Got Leftovers? Turn Them Into A Best-Ever Salad

Long before holiday meals were a seasonal theme unto themselves, they were a way to use up and celebrate the remainder of the harvest. Sparser fresh ingredient options led to more liberal use of breads, fats, sugars, and larder goods that were either diligently saved or begging to be used up. Delicious? Yes. Healthy? As if we even need to answer.

These days, we don’t need to always go down the same calorically heavy-handed route just to experience the deliciousness of the season. So if you’re craving a break from the onslaught of richer foods (and the sometimes intensive cooking) of the winter, look no further than what a satisfying salad can do.

Whether you have surplus ingredients remaining after recipe-making, or Tupperware containers full of leftover sides, you can use them to create phenomenal salad creations. That’s right: We’re talking big, hearty, textural salads … salads that are so balanced and satisfying you can easily consider them a meal.

We like to start with heartier greens, like kale or shredded Brussels sprouts, and toss them with a grain or pseudo-grain, like farro or quinoa (but really, any green and grain combo will do the trick). Then, we layer on the flavors that make this season so delicious, like cranberries, pecans, and notes of cinnamon.

However you choose to customize your own variation, you may be surprised how successfully leftover vegetables can make your next winter salad a healthy experience that tastes just sooo right.

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Here’s how to make the most out of your next hearty winter salad.

  • Be flexible. We use red onion and sweet potatoes for the roasted vegetables in this medley, but you can also use other vegetables too! Hearty produce like parsnips, Brussels sprouts, or even potatoes can make a great addition to your salad assemblage. If you have a pre-made side (such as some cooked vegetable leftovers), you can also choose to incorporate those instead.

  • Add superfoods. Both quinoa and kale are excellent “everyday” superfoods … but why stop there? Sprinkle in medicinal superfood powders like schisandra or reishi into the dressing mix, or scatter in superberries like goji berries or mulberries on top.

  • Serve how you like. Most people think of salads as a cold dish, but this kind of salad can also be served warm, if desired. Simply heat the roasted vegetables and the grain prior to mixing with the salad, or, gently warm the entire assemblage in a low-heat oven.


Winter Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables

Hearty roasted vegetables and textural quinoa are the perfect contrast to fresh kale and simple seasonings in this balanced meal.

Prep Time: 10 mins | Cook Time: 35 mins | Total Time: 45 mins
Servings: 4 
Author: Julie Morris 



1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice

½ red onion, halved lengthwise, and cut into ½-inch slices

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Sea salt and ground black pepper

¾ cup pecans

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1 bunch kale

¼ cup minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

2/3 cup dried cranberries



1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.

2. Combine the sweet potatoes and onion on a baking sheetpan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a big pinch of salt and pepper, and toss well, spreading the vegetables out onto the pan. Roast for 30-35 mintues, or until golden brown and soft. At some point during cooking the vegetables, add the pecans to a pie tin, and toast them in the oven as well for 5-7 minutes until fragrant. Once done, let the vegetables and pecans rest at room temperature on their respective pans. Once the pecans are cool enough to handle, chop them coarsely.

3. While the vegetables are cooking, mix together the quinoa and the water in a small pot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated. Turn off the heat, and let the quinoa sit for 5-15 minutes longer, then fluff with a fork and let rest at room temperature.

4. In a large salad bowl, combine the kale, parsley, remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, cinnamon, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and toss well by hand, massaging the kale to tenderize it. Add the quinoa, roasted vegetables, toasted pecans and cranberries, and toss once more. Salad may be served warm or cool, and will last covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


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