fan of couscous and I just really love the texture and added nutritional benefits of quinoa, so I switched it up! That's the beautiful thing about food, you can always take a recipe and edit it to suit your preferences!
Winter Quinoa Salad
Let's talk ingredients real quick. You can certainly cook your quinoa in regular water, but cooking in either vegetable or chicken stock is a win for flavor. Once the little tails come out, your quinoa should be good to go!
If you're feeling lazy or don't want an extra dirty dish, you can cook the sweet potatoes in the skillet after sautéing the onions. Remove the onions, add additional olive oil and cook on medium high, stirring frequently and covering half way. They will be a little mushier than if baked, so just know that in advance if you're not big on mushy textures.
The walnuts can be glazed or plain, if using glazed the Emerald brand is my personal favorite and easy to find. Which brings us to cheese...glorious cheese...I like gorgonzola. Similar to blue cheese but not quite as strong and stinky. It also melts just a bit easier, so when I make this recipe and heat it up before serving the cheese is just the right amount of melty - soft but not gooey. Blue cheese (or close relative relatives) not your thing? Substitute any other crumbly cheese, such as goat cheese, to your preference and enjoy your Winter Quinoa Salad!
- 2 cups rainbow quinoa
- 4 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion (½" dice)
- 1 large sweet potato (diced)
- 1 ½ cups baby spinach
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup glazed walnuts (chopped)
- ½ cup gorgonzola cheese
- Rinse quinoa and add to a large saucepan. Add stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low or medium-low so that the liquid is at a simmer. Cook 10 minutes until tender and the little spiral "tails" appear.
- In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- On a lipped sheet pan or in a baking dish, add sweet potato and coat with remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and roast at 375F for 15 to 20 minutes until tender. Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine quinoa, onions, sweet potato and spinach. Stir to combine. Ingredients should still be slightly warm so spinach will wilt. Add dried cranberries and walnuts, stir to combine.
- Top with gorgonzola cheese.