A healthy make-ahead dish to enjoy on a holiday, weeknight, or throughout the week (if you have any left!).
Thanksgiving may be over but there are still plenty of wintry months left to enjoy fall’s favorite all-star veggies and fruits: kale, butternut squash and cranberries. I just know you’ll love this Kale, Quinoa, and Butternut Squash Salad with Cranberry-Citrus Vinaigrette.
This salad is…
- Super-healthy! It’s loaded with vitamin A, Vitamin C, and fiber and it’s packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants and anti-inflammatories
- Ultra colorful and eye-catching
- Light and fairly low in calories
- High in protein – because of the quinoa
- Tart, sweet, salty, and savory – all in one bite
- Easy to make
- Cutting the squash trick: Scrub the outside of the squash well (to remove any bacteria) then poke several holes in it. Place the whole squash in the microwave and cook on high, about 40 seconds to one minute per pound. Remove the squash from the microwave (carefully). Let it cool for a few minutes, then peel (for this recipe) with a vegetable peeler. Cut the ends off, cut the squash lengthwise in half, scoop out the seeds, and dice. This method works beautifully.
- Onions or shallots? I think shallots taste best in this recipe. Shallots look like little onions. You find them in the onion section of the grocery store, often in small bags containing 5 or 6 shallots per bag. Shallots taste like a mild onion, with a hint of garlicky bite.
- What kind of kale? Whatever you prefer. I used curly kale because it’s cheap and plentiful this time of year but you could also use Red Russian kale or Lacinato (Dinosaur) kale. Use whatever kind of kale you have (except baby kale – too limp) and like.
- If you love cheese feel free to add a sprinkle of feta or goat cheese. I didn’t this time but I have before and it’s delicious!
- Try a flavored oil. I am lucky enough to live near an Olive Cart store that sells dozens of different types of oils. This time, I used Roasted Pecan Oil. Other oils that would work GREAT in this recipe are pistachio oil, pumpkin seed oil, or squash seed oil. If you have none of those just use EVOO, or a light tasting salad or vegetable oil.
- What’s a pepita? Although they taste a lot like pumpkin seeds, pepitas and pumpkin seeds are actually two different things. A pepita is harvested from very specific hull-less pumpkin varieties. Other varieties of pumpkin produce a hulled seed that’s slightly fibrous and less tender. You can find pepitas in the nuts section of most large chain grocery stores.
Are you sick of people encouraging you to eat more kale? Try this Kale, Quinoa, and Butternut Squash Salad with Cranberry-Citrus Vinaigrette and you just might become a kale enthusiast too.
Peace, love and good eats, from our Empty Nest to yours.
Trending in the Empty Nest Kitchen: Roasted Pecan Oil, purchased at the Olive Cart
Mr. ENs take on this recipe: “Fresh and good. I really like the dressing.”
Kale, Quinoa, and Butternut Squash Salad with Cranberry-Citrus Vinaigrette
Yield 8 servings
- 2 cups cubed and roasted, butternut squash (see step 1, below)
- 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 ½ cups cooked tri-color quinoa, cooled (see step 2, below)
- 3 cups washed, destemmed, and chopped curly kale
- 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
- 2-3 tablespoons toasted pepitas (or any nuts you like, see Notes below)
- 1 tablespoon finely diced shallot
- 4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons cranberry juice cocktail or another citrusy juice
- ¼ cup roasted pecan oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare the squash. See Prep Tips above. Cut into dice-size (or a little larger) cubes. Toss the cubes with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet in a 425 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until squash begins to turn brown and is tender when pierced with a fork. Don’t overcook the squash. It should still be somewhat firm. Let cool.
- Measure 1/2 cup quinoa then rinse thoroughly under cool running water in a mesh strainer. Pour ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons of water into a saucepan and add the quinoa. Turn the heat to high and bring the liquid and quinoa to a boil. Once it has reached a full boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and place the lid on the saucepan. Simmer the quinoa for 15 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed and the kernels have "popped open." Remove the top of the saucepan and let the steam escape. Gently transfer the cooked quinoa to a cookie sheet and spread it out so the steam escapes as the quinoa cools.
- While the squash is roasting make the dressing: Place the vinegar in a small bowl or jar and add the chopped shallot. Let sit for 15 minutes, then add the lemon juice, cranberry juice cocktail, pecan or other oil, lemon zest and a generous pinch of salt. Taste with a leaf of kale and adjust salt if needed.
- Place the chopped kale in a large bowl. Shake the dressing well. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the dressing on the kale. With clean hands, gently work the dressing into the kale, squeezing it lightly for a few minutes until it turns bright green.
- Add the cooked quinoa, cranberries, pepitas (or any nut you are using)to the kale. Fold gently until all ingredients are well distributed.
- Shake the dressing again, then add 2-3 tablespoons of it to the salad, tossing until everything is coated. Taste and add more dressing as needed.
- Use any kind of nut you enjoy. I used pepitas and tossed in a few Marcona almonds but other nuts such as toasted pecans or walnuts would work well too.
- The analysis for this recipe included 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Serving Size about 3/4 cup
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 10 g
Saturated Fat 1 g
Sodium 166 mg
Total Carbohydrates 19 g
Dietary Fiber 4 g
Protein 4 g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.