Tastes of Fall: Chicken, Quinoa, Kale & Goat Cheese Stuffed Acorn Squash

Good morning! I’ve got a delicious- and easy-  recipe for you today. Anyone else like to cook according to the season and, well, what’s in season? I love seeing all of the pumpkin, squash, and apple recipes floating around the blogisphere these days. Athena posted this delicious looking Autumn Kale Salad recipe last week, Alexis posted this Vegan Butternut Squash Pasta recipe that I’m dying to make and Lexi posted these fantastic Pumpkin Sticky Bun Muffins that I actually made last weekend!

I could literally go on and on, but today I want to share a fall recipe that I made the other week. I based it off of this recipe that I made last year, which was basically identical to the meal we had at The Local in Newton. Regardless, I realized that I hadn’t actually POSTED a recipe for this meal so I figured today was as good a time as any 🙂

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All you need for this recipe is an acorn squash, kale (or spinach), chicken (or shrimp or steak), quinoa (or rice or a blend) and goat cheese (or feta or none)… as you can see, you can really do what you want to make this recipe your own!

Ingredients (use as a guide, but feel free to substitute as you see fit!)

  • 1 medium acorn squash, baked
  • 3-4 chicken thighs, baked
  • small bunch of kale, de-stemmed, rinsed & baked
  • Quinoa or rice or a blend (I had a medley on hand so I used that)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup of goat cheese
  • dash of cinnamon (for acorn squash)
  • EVOO (for kale  & chicken)
  • Coconut oil
  • salt & pepper & garlic powder

Directions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 425*, cut your acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Coat the flesh of the acorn squash with coconut oil and place face down in a baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the squash is soft. Once it’s soft, remove from the oven and sprinkle some cinnamon on the flesh. Set aside.
  2. While the squash is cooking, cook your quinoa or rice according to the directions on the back of the package.
  3. While the squash and quinoa are cooking, prepare your kale by washing it, de-stemming it and placing it in a baking dish. Coat with salt, pepper, garlic powder & plenty of EVOO. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until it has wilted.
  4. Once you’ve gotten a handle of the foods in steps 1-3, prepare your chicken. I cut mine into cubes, coated with EVOO, salt, pepper and garlic powder and sautéed in a skillet until it was cooked through.
  5. At this point, everything should be cooked and it’s time to assemble everything. I combined the kale, quinoa and chicken in a small bowl and then stuffed the acorn squash halves with that mixture. Finally, I topped each stuffed half with a sprinkling of goat cheese and broiled for a few minutes until the cheese started to brown.

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What I loved about these was that even though it was a lot of separate things to cook, they could pretty much all be done simultaneously since the squash takes some time to bake and the quinoa and kale don’t need tending to once they’re cooking.

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All of the flavors in this dish really complimented each other and left me “mmm’ing” after each bite. The savory flavor from the kale mixed with the sweetness from the squash was on point!

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These also reheated really well and sine the squash was cooked enough that it was soft it was easy to peel away from the skin. You could eat the skin if you wanted lots of extra fiber, but I opted to take the skin off 😉

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Like stuffed peppers, I call this a one stop dinner dish since you’ve got veggies, protein and healthy fats all in one place! This is a great fall recipe- let me know if you try it 🙂

Questions for you: What’s your favorite fall recipe? Are you a pumpkin lover? What’s your favorite kind of squash? Do you prefer kale or spinach?

 

 

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Loaded Quinoa Salad

As I mentioned yesterday, I randomly threw together a quinoa salad that ended up coming out good enough to share! In the summer, I love light and refreshing meals (similar to this zoodle recipe) because they pair so nicely with the hot weather 😉 Winter time? Sure, I love being in the kitchen for hours with the stove going, whipping up a bunch of delicious things, but when it’s hot, the last thing I want to do is start my stove.

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Our plan last Friday was to grill up some burgers and when I asked what RM wanted to go with them, he just said “veggies. you pick what kind”. Since I am not one to go boring or basic with side dishes, I spent some time thinking about what I could make that would be quick, easy and veggie-filled.

Thinking about what I had in my fridge helped get things going:

  • cucumbers from my dad’s garden
  • tomatoes from the fresh garden section at Whole Foods
  • mozzarella cheese
  • avocado

From there, I thought about how I could throw those together, while coming up with something different than the Caprese Orzo Salad I made when my parents were here. Enter: Loaded Quinoa Salad. In addition to the ingredients above, I picked up an ear of corn and can of black beans… and frozen microwaveable quinoa! Have you guys heard of this? It’s amazing- in three and a half minutes I had some delicious quinoa ready for my use. Normally I’d just make it on the stovetop, but I had already packed all of my pots and pans so I needed to figure something else out. This worked perfectly.

Loaded quinoa salad

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of frozen quinoa, cooked according to the package
  • 1 ear of corn, steamed and kernels shaved off
  • 1/2 can of black beans, rinsed
  • 4 small garden cucumbers, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 big handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2-1 cup mozzarella, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • S&P, garlic & basil

Directions

  1. Cook quinoa according to the package and steam the corn. Chop up the veggies & cheese and drain the beans and add to a big bowl.

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2. Once the quinoa has cooked, let it cool. Once the corn has cooked, take a knife and shave the kernels off.

3. While the corn and quinoa are cooling, assemble the dressing by combining the EVOO, white wine vinegar, lime juice and herbs/seasonings in a small container or glass.

4. Once the corn and quinoa have cooled, add them to the chopped veggies, beans and cheese and mix well.

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5. Drizzle the dressing over everything and continue to mix until it looks as though everything has been coated with the dressing.

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We just ate this as a side dish with our burgers, but there are so many other ways to enjoy it, too!

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The other night I topped a bed of spinach with this and it was such a nice change up to my normal, boring salads!

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The colors and various textures/flavors in the dish created a little party in my mouth and I found myself continuing to go back for more spoonfuls!

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Not only is this great for weekly dinner sides and lunches, but this is also a great dish to bring to a party as it’s different than most salads you’ll see. I highly suggest giving this a try!

Questions for you: What’s your favorite summer salad? What do you make when you don’t want to start the stove?

 

Tomato, Cucumber, Corn & Spinach Quinoa “Salad”

Well that’s a mouthful, huh? In an attempt to amp up my boring lunches, a few weeks ago I whipped up a batch of this quinoa dish. I based it off of this Caprese Orzo Salad recipe, but changed quite a few things. What I loved about this dish was that it was filling, super flavorful and chock full of good stuff!

quinoa salad

Ingredients

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  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1 cup chopped seedless cucumber
  • 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
  • Corn from 1 ear of corn
  • 1 big handful of spinach
  • Goat Cheese (I just used maybe a tablespoon?)
  • ½ cup EVOO
  • ¼ cup White wine vinegar (or red wine)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Few big shakes of crushed red pepper
  • Juice from ½ a lemon

Directions

  1. Cook quinoa according to the back of the package. While that’s cooking, chop up your veggies.

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2. Sautee or wilt the spinach as the quinoa is cooling.

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3. Combine the EVOO, vinegar, S&P, crushed red pepper and lemon juice in a separate bowl.

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4. Once the quinoa has cooled, add the spinach, corn, cucumber, tomato and cheese and mix together. Add in the ‘dressing’ and refrigerate for an hour before serving.

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This dish lasted me throughout the week and I loved eating it alone, on top of my salad and even with some chicken mixed in.

Questions for you: What’s your favorite non-traditional salad? How do you “spice up” your salads?

Chicken Taco Salad

Since my sister’s bathroom was being renovated last week, she ended up staying with me all week. As much as I love living alone, it was really nice to have her with me for the week. I wouldn’t want a friend staying with me for the week (sorry, no offense!), but there’s something different about a sister staying with you… especially when you’ve lived together for a number of years.

As a thank you, she went shopping and got ingredients to make us taco salads. I ended up cooking since I was home from work a lot earlier than she was, but I appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to go out and buy the food!

We used ground chicken, sautéed veggies and I even made my own taco seasoning! I was talking to a coworker and she said she makes her own since the ingredients in those packets are less than stellar. And, you know what?! It was so easy and so good… and I liked that I knew exactly what I was putting into the seasoning. I adapted a recipe from Iowa Girl Eats and can now never go back to store bought seasoning packets.

To help cut back on calories and carbs, we decided to serve the meat and veggies atop spinach (with a little quinoa/rice mixture). But, let’s be honest, I only did this so I could justify having extra chips on the side 😉 Regardless, the “mix” that I came up with would be good atop a salad, in a wrap or even on it’s own. It was a quick and easy weeknight meal.

chicken taco salad

Ingredients

  • 1lb. ground chicken
  • 1-2 cups of cooked quinoa or rice (we used a bag of the Uncle Ben’s 90 second rice things)
  • 1/2-1 cups green pepper and red pepper, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 cup corn (I used frozen)
  • 1 cup black beans (rinsed)
  • Romaine lettuce/spinach
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • salt, pepper, other herbs/seasonings of your choice (and wine- I always sautee veggies in wine)

Seasoning Ingredients (from Iowa Girl Eats)

  • 2-1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprikaI didn’t have this so I skipped it
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powderI didn’t have this so I skipped it
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

1. Cut up your peppers and onion. Heat a pan with 1-2 tbsp EVOO and add in the pepper and onion and minced garlic. Add in herbs/seasoning/wine as desired. Additionally, cook the quinoa or rice according to the package.

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2. While the veggies are cooking, prepare the seasoning and set aside. Once the veggies are done, remove from the pan and brown the chicken. Once the chicken is almost fully browned, add in the seasoning mixture. Mix well and then add in the cooked peppers and onions, as well as the rinsed black beans and corn. Sautee until everything is warm.

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3. Put a serving of quinoa or rice atop a bed of spinach and then place the taco mixture on top of that. You can also serve it in a wrap or taco if you wish. I topped mine with a little cheese because, well, cheese makes everything better 😉

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We were so happy with the results of this quick and easy weeknight meal! It was so flavorful and healthy- a win, win (side note: I originally typed in “wine” instead of win… is that a problem?) in my book.

We both enjoyed leftovers throughout the week- she made a wrap for dinner and I ended up having another salad exactly like this!

Questions for you: Do you like to eat taco salads, wraps or plain ol’ tacos? Have you ever made your own taco seasoning?

 

 

 

Quinoa Granola

Say, what?! I know, it sounds a little weird, right? That’s what I thought when my sister sent me an email with a link to this recipe from her favorite blog, Iowa Girl Eats, but after making it, I can promise you there’s nothing weird about it!

I made a number of additions/substitutions based on what I had in the apartment and based on what I thought I wanted to include in it, but using her recipe as a base was a great place to start. I never would have thought to have included quinoa in a granola recipe!

Crunch Quinoa Granola– Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

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Ingredients

2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup sliced almonds– I used 1/2 cup chopped almonds and 1/4 cup copped pecans
2 Tablespoons flax seeds– I ran out of flax seeds so I left this out
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of salt
1/4 cup honey– I used a mixture of honey, maple syrup and agave. I probably used between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup combined.
2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted– Left this out since I didn’t have any. I added in 2 TBSP of almond butter instead.
1 cup raisins– I used craisins instead because I like them better

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 350*. Combine all ingredients except for the raisins or craisins.

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2. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake at 350* for 20-30 minutes, checking on it periodically and stirring to ensure that everything is baked evenly.

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3. When it’s cooked, remove from the oven, add the raisins or craisins and enjoy!

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Not surprisingly, I couldn’t keep my hands out of this granola. Ugh, it’s such an obsession! What I loved about this granola, though, was the extra dose of protein and fiber from the quinoa that helped kept me full and satisfied for longer. It was the prefect fuel for the run I did after eating it by the BIG handful.

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Needless to say, this batch didn’t last every long… whoops!

Questions for you: What’s the “weirdest”, but surprisingly delicious, recipe you’ve ever made? Do you prefer raisins or craisins?