Honey Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad with Cinnamon Walnuts

The weekends are usually when I tend to experiment in the kitchen. Too exhausted when I come home from work during the weekdays, I stick to simple skillet meals, but on the weekends, my creativity flows and I have the opportunity (and the patience) to play around. We had this butternut squash that was just sitting on our counter for a while, and today it looked like it wanted to be used. Note that this meal should be made when you aren’t super hungry, since it takes about an hour to make, though it was worth it to me! It warmed me up, I got my sweet tooth satisfied with the honey roasted butternut squash, and my veggies!

So what makes this meal so healthiful and spectacular? A breakdown of the ingredients:

  • Kale – All hail the mighty kale! This leafy green plant is extremely nutrient dense, having high doses of vitamin A (206%), vitamin K (684%), vitamin C (134%), and many other vitamins and minerals. It also has antioxidants that help remove free-radicals that form cancer in the body. I’d bow down to this powerful plant!
  • Butternut Squash – Due to its orange color, butternut squash is high in vitamin A. It also as anti-inflammatory properties, and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Walnuts – A good source of omega-3 fats, Vitamin E, folate, and melatonin, Walnuts are beneficial for healthy brain functioning. They also support heart health through the amino acid l-arginine.
  • Cinnamon – A wonderful anti-inflammatory, can help lower cholesterol and lower blood sugar levels, this spice is a sweet addition to a meal.
  • Honey – This liquid gold may help prevent cellular damage within the brain. It also helps absorb calcium, which helps our bones stay strong. It is a sweet alternative to refined cane sugar.
  • Sage – Sage has a long history of treating memory loss illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. Research has shown that it has improved cognitive functioning in patients with mild to moderate cases of the disease.

Simple ingredients, rewarding health benefits, what more could you ask for?

Honey Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad with Cinnamon Walnuts

(makes 6 cups)

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Ingredients

  •  1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 – 3 cups of kale, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. While the oven is heating, place butternut squash cubes in a bowl and toss with honey, sage, and salt and pepper.
  3. In another dish, toss cinnamon with walnuts and set aside.
  4. Place squash on a non-stick (or lightly oiled) baking dish and bake for 40 minutes or until soft.
  5. When there are about 5 minutes remaining for the squash, add the walnuts to the baking dish and continue to bake.
  6. Once the squash is done, set out to cool and add the kale. This will soften the kale up without them turning to crunchy kale chips. Let sit for 3-5 minutes before serving.

Hydrating Basil, Cucumber, and Tomato Salad

I love herbs! These plants add such an incredible depth of taste to any meal. They turn a dish from meh to yeah! And the health benefits are there as well. My family and I have our own garden, which is a great cost effective way to have delicious and organic vegetables and herbs. Ever since switching to more plant-based meals, I have noticed that my taste buds have become more acute to the subtle differences in the variation of fruits and vegetables, also if they are organic or not. I love organic produce because I can really taste the freshness and flavor in these compared to GMO produce, which is full of chemicals and pesticides that we are putting into our bodies when we eat them.

So anyways, we have an abundance of cucumber this year. Probably because we have had so much rain in Illinois this summer. We also have a ton of basil! Mmmmm, I love me some fresh basil. It is so good in Italian dishes, adding so much freshness to the meal. Normally when I combine cucumbers and tomatoes, I lean towards Greek inspired dishes, but due to the basil I wanted to use up, I blended Greek and Italian….Greetalian? Italeek? Whatever the combo for the two is, I made a refreshing salad that is so simple to make, I feel a tad embarrassed with sharing the recipe. But first, let me share all the wonderful health benefits that this salad gives:

  • Cherry Tomatoes-Tomatoes are full of antioxidants. The antioxidants found in tomatoes have been linked to support cardiovascular, bone, liver, and kidney health. Cherry tomatoes also have tons of vitamins, such as A, C, and B-6.
  • Cucumbers-More wonderful vitamins found here, such as A, B, and C. Cucumbers are also very hydrating, containing 96% water, which helps our bodies flush out toxins. Cucumbers are good for skin health, containing magnesium, potassium, and silicon, that help smooth damaged skin.
  • Basil-This leaf has anti-inflammatory properties, helps support cardiovascular health and bone health due to its high levels of vitamin K and calcium.
  • Red Onion-Onions seem to play into these theme I have going with their anti-inflammatory properties, cardiovascular benefits and support with healthy bones.

So here is the super-duper simple recipe for this wonderfully refreshing salad.

Hydrating Basil, Cucumber and Tomato Salad

makes around 4-5 cups

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Ingredients

  • 1-1 1/2 cups of fresh basil, chopped finely
  • 1 medium sized cucumber, diced finely
  • 1-2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/4 a red onion-diced
  • 1/4-1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4-1/2 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.
  2. Serve

I told you! How simple right. Is this even considered a recipe? Anyways, I hope you enjoy! As a side note, I use a high quality balsamic, because I don’t care for the taste of the grocery store kinds. I go to a local olive oil and balsamic shop by my house. They have a variety of different oils and vinaigrette. My go to is this Tuscany Balsamic. I use it for so many of my dishes. Here is the link to their website, but you can also use whatever kind you prefer. I also use a minimal amount of oil and balsamic because I like to taste the flavor of the veggies. (Yes, veggies have flavor). You can adjust to your tastes though. Opa! Bon Appetit. Or whatever those Italeeks or Greetalians like to say.

Spicy Pad Thai Salad

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So I am trying to become Vegan. I am already a healthier than average eater, but a few factors have made me want to try this whole Vegan lifestyle out. For one, I am an animal lover. I always have been but I disassociated from the fact that what I ate was once a living creature. A while ago I stopped eating pig and cow for this reason. I recognized them as creatures like you and me. Pigs are actually more intelligent than dogs and was actually interested in owning a micropig for a while. It didn’t make sense to me to eat an intelligent creature. Same goes for cows. Dairy cows actually have best friends that they graze with. Seeing these and other facts, such as the extreme amount of damage these stockyards due to our ozone layer by producing large concentrated amounts of carbon monoxide, turned me off these once food choices. I also have many friends that are Vegan. A lot of people at the crystal shop I work at are Vegan and it also makes sense to me that as people’s awareness and consciousness shifts, the idea of killing animals for food is inhumane and not necessary for survival. There are so many reasons that going Vegan makes sense to me, from an ethical standpoint, but as well as an environmental and health standpoints.

But just because I am going Vegan, I am not going to skimp out on flavor! I love ethnic food and decided to make this Thai inspired salad. Not only does it taste delicious and reminds me of the classic dish, Pad Thai, but this salad is a lot healthier for you too! Full of yummy ingredients with wonderful health benefits. Let’s find out what they are, shall we?

  • Red Cabbage-The red cabbage in this salad is high in antioxidant levels, which helps reduce the risk of cancer. It is also loaded with Vitamin A which is good for your eye health. Add some Vitamin C for immune system strength. Red cabbage also is very high in minerals that are good for healthy bone health and growth. Plus who doesn’t love a little purple to their plate?
  • Carrots-As well as having lots of Vitamin A and C, carrots have a good amount of fiber, which is great for your digestion tract. Carrots have also been linked to increasing blood flow to the body and are good for high blood pressure. The potassium acts as a vasodilator, which increases blood flow, boosting organ function throughout the body.
  • Cilantro-Rich in Vitamin K, it helps in bone mass building. It’s also got those great A and C vitamins too!
  • Almond Butter-It has copper and calcium, making it a good brain food, not to mention the good-for-you fats, protein, and fiber this yummy spread provides.
  • Sesame Oil-High in zinc, sesame oil is good for your skin, increasing smoothness and elasticity and removing sun spots. It is also contains more good fats for your health, protecting it from heart disease. Copper is also found in sesame oil, which promotes healthy bone growth and acts as an anti-inflammatory.
  • Sriracha-Wait, that “hot” sauce that everyone is raving about has health benefits? Yup. Sriracha’s main ingredient is chili pepper. Chili pepper has been linked to the health benefits of being happier. The chili peppers boost endorphins, making you happier. They also have serotonin, which improves mood and memory. This sauce is also good for the heart, boosting the body’s ability to dissolve blood clots, improving circulation, lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation.
  • Garlic-There seems to be a theme here about lowering high blood pressure, improving your heart health, and boosting your immunity system, because garlic does just that! Garlic also helps your body detox heavy metals and reduce bone loss.

So want to enjoy not only the taste but the benefits of this wonderful healthy salad? Follow my recipe:

Spicy Pad Thai Salad

serves 2

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Ingredients

Salad:

  • 5-6 cups of red cabbage-chopped
  • 1 large carrot-shredded
  • 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro-chopped
  • 1/4 cup of green onions-chopped

Dressing

  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove-minced
  • 1/8-1/4 tbsp sriracha sauce
  • 1/4 tsp ginger

Directions

  1. Combine all the salad ingredients into a large mixing bowl
  2. In a small dish, combine all the ingredients for the dressing. Mix well with a fork.
  3. Add dressing to the salad. Mix in and enjoy.

Well that certainly is easy….