Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

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We’ll get to this delicious roasted butternut squash salad with maple-mustard dressing, I promise. But first, a little digression. Last Friday our family returned from five days in central Illinois for a fall break trip to visit family. We enjoyed some gorgeous fall colors,

Fall colors

a visit to Wildlife Prairie Park (a combination park/zoo/recreated prairie farmstead),

a daytrip to Chicago, where the kids and I explored the Field Museum,

Field Museum
quality time with grandparents and great-grandparents,

and a hike that dead-ended at this picturesque-but-creepy abandoned woodcutter’s cottage.

The weather was just what you’d idealize for fall–crisp but not too cold–and the kids behaved really well overall. Can’t ask for much more than that! If I could lodge just one complaint, though, it would be this: MEAT OVERLOAD. I had forgotten how much people in the Midwest eat meat, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This half-time vegetarian was not prepared for the amount of (especially red) meat that is standard on Midwestern menus. I enjoy a good burger as much as anyone else, but by the time we got home, I was ready to bathe myself in vegetables. So when I meal planned for this week, I made sure to include some uber-healthy vegetarian meals. Hence this butternut squash salad.

I had made this meal once before, but this time decided to tweak it a bit, and was delighted with the results. The mix of nutty butternut squash roasted with honey and spices, salty pepitas, sweet cranberries, and a maple-mustard dressing made for an awesome, hearty fall salad. For lunch today I had the leftovers and they were just as tasty as night before. How often does that happen with a salad?

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Maple-Mustard Dressing

Full disclosure, though: not everyone in our family loved this salad as much as I did. My 8-year-old, who apparently detests butternut squash with a level of intensity most people reserve for Donald Trump and dental work, gave us MAJOR grief over eating that part of the salad for dinner. When my husband told him he had to eat the squash before he could get dessert, my son shoved it in his mouth, and moments later…..vomited.

Yep. Vomited. He wasn’t sick; he just hates squash THAT MUCH.

So, word to the wise: if your kid as much as much loathing for butternut squash as mine does, you may want to shy away from this meal. On the other hand, if you’re a grown-up who enjoys healthy, flavorful food, allow me to introduce you to a new favorite fall salad.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Maple-Mustard Dressing
(Inspired by Two Peas and their Pod)

Ingredients:

For the salad:

12 oz. (about 1 small) butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
8 c. spinach or mixed greens
1/2 c. roasted salted pepitas
3/4 c. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 c. dried cranberries

For the dressing:

1/4 c. maple syrup
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. grainy mustard
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 c. canola oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread butternut squash chunks on a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and honey. Sprinkle with nutmeg, parsley, salt, and pepper and toss to coat. Roast 25-30 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the salad: in a salad bowl or platter, toss spinach/salad greens with pepitas, feta, and cranberries. Add roasted squash.
  3. To make the dressing, combine maple syrup, garlic, cider vinegar, grainy mustard, and Dijon mustard in a measuring cup. Add canola oil and blend with an immersion blender until emulsified. (Alternatively, you could use a regular blender or food processor.) Serve on the side or tossed in the salad.

Serves 4 as a main dish.

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