Mexican Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

As the weather starts to cool, the fall flavors are introduced with avengeance. Suddenly it’s pumpkin this and spiced that, baked goods everywhere and soups filling my Pinterest feed. As much as I love all of these things, this year I’m not quite ready to dive head first in to traditional autumn goods, and also my oven is broken so I couldn’t even if I wanted to. The mountain west poses an added challenge as September and October can intermittently still be quite warm. I’ve mentioned this before, but it usually inspires me to meal prep dishes that can be enjoyed either warm or chilled, such that I can tailor it according to the day’s weather.

Mexican Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

A couple of years ago I created an arugula sweet potato salad that I still love. It invites the coziness of cinnamon lightly sweetened with maple syrup to a healthier form, and is perfect for your Thanksgiving table. However, looking to spice things up a bit I decided to take that idea and give it a more south of the border twist.

Roasted sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and red onions are stirred in with a generous helping of black beans, corn, and quinoa. Vegan by nature, it can be dressed up with cheese or meat if you like. Goat cheese is my personal preference (shocking) since the creaminess blends so nicely with the smokey dressing.

Mexican Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

As always, this one is easy to tailor to your personal spice levels. Leave it as is for a relatively mild experience, or pile on the spices for some extra heat. The dressing is the easiest place to up the spices but if you know you’re a spice lover, add extra to the roasting process too.

This works great as an entree or a side dish, served atop fresh greens for some color and extra freshness. Add lots of greens for a more traditional salad, or use fewer for more of a Buddha bowl style meal. Either way, this is an easy recipe that’s great for meal prepping, serving a crowd, or taking to a potluck. Serve it chilled in the summer or warm in the winter and it’s sure to be a hit. For potluck option, I’d recommend tossing the quinoa mixture with the greens ahead of time since it will be easier for people to serve themselves.

Mexican Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Have more leftovers than you want? Top a generous scoop with a fried or poached egg and a drizzle of dressing for a fun and healthy breakfast! The filling also works nicely for stuffed peppers, lettuce wraps, or burritos if you’re looking for ways to switch it up a little.

Mexican Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato, scrubbed and diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced

1 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp ground chilis, divided (I used pasilla)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
3/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, to taste

1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
3 cups water (or broth)

1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed and drained
12 oz (or more) leafy greens

Spicy Smoked Balsamic Dressing (below)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sweet potato, bell pepper, onion, 1 Tbsp chili powder, 1 1/2 tsp cumin, salt, oregano, 1/2 tsp paprika, and red pepper flakes. Stir until veggies are well coated.
  3. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and roast in preheated oven until sweet potatoes are fork tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine quinoa, water, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, and 1/4 tsp paprika. Cook quinoa as directed on your package.
  5. When veggies and quinoa are both cooked, return to your large bowl and gently stir in black beans and corn until evenly distributed.
  6. Either serve atop fresh greens or stir them in too.
  7. Serve hot or chilled, drizzled with dressing and topped with cheese, if desired.

Smoked Balsamic Dressing {{Baking Bytes}}

Smokey and spicy and just a little sweet, this dressing is excellent by itself to use for almost any salad, bowl, or wrap that you can dream up. The smoked balsamic vinegar from Olivelle is one of my favorites; already reminiscent of barbecue sauce, adding the garlic oil and some extra spices gives it a little kick. If you are looking for a little sweeter variety, a bit of maple syrup blends in nicely.

Spicy Smoked Balsamic Dressing

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

3 oz Olivelle caramelized garlic olive oil1
1 1/2 oz Olivelle smoked balsamic vinegar1
1 – 2 tsp ground chilis
1/2 tsp paprika (smoked or regular)
1 – 2 tsp maple syrup (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small jar. Whisk or shake vigorously to combine.
  2. Taste and adjust spices or sweetness as necessary.

Notes

I highly recommend Olivelle products and they have an online store if you don’t have a sister store nearby. However, if you must you can substitute regular extra virgin olive oil and 1-2 minced garlic cloves or 1/2 – 1 teaspoons garlic powder, and/or regular barrel aged balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon or two of barbecue sauce.

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Cucumber Gazpacho

This recipe is brought to you by a friend leaving the country and gifting me half their fridge as well as several weeks of their CSA. With an unplanned abundance of cucumbers and neither of us being huge on eating them plain, I turned to the internet for ideas. Unsurprisingly, Pinterest had my back.

Cucumber Gazpacho {{Baking Bytes}}

I personally forget about gazpacho since cold soup was not really a thing in Alaska. Honestly, it’s hot soup season about 80% of the year anyway so you don’t really need a chilled variety to tide you over. Nonetheless I have had some truly delightful ones, including a watermelon variety at a random restaurant in Poulsbo, Washington that was just fantastic. Maybe next year I’ll add that to my repertoire.

In any case, with about six cucumbers of varying size and species needing a good home, a search for cucumber recipes pulled up several good options: salad dressing, cucumber sandwiches, and gazpacho. I still intend to try the salad dressing, and I had a cucumber sandwich (with herbed goat cheese, spinach, red onion, and challa) for lunch, but the gazpacho really intrigued me. With very little to lose, I gave it a shot.

Cucumber Gazpacho {{Baking Bytes}}

As usual I modified the recipe a bit, mostly to incorporate the ingredients I had on hand. Light and crisp cucumbers are given a little zing with the red onion, herbs, and garlic oil. I added some spinach for extra greens, filler, and a little thickener. My latest Olivelle obsession, Sweet Basil Balsamic Vinegar, was a perfect addition to give a nice tang and a little sweetness at the same time. The result is a cool, refreshing, and surprisingly filling gazpacho perfect for summer afternoons.

Cucumber Gazpacho {{Baking Bytes}}

The fairly neutral palate makes it great for a side dish or appetizer, or pair it with a protein for a light entree. Punch it up with the herbs of your choice, extra onion, or a jalapeño, or keep it as listed for a milder palate. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this recipe and will definitely keep it on the short list for a quick and healthy addition to any meal. Summer may be winding down, but hopefully there’s still some time left to give this chilled soup a try.

Cucumber Gazpacho

Adapted from Amuse Your Bouche
Serves 2-4 

Ingredients

2 large cucumbers (I probably had about 6-8 cups of chunks)
1/3 cup red onion
3 Tbsp garlic-infused olive oil1
1 cup (or 2) packed spinach, frozen and crushed2
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs (I used mostly basil with some spicy oregano)
1-2 Tbsp basil balsamic vinegar3, optional but recommended
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Peel your cucumbers (for those with a firm/bitter skin) and chop into chunks. Don’t worry about peeling it perfectly, just get most of it.
  2. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and puree to desired texture.
  3. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to use and then serve chilled.4

Notes

If you don’t have garlic olive oil, use plain and add one clove peeled garlic.

I keep excess spinach in the freezer for smoothie, soups, and scrambled eggs. Frozen spinach blends much more easily than raw and helps keep things chilled which is perfect for smoothies as well as gazpacho, as it turns out. For this recipe, place a large handful or two of spinach in the freezer, then crush. You should have about a cup but more or less is just fine.

The balsamic adds a lovely tang so I recommend adding a splash even if you don’t have the basil variety.

The gazpacho will lose a fair amount of its punch over time, so I wouldn’t recommend making it more than a couple hours ahead. If you are eating leftovers the next day, stir in a little extra minced onion just before serving.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles

This recipe has been a long time coming – I’ve actually made it three times this summer with the intent to photograph and post it, but each time the sun was being temperamental and the pictures just came out terrible. Fourth time’s the charm in getting at least moderately passable photos, so you finally get to enjoy this delight.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

Many moons ago when I was still in college, a friend regularly served this dish at potlucks and her house, and it was always a favorite of mine. Al dente spaghetti and a lightly spiced cashew sauce came together in a dish served equally well cold as it did warm. I made it semi-regularly throughout my college career and typically enjoyed it straight from the fridge. Versatile in its uses from lunch to dinner to side, it’s a great dish to have in your repertoire.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

Amusingly, I all but forgot about this recipe for like five years until I was cleaning up my Facebook “notes” and came across it again. My current love affair with my spiralizer and lower carb inclinations inspired me to use this sauce with zoodles rather than the called-for pasta. A couple of light tweaks later, and I now have a new favorite side dish and another fantastic meal prep option for my work lunches.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

Most of the active time involved here is with slicing the veggies, but you can easily do that in advance and store everything in the fridge. Likewise, the sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use. It’s a delicious way to use an abundance of zucchini and is a definite crowd pleaser since it’s both vegan and gluten-free (watch your sauce ingredient labels to be sure). It’s also more interesting than your typical salad but still a healthy veggie side. I nearly always bring a vegetable to potlucks (unless I’m requested to bring dessert) to ensure there’s healthy option alongside the numerous starches sure to grace the table.

The one caveat with taking it to potlucks is that I recommend not mixing it till you get there. Zucchini releases a lot of water and it has a tendency to get soupy after not too long. This does not affect the flavor in the slightest – just makes it a bit messier to serve and eat. If desired (I never do), you can mitigate this by salting your zucchini and setting it in a strainer for about 20 minutes, then rinsing thoroughly and using a cloth to squeeze any excess water from the zoodles. Follow directions as normal after that.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

For a tasty lunch, add your protein of choice. Steak or chicken is my personal preference, but eggs (I’d do fried, poached or soft boiled) or a vegan option like chickpeas or tempeh would go beautifully as well. Pick your favorite and include that to bring it up to a full entrée. Alternatively, if you think I’m crazy for preferring zucchini instead of spaghetti, you can make the original by cooking a pound of spaghetti to al dente and thinning the sauce with some pasta water. (A mix of spaghetti and zoodles would also be great! I would toss with the zucchini and let it rest for about 5 minutes, then fold in the spaghetti. You likely will not need to add any additional water if you are using zucchini at all.)

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

This recipe does not keep particularly well after it’s been mixed, so plan to eat it all or drain as much of the sauce as possible before storing the rest of it. (Excess sauce is great as a salad dressing, on breakfast bowls, or for dipping a wrap.) If you’re still in search of a Labor Day BBQ contribution, you can stop looking now.

Note: I recently discovered the Toasted Sesame oil at Olivelle and basically fell in love. It has a much more prominent sesame flavor which blends really nicely in this sauce. However, it’s plenty delicious with your run of the mill sesame oil, so feel free to substitute that.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles

Adapted from epicurious
Serves 4 (entrée1) to 8 (side dish)

Ingredients

Sauce
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
2-3 garlic cloves (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
1/4 cup Olivelle Toasted Sesame oil (or regular sesame oil)
2 1/2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce,  to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
3/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes, to taste

3-4 medium zucchini, spiralized 3mm (6-8 cups, but I never measure too hard)
1 small cucumber, spiralized flat
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced (I like red or orange best)
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

garnishes: 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cashews, sesame seeds, additional red pepper flakes, protein of choice

Directions

  1. Purée sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor until well combined and there are no large chunks of cashew or garlic. Taste and blend in additional red pepper flakes, if desired. (Sauce can be made in advance2 and refrigerated until ready to use.)
  2. In a large bowl, toss zoodles with about 3/4 of the sauce.
  3. Add remainder of sauce, onion, bell pepper, and cucumber, and toss to combine.
  4. Garnish as desired and serve promptly.

Notes

For a more filling entrée, include your protein of choice: keep it vegan with chickpeas, tofu, or tempeh, include poached or boiled eggs if ovo vegetarian is more your thing, or appease the omnivores with thinly sliced steak or chicken. Add in your choice with the veggies in step 3.

This recipe works great for meal prep: Portion your produce into a 4-cup bowl, and refrigerate until ready to eat. Top with 3-4 tablespoons of sauce, microwave for about 30 seconds, then gently toss until coated. Garnish as desired and enjoy!

To use this sauce without zoodles, thin it with water to your desired consistency. Toss with pasta, use as a salad dressing, or drizzle over breakfast bowls to your heart’s content.

Tuna Zoodle Salad

During the month of May my personal challenge was to try a low-carb diet. Well, I should say lowER carb, I was not even close to the keto level. (20 grams per day? I eat that in my salads.) It was a surprisingly rewarding journey and I intend to keep up the change (about 100 gram per day) at least through the month of June. Admittedly this challenge is substantially easier in the summer, when fresh produce is in abundance. It also gave me the incentive to finally try out the spiralizer my mother gifted me for Christmas. I don’t know why I waited so long because I am 100% all aboard the zoodle train. Seriously, I may never eat traditional spaghetti again. They are pleasantly crunchy, just as noodle-y, and the substantially lower carb (and calorie) content means I can eat a lot more sauce and cheese, which is the best part of the meal anyway.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

During this adventure I discovered it was a lot harder to get enough protein (as an athlete) since my go-to vegetarian proteins, like black beans, are all pretty high carb. I have ended up increasing my intake of lean meats, eggs, and cheeses, and somewhat surprisingly I actually feel great. Since M’s uncle generously gifts us with an abundance of wild-caught tuna each year, one of my favorite creations makes use of the many jars in the pantry.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Crispy zoodles and a colorful array of crunchy vegetables are rounded out with tuna salad and plenty of cheese. I like to use avocado mayo (it’s a bit lower fat if that matters to you; I just think it tastes better) and a sweet & spicy mustard. Feel free to substitute any combination that you like and tailor it to fit your preferences. You can definitely just use all mayo or all mustard and add some spices for extra flavor; paprika is always a great option.

This salad is a light but delicious lunch and the mound of veggies makes it pretty filling. If you’re not low-carb, focaccia would make a fantastic side. I did not feel it needed a dressing, but if you want to add some saucy goodness to your bowl then a honey mustard vinaigrette would be a delightful choice. If you don’t want to make your own, Annie’s and Newman’s Own are excellent pre-made options.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}I enjoyed this both chilled and lightly heated with excellent results. For the warmed option, heat everything except the cucumber for about one minute in the microwave and give it a good stir. (Heat another 30-seconds if it’s still too crunchy). Then top with cucumber and enjoy the melty, cheesy goodness.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

For my fellow preppers – meal-preppers that is – this is one of my new go-to recipes. A serving just fits in my 4-cup glass Pyrex Snapware containers (I got them as part of a Costco set, but they look like this) which is easy to take to work and then I can choose whether I’d like it chilled or heated on the fly. Just keep the tuna/cheese in a separate smaller container inside the big one so the veggies don’t get soggy over time. Just as crisp on day four as it was on day one, and I bet it’d keep longer if you haven’t eaten them all by then.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Switch up your summer salad game and give this concoction a try. Be sure to let me know what you think and how you make it your own!

Tuna Zoodle Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

15-16 oz tuna canned in water, drained
3 Tbsp avocado mayonnaise
3 Tbsp sweet & hot mustard
spices, to taste

2-3 large zucchini, spiralized 3mm (about 8 cups)
1 large or 2 medium carrots, spiralized 2mm (about 2 cups)
1 large bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1+ cup grated cheese (I used cheddar)

1 cucumber, spiralized flat (about 1 cup)

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, use a fork to mash together tuna, mayo, and mustard until completely incorporated. Stir in additional spices, if desired. (Paprika is a great addition.)
  2. Divide zucchini amongst four bowls, and arrange carrots, onion, bell pepper, tuna, and cheddar on top. If enjoying warm, microwave each bowl for about 1 minute.
  3. Top with cucumber and serve immediately.
  4. For meal prep: Divide zucchini amongst four 4-cup (or larger) storage containers.
  5. Press tuna equally into four 6-oz containers. Fill remainder of containers with shredded cheese.
  6. Make a well in the middle of the zucchini and nestle tuna into the hole.
  7. Arrange carrot, cucumber, onion, and bell pepper in remaining area. Affix lids and store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Lemon Quinoa & Kale Salad

Happy May, friends! With the weather (hopefully) starting to warm up and Mother’s Day just around the corner, I have a lovely citrus quinoa salad to share with you. It is light but filling, and complements a multitude of protein choices for any dietary restrictions.

Lemon Quinoa & Kale Salad with Halibut {{Baking Bytes}}

Inspired in part by my lemon poppyseed breakfast quinoa as well as a delicious salad at The Cafe in Iowa, this recipe works equally well as a side and as an entrée, in addition to being delightful both warm or cold. Head on over to my guest post at Jenna Gorham Nutrition to check it out!