Who is ready for a healthy post?! How about a healthy vegetarian salad post that is also festive???
I love the story that goes along with this post. It cracks me up. We’ll see if you find it funny too, but I have a feeling you might have to know our friends to get just how humorous this story is.
So Ben and I were getting ready to leave for Thanksgiving. I had avoided going to the store for the past few days because I didn’t want a bunch of food to go bad while we were vacationing. All I have left in the fridge was a honking large sweet potato, mixed greens, and a half carton of fresh cranberries that I had bought for making an apple cranberry pie.
What would you do? I’ll confess, I was about 2 seconds away from packing up my family and hitting up a Chick-Fil-A, but instead I accepted the “Chopped” challenge of using the ingredients on hand.
So not only was I faced with a cooking challenge, but we really wanted to invite our friends over for dinner. We had planned on spending Thanksgiving with them at their cabin up until my parents surprised us with plane tickets to Utah.
Inviting our friends for dinner upped the challenge 10 fold. Lisa, the wife, is a health nut just like me. We’re two peas from the same pod. We could sit and talk about food, nutrition, and exercise for hours. Barry, on the other hand, is a true blue man through and through.
I’m talking about your going hunting, meat and potatoes, 6’ 4” manly man. He’s the type that doesn’t consider an entrée a meal until there is a steak staring him in the face. What was I going to do?
Not tell him what I was cooking, that’s what! He always loves my cooking, so I didn’t want to disappoint him, or give him an excuse not to come, by telling him we were eating a new creating called Maple Roasted Sweet Potato and Cranberry Quinoa Salad. I would just wait until he showed up on the doorstep to spill the beans.
I did better than that. I waited until we sat down at the dinner table and he politely asked, “So what is this we’re having” that I informed him of our vegetarian, not to mention salad, entrée. And this is where I wished I had a camera to capture the look on his face.
Long story short, we ended the meal with him proclaiming, “Wow! Well I’m actually stuffed.”
This salad is quite deceiving. You wouldn’t think it was so filling, but between the roasted sweet potatoes and quinoa your really packing in the nutrients. Plus I added some homemade garlic parmesan croutons for some extra texture.
I cooked the quinoa with some onion, garlic, herbs and cranberries. The cranberries popped while cooking and released their tart juice to be absorbed by the quinoa. Adding a bit of maple to the mixture tamed the tartness and gave it a real holiday flavor.
For the sweet potatoes, I roasted them in olive oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. When they were about 15 minutes from being done, I drizzled on some pure maple syrup to lightly caramelize the sweet potatoes.
The quinoa and sweet potatoes are made ahead of time and chilled before adding them to the salad mixture. You can even make them a day in advance if you prefer.
Serve this salad up with a drizzle of Spiced Maple Vinaigrette and you are good to go. I’m telling you, you will not miss the meat in this meal. I’m pretty confident you will want to add this to your holiday dinner menu for something a little different and a lot festive.
How do you make your salads festive at the holidays?
- For Quinoa:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ medium onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- ½ cup apple juice
- 1¼ cups fresh cranberries
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup quinoa
- For Sweet Potatoes:
- 3 cups diced sweet potatoes (about 2 medium)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- For Salad:
- 12 cups spring lettuce mix
- 2 cups gluten free croutons
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- Spiced Maple Vinaigrette
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash peel, and cube sweet potatoes into bite sized pieces. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange sweet potatoes on pan. Drizzle with olive or avocado oil. Season with salt, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Toss with hands or spoon to coat well. Cook in oven for 45 minutes or until tender, drizzling and tossing with maple syrup the last 15 minutes.
- While potatoes are cooking, prepare quinoa. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium sized pot over medium high heat. Add onion, reduce heat to slightly above medium, and cook for 7-8 minutes until onion is tender, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Add minced garlic and sauté an additional minute
- Add broth, apple juice, cranberries, maple syrup, pepper, nutmeg, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, and quinoa. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes until quinoa is translucent and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
- Mix cooked sweet potatoes into quinoa mixture and chill for at least 4-6 hours.
- Serve quinoa mixture over spring lettuce mix and top with gluten free croutons, dried cranberries, chopped pecans or walnuts, and Spiced Maple Vinaigrette.