Maple Butternut Squash, Craisin and Bacon Salad

I impulse bought a couple packages of pre-cut butternut squash last week. We don’t have a Trader Joes in our small town, so when we visit family out of town, I make a pilgrimage to my favorite store. I end up buying three times what I need, but in the moment it always seems so reasonable.

Hence the squash. Standing in the aisle of the produce section I had all these ideas of the healthy and delicious meals I was going to feed my family but when I got them home and they stared at me from my crisper drawer all week, they didn’t look quite so inspirational.

Cooking dinner can be a little defeating sometimes, especially trying to think of dinner options that appeal to the entire family. Winter doesn’t help either. The days are short and gray and everyone has a runny nose. But this salad was the perfect little antidote to the winter blues. Sweet and savory butternut squash, a tart craisin tossed with parmesan cheese and a maple balsamic vinaigrette. Tasty and healthy-ish.

The happy surprise of the whole meal was that both boys ate a few bites of salad. In all fairness, they mostly ate the bacon, but I’m still counting it, and Scarlet ate a bit of the squash and then proceeded to eat the craisins straight from the bowl.

Maple Butternut Squash, Craisin and Bacon Salad

For the salad:

  • 1 or 2 pieces piece center-cut bacon, diced
  • 8 ounces butternut squash, diced into bite size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • arugula and spinach
  • 1/2 cup craisins
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper

In a saucepan, cook bacon in a tiny splash of olive oil over medium heat and cook for 2 minutes. Throw in the squash and drizzle maple syrup over everything. Cook for 5 more minutes until butternut squash is tender and the bacon is cooked through. Sprinkle with cayenne and salt and pepper. Once the squash is tender, remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

In a small jar with a lid, combine all the dressing ingredients. Shake well until the mustard emulsifies with the oil. Taste and adjust flavors if needed. Add a little maple syrup or a dash of salt depending on how you like things to taste.

In a salad bowl, toss the greens, craisins and nuts together. Put the warm bacon and squash mixture over the salad and sprinkle cheese on the salad. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

*the dressing makes a LOT of dressing. You won’t need all of it, but it lasts all week in the fridge, so use it again. It tastes great with apples and blue cheese or grapes, walnuts, cranberries and goat cheese.

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