Plant Powered Protein Day 6: Quinoa // Sweet Potato Apple Quinoa Salad

Welcome to day 6 of our #PlantPoweredProtein series! Throughout this series, one of my objectives has been to be discussing or introducing you to foods that are versatile to cook with or use in your diet and today’s topic is one my favorites for just that: quinoa.

For starters, if quinoa is unfamiliar to you and the name is throwing you off, it’s pronounced “keenwah.” I have used quinoa in tacos, in stuffed peppers, in granola bars, in salads, in breakfast bowls, in veggie burgers…the list goes on. Why do I love it so much?

  • Protein: According to mindbodygreen, quinoa is “one of the most protein-rich foods that we can eat” and it’s a complete protein, containing all essential amino acids.
  • Fiber: Yes, we’re talking about fiber again…you’re getting the picture of how important it is for us now, right? 🙂 Get this: quinoa has twice as much fiber as most other grains.
  • High in Riboflavin (B2): B2 helps to create proper energy production in cells and improves energy metabolism within our brain and muscle cells.
  • It’s technically a seed: While quinoa is prepared like a grain, it is actually a member of the same family as spinach, chard and beets. Isn’t that interesting? According to the Bob’s Red Mill brand:

“Quinoa is the seed of the Chenopodium plant, a green leafy plant that sprouts numerous flowers. Occasionally, different parts of the plant are used for medicinal purposes, and the leaves are eaten as a vegetable. Still, quinoa is mostly grown for its seeds which are cooked similarly to rice and can be used in a large variety of recipes.”

  • It comes in a variety of colors, all of which impact quinoa differently:
    • White quinoa: White quinoa has the lightest taste and a fluffier texture, making it a great substitute for rice dishes.
    • Red quinoa: Red quinoa and brown rice have a similar nutty flavor. Red quinoa is often used in baking because it’s a little chewy and hold its shape well.
    • Black quinoa: Black quinoa’s flavor is sweet and “earthy.” This variety is also awesome for baking and cooking and is best used in things like muffins and oatmeal.

Quinoa Pro Tips:

  • Rinse your quinoa before cooking with it. Even if your package says pre-rinsed, rinse it again anyway. Quinoa contains a protective layer or coating called “saponin.” This coating isn’t dangerous or anything if ingested, but it will definitely make your quinoa taste bitter if it’s not rinsed off.
  • The little “tails” that come out after cooking are totally normal. If you have ever looked at uncooked quinoa seeds up close, you’ll notice that they’re oval in shape and have an outer germ layer around each oval.
  • When cooked the seed becomes soft, while the outer germ layer remains crunchy and twists outwards away from the seed. Kind of cool, right?

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is actually a dish that I’m taking to a family Christmas party this afternoon! It’s a sweet potato apple quinoa salad by  Deb Attinella of  Cooking on the Front Burner. I hope you like it as much as I do!

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced 1/4
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 granny smith apple, cored and diced 1/2
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup quinoa (uncooked)
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, roasted
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Toss the sweet potatoes with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast for about 15 – 20 minutes, stirring about every 5 minutes until lightly brown and soft.
  • While your sweet potatoes are roasting, prepare quinoa (rinse well) then place cider and quinoa into a medium saucepan; bring to boil; turn to simmer then cover and cook about 15 – 20 minutes (toss your cranberries near the end of the cooking time).
  • In a medium bowl add the slightly cooled quinoa, cranberries, sweet potatoes, apples, red onion and toss well.
  • In a small food processor combine the maple syrup, shallot, dijon mustard, vinegar and a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Slowly add in the olive oil and mix well.
  • Pour vinaigrette over salad and toss.
  • Top with the roasted pecans and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

What’s your favorite way to have quinoa? 🙂

Be Well,

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