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.
Quinoa is one of the staples in my kitchen. I love how versatile it is. You can add it to salads, substitute it for rice or pasta, make energy bites with it, or even eat it like a hot cereal in the morning. It can act as both a starch and a protein at a meal, which can make meals quick and easy (especially because it doesn't take more that 20 minutes to make).
As I've mentioned before, quinoa is a great non-meat source of protein, it provides about 8 grams of protein per cup of cooked quinoa. It's also a great plant source of iron, as well as phosphorous and magnesium. It's a good source of fiber too (a little over 5 g per cup). It's no wonder some people consider it a super food.
Because quinoa is so easy to make, it's a great make ahead food to use later in the week. For this recipe I used 1 cup of uncooked quinoa, which makes about 3 cups of cooked quinoa. I only used half of the quinoa I made, which means I have enough for a whole new meal. (If you want a recipe idea for what to do with that leftover quinoa make sure to sign up for my email list, I'll be sending a great recipe out with the weekly email!)
Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers
5 large bell peppers
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/3 cup yellow onion, diced
2 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon shredded cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the tops off of your bell peppers and take out the centers and seeds. I like to chop up the bell pepper top around the stem to add to the stuffing. Place the peppers in a baking dish so all of them can stand up without being squished.
Heat canola oil on a skillet and then add the onion (and peppers, if desired). Let simmer for 2-3 minutes until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes and stir. Sprinkle coriander and let simmer for 5 minutes. Mix in quinoa, allowing the quinoa to sop up the juice from the tomatoes, then add 1/4 cup of cheese.
Use a spoon to scoop the stuffing mixture into each pepper. Fill to the top of the pepper, then sprinkle some of the remaining cheese on each pepper.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and pepper is soft.
Have you tried making your Mondays meatless? There are a lot of benefits to decreasing your meat intake (or even cutting it out all together). Meat-free meals are typically lower in saturated fat, which can have beneficial effects on your cholesterol and blood lipid levels. Typically, diets low in meat are higher in fruits and vegetables, which provides a number of health benefits.
The biggest concern I hear from meat eaters regarding decreasing or completely cutting out meat is - what about protein? It is possible to get adequate protein with less or no meat though (yes, even for athletes). Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts/nut butters, ,and quinoa are all great sources of protein. There are also foods that when paired together make a "complete" protein. Meaning alone the foods are missing an amino acid that is essential in the diet, but when paired with a complementary food that has that missing an amino acid, you have a food that provides the same protein as meat. Some of those pairings are rice & beans, lentils& rice, corn& beans.
One thing to be aware of though is that just because something is "vegetarian" doesn't mean it's a healthy choice (similar to those "low fat" "low sugar" "diet" foods out there). This weekend I bought vegetarian Kielbasa to grill for Labor Day. However, a peek at the nutrient label shows that although it is lower in saturated fat than a turkey kielbasa, it's higher in overall fat and therefore higher in calories. It's also higher in sodium content (660mg in the vegetarian v 500mg in the turkey). I like to think the takeaway message from this is that processed food is processed food whether it's "vegetarian" "diet" or "low fat". It's always best to eat homemade food.
So if you're interested in making a Monday meatless, give this recipe a try! I'd love to hear what you think, or what meatless recipe you love in the comments below!
Spaghetti Squash Casserole
1 medium spaghetti squash
4-5 mini bell peppers (or 2-3 large ones), chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
5 oz spinach
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of cheese
Cut spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place on microwave safe dish and add 1/4 cup water. Cook in microwave for 10-12 minutes, until squash is easily pierced in with a fork. Allow to cool for 15 minutes until cool enough to handle.
Sauté oil and garlic. Add bell peppers and tomato until tomato softens. Then add spinach and mix until spinach wilts.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scrape squash out with a fork into a large mixing bowl. Then add vegetables. Mix with yogurt and 1/4 cup of cheese. Spread mixture into 11 x 7 baking dish. Top with remaining cheese and bake for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and top is golden brown.
Taryn is a Los Angeles based Registered Dietitian who's passionate about helping you be your healthiest you.