Monday, May 24, 2010

Quinoa with Butternut Squash & Kale (Salad)

So many people say that they simply do not have time to "cook healthy".  Work schedules, kid-commitments and too many other things to do are the reasons many people give for not being able to have the perceived TONS of time that it takes to harvest your own crops (after careful planting), grind your own grain, and cook your succulent, healthy meals over an open fire... wait, I think I'm confusing this with a movie from the 1700's I recently watched...

While that description seems a bit exaggerated, many people think that there are some complicated secret rituals to cooking healthily, but I find it to be incredibly simple.  You can too.  Cooking clean, REAL whole food is simple.  It's simple because REAL food tastes good.  It's simple because you don't have to concoct gravies and sauces and toppings and dips to make your food palatable - REAL food is palatable if you prepare it as minimally as possible.  Some people think they "hate" a particular vegetable, only to discover that the version they "hate" has been boiled to death and then slathered with sauces, syrups or worse.  When they try a simple version of this offending food, they find that it is (miraculously) really very good.

Recently, in anticipation of company coming for dinner, and wanting to create some easy, nutritious dishes that would not require hours of prep time right before their arrival (or hours of prep time at all...), I  a butternut squash into the oven first thing in the morning, when I woke up.

First, I turned my oven on to 375 degrees.  I halved the squash, lengthwise and scooped out the seeds (which I discarded).  I rubbed the surface of the squash (including the little hole where the seeds had been) with a little olive oil and sprinkled on some salt & pepper.  Next, I placed the squash, cut sides up, into a baking pan, filled the bottom of the pan with about 3/4 inch of water, and placed the pan into the oven.  I allowed the squash to roast for 45 minutes while I got a shower and got dressed.  Once the squash came out of the oven, I allowed it to cool on the counter while I finished getting ready for my day and then placed it in the refrigerator, covered with foil until I was ready to make dinner.  This is something anyone can do while getting ready for work in the morning.

The cold squash can be reheated, as is, in the microwave for a few minutes.  You could also scoop out the insides and mash the squash and serve it either reheated or cold.  For my dinner, I chose to remove the peel and cube the squash, then toss in a bowl with some cooked chilled quinoa (two cups cooked), some chopped up raw kale (about 2-3 large fist-fulls, and I used red kale, but any kale would be good) and diced onions (about 1/4 cup).  I topped this mixture with a little bit of olive oil and some sea salt and black pepper.  This could be a complete one-dish meal because of the great protein and fiber content of the quinoa and the variety of important & beneficial nutrients of the squash (vitamins A & C), kale (awesome source of the important nutrient vitamin K, high in manganese, also great source of vitamins A & C) and onions (oligosaccharides - important for feeding the 'good' bacteria in the digestive system).  I think I will experiment with some Indian spices the next time I make this dish (like garam masala), because the ingredients seem kind of Indian-food-y.  The sweetness of the squash is counter-balanced by the bitterness of the kale quite nicely.

Anyone who is trying to maintain a low glycemic load should note that butternut squash and kale are VERY low on the glycemic scale.

This dish took about 15 minutes to assemble - that's even quicker than Hamburger Helper and TONS better for you!  Give it a try!
(This recipe makes approximately 4 large servings or 6-8 smaller side-dish servings).

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