I believe great-tasting healthy food should be easy, delicious and not cost a fortune. Perhaps it’s the style of food I grew up with or just my simple tastes, but delicious healthy food does not need to be fancy or daunting. With the rise of gourmet cooking shows we can be inspired by the rich food they make but I do think ultimately, we baulk at the idea of cooking such food which can lead to disinterest in cooking good healthy food full stop.
Looking at a Gourmet Traveller on the train home can be relaxing but once you get home how many of us choose to get cooking when that packet of Mac and Cheese is just easier? I think like most things in modern life, we have a little bit of overexposure on gourmet food, living the life of plenty. But if it doesn’t actually get us in the kitchen what really is the point?
Modern life is hectic. My life as a professional ballerina sure is busy, can be stressful plus I need to be efficient at making sure my body is fuelled for performance in the best possible way. Am I cooking gourmet meals in my 13hour work day? Hardly.
As a new mum, life just got even more full and I will certainly need to be organised to enjoy yummy healthy meals to sustain my milk supply for breastfeeding and keep my own energy levels up caring for a newborn, not to mention when I return to work at the Ballet Company.
In light of this, in my opinion nutritious and delicious food should/must/can be:
- Easy, quick, reliable and tasty
- Lacking serious days of preparation
- Uses minimal cooking equipment
- Versatile – makes use of what you have
- Less fancy ingredients and more simple flavours
- Involve staple foods that you always have at home like grains, spices and stocks
- Makes plenty of leftovers for the coming days
- Can be turned into another meal with a bit of experimenting
- Inspires you to cook more often
- Balanced with a capital B
Which leads me to one of the staples in my kitchen: a warm Quinoa, Pumpkin and Cranberry Salad. It ticks all of the boxes that I have listed and with Quinoa being a common pseudo-grain found easily in our supermarkets, it’s no big deal at all. This is great as side dish or with quinoa being high in protein, it will keep you satisfied as a main meal in itself.
See the recipe below and look at my notes for optional variations, add-ins or ideas on how to make it your own too. This is more like a throw it together kind of dish so I have left out exact amounts – make as much or as little as you like. It keeps in the fridge for days but I assure you it won’t last that long in there!
Warm Quinoa, Pumpkin and Cranberry Salad
- 1-2 cups of quinoa (any colour will do)
- a decent sized piece of pumpkin, diced in small cubes
- flaked almonds
- dried cranberries
- handfuls of rocket and/or spinach
- olive oil and lemon juice for dressing to taste
- salt and pepper
- chopped parsley or herb of choice
Optional add ins:
- chicken breast strips, cubes of goat’s feta, pomegranate seeds in season, toasted pumpkin seeds, toasted pine nuts, flaked salmon or ocean trout, sweet potato instead of pumpkin, kale, peas, asparagus if in season – so many options!
- Rinse quinoa thoroughly even if it says it’s been pre-rinsed. I use a strainer and run cold water through it until it runs clear and that soapy smell is gone.
- Cook quinoa according to packet directions. I advise per 1 cup of quinoa to cook it in just under 2 cups of water so it maintains a bit of crunch. Ideally for a salad, we don’t want soggy quinoa.
- When all the water has been absorbed by the quinoa, you will see little steam holes coming up through the quinoa grains – this usually means its done. Take off the heat, get the clean tea towel and lay it over the pot and replace the lid – the tea towel absorbs excess moisture to keep the quinoa from going soggy. Allow to cool a little.
- You can either roast the pumpkin in the oven or fry it up in a pan with some coconut oil and some salt. If it’s diced small enough it will cook quite quickly.
- Toast the almonds lightly on low-medium in a pan, careful they don’t burn.
- Assembly – put the quinoa, cooked pumpkin, almonds, cranberries in a bowl and mix to combine. Add handfuls of roughly torn rocket/spinach and chopped parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
- Add a healthy drizzle of olive oil and about a Tbls of lemon juice to begin with and mix to combine, tasting as you go and adding more until you’re happy with the flavours and enjoy!
Note: not suitable for freezing but you will eat it all up anyways!
You can also read more about Quinoa, the myriad of ways to include it in your healthy lifestyle and how to make delicious healthy food both sweet and savoury with quinoa on my blog here.