Fall Quinoa Salad (With Kale, Root Vegetables, and Maple Vinaigrette)

Fall Kale Salad

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

A couple of weeks ago I was on Facebook and saw that my favorite West Michigan deli, Farmhouse Deli in Douglas, was serving a tasty sounding fall salad with quinoa, butternut squash, and kale, with a maple vinaigrette.  I was planning on going there that day to try it, but the day got away from me and when I went to get some the next day, they were all out.

It was a cooler fall day and the sound of a warm salad with a little sweetness to it sounded perfect, so I thought I would try to make my own version of their salad.  I still had a ton of kale in my garden so I thought this would be a great way to use some of it.  And even though my family isn’t always big on quinoa, I thought by adding the slightly sweet maple vinaigrette, it might win them over and I’d be able to sneak lots of great veggies into them.

I had just been to the farmers market so I had some great-looking butternut squash and beets, and Frankie had harvested some of her potatoes from the garden that I though would be perfect as well.  I decided I would add some toasted pecans too – they would complement everything nicely.

Then I had to figure out how to make the maple vinaigrette.  I figured it would have an olive oil base with a bit of balsamic vinegar.  And of course, there would be some maple syrup.  I added a touch of cinnamon because that sounded like fall and then a bit of dijon mustard so it wasn’t too sweet or too vinegary.

I experimented a bit with everything until I got a taste I liked and then served it to Mike and the girls for dinner.  To their surprise, they loved it!  This will definitely be something I will make again and again.

Here’s what I did:



4 cups cooked quinoa (red makes the prettiest salad)

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

3 large potatoes, cubed

1 large beet, peeled and cubed

1/2 cup pecans toasted

1 bunch of kale, deveined, and chopped

olive oil


Heat oven to 375 F.  In a big bowl, mix the potatoes and butternut squash with 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil.  Season with sea salt and pepper, mix until evenly coated and spread onto a baking dish. Cook in the oven for about 30 minutes or until tender.

In a separate bowl drizzle about 1 Tbsp. olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, onto the cubed beets.  Mix and put in a separate baking dish in the oven to cook for about 30 minutes as well (or until desired tenderness).

Put the pecans in, yet, a separate small baking dish and put in the same oven, but only for 5-10 minutes – until just toasted and fragrant.

Heat 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil in a pan over medium heat and add the kale.  Saute for about 5 minutes.

In a large serving bowl mix together the cooked quinoa, butternut squash, potatoes, beets, kale, and pecans.  Drizzle with the maple vinaigrette (recipe below) – start out with a little and work up (you can always add, but you can’t take away!).  Toss and taste!

Season with more salt and pepper if needed, and serve.

Maple Vinaigrette Dressing

1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

2-3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 Tbsp. dijon mustard

3 Tbsp. water

1/4 tsp. sea salt

pepper to taste

Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan


By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch
There is no official “foodie” post for today.  I am in the Upper Peninsula of the beautiful state of Michigan, and as you can see by the picture (from Pictured Rocks), it is truly an amazing place.

So for today, I simply leave you with this picture, and hopefully with an appreciation for all of the beauty that nature shares with us.  Take time to see this beauty, not only when you are at places like this, but also in your everyday life.

Homemade Organic Applesauce – Perfect For Fall!

Homemade apple sauce

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

The girls and I went apple picking at Earth First Farms in Berrien Center, Michigan yesterday.  We picked three bushels with the intention of making some homemade cider later this week.  I thought that since we would be putting the entire apple through the cider press – peel and all – it was really important that the apples be organic.

It was a beautiful day for a drive – sunny and in the 70’s, and the colors are just starting to change here.  It was a fun afternoon and we were able to bring home a nice variety of organic Golden Delicious, Empire, and Jonathan apples.

The cider will be a project for later in the week.  But for today, applesauce was on the agenda.

You see, Lindsey had her wisdom teeth pulled this past Friday and she was such a good sport about going to pick apples with us – even though she couldn’t eat any of them – that I wanted to make something with the apples that she could actually eat (and that would have some nutritional value as well).

I had never made applesauce before.  I had been wanting to for years, but just never got around to it.  I had heard it was pretty easy, but I had mentally put making applesauce in a similar category as making jam or canning tomatoes – time consuming!  But after making it today, I can honestly say it is pretty easy, and doesn’t take a whole lot of time at all!

I didn’t want to make just the basic applesauce.  I wanted to add a little more flavor than normal.  So I looked through a few of my cookbooks and found a recipe in “La Tartine Gourmande – Recipes for an Inspired Life,” by Beatrice Peltre, that inspired me and gave me some ideas.

Here’s what I did.


About 10 small to medium apples, peeled, cored, and diced (I used Empire, Golden Delicious, and Jonathan)

2 Tbsp. organic sugar

1 Tbsp. organic brown sugar

Zest and juice from 1 organic lemon (make sure it’s organic since you’ll be using the skin for the zest)

1 vanilla bean, split open and seeded

2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 cup water


Put all of the ingredients in a heavy duty sauce pan, and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until the apples are tender.

You can then put them in a food processor or blender, depending on the consistency you like.  I didn’t even have to put them in a blender – they were soft enough to just mash with the back of my wooden spoon.

And voila! It is ready to serve.  You could even put it on top of some ice cream, or make an apple crisp or a mini apple pie, if you like.

Note: This recipe makes a pretty small batch, so if you are looking for more, double the recipe!


SweeTango Apples



By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

SweeTango apples – have you had the pleasure and the experience of tasting one of these amazing apples?  Biting into one of these has been described as “an almost religious experience (and a very loud one),” by Rowan Jacobsen in his book, Apples of Uncommon Character.  He’s actually not far from the truth here.

I had heard rumors of the apple last year, but never came across one until I was in, of all places, a Fresh Market grocery store in The Villages, Florida.  It was pretty good… but the one I bit into from a vendor at the Holland Farmer’s Market this past Saturday, was truly amazing.

I like a sweeter, crisp apple and this, for me, was a perfect combination – not too sweet, not too tart, and just the right amount of crispness and juiciness.

I went to the Holland Farmers Market on Saturday with my brother and sister-in-law, who were visiting from Flint.  They wanted to pick up some Honeycrisp apples (which are also tasty!), and I suggested they pick up some SweeTango, promising they would like them even better than the Honeycrisp.  I explained to them they were hard to come across (there are only a few licensed growers), and even though they were a bit pricey, it would be well worth it.  The SweeTango didn’t disappoint – as was evidenced by a text I got from my sister-in-law yesterday, asking if I could pick up some more from the market to bring with me on my visit to Flint this weekend.

So, today I picked up a good supply for both of us.  This prompted me to do a little research into where they came from and why they were relatively scarce.  I knew that only certain orchards were allowed to grow them and you had to be approved as a commercial orchard by the “Next Big Thing Co-op” – the trees aren’t available for the average person to buy and grow.

Turns out, the SweeTango is a cross between the Honeycrisp and the Zester apples.  The tree which produces them is called the Minneiska tree and it was developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota, apparently by asexual reproduction by means of budding and grafting.  The University of Minnesota has a patent on this variety and The Next Big Thing Co-op, which was formed in 2006, sub-licenses the SweeTango apple variety to a select group of members (orchards).

According to the official SweeTango website (yes, they have their own website), I count 37 orchards who are members of the Next Big Thing and thus are licensed to grow, market, and distribute the apples.  Fourteen of the orchards are in New York, 3 in Minnesota, 16 in Michigan (yay Michigan!), 1 in Wisconsin, and 3 in Washington state.  This group of growers were selected to carefully cultivate the SweeTango in the hopes of maintaining the quality and integrity of the variety.  Their concern is that, without such strict licensing and growing standards, the variety would follow in the foot steps of the Honeycrisp, where there are a lot of low quality Honeycrisps flooding the market.  With the Next Big Thing having control over who can grow the SweeTango, where it is grown, and how it is marketed and shipped, they are hoping to prevent such a “dilution.”  Members of the Next Big Thing pay a membership fee and also royalties on producing trees.

Aside from the taste, some of the other benefits of the SweeTango are that it has a long storage life (3-4 months) and ripens early in the Fall – even before the Honeycrisp.

I love this time of year -the cooler weather, the crispness in the air, the abundance of squash, potatoes, apples, and cider, and now, the SweeTango apple!  When you are out and about at the farmers markets or roadside stands, have some fun and try some of the lesser known varieties of apples and, if you are lucky enough to come across the SweeTango – definitely snatch them up and savor the sweetness of the season!