Today I read a wonderful article on The Chalkboard about breaking away from healthy habits. The author was not talking about abandoning all sensibilities of health and just living free and large, but rather about what it means to be truly healthy. She enlightened readers with the dictionary definition, which includes no prescriptive advice about diet, exercise, weight, or the evil/not-evil status of carbohydrates. I enjoyed the article because it spoke to the message about health that I live by. True health is about nourishing your body not punishing it. True health is about being the steward, the caretaker, the advocate for whatever is healthiest for your mind, body, and soul. True health is about practising the inner tenets of what health means to you on an individual level, in a holistic way, that leads you to feel like a thoroughly nourished person.
If you have found the best way for you to eat/exercise/socialise then that is a wonderful gift to yourself, but it does not mean that this is the best way for someone else to live their life. You might be a gluten free vegetarian who runs, but that doesn’t mean everyone should be. Don’t preach, share knowledge when you are asked, but mostly share the knowledge that true health is about being happy within yourself and with yourself. Happiness begets kindness, which begets true health.
For me, true health, my own healthy habits, include both running and nights on the couch, quinoa salads and five layer brownie cakes, time spent trawling Instagram and time enthralled by translated Danish fiction. True health is about being realistic about the time and resources you have at hand while striving to be the healthiest version of you. True health is about being kind to yourself and others on their own parallel paths to their own versions of healthy.
This salad is for the times when I need to balance out some of those cakes with some quinoa. This Moroccan spiced salad is hearty, and suitable on its own as a lunchbox or dinner bowl filler. If you want to use it as a side dish it would pair quite nicely with some grilled salmon or chicken (or tofu for the veggie-minded of us). I made this salad at the beginning of the week and it served me for desktop lunches for a few days. I used butternut pumpkin, which when roasted yields sweet chunks of flesh that hold up well with briny olives and a heavily spiced yoghurt dressing. If you are going to keep this salad for a few days I recommend storing the dressing separately and dressing the salad only as you are about to eat it, that way you can avoid the dreaded soggy salad leaf (yuck). This is a perfect depth-of-Winter salad, but I can imagine it being just as popular on a picnic table in summer. The beauty of this salad is that you can make it ahead and save yourself some time when entertaining. The pumpkin can be roasted in advance and the quinoa can be boiled in advance too. Come serving time you just need to toss the remaining ingredients together and shake up the quick flavour-boosting salad dressing (which would be great as a dipping sauce for other things too). This salad is about true health. Follow with a slice of pie.
Moroccan Roasted Pumpkin and Quinoa Salad
Serves 3-4| Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Vegan Option – in dressing replace yoghurt with soy yoghurt and honey with agave
Note: Leftovers will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Medium butternut pumpkin (about 1kg)
- 1/2 cup quinoa (I used red, but feel any other colour will do)
- 1 1/4 cups water/vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup split green olives
- 1/3 cup chopped chives
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 6 cups rocket leaves
- 2 tablespoons plain/natural or Greek yoghurt
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 200C (400F) and line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
- Peel and chop butternut pumpkin into inch-square cubes (here’s a great tutorial if you are unsure how). Place on prepared baking sheet and bake in oven for 30-40 minutes or until pumpkin is soft all the way through. Cool to room temperature.
- Rinse quinoa thoroughly and place in a deep microwave safe bowl with water or vegetable stock. Cover loosely with plastic. Microwave for 3 minutes. Remove and stir and microwave for another 3 minutes. When the white spiral ‘tail’ starts to pull away from the quinoa seed it is done. If the quinoa isn’t cooked at this stage place back in microwave with another tablespoon of water for another 2 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
- When pumpkin and quinoa are cooled place in a large bowl with olives, chives, pumpkin seeds and rocket leaves and toss well.
- To make dressing: place all ingredients in a small airtight jar. Shake vigorously until combined.
- Divide salad among bowls and dress as desired.