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.

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.

PB&J Parfait

In my quest to move towards a lower carb lifestyle change, one of the most challenging updates has been breakfast. My go-to has always been peanut butter & banana oatmeal, but since two of the three main ingredients are very high carb, that’s pretty much out. Although I haven’t quite figured out a hot meal replacement for winter, I have finally perfected a wonderful chilled summer option. As a bonus, it’s easy to make ahead of time for a delicious and simple grab-and-go breakfast (or snack).

PB&J Parfait {{Baking Bytes}}

Any “diet” article will tell you to ditch the flavored yogurts for their plain versions mixed with fresh fruit, but I think the flavor of the yogurt can still be too overpowering. For me, the key is to properly mix them together rather than just add the fruit like a topping. Mashing berries (blackberries or raspberries are my favorite) first and then stirring in the yogurt and chia (for a fat and protein boost) means the flavors are consistently spread through each spoonful like a store-bought flavor without all the added sugars.

Peanut butter is always a go-to for me, and layering it with the berry yogurt is reminiscent of a childhood favorite but in a much healthier form. I like the natural peanut butter here since the berries are quite sweet already and because it doesn’t get overly hard when refrigerated for the meal prep option.

Lastly, I recently discovered hemp seeds as another fat/protein source, and they had a nice bit of crunch and a little different flavor without competing too heavily with the rest of the dish. Even overnight they don’t get soggy (just a bit soft) which makes them a nice textural addition. If you don’t have hemp, you could just go without or substitute any seeds or chopped nuts of your choice.

PB&J Parfait {{Baking Bytes}}

Sweet and tart with the swirl of peanut butter and just a hint of crunch, this is a great on-the-go option as well as something that can be enjoyed right away. I often mix the yogurt, chia, and berries together and then add the peanut butter and hemp when I get to work. This allows me to customize how much I want on a particular day, but it works great to do it all ahead of time if your work fridge space is limited.

A few tips for success: chia seeds soak up a lot of moisture, so if you want your parfait to maintain a looser, more traditional yogurt texture overnight then add at least one tablespoon of water with each tablespoon of chia. This is not necessary if you’re eating it right away but for meal prepping it helps with the texture, especially if your fruit is not very juicy. As mentioned I like to use natural peanut butter since it stays spreadable when chilled, but you if you prefer the Jif or Skippy variety you can always just take a little of that in a separate container and keep it at room temperature. Lastly, if you’re using the smallest amount of everything (or keeping the peanut butter and hemp separate) you can get away with an 8oz jar, but a 12oz or larger is much nicer for stirring and eating without making a mess.

PB&J Parfait {{Baking Bytes}}

If you’re looking for a quick, delicious, and healthy lower carb meal, this PB&J parfait is sure to please. And in case you were wondering, no, I don’t do the fancy layering every time I make it for myself. It is pretty and fun to do that, but it’s much quicker to just add them all on top. You can decide for yourself what level of effort is right for you.

PB&J Parfait

Serves one

Ingredients

1/2 cup berries (or any fruit)
1-2 Tbsp chia seeds
1-2 Tbsp water (optional)1
cinnamon, to taste (optional)

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1-2 Tbsp hemp hearts
1-2 Tbsp natural peanut butter2

Directions

  1. For “lazy” parfaits: In small bowl mash the berries until soft. Stir in chia (and water, if using), cinnamon, and yogurt until well combined.
  2. Plop on the peanut butter and sprinkle with hemp. Enjoy immediately or store in the fridge until ready to use.
  3. For “fancy” parfaits: in the bottom of a small jar3 add 1/3 of the yogurt mixture. Layer 1-2 tsp each of hemp and peanut butter. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  4. Seal the jar and store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Notes

Water is not necessary if you are eating it right away or you are okay with a very thick texture. Chia seeds soak up a lot of moisture so if you want your parfait to stay a bit looser then add at least as much water as you do chia when you’re stirring it into the fruit.

I recommend natural peanut butter (the kind you have to stir) as it will not get overly hard in the fridge overnight (and I like the taste better), but if you are eating it right away you can use any peanut butter.

Use a 12oz jar or larger to ensure everything fits, and to make it easier to stir and 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}}

Those of you here in Montana will know the eternal battle between snow and 70s that is springtime. When the warm weather begins, and the snow melts from my yard, my thoughts first turn to citrus and secondly turn to entrée salads. I eat salads all winter long but usually as a side rather than the main course. In order to satiate both cravings without freezing to death when a snowstorm invariably hits, quinoa-based salads are excellent both warm and cold. This one is inspired in part by my lemon poppyseed breakfast quinoa as well as by The Cafe in Ames, Iowa (a rare healthy gem in a sea of deep-fried abominations) as well as my love all of things lemon.

Lemon Quinoa & Kale Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Lemony quinoa and crisp kale are complemented by crunchy zucchini, a sprinkle of dried cranberries, and, of course, goat cheese. Tossed with a lemon tahini dressing, the whole experience is light and springy and excellent both warmed or chilled. Add your protein of choice (I chose baked halibut; grilled chicken or white beans would also be delightful) and you have a filling entrée equally great for company as it is for meal prepping. And if you’re fortunate enough to be with your mom on Mother’s Day, this would be a perfect lunch to share.

Lemon Quinoa & Kale Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Each piece comes together fairly quickly, and could easily be made ahead of time for a quick weeknight dinner. Alternatively, keep each component separate and assemble when you’re ready for lunch for a perfect meal-prep option. Jumpstart your summer (whether the weather agrees or not) with a new go-to for your repertoire and give this tasty salad a try.

Lemon Quinoa & Kale Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing
Serves 4

Ingredients

salad
1 cup quinoa
1 ¾ cup water
¼ cup lemon juice

1 large bunch kale, de-veined and chopped into 1” pieces
1 small zucchini, spiralized or julienned
½ – 1 cup goat cheese (or feta)
½ cup dried cranberries

optional
Protein of choice (e.g. halibut, chicken, smoked salmon, white beans, chickpeas)

lemon tahini dressing
½ cup tahini
6 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup Garlic Olive Oil (or regular oil and 2 cloves garlic, minced)
2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tsp dried herbs (I used a mix of basil and rosemary)

Directions

  1. Bring quinoa, lemon juice, and water to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until all water is absorbed. Let cool briefly before using.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing: combine all ingredients in a pint jar and whisk together until thoroughly combined. Thin to desired consistency with additional lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, one tablespoon at a time.
  3. To serve immediately: toss kale and zucchini with half of the dressing until evenly coated. Gently fold in quinoa.
  4. Divide between four dishes and sprinkle each with 2-4 tablespoons of goat cheese and 2 tablespoons dried cranberries.
  5. Optionally, add protein of choice.
  6. Drizzle with remaining dressing and serve immediately.
  7. For meal prepping: Portion one serving of each item into separate containers (I keep them all separate so I can heat individual components) and store in the fridge until ready to eat.
  8. To assemble, gently heat dressing until pourable (about 10 seconds) and toss with kale and zucchini.
  9. Heat quinoa (if you want) and fold into kale mixture.
  10. Top with cranberries, goat cheese, (and optional protein), drizzle with additional dressing, and enjoy.

 

 

Broccoli Beer Bread Grilled Cheese

We’ve reached the final week of National Grilled Cheese Month and I’ve saved my favorite for last. I hope you enjoy it too!

One of my favorite flavor pairings is broccoli and cheese, and in my opinion broccoli cheese soup is the epitome of perfection for this palate. Although it can be extraordinarily unhealthy, it’s a comforting entrée perfect for a cold winter day. My favorite cookbook has a much healthier version using goat cheese that I meal prep for lunches semi regularly throughout the colder months. Although putting broccoli in a grilled cheese felt a little strange, I decided to try it anyway. The question remaining was which bread would complement it nicely.

Broccoli Beer Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Despite not caring for beer in its original beverage form, I often enjoy it as an accent to both sweet and savory dishes and there are a handful of recipes on my blog that call for it. Beer bread is a favorite to serve with stews and chilis, and Guinness chocolate ice cream turns out to be pretty fantastic. Broccoli cheese soup is delicious accented with beer as well, and this thought lead me towards using a beer bread for this particular sandwich.

Broccoli Beer Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Crispy roasted broccoli and melty sharp cheddar blend perfectly with the beer bread, and I strongly feel all three components are necessary for the full experience. You could certainly substitute an alternate bread (I would choose a whole wheat or seeded multi-grain) but the beer adds such a great twist that I promise it’s 100% worth the extra effort to make the loaf ahead of time. This sandwich combines several of my favorite things all into one and I can easily see it becoming somewhat of a staple, presuming I have the foresight to roast extra broccoli whenever possible. Great for beer lovers and broccoli lovers alike, this might even be a way to get a few extra veggies into what feels like a decadent meal.

Broccoli Beer Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

This was the fan favorite (although to be honest, they said that about all of them) and sure to be a crowd pleaser. Whether it’s cut in half for a great appetizer, served with a cup of broccoli cheese soup for a superbly warming experience, or thrown into your regular dinner rotation, this sandwich is surprisingly homey despite its thoroughly non-traditional expectations.

Broccoli Beer Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

I hope you enjoyed the series and if you found a new favorite be sure to let me know!

Broccoli Beer Bread Grilled Cheese
Makes one sandwich

Ingredients

1 head of broccoli, finely chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

2 slices beer bread (reduce sugar to 2 Tbsp or less)
1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar
olive oil or butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a pan or coat thinly with olive oil.
  2. Combine broccoli, olive oil, and spices in a bowl; stir until well coated.
  3. Spread evenly on prepared pan and roast until broccoli is starting to char, about 20 minutes. (Or to your desired texture.)
  4. When the broccoli is nearly done, heat additional oil or butter in a small lidded frying pan over medium-low heat.
  5. Mix together cheese with 1/4 cup broccoli until combined. (One head of broccoli is probably enough for 4-ish sandwiches, presuming your bread slices are small.)
  6. Lay bread in heated pan, then top one side with broccoli mixture. Put on the lid and heat until cheese is melty and bread is golden.
  7. Place empty slice on top of the broccoli (toasted side up) and then carefully flip the whole thing; cook an additional 30-60 seconds to allow the sandwich to meld together.
  8. Serve immediately; would be extra fantastic with a cup of broccoli cheese or beer cheese soup for dipping!