I know, I know. Where the cookies at y’all!? It’s December! Full-on Christmas baking season! What is this….. “salad” you’re trying to entice us with? Pffft.
But you guys, as much as I love all of the cookies and the eating and the teeth brushing (wait – what)? I really, really, need some green in there too. And not the kind that comes out of a food colouring bottle. My body craves it sometimes. Especially since I’m just coming down from the last few months of being a strict bread-tarian.
Now that I’m finally feeling more like my old self and vegetables are once again appealing, I’m finding myself craving salads, soups, and all sorts of dishes filled with colour.
It was my birthday yesterday (yay me!) and obviously, we had a weekend-long affair of delicious food – and cake! On Saturday we went to a little Italian restaurant and stuffed ourselves with antipasti and bucatini, among other things that I can’t pronounce 😉 My wonderful friend Deb made me the most delicious chocolate and peppermint cake, sending us home with leftovers and saving me from baking what would be my third cake in a week and a half. You HAVE to have cake on your actual birthday!
So, since all of that pasta and cake is still digesting, I am in desperate need of a few lighter meals.
I could eat this salad every day (multiple times a day) for a week! It’s SO good. The tart cranberries are such a welcome flavour against the sweet butternut squash and creamy goat cheese. Roasting the fresh cranberries in maple syrups softens them up and lessens their bite. Paired with slightly sticky, sugary pecans and a maple and red-wine vinaigrette, you’ve got yourself a winner.
I almost always add quinoa to my salad – like this kale salad – not only for the extra boost of protein, but I love how quinoa attaches itself to the greens it’s placed with, and adds a little bit of texture to every bite.
Oh – I almost forgot! The candied pecans. They’re so easy to make yourself! I usually do up a big batch of them at one time so I can have them on hand to toss into my salads. They’re also done in minutes; whisk together brown sugar with a pinch of salt, some water and a bit of vinegar, and heat it up over the stove with some lightly toasted pecans. The mixture gets syrupy and sticks to the pecans, coating them in a sweet layer of deliciousness. You’ll have to resist eating them all before adding them to the salad!
The vinaigrette is also super simple! You likely have everything you need in your house already. The recipe makes more dressing than what you’ll need for the salad, so I would just add a little at a time.
Toss everything together and you’ve got yourself a fresh, filling meal or a wonderful salad to serve alongside a main course. Take a break from your holiday sweets and get some greens in!
Roasted Butternut Squash and Cranberry Salad
Yield 4 servings
Fresh, maple-roasted cranberries and sweet butternut squash are mixed with soft spinach leaves and creamy goat cheese to create your new favourite seasonal salad!
- 2 cups butternut squash, diced into 1/2" pieces
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- 8 cups fresh spinach
- 1 cup quinoa (cooked and cooled)
- 1 cup goat cheese
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
Maple-Red Wine Vinaigrette
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp red wine vinaigrette
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 425 F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Peel and slice about 1/2 butternut squash into 1/2" pieces, enough to get about 2 cups. Toss the sliced squash in 1 tbsp of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Spread the squash onto the baking sheet in a single layer. Roast the squash for 10 minutes; while the squash is roasting, combine the cranberries with the maple syrup and remaining tbsp of olive oil. Remove the squash from the oven, flip with a spatula, and scatter the cranberries throughout the squash onto the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet back into the oven for another 5-6 minutes, or until the cranberries and squash are tender. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow it to cool completely.
- In a large salad bowl, combine the spinach, quinoa and goat cheese. Set aside.
- Make the candied pecans: In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, water, vanilla extract and salt. In a skillet on the stove over medium heat, toast the pecans for 3-4 minutes or until just starting to become fragrant. Add the sugar mixture to the skillet and stir continuously, until the sauce thickens and begins to stick to the pecans. There should be hardly any liquid remaining in the skillet before you remove it the heat. Immediately scatter the pecans onto a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool completely.
- Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients until thoroughly combined.
- Add the cooled pecans, butternut squash and cranberries to the salad, then slowly pour the vinaigrette over everything. Start with half the dressing, before tossing and testing. Add more dressing as desired. Enjoy immediately!
Pre-dressed leftover salad will store in the fridge for 1-2 days; undressed salad will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.