Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Tahini Vinaigrette

IMG_4035Surprising as it may seem, I do actually make food other than dessert. Behind all the butter and sugar, I happen to follow a fairly healthy diet. Of course I taste everything I make (my motto is everything in moderation), but most of it ends up in the stomachs of my friends and family members. Unless of course it’s something like these healthy Oatmeal-Raisin Energy Balls which I may or may not hoard in secret tupperware containers in the way way back of the fridge. Strange as it is, I actually get more excited about stuff like this quinoa dish than I do about chocolate chip cookies. Who am I?!IMG_4037

Now, before you lose all trust in me as a baker/blogger and toss me to the curb as a pitiful soul who chooses quinoa over cookies, you’ve gotta try this recipe! Then you’ll see what I’m talking about. With quinoa as its base, this salad is loaded with sweet balsamic-roasted cherry tomatoes, crispy roasted chickpeas, creamy avocado chunks, and nutritious baby spinach. Then it’s all tossed in a fabulous lemon-tahini vinaigrette–the recipe makes extra, so you can use it to dress other salads as well! My favorite way to serve it is slightly warm, but it’s also delicious at room temperature or straight out of the fridge. My family loves to eat this salad as a main dish for lunch or dinner, but you can also serve it as a side. Or you can do what I did and eat it straight out of the tupperware as a late-night snack!

If you’re looking for a fast, easy, meatlessgluten-free, and delicious dinner recipe, you have to try this! It’s got so many good things going on that I can’t pick a favorite…the juicy, almost caramelized tomatoes? The hidden pieces of smooth avocado? The slightly-nutty, slightly-sweet lemony dressing? Call me crazy to choose leftover quinoa salad as dessert instead of a cookie, but I just couldn’t get enough! The cookies can wait.IMG_4047

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Tahini Vinaigrette.

Makes 6-8 servings

For the salad:

1 & 1/2 cups quinoa (uncooked)

1 pint (16 oz) cherry tomatoes

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt & pepper

1 avocado, diced

2 cups baby spinach

For the dressing:

1/4 cup tahini

3 tablespoons warm water

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)

1 teaspoon honey

2 large garlic cloves, minced

Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package directions. While the quinoa is cooking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. When the quinoa is finished, fluff with a fork and allow to cool as you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

Wash and halve the cherry tomatoes and spread onto a lined baking sheet in a single layer. Add the chickpeas to the baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the tomatoes are blistered and the chickpeas are golden and slightly crisp. Cool slightly.

To make the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients in a medium-small bowl. Place the cooked quinoa into a large serving bowl and add in the roasted tomatoes, chickpeas, and baby spinach. Pour on as much dressing as you like (the recipe makes about 1 cup and I like to use about 2/3 cup). Stir gently to coat, then carefully fold in the diced avocado. Serve warm, chilled, or at room temperature.

(Recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen)

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Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup with Spinach

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Despite it being mid-May, recent weather around here has been more of a throwback to winter than a peek to the summer months ahead. This weekend has been one of those gray, drizzly, what-can-you-expect-it’s-the-Pacific-Northwest type of weekends, which means digging my windbreaker back out from the depths of my closet where I’d hoped it would stay until fall, having no opportunity to work on my (slightly pathetic) tan, and spending two long days either inside trying to find something to do or outside wishing the sun would make even a brief appearance. The only thing such a bleak weekend seems to be good for is soup-making, of course!

During the chilly fall and winter months, my family eats soup, stew, or chili at least once a week, often more. There’s something so comforting about a large pot simmering on the stove, ready to warm everyone up. Even though it’s spring, I figured I’d take advantage of the ugly weather to justify one last soup day before it gets too hot. Not that I’d mind sacrificing my favorite winter meal for a couple months of nice weather!

This Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup with Spinach is always a good choice. Delicious, filling, healthy, and packed with protein and veggies, it makes for a perfect dinner, especially when paired with a crusty loaf of bread. This meatless dish is full of tender vegetables and garlic; hearty lentils; fragrant thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf; and sweet tomatoes. Note that the recipe makes a LARGE pot of soup, about 10 servings, so plan on lots of tasty leftovers. The soup freezes well, too, and makes for an easy thaw-and-serve dinner.

I guess there is a silver lining to dreary, overcast days. With a bowl of this soup, it’s hard not to be a happy camper!

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Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup with Spinach

Serves 8-10

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium white or yellow onion, diced

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

1 celery stalk, diced

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 & 1/2 cups brown lentils

60 ounces (4 15-oz cans) vegetable broth

2 cups water

2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried rosemary

2 dried bay leaves

1/4 tsp black pepper (more to taste)

1 tsp sea salt (more to taste)

2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, torn

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add in the onion and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add in the chopped carrot, celery, and sweet potatoes and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, or until vegetables are beginning to soften. Add in the lentils, broth, water, and diced tomatoes; stir well. Stir in the thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.

Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low and let the soup simmer for 35-40 minutes, or until lentils and sweet potatoes are tender. Turn off the heat and immediately stir in the fresh spinach until wilted. Taste for salt and pepper, remove bay leaves, and serve.

(Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)