Spinach + Quinoa Salad with Pears, Chickpeas and Pecans

 ‘Tis the Season with warm, wintry flavors. I made this salad over the Thanksgiving weekend but it’s festive enough to remain on your menu throughout the holidays. The bright cranberries adds a wonderful color, flavor and texture that compliments the nuttiness from the walnuts and protein punch from the quinoa and chickpeas. Drizzle with a maple vinaigrette for a seasonal touch.  You could use pears or apples in this recipe- either one will work.

Spinach + Quinoa Salad with Pears, Chickpeas and Pecans
Serves 6 as a side dish
1 cup quinoa 
2  handfuls of organic baby spinach leaves, washed, drained
1 large ripe pear, washed, stemmed and cored, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup chickpeas, rinsed, drained
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Freshly chopped parsley
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Dry toast the quinoa in a saucepan for a few minutes. Add 2 cups fresh water and a pinch of sea salt to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cover and cook until all the water is evaporated and the quinoa is tender, about 10-15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

To make the dressing, combine the balsamic vinegar and pure maple syrup in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until combined. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

Combine the spinach, pear, chickpeas, parsley cranberries and 1/2 of the quinoa in a bowl.  Fluff to combine. Pour on the vinaigrette and toss gently to coat, adding more quinoa if needed. Season to taste with sea salt and ground pepper. Just before serving, add the toasted pecans and lightly combine.

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