At the time that I am writing this, it is mid spring and summer is just a couple months away. The weather has been relatively nice and cool (although I have a gut feeling that the nice weather is very temporary). However, the nice cold mornings reminded me of the cool transition from summer to fall, and my significant other suggested a quinoa salad made with sweet potato. Thus we decided to make a fall inspired quinoa salad with sweet potatoes, kale, and wine soaked cranberries. Yum!
So this salad was created in multiple steps. It may seem complicated, but it really wasn’t that hard. There are few components to this recipe so bare with me! This recipe will be broken down into 3 parts: Candied Sweet Potatoes, Quinoa, and the Rest of the Salad.
- This recipe does contain cooking with wine. You can cook out the alcohol if you let the wine reduce. But if you prefer not to use wine, then just continue the recipe with broth
- My recipe does contain chicken for extra protein. If you cannot eat meat, then simply omit the chicken and if you’re using broth, just use vegetable broth.
- Don’t forget to make it your own! If you’d like to try using another vegetable in the mix, give it a shot! Don’t be afraid to experiment. This is your food, so don’t feel like you HAVE to follow this recipe to a T. Have fun!
The first thing that I did was deal with the sweet potatoes. I wanted to candy them and give a nod the the famed sweet potato casserole that’s seen around Thanksgiving. So here’s a recipe for candied sweet potatoes:
Candied Sweet Potatoes
- 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into inch chunks
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar
- A couple tablespoons of oil
- Sprinkle of salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp Cinnamon, 1 tsp Nutmeg, dash of ground ginger. You can opt to use a few dashes of apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice if you have it on hand and don’t want to mix spices.
- Honey for drizzling
- (Optional: A light sprinkling of cayenne pepper for a kick)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Take your sweet potato cubes and add them into a large mixing bowl, we want to be able toss the potato cubes in the bowl.
- Add your oil, brown sugar, spices, salt, and pepper, and mix thoroughly.
- Pour the sweet potatoes onto a lightly oiled baking pan. If you don’t want to deal with brunt excess sugar, you can always lay down a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil and lightly oil that.
- You can either lightly drizzle the honey over your potatoes now, or half way through baking. I had a smaller amount of potatoes so I wasn’t worried about sugar burning.
- Bake your potatoes for about 30 mins, keeping an eye to make sure they don’t burn. A great way to tell if they’re done is to take a fork or a long skewer and poke a thick cub of potato. If it pokes right through the potato with ease, you are done!
Now that your sweet potatoes are completed, we can work on the rest of the salad. To make a pot of quinoa:
- 1 part quinoa, rinsed
- 2 parts liquid (i.e. water or stock) Just a visual scale here. When I make 2 cups of quinoa with 4 cups of broth, I have enough quinoa salad to last my significant other and I a whole week worth of lunches (along with other filler ingredients). So if you’re feeding a few, I would suggest 1 cup of quinoa to start. Who knows, maybe you’ll love quinoa and need more!
- Pour rinsed quinoa into a proper sized cooking pot with your chosen cooking liquid.
- Turn the oven on to high heat until liquid starts to boil and then turn the temperature down to medium heat. Stir occasionally to even out the cooking.
- You will know when your quinoa is done when the there are few little white centered dots in each quinoa grain, or until water has evaporated. I like my quinoa a on the softer side, while I know many who prefer their quinoa on the crunchy side. Don’t be afraid to take a little fork and give the quinoa a try. If it is to your liking, then you are done!
- When your quinoa is done cooking, set a side for it to cool.
With your Quinoa cooking, we can work on the rest of the recipe:
Fall Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potatoes, Kale, and Wine Soaked Cranberries
- A Recipe of Candied Sweet Potatoes (See Above)
- A Recipe of Cooked Quinoa (See Above)
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- One bunch of kale, de-stemmed and cut into about 1 inch strips
- 2 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
- One cup of white wine
- One cup of broth
- One-or-Two chicken breasts, cubed
- A cup of dried cranberries
- Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Ginger You can also use a dash of apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice in place of the nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger
- To prepare the chicken: take the cubed pieces of chicken and place them into a large bowl. Add a tablespoon of oil, a dash of salt, pepper, and your fall spices. This is optional but I love to add a tablespoon of garlic powder and 2 teaspoons of onion powder and a dash of dried basil. now I have a lot of spices and I’m not afraid to use them. If you don’t have any of these spices, then don’t worry. they wont affect the recipe that much, except for the fall spices, only because the fall spices really give this recipe it’s warmth.
- In a skillet with the stove top turned off. Add 2 tablespoons of oil into the skillet and add you minced garlic.
- Bring your skillet up to medium heat. This will really help infused that garlic into the oil.
- Let the garlic toast, you don’t want it to burn so just cook the garlic until it’s just showing signs of browning.
- add in your dried cranberries, and give everything a little toss.
- now add in your white wine, and make sure that the cranberries get a nice bath in the wine. Continue cooking the garlic and cranberries until the wine reduces and the skillet is almost dry (but not dry).
- Now add in your sliced mushrooms and saute. Feel free to season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Add in your seasoned chicken and cook everything for about 5 – 10 minutes, tossing along the way. you basically want the chicken to get very nicely cooked on the outsides at least.
- Add in your cup of broth, close the skillet with a lid, and let the chicken cook more in the liquid (about 10 -15 mins). one way to check if your chicken is done, is to take a thick chunk of chicken and cut it using your wooden spoon or spatula. The utensil should cut right through the chicken and the chicken should be white and flakey, no pink.
- Open the lid and add in your kale, stirring to make sure all kale gets a chance to contact the pan and heat up. I like to place the lid back on the skillet now and let that hot steam reach all the kale. kale is such a fun vegetable! You can cook it for 45 minutes and it will still retain some of it’s firmness and crunch. If you like your kale very fresh and green, than you can take it off the heat. Just make that your chicken is done. I like my kale on the more done side, so I know by the time my kale is more of a dark green, my chicken is thoroughly cooked.
- Season to taste. Add in your salt, pepper, and a dash of fall spices if it’s not already strong enough for you.
- Take everything off the heat and let it cool a bit. We will begin to assemble the salad.
- in a LARGE mixing bowl, add you quinoa, candied sweet potatoes, and your salad saute mixture. Give everything a good mix, and Voila! You’re done!
Yay! You have a hardy, yummy, and warm salad to keep you feeling nostalgic about fall. I hope you enjoy!!