Stuffed Squash and Quinoa Salad

Some girls like shopping for clothes and shoes- me, I prefer shopping for food. On average, I am in a grocery store, gourmet food store, or farmers’ market 5 out of 7 days a week. It’s crazy, I know, but it makes me happy.

On each of these expeditions, I usually buy something, which isn’t a problem when I’m purchasing non-perishables, because I can put them away in the cabinet and use them at leisure. What’s a problem is when I go nuts buying lots of fresh fruits and veggies during a time period when I have very few free nights at home in my own kitchen to cook. On weeks like those that I’ve packed my social calendar with restaurant outings and events, I often find myself with food on my hands that is about to go bad.

This is when I play a little game. It’s sort of my own version of Iron Chef – except I’m not battling anyone. Pen and paper in hand, I stand at the door of the fridge, making a list of all ingredients that need to be used soon. My challenge: To create a meal using as many of those ingredients as possible. That’s how this meal happened.

My must-be-used ingredient list:
Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Feta Cheese from Kira’s Kids Dairy, Yellow Squash, Garlic & Basil Ricotta from Eastside Cheese Co., Onion

I recalled Kathleen, my cheese makin’ friend, mentioning that she recently created an Eastside Cheese Co. blog where she would be posting recipe ideas for her customers. Since one of my challenge ingredients was her Garlic & Basil Ricotta, I decided to check out the site to see if there were any ideas I could swipe. Lucky me, there was this recipe for stuffed squash using 3 of the items on my list, and a handful of other ingredients I had in the house already! Main entree- check. Now a side dish.

I wanted to get some more protein into this vegetarian meal, so I decided to use quinoa, which is not only high in protein, but supplies a complete protein, delivering all 9 essential amino acids. Add the tomatoes and feta to the quinoa as well as a bit of basil from my backyard, and within minutes I had an easy summer salad. Meal plan complete!

Stuffed Squash

6 yellow squash
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp chopped basil*
2 tsp minced garlic*
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup whole wheat panko crumbs

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9×13 pyrex dish. Slice squash in half lengthwise. Slice a little off the bottom so that the half will lie flat in the dish. Scrape out seeds.
Heat oil and cook onion and then garlic until soft. Cool. Stir in ricotta cheese, 2 Tbsp breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup Parmesan, basil, salt and pepper. Spoon mixture into squash shells. Sprinkle tops with remaining Parmesan, breadcrumbs, and more salt & pepper to taste. Bake 25 minutes then broil until tops brown.

*if you use Garlic & Basil Ricotta like I did, then you don’t have to add the garlic and basil!

Summer Quinoa Salad
(pronounced Keen-wah)

1 cup quinoa, well rinsed
1 cup chicken broth (or water- I prefer the broth as it gives more flavor)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled

In a medium pot, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add the quinoa, cover and simmer over low heat until all of the broth has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, transfer to a large mixing bowl and allow to cool.

After cooling, add the tomatoes, basil, and feta. Toss with the quinoa. Serve with baked squash. Serves 4.

Quinoa on Foodista