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Simply Savor: Butternut Squash Quinoa Harvest Bowl

By Anneka Miller, Dietetic Intern

This Butternut Squash Quinoa Harvest Bowl is a quick and effortless recipe that is perfect for lunch or dinner. Whether you are looking to prepare meals for the week or to serve a nutritious meal for a group, this 10-ingredient recipe is satiating and packs many health benefits. In addition to being vegan and gluten-free, this recipe is also high in fiber, versatile, and flexible to what you have in your pantry. 

Ingredient Highlights

Butternut squash: This winter squash is a rich source of beta-carotene, a chemical compound that is responsible for vitamin A’s conversion in the body. Vitamin A is vital for maintaining healthy skin, vision, and a robust immune system. Growing research shows that incorporating beta-carotene and other carotenoid-containing foods is an eating habit that can reduce cancer risk [i]. Plus, they bring a delicious sweet and nutty flavor to any dish.

Quinoa: Quinoa is an affordable and delicious whole grain that offers a complete source of protein, containing all essential amino acids. In a recent study, it was identified that a number of compounds in quinoa demonstrate anti-cancer activity [ii]. 

Walnuts: Walnuts are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Walnuts are associated with a multitude of health benefits, they can protect against cancer-causing agents, reduce inflammation, and increase the diversity and abundance of good bacteria in the gut [iv].

Baby kale: This nutritional powerhouse offers a wide variety of beneficial vitamins and minerals. Similarly to butternut squash, research findings show that the carotenoids found in kale can act as antioxidants and boost the body’s own defenses. These defenses help stop free radicals from damaging DNA that can lead to cancer [v].

Recipe, Serves 5

Ingredients

  • 1 medium Butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (or about 2 ½ cups pre-cut)
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 cups baby kale, rinsed and spin-dried
  • 1 cup of dry quinoa (or 3 cups of cooked quinoa)
  • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Optional: 1 Bosc pear, sliced for garnish

Instructions:

Roasting the Vegetables:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F 
  2. On a large baking sheet, combine the butternut squash, chickpeas, and red onion chunks.
  3. Drizzle olive oil evenly, and then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper.
  4. Toss the squash, chickpeas, and onions to coat them evenly with the oil and seasonings.
  5. Roast in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the squash is tender and slightly caramelized. Make sure to flip them halfway through for even cooking.

Preparing the Quinoa and Walnuts:

  1. While the squash, chickpeas, and onions are roasting, combine 1 cup of dry quinoa in a pot with 2 cups of water.
  2. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and let it sit, covered for 10 more minutes.
  4. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
  5. In a dry skillet over medium heat, lightly toast the chopped walnuts for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Be careful not to burn them. Once toasted, set them aside.

Assemble the Bowl:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa and baby kale.
  2. Add the roasted butternut squash, red onions, and chickpeas to the quinoa and kale mixture.
  3. Drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar as desired.
  4. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper over the bowl.
  5. Top the bowl with the toasted walnuts for a satisfying crunch.
  6. Gently toss everything together until combined.
  7. Thinly slice 1 bosc pear and fan out on top of the bowl for garnish.

Other Recipe Notes:

  1. The seasonal vegetables, like kale and butternut squash, can be swapped out with vegetables that you have in your kitchen. For example, swapping in zucchini and arugula would be a great substitution that still maintains the high fiber content of the dish.
  2. If additional protein is desired, we suggest adding roasted chicken or salmon into the recipe. 
  3. In a pinch for time? The ingredients in this recipe can be prepped at the beginning of the week and stored in your fridge for a convenient and quick meal!

References:

[i] AICR/WCRF. Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective, 2018.

[ii] Gómez-Caravaca AM, et al. Simultaneous determination of phenolic compounds and saponins in quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd) by a liquid chromatography—diode array detection—electrospray ionization—time-of-flight mass spectrometry methodology. J Agric Food Chem 2011;59:10815-10825.

[iii] Man S, et al. Chemical study and medical application of saponins as anti-cancer agents. Fitoterapia 2010;81:703-714.

[iv] Fan, N., Fusco, J. and Rosenberg, D. (2023) “Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Walnut Constituents: Focus on Personalized Cancer Prevention and the Microbiome”, Antioxidants, 12(5), p. 982. doi: 10.3390/antiox12050982. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/12/5/982

[v] AICR/WCRF. Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective, 2018.

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