I like to have healthy, interesting things for lunch – I find the same old peanut butter and jelly or meat and cheese sandwiches every day tend to get tired. I really like to mix things up with whole grain salads that are really self-contained, perfect little meals: protein, whole grain, and vegetable. I like it – and I don’t do it nearly enough. Hardly at all, if we’re being completely honest: sandwiches are just so stinkin’ easy.

However. If you’re willing to put in a wee bit more effort than slathering a slice of bread with peanut butter, you can have a tasty, flavorful, interesting meal that is both delicious and healthy. You’ll walk away from your lunch thinking, “Wow, I just did something really good for myself.” And maybe your good lunchtime behavior will inspire you to skip that 3pm trip to the vending machine, who knows.

The point is: this is a delicious meal, easy to prepare the night before and toss in your bag or briefcase and really, I should make it more often. And so should you.

Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash and Cranberries

adapted from Erin’s Food Files

Makes about 5 Servings

1 medium butternut squash (or other hard winter squash), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup uncooked quinoa

2 cups water

1 onion, diced

4-5 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Zest of one orange*

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup dried cranberries**

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash and onion with a bit of olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Roast vegetables, stirring occasionally, until tender – about 30 minutes. Allow to cool before combining with other ingredients.
  2. Place the quinoa and 2 cups of water in a medium pot  and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed, 10-15 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, zest (if using), spices, and 1 teaspoon salt. In a large bowl, combine squash and onions, quinoa, garbanzo, and dried fruit. Pour on the dressing and stir to combine. Taste to check seasoning. This salad can be served room temperature or cold.

*I skipped this because I didn’t have an orange, and it was fine without it.

** My grocery store was all out of dried cranberries, so I used something called “antioxidant blend,” which was a mix of dried plums, blueberries, cherries and cranberries. It worked well.