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If the calendar months were a reality TV show, they would be the Real Housewives. Surely, winter must be so jealous of summer—after all, summer garners most of the seasonal cooking praise. Every year, the sunshine-deprived anxiously await the first sign of warm weather to uncover idle grills and dust off forgotten tongs in preparation for the backyard barbecues to come, but counting autumn and winter as a time to slack off in your culinary pursuits is a mistake indeed.

Farmers Market

Anyone who has ever stood over a stockpot of simmering stew or tucked into a hearty root vegetable casserole on a brisk day can testify to its warming comfort. Cooking during the cooler months brings the promise of hearty dishes and holiday gatherings, but it can also bring a few unwanted guests like heavy, calorie-laden food and weight gain (hidden under our not-so-subtle J. Crew sweaters). With summer on its way out, do we have to say goodbye to shopping at farmers’ markets for delicious and healthy produce?

The answer is, of course, no. A farmers’ market like Bellefonte Farmers Market in Wilmington is still the go-to place for local, healthier eating options. The meals you can create from a day’s trip to the farmers’ market are endless and the following recipe uses delicious locally-sourced seasonal ingredients that are filling and hearty, but are less calorie-dense than traditional comfort foods but no less satisfying. Here is a recipe you can try tonight:

Spinach, Quinoa, and Sweet Potato Salad
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into ½-inch cubes
½ red onion, diced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups fresh spinach
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I prefer balsamic vinegar from local culinary store Pro Kitchen Gear)
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup goat cheese (optional)
1 tablespoon toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Place sweet potatoes and red onion in a medium bowl; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss together and scatter onto a large baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring several times, until sweet potatoes are tender.
2. While the vegetables are roasting, make the quinoa. Using a strainer, rinse quinoa under cold water. Add quinoa, 2 cups water, and a pinch of salt to a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes, then turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
3. In a large bowl, combine quinoa, sweet potatoes, and red onion. Add spinach, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and toss in dried cranberries. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Top with goat cheese and pumpkin seeds (both optional) and serve.

Image: Bellefonte Farmers Market 

Iris McCarthy - LWP Blogger BadgeIris McCarthy is a freelance food writer and blogger in the Greater Philadelphia region with a passion for writing and food culture. Iris lives in the Philadelphia suburbs, but spends much of her time eating, working and playing in the city. When she’s not attending local food events, scoping out new ice cream spots to satiate her sweet tooth, or covering the Philly food scene, Iris can be found checking out the latest community theaters and museums. Follow Iris as she dines around Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs on her popular food blog The Palate Princess and via Twitter @PalatePrincess.