Meatless Monday – Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

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Salads in winter must have a hearty element to them or they just don’t work for me, especially in cold, wet weather, like now.  This one has roasted butternut squash, toasted pecans, dried cranberries and salty feta over a bed of dark leafy greens, drizzled with a rich balsamic vinaigrette.  Yum! Best of all it’s simple, just a few delicious ingredients and good for you. Butternut squash is my favorite of the hard winter squashes and still in season.  Butternut squash has a natural sweetness that really shines when brushed with olive oil and roasted, and it is loaded with vitamins and minerals, as evidenced by it’s brilliant orange color.
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This salad is easy to make except for the peeling and cutting of the butternut squash  It is not that really that hard to peel but if you are looking for a shortcut, many supermarkets offer it already pre-cut into cubes.  Go for it if you need a big time saver!  This recipe calls for 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of cut up squash (medium butternut).  Supermarket packages of cut up squash are usually 16 to 18 ounces, which is equal to a small squash but totally adequate for this salad. It will just be slightly smaller.  To make this salad more hearty, you can add cooked barley or quinoa.  A layer of black or green lentils cooked al dente would be a good addition too.
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I used a sprinkling of feta cheese which works well with its salty flavor and crumbly texture.  Goat cheese would work well here too, as well as some of their vegan counterparts.  If you’re not a dried cranberry fan, walk on the wild side with dried blueberries or cherries.  Best of all is the vinaigrette with the balsamic reduction.  It’s rich and really complements the other ingredients, however, the ingredients do combine to a pretty delicious vinaigrette without the fuss of reducing the sauce.
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ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SALAD
  • 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6-8 cups fresh greens (baby kale, spinach, arugula, etc)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted or candied
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled (optional)
Vinaigrette:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • salt and pepper, to taste

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  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread butternut squash pieces into a single layer on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle or spray with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You can line baking sheet with parchment paper instead of oil for easy clean up.

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  • Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning a few times, until squash is tender.

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  • While the squash is cooking, whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.  Or, if you want a thicker dressing, stir the vinegar and honey in small saucepan over medium heat until reduced by about half (recommended).  Let cool slightly and add the remaining ingredients.  Set aside.

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  • Thinly slice red onions and chop salad greens and add to large bowl or platter

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  • Allow squash to cool and then add to salad greens

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  • Top with dried cranberries, pecans and crumbled feta. Drizzle with vinaigrette.

 

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Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 3/4-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6-8 cups fresh greens (baby kale, spinach, arugula, etc)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted or candied
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
Vinaigrette:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread butternut squash pieces into a single layer on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle or spray with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You can line baking sheet with parchment paper instead of oil for easy clean up.
  • Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning a few times, until squash is tender.
  • While the squash is cooking, whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.
  • Thinly slice red onions and chop salad greens and add to large bowl or platter
  • Allow squash to cool and then add to salad greens
  • Top with dried cranberries, pecans and crumbled feta. Drizzle with vinaigrette.
TIPS: This salad is easy to make except for the peeling and cutting of the butternut squash  An easy shortcut is to buy pre-cut squash which is a great timesaver but a bit more expensive.  To make this salad more hearty, you can add cooked barley or quinoa.

Meatless Monday – Kale, Fennel Salad with Apples, Pecans & Goat Cheese

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Well I’ve finally done it!  I massaged kale. I have always thought kale was just fine the way it is naturally but have heard that massaging kale is a thing and have been wondering if ‘super relaxed’ kale is really worth all the fuss.  So when I spotted this recipe from Vegetarian Times, June 2016 for Fenway Park’s signature salad, I thought I would give it a try – even down to the kale massaging and fennel soaking, (Nope, I hadn’t done that before either).  What could be better than a salad that has been given the ultimate in pampering and spa treatments?  This lucky salad is a delicious combination of sweet and savory on a bed of velvety kale and fennel and drizzled with a Maple, Lemon, Dijon Vinaigrette.  Not bad for ballpark food, don’t you think?  Good on you, Fenway Park!

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Why do we massage kale anyway?  Kale is a slightly bitter green which is also somewhat fibrous.  When it is massaged, it’s tough cellulose structure breaks down (LA Times) making it less fibrous.  You can actually see the difference.  The kale will darken, shrink in size and become silky in texture. The flavor changes as well. That bitterness mellows to a sweet softness. Another benefit is that massaged kale has such a wonderful texture with just the right mix of sweet and bitter flavor, you need to use less salad dressing, thus fewer calories.  That said, this Maple Dijon Dressing is pretty good so don’t skip it entirely.

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So now you probably want to ask why one would soak shaved fennel.  Well that is not quite as clear.  Soaking fennel in cold water seemed to mellow the flavor and soften the texture of shaved fennel while still preserving it’s crispiness. Just make sure the water is really cold. The soaked fennel paired really well with the silky kale so there must be something to this.  You could probably soak your julienned apples too to prevent browning.

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TIPS: You can skip the massaging and soaking if you’re pressed for time or can’t be bothered.  Just make sure you slice thinly.

This recipe calls for dried cranberries but I was planning on using pomegranate seeds instead but I didn’t get the pomegranate seeded before my guests came and I didn’t want the kitchen to look like a tragic kitchen accident with all that pomegranate juice, so I stuck with dried cranberries, which were good.  I think pomegranate seeds would provide a fresh pop of sweet and tart, so next time I will be better organized and give them a try.

If your pecans are raw, just toast them in the oven at 350 for about about 7 minutes and let cool.  Or you can find toasted or candied pecans in most grocery stores.

This is a yummy dressing but it can tend to be too sweet when paired with apples, cranberries and pecans, so try adding one tablespoon of maple syrup at a time to the other ingredients until it is to your preferred sweetness.  The original recipe called for three tablespoons but I used two and next time I will use only one.

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KALE FENNEL SALAD
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves cut into thin strips
1 generous pinch of salt
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, thinly sliced and submerged in ice water
1 apple, cored and julienned
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted or candied
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled

DRESSING
1-3 Tbsn pure maple syrup (add 1 Tbsn at a time until desired sweetness)
2 Tbsn lemon juice
1 Tbsn dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
6 Tbsn olive oil

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  • Place kale in a medium bowl, and massage with salt for a minute or so, or until the greens are dark and glossy.

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  • Thinly slice fennel and place in a cold water bath while you prepare the other salad ingredients

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  • Drain fennel, and add to kale

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  • Stir in apple, cranberries, goat cheese and pecans.

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  • Combine maple syrup, lemon juice, mustard, shallot and thyme in a small bowl.  Whisk in oil and season with salt and pepper.

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  • Toss the salad with dressing.

Kale and Fennel Salad with Apples, Pecans and Goat Cheese

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves cut into thin strips
1 generous pinch of salt
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, thinly sliced and submerged in ice water
1 apple, cored and julienned
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted or candied
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled

DRESSING
1-3 Tbsn pure maple syrup (Add 1 Tbsn at time until desired sweetness)
2 Tbsn lemon juice
1 Tbsn dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
6 Tbsn olive oil

  • Place kale in a medium bowl, and massaage with salt for a minute or so, or until the greens are dark and glossy..
  • Thinly slice fennel and submerge in cold water while you prepare the other ingredients
  • Drain fennel, and add to kale
  • Stir in apple, cranberries, goat cheese and pecans.
  • Combine maple syrup, lemon juice, mustard, shallot and thyme in a small bowl.  Whisk in oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Toss the salad with dressing.

Wheatless Wednesday – Roasted Maple Glazed Acorn Squash, Apples and Pecans over Rainbow Quinoa

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The time when you find the perfect balance between savory with a touch of sweet… By George, this is it!  Now if I could just find the same balance in my life all would be good, although we are trending in the right direction.  Next week my youngest turns 20, signaling the end of thirteen years of the ‘terrible teens’ which were both better and worse than I expected. Teenagers are actually pretty wonderful, young people (most of the time), they just happen to come with loads of friends (and friends of friends) with enormous appetites, and they use a lot of towels.   Alas, time marches on and we are finding our new balance, a lot of sweet and a bit of savory. Life is good…

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I loved this acorn squash way more than I was expecting and I didn’t even have the urge to add cheese.  This is a vegan dish that you will love and it will love you back by providing loads of healthy plant based  protein, vitamins and minerals! I got the inspiration from a recipe by Edible Perspective and added more savories like ‘sweet’ onion, fresh sage, elephant garlic and whole pecans. Somehow all the flavors come together.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  I have always loved the shape of acorn squash.  When cut into circles they remind me of cartoon flowers.  This dish can also be made super casual with everything chopped and cooked jumbled together in a baking dish (I often do this).  The flavors are still wonderful, but it’s less of a presentation.  I really love the visual of the circles and wedges. It’s kind of like a cross between serving halved squash and a vegetable medley.  The slices are certainly less of a commitment to eat than an entire half and since they are uniform in size, they take less time for that perfect cook.  You can also chop the apples, onions, garlic, sage and pecans and stuff the slices for an impressive presentation, although you may need to add an egg to keep the filling together .  I’m sure I will give that a whirl sometime soon, perhaps for Thanksgiving. Stay tuned!

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Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa (rainbow or plain)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 medium acorn squash
2 large cloves elephant garlic (optional)
2 large sweet onions
small bunch fresh sage
2 apples
3 Tbsn olive or coconut oil
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
salt + pepper

Vinaigrette:

1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsn olive oil
2-3 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
salt + pepper to taste

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  • Preheat your oven to 425* F.  Rinse and cook quinoa, if making, in vegetable broth according to instructions. Cover and set aside.

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  • Cut acorn squash in half crosswise and scoop out seeds.

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  • Slice into 1/2 inch rings

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  • Cut elephant garlic into slices.

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  • Cut the dried roots off the onions leaving the  core intact (you want the slices to stay together).  Slice into thin wedges.

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  • Combine the oil, maple syrup and cayenne (if using) in a small bowl. Place squash, garlic and onions in a large lightly oiled baking dish and sprinkle/brush with oil misture to cover. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Place as many squash as possible in a single layer on the bottom of the pan for proper browning, even if you have to use two pans.
  • Roughly chop sage. Core and thinly slice apples.  Spritz with lemon juice if not using right away to prevent browning.

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  • Remove pan from oven. Turn vegetables. Add the apples, pecans and sage.  Bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until golden.  You can broil the last five minutes but watch the pecans because they can burn.

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  • Serve over quinoa and sprinkle with vinaigrette.

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Roasted Acorn Squash, Apples and Pecans over Rainbow Quinoa

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa (rainbow or plain)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 medium acorn squash
2-3 large cloves elephant garlic (optional)
2 large sweet onions
small bunch fresh sage
2 apples
3 Tbsn olive or coconut oil
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
salt + pepper

Vinaigrette:

1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsn olive oil
2-3 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
salt + pepper to taste

  • Preheat your oven to 425* F.  Rinse and cook quinoa, if making, in vegetable broth according to instructions. Cover and set aside.
  • Cut acorn squash in half crosswise and scoop out seeds.
  • Slice into 1/2 inch rings
  • Slice elephant garlic into slices.
  • Cut the dried roots off the onions leaving the  core intact (you want the slices to stay together).  Slice into thin wedges.
  • Combine the oil, maple syrup and cayenne (if using) in a small bowl
  • Place squash, garlic and onions in a large baking dish and sprinkle/brush with oil misture to cover.  Place as many squash as possible in a single layer on the bottom of the pan for proper browning, even if you have to use two pans. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Roughly chop sage. Core and thinly slice apples.  Spritz with lemon juice if not using right away to prevent browning.
  • Remove pan from oven. Turn vegetables. Add the apples, pecans and sage.  Bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until golden.  You can broil the last five minutes but watch the pecans as they can burn.
  • Serve over quinoa and sprinkle with vinaigrette

Meatless Monday – Roasted Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing

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Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing

Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing & Pear and Cambozola Salad

When I was a kid, my Mom used to roast acorn squash with butter and brown sugar.  My favorite part was the little pool of melted brown sugar and butter that would form in the hollow. Yum!  This is a more grown up version, suitable as a vegan main course.  It kind of reminds me of a Thanksgiving stuffing but without the turkey.  This dish is very impressive looking and is great for dinner parties or as a holiday centerpiece.  It has that perfect salty, sweet combination and the toasted pecans give it a satisfying ‘meatiness’.  I love the natural heart shape.  It would be a great Valentine’s Day dish!  Vegans should omit the Campozola or replace it with sliced avocado or vegan cheese.  Serves 4-6 (Makes enough stuffing to fill 2 large or 3 small squash)

Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing

Ingredients:

½  cup dried brown rice
¼ cup dried wild rice
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup fresh brown mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
2 acorn squash
1-2 Tbsp. maple syrup or brown sugar
1 -2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
¼ cup dried currants (or unsweetened dried cranberries)
¼  tsp salt
¼ tsp. pepper
½ cup pecans

  • Cook the brown and wild rice together with vegetable broth.
  • Heat the oven to 400° and place a rack in the middle position.
  • Cut squash in half with a sharp knife and remove the seeds. Use a dry paper towel to get the rest of the stringy bits.
  • Place the squash, cut side up, on a baking sheet, and brush olive oil on the tops and insides of the squash halves. Brush maple syrup (or sprinkle with brown sugar) on the tops and insides as well, and season with salt and fresh pepper. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, until you can pierce it with a fork but not yet soft.

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  • Toast the pecans in a dry pan for a few minutes, until they become aromatic and start turning brown.(You can also toss them first in melted butter or coconut spread for an even more delicious taste).  Let cool.
  • Saute the onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large pot until soft.  Add fresh mushrooms, if using, and cook another couple of minutes.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the cooked rice, pecans, and currants. Add salt and fresh pepper to taste.
  • Scoop one quarter of the rice filling into each of the roasted squash halves. It’s a bit messy, so I found it easier to move the squash to a plate for filling and then put it back into the pan.

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  • Continue roasting the squash for 20 to 30 minutes more. It should be completely tender and the stuffing hot. You should hear it sizzling.
  • Serve warm.

Pear and Cheese

Pear and Cambozola Salad

1-2  d’Anjou or Bosc pears

8 red globe grapes

1 wedge Cambazola Blue cheese (camembert or brie work well too)

2-3 cups mache or mixed salad greens

Vinaigrette (2 Tbsn olive or avocado oil, 1 Tbsn red wine vinegar, 1/4 tsp Dijon mustard, dash salt and pepper)

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  • Cut pears in half lengthwise, core using a melon baller and thinly slice lengthwise.(Easiest done with cut side down)
  • Slice grapes
  • Cut 4 thick slices of cambazola
  • Wash and dry greens and toss in vinaigrette.
  • Place ¼ of the greens on a salad plate and arrange ¼ of the pear slices, grapes and 1 slice cambozola on top for each serving.

Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing