Quinoa, Butternut Squash and Cranberry Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

It's finally starting to feel like Fall around here!  Rain is even forecasted for tomorrow.   Ignoring the fact that my wardrobe is not at all ready for this season, I have thrown myself into cooking and eating for the season instead.  Cooking is just way more fun than shopping.  And, eating?  Well, that beats buyers remorse any day.

I rarely cook with quinoa, but after eating this salad I'm starting to think I've been missing out on something pretty amazing.  I couldn't think of a better grain to be tossed with soft roasted butternut squash, crunchy red onion, tart cranberries and nutty pumpkin seeds.  It is the perfect complement of textures and flavors all in one bowl.

The plan as I was putting the salad together was to toss it with homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  I thought, no way will this salad have enough flavor without dressing!  You guys, I was so wrong with this one.  As with most foods I make, I taste as I cook and this salad was no exception.  After everything was tossed together (sans dressing), I took a bite...

and another bite...

and then a small bowl.

I then tried it with the dressing and it was equally delicious.  So, basically, this salad is a winner no matter how you look at it.  It's an easy side dish to whip up for a holiday party, and a refreshing break from the heavy cream-based (delicious) casseroles so popular during the colder months.

Butternut Squash, Quinoa and Cranberry salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Prep Time:  20 minutes  /  Cook Time:  30 minutes  /  Total Time:  50 minutes
Adapted from Little Broken's Recipe


Ingredients:

Salad
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into small cubes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1.5 cups water
1/2 cups red onion, chopped
1/2 cups dried cranberries
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
Cilantro, chopped (optional)

Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss your butternut squash in a large bowl with the olive oil, coating evenly.  Season with salt and pepper.  Arrange on a baking sheet in an even layer and roast for 25-30 minutes or until squash is soft and tender and just starting to brown.
  3. Meanwhile, as your squash is roasting, rinse and cook the quinoa.  In a medium saucepan, place water and quinoa and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, partially cover and cook until all water is absorbed, approximately 20-25 minutes.
  4. After your squash is finished roasting, assemble your salad. Nothing fancy here, just toss it all together.  You can drizzle with yummy balsamic vinaigrette or eat it as is.  I'll be honest, I had every intention of pouring on the dressing, and then I tried the salad without it and I changed my mind; so, I allowed people to decide for themselves what they wanted to do.
  5. Delicious served warm or cold.
  6. Balsamic Vinaigrette:  In a medium bowl, whisk all your ingredients together until fully combined.  Be sure to shake well before serving if you decide not to pour over the entire salad all at one time.

Enjoy!

The Peanuts Movie and Baked Peanut Butter Doughnuts with Chocolate Glaze

Weekend Recap