If you would have asked me five years ago what I would be doing with my Thanksgiving leftovers, I could undoubtedly tell you it wouldn’t be making salad for meal prep. It would have been much more likely that I stuffed them between two slices of white bread or made some burrito abomination. The thing is, why would I want to spend more time cooking when I already spent countless hours slaving over the stovetop for a single meal? As it turns out, my tastes have changed drastically over the last few years, and I just can’t seem to get excited about leftovers anymore. That’s why I decided to transform my leftover roasted root vegetables into a new dish as a meal prep opportunity for lunch this week. It’s impressive how tossing them with some quinoa, and a lemon vinaigrette makes them feel fresh and exciting, rather than like a boring repeat meal. This dish gets bonus points for being unintentionally vegan.
If you don’t have leftover roasted vegetables, these roasted root vegetables are a cinch to make on the spot. Also, they’re delicious hot or cold, making them a great make-ahead dish, perfect for meal prep. My favorites for roasting are sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and red onion. The higher natural sugar content in these vegetables allows them to get a wonderfully delicious caramelized crust, when roasted in a high-heat oven. Be sure to cut the veggies into uniform sizes so that they cook evenly. Using a sharp knife to cut them into 1-inch chunks is a good rule of thumb. I also like the addition of a hearty herb like thyme for a unique herby flavor. After roasting your vegetables, let them cool, if you are using them for meal prep. Otherwise, they can be eaten right off the sheet pan.
The next step is to cook some quinoa. Again, this dish is not only great for meal prep, but also a fantastic way to use leftovers, because you can use leftover cooked quinoa. If using already cooked quinoa, you’ll need about 4-5 cups to yield the correct proportions for this recipe. For the dressing, whisk together a bit of lemon juice, maple syrup, dijon mustard, grated garlic, and salt. Next, stream in some extra virgin olive oil, while vigorously whisking. This is the key to making an emulsification (a fancy word for homogenized liquid - makes me sound like I know what I'm doing) because the lemon juice and oil won’t want to combine.
Lastly, toss the quinoa with the dressing, and then fold in the roasted vegetables, along with some chopped parsley and toasted pumpkin seeds. Grain salads are one of my favorite things to make for meal prep, because the exclusion of greens means that the salad can be dressed ahead of time, without risk of lettuce wilting. There is absolutely nothing worse than limp and soggy lettuce IMOP.
This quinoa salad with roasted root vegetables is the ultimate way to kill two birds with one stone. If eating leftover vegetables sounds bland and boring, why not mix them with some quinoa and a tangy dressing? Not only are you repurposing leftovers, but you’re also knocking out some vegan meal prep. What are your favorite ways to use your Thanksgiving leftovers?
Quinoa Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables
For the roasted root vegetables:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
3/4 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3/4 pound parsnips, cut into 1-inch rounds
3/4 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch rounds
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 garlic clove, grated or minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
Roast the vegetables:
Preheat oven to 425° F.
On a sheet pan, toss the sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, and red onion with the vegetable oil, thyme, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables for 30-40 minutes, or until tender, tossing the vegetables halfway through the cooking time.
Cook the quinoa:
While the vegetables are roasting, cook the quinoa. Place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under running water until the water runs clear. Place the quinoa in a saucepot, along with 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the quinoa is fully cooked, and all the water is absorbed. Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork.
Make the dressing:
While the quinoa and vegetables are cooking, make the salad dressing. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, maple syrup, dijon mustard, grated garlic, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stream in the extra virgin olive oil while vigorously whisking, to create an emulsification. Set aside.
Assemble the salad:
When the quinoa and vegetables are cooked, toss the quinoa with the dressing in a large mixing bowl. Fold in the roasted vegetables, chopped parsley, and toasted pumpkin seeds. Taste and season with additional salt if necessary.
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- Will Todd
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