After spending hours outside on a frozen pond over the weekend, the last thing I felt like either making or eating was a salad. A body warming soup or a hearty stew seemed more appropriate, but this quinoa salad hit the spot. The key is the warm dressing. It softens everything up a bit and makes it a delicious, hearty and nutritious meal or side to chicken, fish or tofu.
But first, let’s talk about how nutritious all of the ingredients are. There are no “main “ingredients in this salad. Instead, every food is a star.
Starting with the foods that take a little prep time, most people think that quinoa is a grain. In fact it is a grain crop, grown for its seeds – the part we eat – and prepared like you would rice. Quinoa is a great source of magnesium and manganese, plus a good source of the minerals iron, phosphorous, copper and zinc. It also contains vitamins B2 and E, along with fiber. Quinoa has all of the essential amino acids, which make it an excellent source of protein and an ideal addition to meatless diets, as well as gluten-free diets.
Kale is a nutritional powerhouse because of the amounts of vitamins A, K, B6 and C, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese it contains. One cup of raw kale has just 33 calories and only 7 grams of carbohydrate. So, it’s a very diabetes-friendly and weight-friendly vegetable.
Another nutritional superstar is the sweet potato. One medium-sized cooked sweet potato contains 4 grams of fiber, 32% of our daily vitamin C, and an amazing 475% of our daily vitamin A! Vitamin A helps our bodies maintain healthy teeth, soft tissue, and skeletal tissue, and is important for healthy vision and healthy skin. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium, manganese and magnesium.
A member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, red cabbage is full of heart-healthy benefits. The anthocyanins in red cabbage are powerful antioxidants, and it’s also a great source of fiber, vitamins C and B6, potassium and manganese.
Just 1/4 cup of unsalted sunflower seeds contributes more than 75% of our daily requirement of vitamin E. One quarter cup also provides almost a third of the RDA for magnesium and selenium! Lastly, for a little sweetness and tartness, I add a handful of craisins. They offer a good amount of fiber, and some natural sweetness to this delicious salad.
The beauty of this recipe, aside from the warm dressing, is that you can adjust the amounts of any of the above ingredients to suit your palate. Below is approximate to what I made for a family of 4.
Winter Quinoa Salad with Warm Apple Cider Vinaigrette
• 1 cup of uncooked quinoa
• 4 cups of roughly chopped kale (bite size pieces)
• 1 cup of cabbage, sliced into thin ribbons
• 1 large cooked sweet potato (skin removed), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
• 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
• Handful of craisins
• 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
• 4 Tbsp olive oil
• 1 Tbsp maple syrup
• 1 tsp whole grain mustard
• Salt and pepper
Cook the quinoa as per instructions on the package . Set aside and let it cool. Once cool, combine all the ingredients for the salad in a large bowl.
In a small bowl whisk the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, whole grain mustard and maple syrup together and until they are combined. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the dressing into a small sauce pan and heat it on low heat until it’s warm (about 1 minute), stirring slowly and continuously.
Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently. The warm vinaigrette will help soften the kale, making it more tender.