Today I spent approximately eight hours in the gym. So it seemed like as good a day as any to share with you this roasted butternut squash salad with apple cider vinaigrette.
Thankfully for everyone, I wasn’t actually working out for the full eight hours, but was getting certified to teach TurboKick, a cardio kickboxing format that my gym, along with several others in Chicago, offers.
I’d never thought about teaching group fitness before, but I love this class so much (I go at noon on Sundays, that’s how much) that when my friend Susanna announced on Facebook that she was hosting an instructor training workshop in October, I immediately decided to sign up.
Then I realized that the training fell on the same weekend as FoodBlogForum in Nashville, where I’d been invited to speak on a public relations panel.
So I didn’t sign up.
Then, I lost a major client, picked up some new projects and…well, it seemed like the worst possible time to spend almost a thousand dollars on a trip that was, at the end of the day, primarily for pleasure.
So I very begrudgingly had to cancel my trip to Nashville and soon after I did, realized that there was a silver lining because now I could become TurboKick certified.
We’re going to talk about how this relates to butternut squash salad in just a few minutes.
Since August, my life has been total chaos and I managed to slip off the healthy-eating-working-out-regularly band wagon that I’d been on for the majority of the spring and summer.
Even though I was eating more chips and guacamole than I want to admit and eating ice cream with a certain regularity, kickboxing was the one class, the one workout that could compel me to the gym.
It’s fast-paced, high energy and I almost always feel better after I’ve done it (unless, you know…I take three weeks off. Then that first day back is Not. Fun).
Really though, think about it.
Have you ever left the gym and thought, “I wish I hadn’t done that?”
You feel glad that you accomplished something that is healthy for you and maybe even let some feel-good endorphins flow.
Now take that feeling and multiply it by thirty and that’s approximately how I felt after leaving instructor training today.
I have no idea if I’ll actually teach.
I would like to, that is, if I ever learn how to count in beats of 32 and cue without mixing up my left from my right.
But even if I never teach one class, I left today’s workshop feeling good about myself and motivated to be better, to be better to my body and to be better to myself.
Sometimes, that means eating salads.
Not lame-o salads, of course. Hearty fall-inspired salads, like this salad I made for a cooking demonstration at the Junior League of Chicago last week (more about that later). Packed with plump dried cranberries, roasted butternut squash and peppery arugula, this salad is a great one to make to eat as a dinner side dish and pack leftovers for your lunch the next day.
Or not. No one will know if you don’t have leftovers. It is, of course, a salad, right?
For the salad:
- 1 (1½-pound) butternut squash, peeled and diced
- 1 tablespoon high-quality olive oil
- 1 tablespoon high-quality, pure maple syrup
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
- 4 ounces baby arugula
- ½ cup walnuts halves, toasted
- ¾ cup feta cheese
For the dressing:
- ¾ cup apple cider
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup olive or vegetable oil
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add one tablespoon olive oil, maple syrup, one teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and toss (use your hands for best results). Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender.
- While the squash is roasting, make the dressing: combine apple cider, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Slowly pour ½ cup olive oil, whisking continuously as dressing thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts and feta. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well (if you like light dressing, you may have some left over). Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.