Chipotle Quinoa Sweet Potato Tacos with Roasted Cranberry Salsa

This dinner idea combines some of my all-time favorite ingredients into one fabulous dish. Quinoa, sweet potatoes, and black beans come together with a few spices, some tomatoes, and spicy chipotles. It's a super healthy dish, just look at those ingredients! All this piled onto a warm corn tortilla and topped with a tart and sweet cranberry salsa and a creamy avocado makes a fantastic meat-free dinner option that I don't know who could dislike. 

This is a great option to make ahead and eat throughout the week for a quick dinner or lunch. It's the type of meal that only gets better with time (to a point of course!). You could also throw the taco filling on top of some brown rice or hearty greens, or throw it in a pita or flour tortilla for a different take on dinner if you don't like eating the exact same thing night after night. 

There are a few different steps in this recipe, and while none of them are at all difficult, they do take just a little bit of prep-work. Cooking the quinoa, prepping the sweet potato, cooking the black beans and making the salsa can all be done ahead though which would streamline the process later on. Also, go ahead an grab a can of black beans if you don't have the time or the inclination to cook up some dried beans.

Whatever you do, don't skip the salsa! It is the perfect tart complement to the spicy tacos, something different than the traditional tomato salsa. Take a few extra minutes and whip it together. The original recipe for the salsa called for pomegranate arils to be thrown in after the cranberries are done roasting. While I am sure this is delicious, and would have liked to try it, pomegranate season must be over. There was not one to be seen at the grocery store when I was shopping. All I could find was a tiny little jar of arils for something like $5 which just isn't worth it my book! So if you can find them for a reasonable price I'd say go for it, but even without the salsa is still perfectly delicious. 

 
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Chipotle Quinoa Sweet Potato Tacos
Adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Ingredients

  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 a small onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large sweet potato, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 canned chipotle chilies, minced
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the chipotle can)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1  - 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
  • Corn tortillas, warmed
  • Diced avocado, for topping
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese, for topping

Directions
Heat the olive oil over a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and let the onions cook for 5-10 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the sweet potatoes and toss to coat. Add a little water to the skillet and let cook until the sweet potatoes are fork tender, but not mushy, stirring once or twice, about 15 minutes, adding more water if needed.

Once the sweet potatoes are fork tender, add the garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add the spices and let cook until fragrant, making sure they don't burn. Stir everything together well and then increase the heat to medium-high (adding more oil if needed) and add the quinoa. Let the quinoa cook and get crispy for about 5 minutes, trying not to stir too much.

Next, add 3/4 cup water, tomatoes, the chili powder, chipotle chilies, adobo sauce, smoked paprika, cumin, brown sugar and cayenne, stir to thoroughly combine and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until the water has evaporated and the chili is at your desired consistency. If it starts to get too dry you can add more water.

Remove from the heat and stir in the black beans, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and the lime juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve with tortillas, avocado, cheddar cheese and roasted cranberry salsa (recipe follows).

Roasted Cranberry Salsa
Adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Ingredients

  • 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 canned chipotle chili, chopped
  • 1 lime, zested + juiced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 
  • 1 jalapeño, chopped, seeds removed if desired for less spicy salsa
  • Pomegranate arils (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the cranberries, brown sugar, chipotle chili, lime zest and juice, garlic, jalapeño and a pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Use your hands or a large spoon to toss everything together until evenly mixed. Transfer to baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast until the cranberries burst and release their juices, 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and and let cool. Add in the pomegranate arils if using and taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired. Set aside and keep at room temperature. Can be made in advance, store in the refrigerator until needed. 

Chewy Trail Mix Cookies

Last week I was trying to decide what I should bake to have on hand for a quick grab and go breakfast. Breakfast cookies had been on my mind lately, so I decided to just go for it. I've been eyeing recipes for a while, and have a bunch of them pinned, but so far I hadn't got around to making any. There are so many different routes you can go with a breakfast cookie and I had been having difficulty deciding which recipe to use. I finally settled on these chewy trail mix cookies. They looked hearty and filling and were full of all sorts of good things like any trail mix should be. 

I'm glad that in the end I went with this recipe because it sure was a winner. The oats and nuts come together to form a delicious base that is filled with coconut, chocolate, seeds and dried fruit. A little brown sugar and honey for sweetness, and butter for flavor are all held together with some nut butter and an egg. They baked up thick and chewy just as I was hoping they would. An quick and easy breakfast that I can feel pretty good eating on those busy weekday mornings. 

I adapted the original recipe a little to work for me and they still turned out great. The original recipe was both vegan and gluten free, my version is neither but it would easy to go back and make the appropriate adjustment if this is something you are looking for. If you use gluten free oats they still would be gluten free, and replacing the egg with a flax egg and the butter with coconut oil as in the original recipe is a easy way to get them back into vegan territory. So as you can see, the recipe is pretty forgiving and adaptable. 

The add ins can also be adjusted to fit your tastes. Any type of seed, nut, chocolate, dried fruit, etc. could be used in this recipe. It really just depends on what you like and what you have in your pantry. As long as you aim to keep the volume of filling approximately the same as what is written I think they will turn out just fine. So play around with it, use what you like and make them your own!

Chewy Trail Mix Cookies
Adapted from Oh She Glows
Ingredients
Dry

  • 1 cup (80 grams) old fashioned rolled oats, blended into oat flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal or almond flour (I used 2 ounces almonds ground in the food processor)
  • 1/2 cup (40 grams) old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) chopped or thinly sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (15 grams) shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 3 tablespoons (30 grams) mini dark chocolate chips (or finely chopped chocolate)
  • 2 tablespoons (20 grams) sunflower seeds
  • 3-4 tablespoon (28 grams) dried cranberries
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Wet

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup (64 grams) raw almond or peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup (80 grams) pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions
Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients. In another medium sized bowl, stir together the wet ingredients until thoroughly combined. Add the wet mixture on top of the dry mixture and stir well until combined. 

Form the dough into small balls, rolling them between your palms until smooth. Place on prepared cookie sheet. (I made 12 total, they were approximately 50 grams each.) 

Bake cookies for 15-18 minutes until light golden brown on the bottom. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack until completely cool. 

Calories: 231 calories each for 12 cookies

Brown Sugar Cranberry Oat Muffins

These brown sugar cranberry oat muffins have been on the breakfast menu this past week, and it's been a wonderful week. If you haven't already noticed, I eat a lot of muffins, and this recipe was a winner. The muffins are chewy, buttery and sweet, and the flavor of the brown sugar really shines through as a perfect foil for the tart cranberries. The oats make them hearty and delicious. It is a wonderful combination. The only thing I didn't like about this recipe is that the muffins baked up quite flat. I love muffins with beautifully domed muffin tops, and these definitely did not deliver on that front, but I can forgive them because they are so tasty. With so many yummy oats in the recipe, it's probably difficult to add a lot of lift to the batter. But regardless of what they look like, these muffins are a wonderful hearty breakfast, and a great way to start the day. 

The original recipe called for crème fraîche, but that is not something I usually keep in the fridge. It sounds absolutely wonderful in these muffins, but I just went with some plain Greek yogurt instead. Maybe the muffins would dome a little more if I used the crème fraîche? But who knows. The yogurt worked just fine though. You could probably also use sour cream for a little bit richer muffin. I also cut back a little on the sugar and they were plenty sweet. I find that in most muffin recipes I can cut back on the sugar a little without any real change in the final product. 

Finally, I made 16 muffins out of this recipe like it said to do, but they didn't end up being huge. I think you could definitely make 12 if you wanted with no problem. Just a little bit bigger would be nice. 

Brown Sugar Cranberry Oat Muffins

Adapted from 

Williams Sonoma

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (5 ounces) white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cups (1.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 1/4 cups (180 grams) rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt 
  • 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup (5 ounces) firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 cup (I used 2 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries, roughly chopped

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line 16 standard muffin cups with paper liners, or butter or oil the cups.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, stir together the oats, yogurt, milk and butter until combined. Add the eggs, then the brown sugar, and stir until combined. Gently stir the flour mixture into the oat mixture. Fold in the cranberries.

Fill the prepared muffin cups to the rims (~65 grams per cup). Sprinkle some oats over the muffins if desired. Bake until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 21-23 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes, then unmold the muffins onto the rack and let cool slightly. 

Yields 16 muffins, approximately 191 calories each

Cranberry Walnut Bran Muffins

I love soft, fluffy, tender muffins, but I also love a good hearty and toothsome muffin. These bran muffins definitely end up in the latter category. Full of cranberries, walnuts, and bran of course, they are filling, satisfying and full of yummy bran flavor! With plenty of butter, and a good dose of sugar, it's not as though these are health muffins, but with all the bran, the fruit and the nuts I still feel pretty good about my breakfast when these are on the menu, and they are definitely worth having on the menu 

I really do like bran muffins, but a lot of the recipes I've seen call for all different kinds of bran, or bran cereal, stuff I never have, and never feel like buying. What I really liked about this recipe is that the only thing I had to buy was bran, just straight up bran. No bran cereals or anything like that. Since buying the bran I've found a lot of other things to add bran to, just to kick up the health factor a small notch. So I have to say that it is totally worth it to go out and buy a bag of bran for this recipe. It's all you probably need, and one bag will last you quite a while. Think of it as a good investment in your future baking endeavors!

Cranberry Walnut Bran Muffins

Adapted from

Sarabeth's Bakery

by Sarabeth Levine

Ingredients

  • Softened unsalted butter, for the pan
  • 1 2/3 cup wheat bran (not bran breakfast cereal) 
  • 1 2/3 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon mild honey, such as clover or blended blossom 
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature 
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, cut in half

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Brush the insides of 10 muffin cups with softened butter, then brush the top of the pan. 

Whisk the bran, flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Beat the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar. Beat, scraping the sides of the bowl often with a silicone spatula, until the mixture is very light in color and texture, about 5 minutes. Add the honey and beat for 1 minute. One at a time, beat in the eggs, beating well after each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to low. In thirds, beat in the bran mixture, alternating with the two additions of the milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, and mix until smooth. Stir in the raisins. 

Using a 2 ½-inch ice-cream scoop, portion the batter, rounded-side up, into the prepared cups. 

Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue baking until the tops of the muffins are browned, and a wire cake tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 15 minutes more. 

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and cool completely. 

Cranberry Bliss Bars

I've never actually bought the cranberry bliss bars from Starbucks, but every single time I see them I want to try them. They are just so pretty, and look so tasty, but I never want to shell out the money to buy a tiny little bar, especially when I can probably make them at home! I've had this recipe for cranberry bliss bars in my recipe folder for quite some time, but it took me forever to get around to making them. The recipe calls for cream cheese, dried cranberries, and white chocolate, and I never seemed to have all three of those at the same time.

Finally, over this past Christmas break I decided I had to do it, so I went out and bought these three ingredients so I would no longer have any excuses not to make these bars. I'm glad I finally did it. I thought these bars were fantastic. The blondie base layer is buttery and chewy, and filled with white chocolate and cranberries. Topped with a white chocolate cream cheese frosting, covered in more cranberries and drizzled with more white chocolate, they are absolutely delicious. I still haven't tried the real thing from Starbucks so I can't compare them, but I really don't feel like I have to!

Like I said, the blondie is delicious, and could probably work as the base for some other bars. I'll have to play around with that a little. They're not difficult at all to throw together, I love anything with melted butter because I can still make it right away, even if I forgot to soften the butter. So if you are craving coffee shop pastries at home, take the initiative and make your own, it's worth it!

Cranberry Bliss Bars

From

Recipe Girl

Ingredients

Blondie Layer:

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 6 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

Frosting:

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 6 ounces white baking chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper.

Prepare the blondie layer: In a medium bowl, melt butter for one minute in the microwave or until melted; stir in brown sugar. Pour the butter and sugar into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Use an electric mixer to beat in the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; gradually add the dry mixture to the butter mixture. Stir in the cranberries and chopped chocolate (batter will be thick).

Spread the blondie batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (do not overbake). Cool completely on a wire rack.

Prepare the frosting: In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until combined. Gradually add half of the melted white chocolate; beat until blended. Frost brownies. Sprinkle with chopped cranberries. Drizzle with remaining melted white chocolate. Let the frosting set (speed this up by throwing them into the fridge) then cut into bars- square or triangle-shaped. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.