A Warm Squash Salad

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I knew I wanted to create something with butternut squash on Thanksgiving. I also knew I didn’t want to serve a basic green salad — that just doesn’t feel right anymore. It’s November, it’s cold outside and most of the ingredients I generally use in my salads are no longer in season.

So I began my search for butternut squash dishes. It didn’t take long before I found a recipe called Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette. I rarely follow recipes verbatim. I often substitute ingredients, usually more healthful ones. The original recipe called for 3/4 cup cheese and dried cranberries. I omitted the cheese and substituted fresh apples.

I love warm salads and greens in the winter and this salad is really delicious and, of course, very nutritious. It ended up being my favorite dish of the day!

The original version is from the Food Network. Here’s my version:

Ingredients

For the Salad
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-size cubes
1 sweet apple, cleaned and chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 large handfuls baby arugula or spinach (or a mixture of both)
Sea salt and pepper

For The Dressing
2 Tablespoons minced shallots (can use garlic too)
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup apple cider
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the butternut squash on a stainless steel sheet pan or glass casserole dish. Add 2 Tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast the squash for about 20 minutes, turning once, until tender.

While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Remove from heat, whisk in the mustard and 1/2 cup olive oil.

Place the greens in a large bowl. Add the roasted squash, apples and walnuts. Season with sea salt and pepper. Pour just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Serve immediately!

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Anti-inflammatory Foods

Many of us walk around in a constant state of inflammation. Short term inflammation is ok because it’s a sign our body is fighting infection. But long-term inflammation is dangerous and can lead to a whole host of diseases including cancer, heart disease and even Alzheimer’s.

The good news is that we can help prevent long-term internal inflammation by choosing to eat anti-inflammatory foods. Yes, we have a choice!

One way to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into our diet is to eat lots of vegetables — not news to most of us — to eat low-fat, high quality proteins, including cultured soy products. One of the most healthful and overlooked soy products on the market today is tempeh. Have you heard of it? Tempeh is a cultured, fermented, very affordable soy product which originated in Indonesia. Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but unlike tofu, tempeh is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics. And because tempeh retains the whole soy bean it has a higher content of protein, fiber and vitamins! Also tempeh is fermented, tofu is not, which makes it easier to digest.

Here’s a simple, quick meal made with tempeh and greens:

Ingredients:

1/2 package tempeh (I use the flax one)

1/2  red bell pepper cut into 1/2″ pieces

1 Tablespoon tamari (another fermented soy product)

3 large handfuls greens (I use a combination of swiss chard, spinach and kale)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

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Heat the oil in a large skillet. Cut the tempeh into bite-size pieces, about 1/2″. Add tempeh to oil and saute for about three minutes over medium high heat. Add the red pepper and continue cooking for another minute until vegetables are slightly soft. Add the greens and tamari to the pan and cook just until greens are slightly wilted. Remove from heat and transfer to your plate. A word of caution: Tempeh has a sort of earthy taste and might take some getting used to. I really enjoy it but younger kids may not!

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