Honeycrisp Apples, Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Pie Spice: Hello Fall!

Nothing screams fall like crisp apples, sweet butternut squash, and pumpkin pie spice.  Since our unseasonably warm weather has prevented me from getting my fall fix from planting pansies, I decided to bring fall into my kitchen.

With a busy week ahead, I needed to call on some time-saving meal prep tips and used one of my favorites: relying on roasted chicken from my market’s deli as the base of not one meal but two!

Salad #1: Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Spice Pepitas

This salad was inspired by the mass amounts of pumpkins and squash displayed front and center at the market.   I haven’t roasted butternut squash in a few months with all the summer vegetables available, so I was excited to put it back on the menu.

As I was gathering the ingredients for my salads, I used another timesaver and picked up bags of shredded kale and chopped butternut squash.  If  pre-cut squash isn’t available, grab a sharp knife and click here for DIY instructions.

With my butternut squash, kale, and roasted chicken ready to go, I rounded out my salad ingredients with tangy but sweet dried cranberries.  For the finishing touch, I  jumped on the pumpkin pie spice bandwagon and picked up some pepitas for one of my favorite snacks that’s a great replacement for croutons:  Pumpkin Pie Spice Pepitas.

These flavored pumpkin seeds are simple to prepare. Just toss them in a baggie with coconut oil, salt, and pumpkin pie spice; shake until the seeds are covered with the spice; and then saute over medium high heat in a nonstick skillet until toasted for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often.  Filled with magnesium which is a vital mineral lacking in most of our diets, these seeds are a yummy and healthy treat.

(I have to confess that often many don’t make it to the salad – I eat them before they’ve even cooled.)

apple-chicken-salad

Salad #2:   Apple and Blue Cheese Chicken Salad

I’m a sucker for honeycrisp apples.  They’re wonderfully crisp, sweet, and juicy, so it was a no-brainer to use these as the highlight of my next salad.  I love the combo of spinach and apples, and with a sprinkle of red onions, blue cheese, and walnuts, all that was left was to decide on a dressing.

Apple Cider Vinaigrette with a touch of maple syrup would  be perfect for both salads and with vinaigrette staples always on hand, this shopping trip was complete.

Weeknight meals don’t have to be complicated or boring.  By building from a prepared protein, using pre-cut veggies, and adding seasonal colors, textures, and flavors you’ll have delicious, healthy meals on the table in a matter of minutes.

What food screams fall to you?

Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Spice Pepitas

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

    For the Salad
  • 1 bunch of kale, shredded
  • 2 cups of butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 6-8 ounces of roasted chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened or low sugar dried cranberries
  • For the Pepitas
  • 1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil, melted (or EVOO)
  • For the Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

    For the Salad
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss.
  3. Spread evenly and roast for about 20 minutes or until tender golden brown, stirring halfway through
  4. Cool slightly.
  5. Toss together the kale, squash, and chicken and top with the seeds and cranberries.
  6. Drizzle with Apple Cider Vinaigrette.
  7. For the Pepitas
  8. Toss the pepitas in a baggie with the coconut oil, pumpkin pie spice, and a dash of salt.
  9. Toast in a saute pan until browned for about 3-5 minutes, stirring often.
  10. Cool and store leftovers for snacks or other salads.
  11. For the Vinaigrette
  12. Add all the ingredients to a glass jar and shake until combined.
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