The October Unprocessed challenge is not meant to lessen the variety of foods in one’s meal and snacking arsenal. It is instead intended to arm us with the knowledge of how to look for the cleanest, most whole and unprocessed foods and ingredients that we can find, and to introduce new, healthier options to replace the junk food that plagues so many of our pantries. It’s a challenge to reduce the amount of negatives and increase the amount of positives – in food, and life!
So with that in mind, I bought my first ever butternut squash…with no idea how to cook it. Now that fall is here, of course, squash recipes can be found anywhere, and the internet did not let me down! I came across what looked a delicious salad on Two Peas and Their Pod, altered a few things, and now have a new favorite vegetable, and dish!
Whether you’re partaking in Unprocessed or not, I encourage you to try new fruits and vegetables when you can. Buy that weird-looking thing in the produce aisle, google preparation ideas, and go to town! Worst case scenario: you cross off another food that you don’t like. Best case: you gain a new pantry or fridge staple!
This salad in particular is very warm and comforting. It somehow becomes creamy, and yet the citrus dressing is refreshing enough to enliven the senses. The contrasting textures of the quinoa grain, the softly roasted squash, the chewy cranberries and the crunchy walnuts make this dish exciting for the tastebuds! Take the time to enjoy what you eat – I bet you’ll notice things you never did before.
Butternut Squash and Quinoa Salad, adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2-3 tbsp Grapeseed oil (this can resist higher temps but use olive oil if necessary)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
For the dressing:
- Zest of 1 medium orange
- Juice of 3 medium oranges
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Start your quinoa cooking: Add water and quinoa to a large pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, another 15 minutes. Let this cool.
While that cooks, peel, slice and cube the squash. Save the seeds and roast them later! I used this tasty recipe.
Place butternut squash on a large baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle with grapeseed oil and grind salt and pepper all over. Be generous! There isn’t much salt in this dish otherwise. Roast the squash for 30 minutes, turning once, until tender.
Chop the walnuts while all this cooks.
Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
In a large serving bowl, combine cooked quinoa, roasted butternut squash, dried cranberries, and chopped walnuts. Drizzle the dressing on top and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper again, to taste.
Eat this warm, eat it cold, eat it as a main dish, or use it as a side. No matter what, I’m sure you’ll like it as much as I did!
What new produce will YOU try this month?