Quinoa-Chicken Waldorf Salad: A Belated Farewell to Fall

Sometimes, the degree to which I have fallen behind in my recipe posting shames me. Even with updating nearly every day, I have so many recipes that I want to share with you - this is what happens when I am on my own for the first time, and I suddenly have the resources to experiment with cooking - real cooking, not how to turn microwavable mac-n-cheese into a gourmet dorm indulgence. The problem with this is that I am sitting here at the tail-end of March with all of these Fall-inspired dishes in my backlog; and although the weather could convince even the sharpest meteorologist it's still a cooler season, the wannabe-locavore within me is cringing at the thought of dedicating a post to anything with cranberries, apples, or pumpkin in the ingredient list. I still haven't decided what to do about this dilemma - the idea of waiting until Fall 2011 rolls around seems unbearable, but there's no way I can realistically encourage you to run out and make my "Autumn-Spiced Beef Skillet" or "Butternut Squash and Parmesan Pasta." (However, that being said, both of those meals were excellent and if I could bring myself to write about them, I would absolutely insist that you run out and make them both immediately.)

I can bring myself to tell you about this chicken and quinoa salad. Fall flavors unquestionably permeate this dish, but it doesn't call for fresh cranberries or fall squashes in a way that would make me feel absolutely ridiculous for writing about it on the cusp of Spring. Instead, it uses dried cranberries, apples (out of season, yes, but I'm not yet strict enough with this local eating thing to vow off my beloved apples), and a maple vinaigrette to deliver its punch of autumn, and I can handle that. This is a recipe that is perfectly acceptable to make when you're missing the enticement of Fall. That happens to me around this time of year. When Fall turns colder, I don't mind. I enjoy the crisp breeze and the fact that I need to start wearing a sweater outside. But I loathe cold weather in the Springtime, and I find myself right about now thinking wistfully back to the good ole' days of September and October. If you're at all like me, or if you just like the sound of these ingredients jam-packed together, consider making this. Maybe you can even forget about the dreary cold front that has seized...well, if not the country, at least the poor East Coast.

If you do choose to make this, you will be greeted with the play of sweet and tangy, chewy and crunchy. It's easy as pie to make (speaking of which, wouldn't a nice, fresh-out-of-the-oven pie be perfect right about now?), and my only change for next time - and there will be a next time - is to decrease the apples just a bit. I love me some apples, but they shouldn't be the focus of the dish.

Quinoa-Chicken Waldorf Salad, adapted from $5 Dinners
Yield: 1 serving
(printable recipe)

The Ingredients - The Salad
1/4 cup quinoa
1/4 - 1/3 cup chopped broccoli florets
1 apple, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1/4 cup (approximate) craisins
1/3 - 1/2 cup cooked & shredded/diced chicken
salad greens, for serving (optional)

The Ingredients - The Dressing
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon apple cider
2 teaspoons plain yogurt

The Method
Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil with the quinoa and broccoli, then reduce the heat and cover with a lid. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, looking for the ring to separate from the grain.

Meanwhile, chop the apples and place them in a small-medium mixing bowl with the walnuts, craisins and chicken. In another small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.

When the quinoa is finished, add in the chicken mixture and toss to incorporate the ingredients evenly. Top the salad with dressing, stir briefly to combine, and serve.

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