This is a healthy and versatile plant based weeknight meal that is easily made in 30 minutes. I love that I can make this and serve everyone, including my 13 month old baby. When I first made this I initially set out to make a kids dinner, but it has since become a bit of a staple weeknight meal that we all enjoy. While I keep the toppings for the kids fairly simple (quinoa, basmati rice, chickpeas, green peas, chopped spinach), it is easy to spice it up with interesting toppings that add flavour and texture. Harissa spice, quinoa and fresh coriander are a few of my favourite toppings, and I have even used this soup as a base sauce for a curry which was delicious and a great way to use any left overs.
Nutritionally this soup is full of nutrition and rich in powerful antioxidants, especially from the colourful root vegetables, turmeric + ginger. Because root vegetables grow underground, they absorb a great amount of nutrients from the soil and are packed with a high concentration of antioxidants, Vitamins C, B, A, and iron. They are also rich in healthy complex carbohydrates and fiber, which make you feel full and help regulate your blood sugar levels and digestive system.
I love this butternut squash winter bake and find it such a great plant based dish to serve as either a main or a side dish during the colder months. There’s something really cosy about oven bakes, right? And this one is both healthy and filling and flavoured with harissa spice, which perks it up so nicely and makes the roasted vegetables and crispy chickpeas more exotic. This dish is vegan friendly, gluten and dairy free, making it a good one for people who are on a restricted diet.
Aside from prepping the veggies and cooking the quinoa, the bake mostly cooks itself in the oven, making this a pretty low effort meal. The tahini sauce is a great and super versatile sauce you can use over any vegetables and salads. I usually keep a jar of homemade tahini in my fridge to use on salads and the like as it is a healthy alternative to store-bought dressings (..and made from only a handful of simple ingredients!) If you’re not a fan of tahini, you can as an alternative use a dollop of creamy Greek yogurt instead and sprinkle some harissa spice on top of it.
The cooking instructions below go into detail on how to cook fluffy quinoa. It’s really simple and the key is leaving the quinoa to “fluff” in the pot with a lidafter its done cooking. Ensure you have the right ratio of 1:2 quinoa to water (so 2 cups water to 1 cup uncooked quinoa), and once the water is gone lid goes on and heat goes off. This is the most important step to ensure fluffy and well cooked quinoa that does not have a grainy texture. So I included it in there, just to make sure… because undercooked quinoa that hasn’t been left to fluff is not awesome.
400 gm (about 1 small) butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into long thin slices
1 tin chickpeas, washed and drained
1 cup packed kale, washed, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
Small handful almonds, chopped
salt + pepper
2-3 tsp harissa spice
60 ml (1/4 cup) tahini
60 ml (1/4 cup) fresh lemon juice
80 ml (1/3 cup) water (you can add more if you want it thinner)
salt + pepper
1 tsp honey
Preheat oven to 180C (350F).
In a pot, cook the quinoa in water with a pinch of added salt. Leave to simmer without a lid for about 10 minutes until all the liquid is gone. Once the liquid is gone (but not so gone that its burning the bottom of the pot) turn the heat off and place a lid on the pot and leave it to fluff for another 10 minutes (this will help the quinoa get nice and fluffy).
While the quinoa is "fluffing", peel and cut your butternut squash + carrots.
Combine the butternut squash, carrots and chickpeas in a large bowl and drizzle with a little oil, salt, pepper and the harissa spice. Combine using your hands or a spoon to cover the vegetables in the spice as well as possible.
When the quinoa is done, spread it out evenly in an oven tray. Top with the harissa spiced vegetables and chickpeas. Then top with a little more harissa spice.
Place the tray in a preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, sprinkle with half of the chopped kale and the chopped almonds - then bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.
Combine all the tahini spice ingredients and whisk together in a small jar. Once the bake is done in the oven, add the remaining kale and drizzle with tahini sauce before serving.
Healthy and easy breakfast ideas are among the most frequent requests I get and this apple + coconut bircher muesli is a delicious and easy take on a healthy and quick breakfast option that doesn’t require too much effort. One of the reasons I love this recipe is that it is so convenient to make ahead and have ready for the morning… Once the base has soaked overnight, all you need to do is add yogurt, grated apple and your favourite toppings – throw it in a jar and you have a healthy and filling breakfast that is easy to bring on the go. You can also easily flavour it to suit the different seasons – top with berries and lemon zest in the summer, and warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and raisins for the colder months.
Nutritionally this bircher recipe is rich in beneficial fibre, and a breakfast high in fibre is so good for you as it helps keep you full throughout the entire morning, keeping your blood sugar levels stable and preventing you from getting too hungry before lunch time (…which then can make it harder to make a healthy choice for lunch – and also makes you more likely to overeat!). The fibre in the oats also help promote healthy cholesterol levels as they contain a particular type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which acts like a sponge in the small intestine, binding to cholesterol so it can’t be reabsorbed and instead passes as waste.
This bircher muesli is also rich in prebiotics and therefore great for your gut flora and overall digestive function. It is also a good source of magnesium, plant-based protein and antioxidants, making it a true virtue for healthy morning meals. I love making a large batch of this and serve it up in smaller jars for brunch topped with colourful fruits to make it look extra festive. I hope you enjoy!