Spiced Apple Quinoa Salad with Pecans

Quinoa salads are one of my favorite things to serve when entertaining large groups for a number of reasons. The Spiced Apple Quinoa Salad with Pecans can be prepared up to two days in advance which saves a lot of time on the day of the party (and it even tastes better after the dressing has had time to soak in!)

As quinoa is a complete grain-free protein, it’s a great option to have available for vegetarians or those avoiding grains and starchier carbs. And because this dish can be served hot, cold, or even room temperature, it’s a great option for buffets, potlucks, or anytime you’re trying to save on stove space.

It also doesn’t hurt that the combination of warm spices, tender apples, and toasted pecans makes this one a perfect match for all your favorite winter mains.

The star of this dish is the Ras el hanout dressing. Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice mix that combines cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, ginger, and other warm spices. It can be found at some well-stocked grocery stores like Whole Foods, and also online.

If you can’t find it, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper.

There are also lots of DIY Ras el hanout recipes available online--the components are likely things you already have in your spice cabinet, but the combination of them together is just amazing.

And if you do buy or make it, you should also try my ras el hanout-spiced carrots and this amazing spicy chocolate popcorn recipe with it!

Moroccan-Spiced Apple Quinoa Salad with Pecans
Serves 8 - 10

12 cups water
2 1/2 cups dry quinoa, rinsed

For the dressing
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
3 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons ras el hanout spice (see below for note)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.

3 large tart apples, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
3 tablespoons butter
3 shallots, peeled and sliced (or use ½ small red onion)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup pecans, toasted
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

Bring water to boil and add the quinoa. Boil about 10 minutes, or until the small curls on the quinoa are released. Drain well and add to a large bowl.

Make the dressing by combining olive oil, lemon juice, cider vinegar, honey, garlic, ras el hanout, salt, and black pepper in a blender. Puree until smooth and set aside.

Melt three tablespoons butter in a large skillet and add the shallots, cooking just until soft (about 3 minutes). Add the apples and cinnamon and cook about 7 minutes, or until apples are slightly tender.

Add the cooked apples, pecans, and parsley to the quinoa along with about half the dressing. Toss well to coat, then taste and add more dressing as needed (you may not need it all). Adjust seasoning with additional salt and/or pepper, as desired.

Cranberry Sauce Crostini with Garlic & Herbed Goat Cheese

Here's a super simple idea to serve at your next holiday party: Cranberry Sauce Crostini with Garlic & Herbed Goat Cheese!

I love easy appetizers like this that come together quickly, look gorgeous, and taste amazing. These are great to make in advance and serve guests as they arrive. They can enjoy with a glass of sparkling wine or a cocktail, while you finish things up in the kitchen.

Chipotle Maple Butternut Squash Soup

chipotle maple butternut squash soup
From the name, you can tell that this Chipotle Maple Butternut Squash Soup has it all.

(Well...you know...soup-wise.

A little bit spicy.

A little bit sweet.

Incredibly, ridiculously, lusciously creamy.

It's serious velvety Heaven in a bowl, and perfect for those frigid winter days that are quickly and unrelentingly barreling our way.

How to Throw the Ultimate All-Dessert Party

The name of my blog should be a pretty big clue that I never need special excuses or reasons to bring a little sweetness into my life. But upon learning that October is also known as National Dessert Month, I decided an All-Dessert Party for grown-ups definitely needed to happen.

If you’ve been looking for ideas to host your friends in a fun, low-key way, this is totally it!

Here are some ideas for making it happen:

5 Inspiring Reminders for Women Entrepreneurs #WomenInspired

I wanted to go, but wasn't sure I could make it happen. Fall is the busiest time of year for those of us who work in food, and it's been one of those months where the hours in the day are just never enough. I was in Vermont cooking 12 hours a day while simultaneously juggling work projects back home, when the invitation came in via a longtime family friend.

It was a for daylong seminar sponsored by Prudential and cohosted by DiMe Media and popular podcasters, The Great Girlfriends, featuring a series of TED-style talks geared toward women entrepreneurs as a way to help us take control of our career and financial futures. 

I said yes, deciding to take the risk despite my concerns about additional time away from my desk and impending deadlines.

And when I took a seat a few days later and heard the first of several incredible speakers?

That's when I knew my hunch had been right, and that I was exactly where I needed to be.

I was completely captivated by the incredible women who spoke that day, and filled a notebook with notes, quotes, and ideas that jumped out at me during the talks. The following are just a handful of the noteworthy lessons I took home from the event; I hope that you find them as inspiring as I did!

Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread

This easy Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread recipe is a bit of a departure for me since, I'll be honest...vegan baking is usually not my everyday go-to. I love baking with butter. I love baking with eggs. I love baking with milk (or cream!). I use them liberally and think there is nothing wrong with that.


I can also really appreciate the value of some great vegan baked goods like this Vegan Double Chocolate Banana Bread.

I bake and serve them to the vegan yoga groups I cook for up in Vermont. And I love having the recipes in my back pocket when cooking for vegan friends or those with egg allergies or dairy allergies.

Because at the end of the day, I just want everyone to be able to enjoy delicious things.

I also really love vegan recipes on those days when I'm totally out of eggs or milk or butter, and need alternatives that will let me stick to the stuff in my pantry.

(Especially during the winter when I will do EVERYTHING in my power to not have to leave the house.)

This recipe is perfect for those days when you have ripe bananas, but no eggs.

Mashed bananas can often be used successfully as an egg-replacer, and they work especially well in quick breads like this one.

It's just one of those super forgiving recipes that will let you mix up, bake, and serve a sweet treat without much fuss and making use of stuff you already have on hand.

This extra-chocolatey vegan banana bread gets a double-dose of goodness from cocoa and dark chocolate chips. Note that if you want this to be truly vegan, you should make sure the chips have no dairy added (some brands do; some brands don't).

This produces a rich and moist cake that's not too sweet and perfect for breakfast or brunch or a late-afternoon snack.

(And hey...if you want to toast it up and spread it with a bit of butter or cream cheese...I'd be totally OK with that, too.)

Loved this recipe? Here are three other vegan recipes you might like:

And let's connect so you can find out the next time I post! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates.

Thanks so much for reading

Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe
Makes 1 9x5” loaf

3 medium overripe bananas, mashed until smooth
1/3 cup oil (use vegetable, peanut or a light olive oil. coconut oil works, too, but keep in mind that it will add slight coconut flavor to the bread.)
3/4 cup brown sugar OR coconut palm sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup non-dairy milk (coconut, almond, cashew, etc.)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5” nonstick loaf pan with baking spray or vegetable oil, and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together bananas, oil, sugar, vanilla, and milk until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips, then pour into prepared pan.

Bake about 45 to 55 minutes, or until cake has risen and is slightly cracked, and a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool in pan 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen and remove from pan. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

*note that not all chocolate chips are vegan, so be sure to check out the ingredients

Baking Tiramisu Cake and Peach Upside-Down Cake on TODAY Show

I was lucky enough to participate in two segments on my latest visit to the TODAY Show. We were talking about box mix hacks all day, starting with a box mix and turning it into total showstopper desserts like my Chocolate Tiramisu Cake (with rum and a homemade mascarpone frosting!) and an Upside-Down Cornbread Peach Cake.

I had so much fun with Al Roker and the whole team; this was probably my most favorite segment yet! Click above to watch the video! 
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