The recipe I have for you today has two of my favorite things: a delicious fall food and quinoa. I have often extolled the virtues of quinoa. I've also talked about the wonder that is fall foods. Today's fall food is butternut squash, the deliciously nutty cousin of pumpkin.
If that bright orange color didn't give it away already, butternut squash is a fantastic source of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for our eyesight, as well as our immune system. Butternut squash is also a good source of fiber, potassium, and Vitamin C. All while being fairly low in calories (82 calories per cup of cubed squash).
You only need 1 cup of cubed squash for this recipe. I cut up and cooked a whole squash though (which gave me about 3 cups), and saved the rest of the squash for later in the week.
You can serve this quinoa pilaf all on it's own for a vegetarian dish. Or you can bake a couple of chicken breasts to go with it. I served it with chicken breasts basted with a mix of 2 tablespoons canola oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and 1 tablespoon maple syrup. That baste was more than enough to cover the 3 chicken breasts I was cooking.
Fall Quinoa Pilaf
1/3 cup dry quinoa
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 cup cubed butternut squash
2 loose cups chopped kale
Coriander to taste
Cook 1/3 cup of quinoa in 2/3 cup of water. Bring water and quinoa to a boil, then lower to simmer until all water is gone. Fluff quinoa with fork and put aside.
Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add squash and sprinkle with coriander. Cook until squash starts to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add kale and mix until kale cooks down. Add quinoa and mix.
Serve with chicken or as a main dish.
Gluten is currently the black sheep of the food world, probably an extension of the distrust of carbohydrates. Fad diets like to find a "Big Bad" to blame for all our nutrition ills. In the early 90s it was fat, then Dr. Atkins came along and fat was good again, but carbohydrates were bad. I still hear people trashing carbohydrates, but usually it's more specifically gluten.
But what is gluten?
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). It gives the dough elasticity and helps it rise, it's also responsible for the chewy texture. Seems pretty innocent, right? Who doesn't love chewy, warm bread? Mmmm.
Well, for most people gluten is not a problem. The gluten free fad came from a greater public awareness of Celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where gluten causes the immune system to attack the small intestine causing inflammation, malabsorption of nutrients, and damage to the part ofvthe small intestine that is responsible for nutrient absorption. For people with Celiac disease eating gluten can cause lasting damage and malnutrition.
There's also been an increasing amount of talk about something called "gluten sensitivity" which is something that's not an allergy and not an autoimmune response to eating gluten. It can cause symptoms similar or Celiac disease, or non-intestinal symptoms. The research on gluten sensitivity is still in the very early stages. There's even some studies that suggest gluten sensitivity might not be about gluten at all, but actually a sensitivity to fructans, a carbohydrate in some of the same things gluten is in (but not all).
If you think you might have gluten sensitivity, or any food sensitivity the best way to determine if the symptoms you're experiencing are a result of something your eating is to keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat in the day, as well as the time you eat it. Then write down whenever you feel your symptoms and what time they start. Then try to get an idea of what could be the cause. Symptoms that occur in the intestines (bloating, gas, diarrhea) usually take 2-3 hours to appear after the culprit is ingested, while stomach symptoms (nausea, burping, vomitting) can be almost immediate. Then start taking suspected foods out one at a time and see if your symptoms disappear.
If you get overwhelmed or need guidance interpreting your food diary, that's what I'm here for! The most important thing, whether you have Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or any food sensitivity, is to make sure your diet it well balanced and provides you with all the nutrients you need.
Taryn is a Los Angeles based Registered Dietitian who's passionate about helping you be your healthiest you.