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Warm up with a winter cauliflower rice bowl side dish

A recipe inspired by Cafe Johnsonia

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When the cold weather awakens your cravings for scrumptious but healthy comfort food, this winter cauliflower rice bowl, inspired by Cafe Johnsonia, is an obvious choice.

Replete with winter veggies and fruit, this seasonal dish will tantalize your taste buds, nourish your body, and warm your belly. Red quinoa and riced cauliflower create a delicious foundation for the tender chunks of butternut squash, roasted red onion, cannellini beans, fresh kale, toasted pecans, and juicy pear slices. A homemade cranberry sauce — essentially a cranberry vinaigrette — gives the salad a sweet-tart finish and eye-catching festive color.

ALSO TRY: This beautiful farmers market cauliflower salad is so easy you will want to make it all year long

Every single ingredient in our winter veggie bowl is a nutritional superstar. From the colorful array of antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruit to the grain-free cauliflower and quinoa, this exceptionally beautiful salad is a balanced meal all by itself. Serve it for lunch or as a side dish for dinner. Be bold in your healthful endeavors and give it a place on your holiday dinner table. Your family and friends will be deliciously delighted.

In addition to being a deeply satisfying dish, our winter cauliflower rice bowl is gluten-free and ideal for anyone trying to cut down the grains in their diet. The cauliflower rice is an ingenious stand-in for conventional rice and offers far more nutrition than the high-carb grain. Cauliflower is low in calories, high in fiber, and contains an impressive amount of vitamins and minerals. Cauliflower is deliciously versatile when it comes to low-carb or grain-free cooking. If you’ve never tried riced cauliflower, one bite of this nosh-worthy salad will have you hooked!

A word about quinoa: We added red quinoa, another nutritious substitute for rice, to give this salad a tasty boost in protein and other phytonutrients. Quinoa is categorized as a grain but is actually a seed that cooks up similarly to grains. It is one of the few plant foods that contain all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa comes in a rainbow of colors, including red, ivory, black, and purple. Ivory, or white, quinoa is most widely available and can be used in place of the red quinoa.

Make the sauce

This simple sauce is made quickly in a blender. Combine cranberries, maple syrup, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and mustard in a blender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Puree until smooth. Set aside until ready to use.

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Cook the quinoa

Quinoa gives this salad protein power. To cook this grain-like seed, combine quinoa and chicken broth in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover the pan. Cook until the quinoa is tender.

5D4B4080 - Winter Cauliflower Rice Bowls - Cook the quinoa

Roast the butternut squash and onion

To bring out the natural sweetness in the squash and onion, roast it in the oven until tender. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread the squash on one of the sheets and spread the onion on the other sheet. Drizzle each with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425F for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender. Transfer each to a large bowl. Set aside one of the baking sheets.

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Cook the riced cauliflower

Shallot, garlic, and fresh herbs infuse the mild-tasting cauliflower with flavor. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the minced shallot and garlic and saute for just 1 to 2 minutes. Add the riced cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes. Add fresh rosemary and thyme, tossing to combine. Keep the riced cauliflower warm until ready to serve.

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Warm the white beans

Place the beans on the reserved baking sheets. Warm for 3 to 5 minutes in the oven.

5D4B4149 - Winter Cauliflower Rice Bowls - Warm the white beans

Assemble the salad

Serve this eye-catching salad in individual serving bowls or family-style in one large bowl. To assemble, fill one-half of the bowl with riced cauliflower and fill the other half with the quinoa. Add the roasted butternut squash on top of the riced cauliflower, covering only part of it. Pour the white beans neatly next to the squash. Next to the white beans, set the kale ribbons on top of the quinoa, covering only part of it. Place the red onions in between the beans and kale. Pour the pecans in the center of the ingredients. Arrange the pear slices in a fan shape on top in the center.

5D4B4187 - Winter Cauliflower Rice Bowls - Assemble the salad

Drizzle with cranberry sauce and serve

5D4B4194 - Winter Cauliflower Rice Bowls - Drizzle with cranberry sauce and serve

As simple as that!

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Vibrant colors pop

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So much flavor you won’t believe it’s also good for you!

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A hearty winter salad

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Beautiful red quinoa adds a nice touch

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Thinly sliced pear is an elegant garnish

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Simply delicious!

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Winter cauliflower rice bowl

Yield 4 servings


Cranberry sauce:

  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Cauliflower dish:

  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided 1 tablespoon each, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 cups butternut squash cubes, about 1/2 medium squash
  • 1 red onion, halved, cut into thin slices
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (15-ounce) can white cannellini beans, drained, about 1-1/2 cups
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 16 ounces (about 4 cups) riced cauliflower
  • 1/8 cup minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/8 cup minced fresh thyme
  • 2 cups baby kale, cut into thin ribbons
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 firm-ripe pear, sliced


  1. Place all sauce ingredients in a blender.  
  2. Blend until smooth.  
  3. Set aside until ready to use.
  4. Preheat oven 425F.
  5. Place quinoa and chicken broth in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes or until done.
  6. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Place diced butternut on one baking sheet and onion wedges on the other baking sheet. Drizzle each with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked.
  8. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large electric skillet set on medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic cloves. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes.
  9. Add riced cauliflower to skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes.
  10. Add fresh rosemary and thyme and toss well. Remove skillet from heat and keep warm until ready to serve.
  11. Place drained white beans on one of the just-used baking sheets and place in oven for 3 to 5 minutes to warm through.
  12. Using four shallow bowls or one large serving bowl, add ingredients in the following order: cauliflower rice, quinoa, roasted butternut squash, roasted red onions, white beans, kale, nuts, and pear slices.
  13. Drizzle with cranberry sauce.
  14. Serve immediately.

Courses Side dish

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