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  • Spring Forward: Lemon Quinoa + Roasted Asparagus Salad (+ optional easiest way to roast beets!)

    The sun has been shining, I have been running outside (dodging huge lake-like puddles) and a wave of freshness is settling in! Or maybe those are the super gusty, salty, sandy winds I get pelted with while outside? Well, in either case, the snow is almost gone and everyone seems to be a bit happier around here! People are outside, the bros are drinking on their roofs and porches on campus, the shorts and tank-tops are starting to show up, and icy sidewalks are hopefully no more! So what does that mean? Lighter, refreshing food! Not that I don't love the comforting foods of winter, but I am certainly ready for fresh spring produce...like now. Come on CSA box...!! Is it time to pick strawberries yet??

    To celebrate the warm weather, I picked up a few bunches of beautiful aspargus the other day. They looked so fresh and green-and were surprisingly thin and tender! I have been on a roasted veggie kick, since a few steamed veggie incidents the past few weeks resulted in mush...ew. Roasting vegetables is sooo easy, delicous, and versatile. You can toss them into a grain, a huge salad, pasta, or even puree them into a sauce (garlic, roasted red pepper and almonds with some olive oil is my favorite so far). For this lighter, but still delicious and filling salad, I roasted asparagus and sweet potato, and piled it on a bed of lemon-spiked quinoa and peppery arugula. I topped it with the classic lemon-tahini dressing (never gets old!), and toasted pepitas for crunch. Oh, and I was glad I did. I think you will be too, so get to it! 

    If you don't have sweet potatoes or aren't in the mood, try substituing with some sweet roasted beets. Equally as simple and delicious...and any leftover beets can be used in my Just Beet It Smoothie (recipe in this post!). There is a how-to roast beets in the simplest way possible at the bottom of the post. Any leftover lemon-tahini dressing is so tasty on celery, carrots and red pepper slices for a great snack, too. You can also add slices of avocado, too! Cheers to spring!!



    Roasted Vegetable Salad with Lemon Quinoa and Creamy Lemon-Tahini Dressing // makes enough for 4 large entree or 6 small side salads// vegan; gluten-free; sugar-free; soy-free; paleo friendly

    Roasted Veggies:

    • 1 or 2 bunches asparagus cut into 1" pieces
    • 1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, 1/2" cubes
    • 1-2 TB or a good drizzle of olive oil or melted virgin coconut oil
    • Pinch of sea salt

    Quinoa:

    • 1 cups red or tri-colored quinoa, rinsed well
    • 1 1/3 cups water or vegetable stock
    • 3/4 cup raw pepitas, toasted if desired
    • 1 TB olive oil
    • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
    • Zest (optional) and Juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
    • 1/2 cup (about 1/2 large bunch) parsley, chopped medium-fine
    • Salt and Pepper to taste

    Dressing:

    • 1/4 cup tahini
    • 1/4 cup water 
    • 2 TB olive oil
    • 2 TB nutritional yeast (optional, but really recommended)
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice
    • 1 large clove garlic
    • salt to taste
    • optional: 1/2-1 tsp maple syrup or agave (takes the edge off the raw garlic)

    Salad:

    • 4-6 cups arugula (or spinach, thinly sliced kale, red romaine or any combo thereof)
    • Optional add-ins: additional pepitas, sliced avocado, roasted beets (see below for easy how-to!)

    Start by roasting your sweet potatoes and asparagus:

    1. Pre-heat oven to 425F and line sheet tray with parchment
    2. Start by trimming the woody-ends of the asparagus. A trick: take a spear, hold at bottom and top, and bend it until it breaks. Where the woody end snaps off is where you want to cut the rest of the spears. Cut the trimmed spears into ~1” pieces. Place on sheet tray, and toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast asparagus for 8-11 minutes until tender, fragrant but not burnt. Take asparagus out, and transfer to a container.
    3. Turn heat down to 400F for the sweet potatoes, and use the same sheet tray as the asparagus.
    4. If desired, peel the sweet potato. If not, then be sure to wash the skin with a vegetable brush and trim any rough-looking pieces or hairs. Cut the sweet potato into ½” cubes. Toss the sweet potato with a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of salt.
    5. Roast the sweet potatoes for ~35-45 minutes. Turn once mid-way through. They should be golden and tender-taste a few pieces and roast until they are to your liking.
    6. Cool to room temperature, then store a container with a lid-either the same as the asparagus, or a different one.

    While the veggies roast, make the quinoa:

    1. Rinse the quinoa well-it has a natural soapy-coating that is astringent if eaten. You may do this in the cooking pan, OR with a fine-mesh sieve.
    2. Add quinoa and water, cover with lid, and bring to simmer on medium-high then turn down to low. Cook for ~20-25 minutes until water is all absorbed, then turn heat off and allow to sit for ~10 minutes.
    3. Add to a large bowl or container. Fluff with a fork, then add the remaining ingredients (to toaste pepitas, add to a small pan and toast over medium heat until brown, fragrant and starting to pop). Taste for seasoning and adjust salt, pepper, lemon and olive oil if needed. To store, simply cover when cool.

    At the end, make the dressing

    1. Put everything for the dressing into a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. If needed, add more water by the TB to help blend. Taste, adjust seasonings as desired.
    2. Store in a glass container with a lid.

    Assembly Tips:

    • You can mix the quinoa and roasted veggies, but I recommend keeping the dressing and greens separate to avoid wilting.
    • Simply top a large bed of greens with the quinoa, veggies and dressing—then enjoy! You can pre-portion out the quinoa, greens and dressing, or just assemble the night before…or just right before you eat it! I like to add sliced avocado right before eating, or you can slice a cado in half, and wrap it up to-go. Slice and scoop out right before eating to prevent browning. 
    • Adjust salt + pepper as you eat, and feel free to sprinkle on additional pepitas too. Adding avocado is also a nice way to beef-up this salad.
    • Adding roasted beets is great as well, and you'll have your oven on anyways. See bottom of post for how-to roast beets in the simplest way....ever!


    Here is how to cut sweet potatoes into 1/2" dice: first, chop the potato in half. Then, cut each half into 3  slices. With those slices, cut into sticks 1/2" thick, then chop those up into cubes. Viola! 

    Toss cubes in olive or melted coconut oil and pinch of salt, and roast until tender and golden:

    To trim the asparagus, simply take one stalk and bend it to find where the woody end begins. Use that stalk as a template for the rest, trimming the bunch while still secured for quick and easy chopping:

    Toss the asparagus pieces in olive oil or melted coconut oil and a pinch of sea salt, then roast!

    The remaining pieces of roasted asparagus. It was so good, we ended up eating the majority of the pan before I could manage to take a picture! You'll have waaaay more than 1/2 cup :)

    The quinoa! What can't this pseudo-grain not do? Granola, salads, soup...oh my! The 10 minute waiting pierod at the end of cooking, I find, helps the last of the water get all absorbed. 

    Everything all lined-up for salad making. You can store all of these separately, and assemble as needed, or make a few big-ass salads for eating right away-your call! 

    The dressing. This stuff is seriously delicious! Try it on raw veggies for a snack.

    The key to this creamy dressing is the lemon-it really helps cut the richness of the tanini, and it is a good excuse to use any vintage citrus reemers, too:

    Note: for the quinoa, I only added ~2TB chopped parsley as mine went south while hibernating in the fridge. I really do recommend the full 1/2 cup because parsley is just that awesome (and really good for you, too).

    The finished product, along with some cut up roasted beets (see below for how to roast!). A seriously delicous and nutritous salad that will keep you going through all of your springtime antics!

    So tasty and light...you'll want to go on a picnic in the brown crunchy...erm I mean green...midwestern March grass!



    Optional: how to roast and prep beets! You can use these for any salad, smoothie or just eating plain with some sea salt and olive oil. Yum!

    step 1: wash your beets! They did grown in the dirt afterall...I like to use a vegetable brush to really get all the grit out. Trim off any gnarly ends and long root tips.

    step 3: wrap beets in aluminum foil, and make sure they are secure. Pretend that you are wrapping a gift for yourself! The beets will need to steam in this package. Roast at 400F until a fork or knife is easily inserted into each beet, about 35-55 minutes, but this really depends on how large the beets are.

    step 4: allow to cool, and then under running water, simply peel the skins away using your fingertips. Naked beets!!

    step 5: store as-is, or chop up. You can freeze the beets whole or chopped. Refrigerated beets will last ~4-6 days, and frozen will last ~2 months.