Warm Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash, Kale, Cherries, and Meyer Lemon Dressing

Last week I got inspired. By one of my favorite local healthy eating chefs, Megan McCarthy of Healthy Eating 101. She was teaching about Superfoods and made this quinoa (pronounced "KEEN WAH") salad that was so simple and so totally crave-able. 
I loved it.
I woke up the next day and dug out the bag of quinoa that had been taking up space in my pantry for too long. I kind of forgot how much I like quinoa and how good it is on so many levels.

Cool quinoa trivia: 
  • Quinoa has been around like 4000-5000 years and was first cultivated in the Andes by the Incas.
  • Two North Americans stumbled upon it and brought it over to the US {Boulder, CO} around 1980.
  • We still get most of our quinoa from South America, mainly Peru and Bolivia.
  • Quinoa is technically a seed {from a leafy plant related to spinach}.
  • It is a superior source of protein and is high in antioxidants, fiber, Vitamin B, and phytonutrients. 
  • It's gluten free and easy to digest.
  • Easy to cook: just rinse it well and simmer 1 part quinoa to 2 parts liquid till liquid is absorbed. Done!


I chose the rest of my ingredients wandering around my grocery store's produce department. It's fun to walk through there and let your imagination wander. All the colorful, beautiful fruits and vegetables are lined up like nature's medicine cabinet!
I picked out some of my very favorite things for this recipe: butternut squash, kale, dried cherries, roasted pumpkin seeds, and avocado {which I ended up not using as it was not nice looking when I opened it up}. And Meyer lemons are in the store right now.....had to grab a few of those for some fresh, bright flavor.

This turned out so delicious. Quinoa....how could I have forsaken you for so long?? Never again. 
Quinoa is like a big, blank canvas of nutty goodness - you add the color and taste with fresh herbs, dried fruit, nuts, veggies, lean meat....whatever inspires you. 
Plus, it's equally good warm, room temperature, or chilled. 
Now....go get your quinoa ON!!

Warm Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash, Kale, Cherries, and Meyer Lemon Dressing
Serves 8-10 

1/2 of a medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cubed
Splash of olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups quinoa {I used a mixed blend}
3 cups filtered water

1/2 bunch of lacinato kale, shredded
3/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds 
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon

5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 Meyer lemons
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. Place the squash on a sheet pan lined with a Silpat or parchment. Toss the squash cubes with a bit of olive oil and season with some sea salt and pepper. Cook for about 20 minutes or until just tender.

Meanwhile cook quinoa. Rinse the quinoa and drain. Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a medium pot, then turn heat down to low, cover and simmer till the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. This is about 15-20 minutes generally. Fluff with a fork.

While the quinoa cooks, prep the kale. Rinse leaves well and dry them. Cut out the tough stem from each leaf. Stack leaves and slice into thin strips. Set aside.

Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together. Place the dried cherries into the dressing to sit and soften.

While the quinoa is still warm, stir in the kale, squash, cherries, dressing, roasted pumpkin seeds, and lemon zest. Season with more sea salt and pepper as you like. Serve.


  1. Yummm! I don't really do quinoa, but would totally make this with barley or farro. :)


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