Harvest Salad with {Apple Cider} Vinaigrette

Yes, there is squash involved. Avert your eyes now if you can’t handle another bite. But really… you’d regret it.

You are sort of getting this recipe third-hand: This dish was inspired by Steph, who was inspired by this dish from The Daily Garnish. The genius that she is (that’s a math teacher for you!), Steph substituted apple cider for orange juice in the millet recipe. As I was licking my fork after sitting down to dinner with her and her husband a few weeks ago, It dawned on me that it would make a delicious salad dressing. Boy, was I right! (Thanks girls!)

P.S. Little known secret fact about Steph: She loves Honda mini-vans. Shhhhh.

This salad is packed with everything I love about this season: Salty-sweet roasted squash, tangy Gorgonzola cheese, crunchy toasted pecans, tart dried cranberries and melt-in-your-mouth pan-fried cinnamon apples. I declare these match(es) made in heaven.

A perfect accompaniment to any meal (Like Thanksgiving…), but this delightful concoction could be great as a main dish as well. Add chicken, toast a crunchy baguette, and you’re set. (Or, you could have it at 9:00p.m. with leftover quinoa loaf and BBQ sauce like we did. Super classy.)

Harvest Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Serves 4 (ish) as a side dish

For the Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

For the Salad:

  • One squash, thickly sliced – I used a Sweet Dumpling, but Acorn or even butternut would work as well (you would just need to peel and cube the butternut)
  • One to two apples, sliced – Depends on size
  • 1/3 cup of pecans, toasted and chopped- Can use without toasting, but they are more flavorful after a just a little bit of time in a dry skillet!
  • 1/3 cup Gorgonzola crumbles – Any strong cheese will work, and even Feta in a pinch.
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • About 6 cups of spinach or mixed baby greens
  • 1 T Earth Balance, or olive oil (or butter) for sauteing
  • A few dashes of cinnamon

Directions:

  • Slice squash, and bake on a foil-covered baking sheet with olive oil and salt at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until it starts to get a little brown and caramelized. You will probably have leftovers… never a bad thing.
  • While squash is baking, combine the dressing ingredients, and whisk. You will have plenty for a crowd, or just to save in the fridge for another day.
  • Toss the sliced apples into a skillet with the Earth Balance or olive oil, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Let them cook until tender (they will smell soooo delicious!), about 15 20 minutes minutes on medium heat. Note: These apples are wonderful on freshly baked biscuits with honey (like my mama makes)…or almost anything for that matter.

  • Arrange cooked squash, apples and other toppings over a bed of greens, and serve! I like to have my dressing on the side, but feel free to toss a little in with the finished salad if you like.

When you eat this salad, it’s like the entirety of the month of November is having a party in your mouth. You wouldn’t want to miss out on that, would you?!

So, slip on your comfy PJ’s best party dress, grab some leftovers baguettes, and enjoy…

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Honey Mustard {for your Honey}

The kid to the left doesn’t look like he likes to eat salad. In fact, that kid didn’t like to eat salad until he married me…

No, no… it was ten years later. Geesh.

Anyway, this kid’s favorite salad is my own spin on a classic Honey Mustard Chicken Salad. It’s got all the good stuff: Homemade dressing, grilled chicken, pecans & dried cranberries. So delicious, and so good for you (shhhh…don’t say that too loud).

The secret ingredient: Greek yogurt.

So, make this for your man, or yourself tonight. I figured I can’t be the only one  desperately clinging to the last weak vestige of summer…and maybe you’re craving salad for dinner, too.

Honey Mustard Chicken Salad

Serves 4

The Dressing:

  • 1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt (Yummy protein! Fage is the best.)
  • 2 T Course Ground Mustard (Not that yellow ballpark stuff. I like Grey Poupon -Mostly because I like saying “Poupon” in a British accent).
  • 1 T Honey (My parents have bees, so I was lucky enough to score some of their delicious home-harvested honey)

The Salad:

  • 3-4 Chicken breasts
  • 6 Cups, or a “several handfuls” of Spinach and Baby Greens (Because that’s what I know you’ll do anyway.)
  • Enough Dried Cranberries, Pecans, Red Onion, Tomato, Cucumbers, Parmesan and Feta to make it look pretty and taste good. (I trust you to eyeball it – Add any of your favorite veggies!)

How-to:

    • Mix all dressing ingredients, cover, and set in the fridge. (I really like the bite of the mustard, so you may want to add extra honey if that’s not your thing. Just try a taste, and adjust as needed. The dressing will be thick, not runny.)
    • Grill the chicken  until done (or broil, bake, use leftovers), slice and cover to keep warm.
    • Mix the salad ingredients, top with chicken.
    • Serve in a pretty bowl with the dressing on the side. (Dressing may need to be stirred up after being removed from the fridge.)
    • Enjoy!

This dressing is what makes the salad, and is also big hit on sandwiches, and as a dip, too! Kind of like what you get in at McD’s for your nuggets…but way, way better. You might want to make a double batch…