Liver-Loving, Sweet Squash & Shiitake Quinoa Pilaf: turmeric, garlic, ginger






sweet squash and shiitake quinoa pilaf - detox food

To say I’m obsessed with Neal’s Yard Remedies “Rose Balm” is an understatement.  Where has this company been all my life?! Neal’s Yard Remedies is a British company that recently opened stores throughout Canada; Calgary being one of the lucky cities to gain its presence.  They use all natural and organic ingredients, harvesting some of the herbs themselves.  And the fact that the products are certified ‘ethically sourced’ is even better.  I recently attended one of their skin workshops and I knew I had found a gem when their first recommendation for radiant skin was cleaning up your gut…before buying any of their products! Amen, Neal’s Yard Remedies! They obviously care about the internal health of the individual and believe this 100% contributes to the health of your skin. 

So, when I was asked by Orsha of Neurotrition to team up with her innovative Neuroscience/Nutrition company, as well as Neal’s Yard Remedies for a detox workshop, I jumped right on board! Teaming up with  two companies that believe so wholly in holistic health for each of their clients was an easy choice.  

The recipe I’m sharing with you today was one that used the liver-loving, detox-friendly foods from the workshop.  This is a great recipe for a liver cleanse or even just an everyday, delicious meal! There is a big misconception that cleanse and detox food is bland and boring…but I disagree! Each ingredient in this dish was carefully chosen to enhance detoxification pathways in the liver.   And although it sounds scientific and complicated, the actual recipe is anything but!  If your not on a detox, don’t let that deter you from trying this recipe. I would substitute 1/2 cup of the water with 1/2 cup of mirin if you aren’t on a liver detox….then make a big batch and eat away!

detox food turmeric green onions

sweet squash and shiitake quinoa pilaf - detox food


As I mentioned in my previous post, a lot of people jump right into drastic and severe detoxes in the New Year: juice cleanses, harsh boxed cleanses, etc.  While cleaning up our act is a great idea after a bit of an indulgent December, the most beneficial thing you can do is ease into it.  Prepare for the cleanse by increasing your fresh fruits and veggies, gluten-free whole grains, legumes/beans, healthy fats such as nuts and seeds, and fermented foods and/or taking probiotics.  And don’t forget plenty of pure, filtered, lemon water! When you are ready to begin your cleanse, your body will be a bit stronger to attack all the toxins that will be released during a cleanse.  By supplying water, fiber, and probiotics, our digestion will also be ready to properly eliminate those toxins, so as not to continue circulating them in your system.  It is very important to choose a detox protocol that fits your current diet and lifestyle, because if toxins are released too quickly, the detox will make you sick and stress your organs of elimination.  The best “detox” or “cleanse” to take part in, is one that fits you best, which may just be an organic, whole-food diet; pills are never needed to detox properly.


The liver is responsible for over 500 processes in the body, including filtering the blood, neutralizing harmful substances, regulating hormones, building proteins, and making bile to break down fats, to name a few.  Substances your body deems as toxic and must be excreted include caffeine, sugar, alcohol, drugs, chemicals and unnatural additives in processed and refined foods, pesticides, and preservatives.  When the liver is overburdened with these toxins, its other 499 jobs are compromised, causing damage to bodily tissues.  

In order to detoxify the liver naturally, certain foods have been proven to enhance detoxification pathways in the liver and protect the liver from further damage.  Neurotrition’s detox workshop focused on these foods and have been included in my recipe.   

detox foods


Cruciferous vegetables: kale & collards

Cruciferous vegetables are touted as the king of liver-loving foods.  They include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, mustard greens, kohlrabi, turnips, rutabaga, watercress, radish, and kale.  These foods have been proven to regulate stage 1 of liver detoxification while supporting stage 2, thus enhancing detoxification pathways in the liver. 

Probiotic & Prebiotic foods: garlic & onion

Prebiotics act as food for probiotics, which enhance our gut health and immunity.  As we detox, toxins are released, so immunity needs to be strong enough to handle the released toxins.  Probiotics, such as kombucha, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut and my fermented carrots, also help cleanse liver cells.  Prebiotics include foods such as asparagus, chicory root, burdock root, garlic, onion, beets, wheat bran, and jerusalem artichoke, two of which are found in this recipe.

Garlic also contains a high amount of allicin and selenium: two natural compounds that aid in liver cleansing.

Other liver-loving vegetables: shiitake mushrooms, kombu seaweed

Due to where they grow, sea vegetables such as kombu seaweed, contain a very high mineral content.  A study from McGill University found that seaweed contains a compound called “algin” which absorbs toxins, such as radioactive particles, and chelates heavy metals from our system. 

Medicinal mushrooms, like shiitake mushrooms, are not only adaptogens, helping to bring homeostasis to the body, but they are immune modulators that also protect the liver from further damage.  A study in 2006 found that shiitake mushrooms protect liver cells from damage and strengthens the liver’s ability to detoxify.

Fiber: squash, quinoa, and various vegetables

Fiber helps cleanse the mucus along the small intestine, creates bulk in the colon and pull toxins from the gastrointestinal tract. 

*We want to stay away from gluten during cleanses and detoxes because gluten is a common allergen.  If someone has an unknown gluten sensitivity or intolerance, eating it could disrupt digestion, making it harder for the body to excrete the toxins. 

Healthy fats: pumpkin seeds

Omega 3 fats, such as those found in pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, and wild salmon, have been shown to have protective effects on the liver.  Nuts and seeds are an easy addition because you can sprinkle them on anything!

Spices: cumin, turmeric, ginger, garlic

Toxins are stored in fat cells, so stage 2 of liver detoxification is turning the fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble substances so they can be easily excreted by the body.  Turmeric helps stimulate this stage of detoxification. 

Antioxidants: vitamins A, C, E, selenium and zinc; present in most vegetables, nuts and grains.

Antioxidants protect the body from free radical damage from the free radicals released during stage 1 of detoxification.  As the toxins are converted to less harmful substances, free radicals are released, which can cause damage to bodily tissues if there are not enough antioxidants to combat them.


Other than including these liver-loving foods into your diet, lifestyle changes such as dry brushing, light exercise, meditation, massage, and epsom salt baths can support a liver detox by enhancing toxin removal and stress relief.  Detoxes are the perfect time to slow down, be present, and perhaps reflect on our own lives as well.  My friend just began a beautiful bog: Kori Leigh: Cultivate Wellness.  I encourage you to check it out to enhance your cleansing thoughts or even just for some day-to-day inspiration.  Her thoughts are not only beautiful and inspirational but reflective and grounding.  


As you can see, this recipe is jam-packed with liver-loving foods! So put down that glass of wine (sorry to be the bearer of bad news!), and give your liver a little pick-me up with this delicious pilaf….maybe even serve it with kombucha for some probiotics!  






Sweet Squash & Shiitake Quinoa Pilaf: turmeric, ginger, garlic
Serves 2
Write a review
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
  1. ¾ c quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
  2. 1 cup squash (I used butternut), cut into cubes
  3. 1 ½ cup pure, filtered water*
  4. 1 Tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
  5. ½ cup chopped yellow onion
  6. ¾ cup shiitake mushrooms, rinsed
  7. 1 teaspoon turmeric
  8. ¼ teaspoon cumin
  9. 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  10. ½ teaspoon sea salt
  11. 1 piece of dried kombu seaweed, crumbled
  12. 1 ½ cups roughly chopped kale or collards
  13. 2 Tablespoons soaked, raw, pumpkin seeds
  14. 1 green onion, sliced
  1. 1. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa, squash, water, garlic, onion, mushrooms, turmeric, cumin, ginger, salt and kombu. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Check after 15 minutes and ensure there is enough water and the quinoa isn’t sticking to the bottom. Add a bit more water if needed.
  2. 2. Add the chopped greens and return the lid to the pot, letting the greens steam for a few minutes.
  3. 3. Divide into bowls and top with pumpkin seeds and green onions.
  1. *If your not on a liver cleanse, replace 1/2 cup of the water with 1/2 cup of mirin - its a great addition!
Love & Garnish — A Nourishing Kitchen
  • Naomi - I will be trying this recipe this weekend. Looks like another hit Anise!
    Ditto on the Neal’s Yard wild rose balm! Amazing stuff. Just a tip for the old people reading the post (like me)…the frankincense serum has worked WONDERS! Just discovered it over Christmas when I was home. They need to open a location here in Houston!ReplyCancel

    • Love & Garnish - I’ve never tried that but heard great things!! Let me know how the cooking goes! I just LOVE this with the mirin!ReplyCancel

  • Millie | Add A Little - This looks so delicious Anise! I love the vibrant colour too!ReplyCancel

  • Tilly - Neals yard remedies are gorgeous and our beautician here in little builth wells sells them! Nanny likes them ……….ReplyCancel

    • Love & Garnish - I can see that 🙂 Beautiful products…right up Nan’s alley! Hope all is well across the pond!ReplyCancel

  • Sue - I enjoyed your site, lots of great ideas with a passion for food and wellness.ReplyCancel

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