Turning Over a New (Fall) Leaf: Quinoa with Squash & Chard

I have a horrible secret. Something almost too awful admit. Something I’m truly ashamed of.

Are you ready to hear this?

(Deep breath) Here goes: I’ve been letting good food go bad. And what’s worse, I’ve been doing it all summer long.

You see, as the weekends roll around and I relax, I have visions of beautiful fresh produce from the farmers’ market and all the mouthwatering dishes I’m going to make. So, with perfectly pure intentions, I grab my canvas tote bag and head over to the local farmers’ market.

While there I oooh and ahhh over the bountiful produce, savor perfectly sweet fruit samples, chat with farmers, drool over the baked goods I don’t dare to buy, purchase produce I can’t resist, and finally end at a catering tent where I convince the chef to make me the freshest and most delicious egg, veggie and ground lamb focaccia sandwich without cheese.

And then I go home, eat my sandwich, and put the fruits, vegetables and herbs away. I usually spend the rest of the weekend running errands, relaxing, and going to dinner with friends and family. Maybe I cook one dish, but it’s okay I think, I’m going to use the produce during the week.

I’m guessing you know what happens next. I make one dish Monday night when I’m still pretty energized, then Tuesday I have a meeting, and Wednesday I meet a friend for dinner, Thursday I eat Monday’s leftovers, and by Friday I’m so exhausted I order Thai food (a rough schedule, but you get the point). Next thing you know, it’s Saturday, I’m back at the market and I’ve let a whole week’s worth of produce go bad. It’s a vicious cycle, and one I’m ashamed of.

Last week was even worse because I was in San Francisco for BlogHer Food (which was SO great, more on that to come soon). When I got home I immediately noticed the week-old vegetables in the fridge starting to look a little sad, although definitely still edible.

This week, I promised myself, things were going to change. And they did.

I rescued the portobello mushrooms, Delicata squash (such a hearty vegetable it wasn’t any worse for the wear), leek and a bunch of on-the-verge rainbow chard, and used them to make a delicious and very nutritious quinoa dish. (And you know how I feel about quinoa, right? Love it!)

This quinoa dish was wonderful and it tasted like fall, really. Plus, it made so much I was able to eat it throughout the week. And the best part? No wasted-food guilt.

Friends, I think this is the start of a new era!

Here’s the recipe for This Feels Like Fall Quinoa:

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Summer Succotash

I’ve been having a great time this summer visiting the nearby farmers’ market on Saturdays, taking in the fresh smells and vibrant colors of the most amazing fruits and vegetables. I swear, I bought blackberries last weekend that were the size of my thumb! Unbelievable!

The only problem has been that I’ve been hoarding these amazing vegetables with no time to actually do anything with them! That all changed tonight with a delicious clean-out-the-fridge summer succotash. I took all the vegetables that were on the verge of, I’ll say it nicely, becoming compost and sauteed them with butter, olive oil and thyme, then served the whole mixture over quinoa for a perfectly fresh and light summer dinner!

I used onions, garlic, green beans, mushrooms, corn and little heirloom tomatoes, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Although, according to the ever-reliable Google search, a succotash is made of corn and some sort of bean (usually lima), so I’m pretty sure this counts. Even if it doesn’t – I don’t care because it just tastes SO good!

Here’s the recipe for Summer Succotash:

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Pretending It’s Summer Quinoa

Pretending It's Summer Quinoa

Pretending It's Summer Quinoa

I’m over winter. Quite frankly, I just don’t feel like dealing with it anymore.

Now I get that this is what happens when one chooses to live in the Midwest. And generally I can accept it. What I get sick of is the tease. Yes, Weather, I said it. You’re a tease and I don’t appreciate it. You give us two gorgeous days when I was able to leave the house in jeans and a sweater MINUS a coat and scarf, then it snows. Snow! And wind! Lots and lots of wind.

I’m over it. I just am.

So in protest I made a summer quinoa dish with avocado, tomatoes and black beans. It was delicious and even made me temporarily forget that my winter boots are still sitting by the front door because, you know, just in case… (we don’t like to jinx things here in Cubs land).

If you’re anything like me and aching for Spring to start in reality and not just on the calendar, then make this dish. It’s easy, is great as leftovers, and can be served cold or heated if you really need to ward off the winter’s chill.

Pretending It's Summer Quinoa

Pretending It's Summer Quinoa

Here’s the recipe:

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Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Yummy superfood.

I’m so tempted to leave this post with just those two words that sum up this dish so succinctly, but then you’d miss out on what makes it so delicious AND healthy.

Quinoa Chickpea0002 Quinoa Chickpea0003

Back story: I went hiking last weekend with a group of friends. Yes, us city girls escaped for a weekend and traveled south to Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL. We left Saturday morning and planned to have a picnic outside the park, then hike, and maybe picnic again. I wanted to make a dish that would travel well, offer much needed protein and carbohydrates to give us energy for the hike without being heavy, and suit the needs of my vegetarian friend.

This chickpea quinoa salad turned out to be the perfect solution. Not only is quinoa itself incredibly healthy and nutritious (and gluten-free), but the addition of fiber- and protein-rich chickpeas, along with summer vegetables like red peppers and corn, balance it out for a delicious and light grain salad.

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Oh, and did I mention it tastes great, too? Health and nutrition are important but so is flavor and this salad is a winner in all categories. Also, note that I call this recipe a “salad” because it can be served at room temperature but it’s also fantastic warm.

Here’s the recipe:

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Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa

Black Bean & Tomato Quinao

Black Bean & Tomato Quinao

I like quinoa but can find it difficult to work with. It’s easy to cook, that’s for sure, but sometimes the flavor’s I pair it with just don’t seem to meld quite right.

But I tried it again recently after stumbling upon this recipe on Epicurious.com for black bean and tomato quinoa (Gourmet, July 2007), a peaceful melding of central American flavors that reminds me of the food I ate in Costa Rica.

Black Bean & Tomato Quinao: beans, cilantro, tomatoes Black Bean & Tomato Quinao: fluffy cooked quinoa

It sounded perfect: not only would I get to use super-healthy quinoa, but I could pair it with black beans, my new best friend! Yes, remember those from black bean brownies welcome to my world? I’m still appalled with myself for ignoring such a delicious bean for so many years. Shame on me, and shame on you if you don’t try this earthy and fragrant warm salad!

Oh, and did I mention my favorite part aside from it tasting great and being healthy? Black bean and tomato quinoa is quick and easy to make because all the ingredients can be prepped and mixed while the quinoa cooks.

I served this salad warm as a side dish to salmon seasoned with salt and fresh lime juice. Ah, yes, life is good.

Here’s the recipe:

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