Warming Winter Recipe: Quinoa, Cauliflower, Bacon & Balsamic Salad

My friend Estelle has been over to stay for the last couple of weeks.  She lives in Rome and when we get together the culinary possibilities are endless - it has been SO nice to have another foodie in the house.  We scour for recipes, experiment and go overboard eating all the pasta and ganging up on the boring palate of my husband.  It's bliss. On New Years Eve we had a very dignified early dinner party with some friends and Stell spent the whole day cooking the most amazing four-course Italian feast of homemade bruschetta, pizza, creamy pepper pasta, cannelloni, fennel & orange salad, salami and mozzarella.  HEAVEN.

spinach orange fennel salad homemade cannelloni homemade pizza dinner party The Christmas & New Year indulgence has had me craving something a bit fresh so we've been scoping out some nice warming winter food that isn't pure stodge but still leaves you feeling satisfied.  I think we're onto a winner with this combo below so I thought I'd share it here in case, like me, you're not quite ready to hit the smoothies yet but your body is weeping for some good nutrition.  This is the middle ground.

Warming Winter Salad Recipe: Quinoa, cauliflower, bacon & balsamic

For me, salads have got to have at LEAST 5 ingredients to have me remotely interested and at least one of those ingredients has to be cheese-based.  They also have to be easy to eat - like, chopped finely or easy to pick up with a fork.  Don't just throw some giant leaves and a few tomatoes in a bowl in front of me and pretend we're all OK with that.  There is no reason on God's green earth why salads have to be bland, dry, or difficult to eat.  Ask the North American's, they know their salads.  Their salad game is ON POINT.  They are all over the show with the sweet and the savoury and the dressings.

This recipe in particular ticks all my salad boxes:  nutrition, cheese, easily eaten.

Ingredients:

+  1/2 head of cauliflower

+  button mushrooms

+  fresh thyme (fancy)

+  olive oil / salt / pepper

+  bacon

+  goats cheese (in your face, pregnancy cheese-rules)

+  quinoa (save yourself the bother & buy the ready made packet - I love this one: it's fairtrade, organic, gluten-free AND it's ready to eat cold or just 2 mins in the microwave)

+  balsamic vinegar (we love locally-made Burren Balsamics - I picked up a rhubarb & ginger one over Christmas and...OHMYTASTEBUDS)

Anyway, here's how you make it:

Warming Winter Salad Recipe: Quinoa, cauliflower, bacon & balsamic+  Chop the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and throw in a roasting tray with the mushrooms and toss it all around in olive oil, salt/pepper and some chopped up fresh thyme.

+  Put it in the oven at 180C to roast for approx 20 minutes, just until it starts to brown, giving it a move around half-way through.

+  In the meantime, fry or grill your bacon & chop into bitesized pieces.

+  Once the bacon and the cauli/mushroom mix is cooked, you're ready to throw it all together and add in the other bits.

+  Put the cooked stuff in a bowl and add your quinoa (cooked or not, up to you- it will warm through with the bacon & veggies anyway), crumble in some goats cheese, give it a mix it up and drizzle your favourite balsamic over the whole lot.

Warming Winter Salad Recipe: Quinoa, cauliflower, bacon & balsamic Warming Winter Salad Recipe: Quinoa, cauliflower, bacon & balsamicYou can have a whole heap of it for a tasty, protein-fuelled lunch, a bit on the side of a main meal or just keep it on the counter or with a spoon for general consumption throughout the day.

Buon appetito!

Mel