Fall Grain Salad with Cranberry Apple Orange Vinaigrette

Somehow I’ve lost over a month! August ran away with Weddings, Baby Showers and late summer fun, and September is quickly slipping away into Autumn. I’m back and excited that my favorite season is upon us. I do have a recipe review from Isa Does It to write up but decided to make my return from hiatus with this grain salad all dressed up for fall and save the Isa post for next week.

This salad is very loosely inspired by something I’ve had at the Whole Foods Salad Bar. They have a grain salad I was certain was called Superfood Salad but when I tried to do some research online as to its ingredients the Superfood Salads that came up were cabbage based and most definitely not the salad I have in mind. No bother; I figured I’d create my own reminiscent of the Whole Foods version but amped up for the season.

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1/2 cup farro
1/2 cup quinoa
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried whole cranberries
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch kale
Juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 green apple
1 pomegranate
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the farro and the quinoa according to package directions. I generally cook 1/2 cup of farro with 1 cup of water for about 30 minutes; the 1/2 cup quinoa, also in 1 cup of water, will cook faster (about 20 minutes) so I do cook them in separate small saucepans.

While the grains are cooking toast your pumpkin seeds slightly to enhance their nuttiness. I usually just put them on some foil in the toaster for a couple of minutes until fragrant (keep an eye on them they will toast quickly.

If your grocery has bulk bins check there for your grains and pumpkin seeds (pepitas). I rarely get to Whole Foods but my local Wegmans also has bulk bins and sometimes items are cheaper there; it’s also a good way to give a new food a try without too much commitment.

You can also prepare your kale while your grains are cooking. If you like raw kale go for it. I like to steam mine a bit; for this recipe I put the kale and the red onion in a pot with the juice of one lemon and a dash of cayenne. Turn the burner up to medium high and stir constantly until it’s nice and hot then remove from heat and cover to steam a minute or two. Alternatively, it will steam a bit if you add it directly to the hot grains once their finished (and you’ll save yourself a pot to wash).

Once the grains are cooked, add the pumpkin seeds, kale and red onion, tomatoes, and dried cranberries.

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If you can find Trader Joe’s Whole Dried Cranberries they are amazing, but I warn you that you will never be able to eat a Craisin again and will be making special trips to Trader Joe’s just for cranberries (not that I’ve done that or anything).

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I was considering making a cranberry vinaigrette but while researching I came across what seemed the perfect recipe and decided to just make that. The Cranberry Apple Orange Vinaigrette from Oh She Glows was delicious and a great pairing. I drizzled a few spoonfuls to serve.

I garnished the salad with pomegranate, and thinly sliced apple. The dish is filling on its own but to make it an even heartier meal (or to stretch the leftovers further) you can also top with roasted squash.

1 squash (I used sweet dumpling squash)
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (divided
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (divided)

Cut the squash in half and clean out the seeds. Place the squash cut side up in a roasting pan filled with about an inch of water. Add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the center of each squash. Cook at 375 for 30-40 minutes. Brush the squash with the maple mixture and slice to serve.

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Week 44: Flavors of Fall

I may have overdone it a bit this past week.  All told I ended up with six new recipes!  I’ll kick things off with the one not quite fall recipe.

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I had bought a package of extra firm tofu for Week 43 but only used one slice of it in the BBQ preparation.  I didn’t want to waste the whole package so I thought I would give a completely different preparation a try and see if I liked the texture any better.  Thai Salad with Slow-Cooked Tofu in Pineapple BBQ sauce caught my eye because I saw in the comments that freezing and thawing the tofu alters the texture.  However, when it came time to do my food prep I was more in the mood for a stir-fry so I made Thai Black Pepper and Garlic Tofu.   I already had freeze/thawed the tofu but prepared the recipe as written otherwise.  The sauce of this dish is nice and light but packed with flavor from the pepper and garlic.  The texture of the tofu did seem improved from my last attempt and I ate a whole serving of the dish.  That said, I picked the tofu out of the leftovers and have conceded that I simply do not like tofu in general.  If you do like tofu Susan has a bunch of yummy looking recipes up on her blog.

On to the Flavors of Fall!  You’ll be impressed that it’s not just pumpkin this week (though of course there will be pumpkin).  Enticed by the beautiful picture on Pinterest, I made Autumn Arugula Salad with Caramelized Squash, Spiced Pecans and Pomegranate Ginger Vinaigrette for lunches.  I buy a pomegranate about once a year because it only takes one to remind myself that I’m too impatient for pomegranate.  This salad was a good use of my annual pom though!  There is a lot going on with creaminess from the squash and avocado, crunch from the pecans and cucumbers and a lovely sweet burst from the pomegranate (like natural pop rocks – yes, I am a dork).

IMG_5075IMG_5129I was getting a bit bored of salad after a day or two but didn’t want to waste food so decided to reinvent the lunches by adding a soup.  I took what was left of the acorn squash and made Chipotle Acorn Squash Soup.  I had about enough squash for half the recipe.  I used vegetable broth, subbed chipotle peppers for the hot sauce and sriracha and Fresh Cream Sauce from Let Them Eat Vegan for the cream.  I sprinkled a few toasted pine nuts on top with some fresh ground pepper to finish.  It’s a lovely soup that tastes much richer than it is and the chipotle was a nice addition.  A much more satisfying lunch as a combo.

I had actually made the Fresh Cream Sauce for another recipe, Pumpkin Chickpea Cauliflower Curry with Fresh Cream Sauce.  This is also from Let Them Eat Vegan but Dreena Burton has posted the recipe online as well (linked in the recipe title).  Instead of the recommended zucchini I decided to use bell peppers and peas to add some color and texture to the dish.  I also added a potato diced small because I had one that needed to be used and this seemed the kind of dish forgivable to substitutions.  This was a great one-pot meal.  The pumpkin creates a lovely sauce and the addition of  a little bit of the cream sauce really makes it rich and satisfying.  I served mine over brown rice.

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IMG_5083Finally, a sweet treat for Halloween.  It was bound to happen eventually, I have found a pumpkin recipe I do not like.  I was perusing recipes and was intrigued by Happy Herbivore Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies.   I like pumpkin (in case you haven’t noticed).  I like chocolate.  Why not put them together?  No, this one was not for me.  The two flavors together just seemed odd and competing.  I will have to stick to enjoying my pumpkin and my chocolate separately from here on out.

New Recipes Made This Week: 6

New Recipe Tally 2013: 124