I’m not sure when I first made quinoa. Thanks to some sleuthing and my little blog, I know it was at least two years ago. For a while, I was on a quinoa kick, and then I stopped eating it entirely. Why eat chewy grains when I could make a bowl of twirl-y fettuccine instead? Then, when mom was in town the other week, Rachel ordered the quinoa bowl with scrambled eggs at Huckleberry. I begged to finish her leftovers (race nerves were leaving her with little appetite) and practically licked the bowl clean.

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For whatever reason, my taste buds suddenly decided to LOVE quinoa again and now I just can’t get enough. The thing about quinoa is, it’s impossible really to make an unhealthy dish when preparing it. Whenever I think of how to serve quinoa, or what other ingredients I’ll use, my mind immediately jumps to sweet potatoes, squash, roasted vegetables, leafy greens, toasted nuts and maybe some dried fruit. Basically, an advertisement for clean eating on one plate.

Pink Quinoa Bowl

Some people might not like the thought of eating a dish colored bright pink. But when the shade comes from roasted beets, I say, bring it on!

Farmers’ Market, slow-roasted beets are one of my new favorites. Looks like the beets love me back ♥

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Preheat oven to 350. Dice and roast sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts for 25-35 minutes, turning once.

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Rinse and quarter beets, leaving the skin intact. Spray with PAM or lightly toss with EVOO, then wrap beets together in tinfoil, sealing completely. Cook for 1 hour. When you rinse the cooked beets under water, just push lightly at the skins and they’ll easily slip off. Cut beets into bite-sized pieces.

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Add vegetables to cooked quinoa (I use a rice cooker; just add 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa and you’re good to go!), along with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and viola. Hello, pink.

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Then for dinner last night, I wanted to use two mini squashes (that I might have picked out based on cuteness factor), so of course, incorporating quinoa immediately jumped to mind. I had two themes when making these stuffed squashes: manly meat/heat and dainty vegetable (serves 2).

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Manly Meat & Heat Quinoa Stuffed Squash

Halve the baby butternut squash, scoop out the seeds, and place facedown in a glass baking dish filled with an inch of water. Cook the squash for about an hour at 375 degrees. When the squash is almost done, cook two servings of quinoa (1/2 cup uncooked). After the squash is fork-tender, remove from heat. Turn up the oven to broil, and cook two jalapeño chicken sausages. Scoop out the cooked squash insides, mixing with half the cooked quinoa. Add cayenne pepper and chopped chicken sausages to taste. I added a lot of spice! Divide mixture into each squash shell.

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Dainty Vegetable Quinoa Stuffed Squash

The vegetable-stuffed squash cooks up at the same time as the meat version, so there’s no added cook time. Repeat the same steps with your second squash – I used a baby kabocha one – roasting along with the butternut.  As the quinoa and chicken sausage are cooking, add chopped asparagus to a pot of salted boiling water and cook 3-5 minutes. Mix scooped kabocha with the asparagus, quinoa, a tiny bit of butter, salt and sage. Then stuff!

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Because the squash takes a while in the oven, there’s a lot of downtime and only a flurry of cooking at the end when making the quinoa, chicken sausage, and asparagus all at once. Don’t forget the cayenne and sage though – the spices add a ton of flavor to the other relatively mild-tasting ingredients.

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Not too hard, filling, and super wholesome…let’s just say, if you can think of a way to prepare quinoa that’s not healthy — don’t tell me! I have plenty of good twirl-y fettuccine recipes begging for cream sauces.

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