Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad

 Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

There ought to be a place on the internet where parents can go to brag about the common and mostly harmless, but also spectacularly sudden and disgusting illnesses of childhood. Without going into detail (this is a FOOD blog, after all), instead of sleeping, we spent Saturday night showering, taking baths, doing laundry, and scrubbing carpets. No bueno.

Anyhoo, does your sleep schedule affect your diet? I’ve learned in my old age that getting less sleep leads me to terrible food choices. So obviously, I ate horribly this weekend and am feeling it today. But this salad is getting me back on track.

 Delicata Squash is easy to prepare because it doesn’t require peeling. #meandthemoose #delicatasquash #healthycaesar #salad #fallsalad #thanksgivingsalad #thanksgivingrecipes
 Delicata Squash is easy to prepare because it doesn’t require peeling. #meandthemoose #delicatasquash #healthycaesar #salad #fallsalad #thanksgivingsalad #thanksgivingrecipes
 Delicata Squash is easy to prepare because it doesn’t require peeling. #meandthemoose #delicatasquash #healthycaesar #salad #fallsalad #thanksgivingsalad #thanksgivingrecipes

Delicata squash is one of the stars of this show. It requires less prep since the peel is edible. Just split it in half, scoop out the seeds, and slice. After roasting, the squash is sweet and creamy and the peel gets slightly crunchy, so it’s also a nice textural balance if your littles aren’t into “slimy” foods.

The dressing is my favorite dairy-free Caesar that’s been lightened up by swapping out tahini for the oil. The garlic, anchovies, and lemon taste even brighter and the sesame adds a nutty note that complements the rest of the salad’s flavors.

We also have crispy crunchy gluten-free croutons that are made with a store-bought polenta log. I accidentally discovered that putting a pizza stone in the oven while roasting the polenta SIGNIFICANTLY reduced the cooking time. Huzzah!

 Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

The spiced, roasted nuts add even more crunch, which pairs nicely with the creaminess of the roasted squash. Toss on a few sweetened, dried cranberries and you have a harvest salad that hits all of the right salty and sweet notes. (A nutty cheese on top is entirely optional.)

I daresay this hearty pescatarian salad would be a welcome addition to your Thanksgiving table too.

A couple of notes:

  • I don’t salt the polenta before roasting. Most commercially made polenta has a fair amount of sodium in it already and you’ll be adding salt to the dressing and the squash.

  • While there are multiple steps to this salad, most of them can be completed simultaneously. You can also double the dressing recipe and it will keep well in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

  • Also, unlike dressed lettuce, which wilts quickly, kale only softens slightly and gets less bitter when left to sit with the dressing on, so make this salad ahead (or double the recipe) and eat it throughout the week.

  • A note about the size of this recipe: This recipe yields a main course for two adults and one child with either crusty bread or another protein on the side. If making this to last for the week or for a holiday meal, I would double or triple the recipe. All of its elements last on their own and are easy to toss into other meals.

 Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad


2 small bundles of Lacinto (Tuscan) kale (about 6 cups)
Tahini Caesar dressing (recipe below)
Roasted almonds (recipe below)
1 log pre-made polenta, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium Delicata squash, halved, seeds scooped out, and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Dried cranberries, to taste
Nutty cheese, such as gruyere, gouda, or parmesan, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425.

Tear or chop the kale into small bites.

Make your dressing (see recipe below). Add about 1/2 of the dressing to the torn kale and mix well. Add more to taste or reserve the rest for serving later. Set aside.

Make the roasted almonds (see recipe below). Set aside.

Chop the polenta and toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Spread onto your roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Flip and toss the pieces with a spatula, return to the oven and cook for another 20 minutes.

Clean and prepare the Delicata squash. Toss with the remaining 1 Tbsp of oil. Spread on a baking tray and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until the squash is soft.

  • I like to add the squash to the same oven as the polenta for the polenta’s last 20 minutes or so.

Add the squash, polenta, almonds, and cranberries to the salad. Feel free to use all or just some of the salad add-ins and reserve the leftovers for something else. Top with a few shavings of nutty cheese, if desired.

Yield: about 2 adult main-course salads and 1 child main-course salad; 4 side salads

Roasted almonds
½ cup raw almonds
½ tsp olive oil
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp rosemary
¼ tsp Aleppo pepper
¼ tsp garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the almonds with olive oil. Mix the spices together and add to the almonds. Mix well. Spread on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 4-6 minutes, until you can smell the spices and the nuts are crunchy. Check often to avoid burning.

Tahini Caesar dressing
2 Tbsp Primal Kitchen avocado mayonnaise
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2-3 whole anchovy fillets
2 medium cloves garlic
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup water (added 1 Tbsp at a time)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the mayo, lemon juice, mustard, anchovies, garlic, tahini, and 2 Tbsp of water in a food processor and blend well. Add more water, 1 Tbsp at a time, until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  • Remember that the anchovies are salty, so taste before you add more!

 Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

Sesame roasted brussels sprouts

 Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty. Basically, the perfect side dish. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables

OMG Halloween hangover. The ten pounds of candy I ate between opening the bags at 11 am (why? WHY?) and going to bed at 9 pm (which felt like midnight), have done a number on my body. I guess it’s a good sign that I feel like shit? Maybe it shows that I don’t normally eat 10,000 grams of sugar in 10 hours?

Anyhoo, we started the day with a small fit because I wouldn’t let someone eat candy for breakfast, so…that was fun.

 Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty. Basically, the perfect side dish. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables
 Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty and a great way to get your kids to eat veggies. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables

One key to weaning my little back to veggies after a sugar binge is to make them extra unctuous and delicious. These brussels fit the bill. High heat makes them mellow and crispy while the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil add layers of salt and fat that lead to really big flavor.

 Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty and a great way to get your kids to eat veggies. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables

A couple of notes:

  • It’s important to work fast after getting the roasted sprouts out of the oven. Their heat will cook the garlic a bit and without it, the taste can be pretty strong.

  • If you think you’ll have leftovers, sprinkle the sesame seeds on the individual portions, or just the part you’ll eat right away. The seeds can burn when you recrisp the leftovers.

Serve them with a piece of fish, some tofu, some rotisserie chicken, or accompanying any other protein. I also like them next to these noodles for a double dose of veggies. You could actually slap some chicken thighs on another sheet pan and roast them all together if your oven is big enough.

 Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty and a great way to get your kids to eat veggies. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables
 Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty and a great way to get your kids to eat veggies. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables

Sesame roasted Brussels sprouts  

1 ¼ lb brussels sprouts, halved (or two 10 oz bags)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp grated fresh ginger (about a 1-inch piece)
2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari, divided
1 small garlic clove, minced 
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1½- 2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

 

Preheat the oven to 425.

In a large bowl, combine the veggies, olive oil, 1 Tbsp of soy sauce, and the grated ginger. Mix well. If you see any clumps of ginger, separate them the best you can.

Spread onto a baking sheet and roast for 15-17 minutes (or until you’ve reached peak crispyness, since oven temps vary), stirring once in the middle of cooking.

While the veggies are roasting, mince your garlic and combine it with the remaining 1 Tbsp of soy sauce, sesame oil, and honey.

When the sprouts are roasted, quickly spoon them back into your original bowl. Add the garlic mixture and stir well. Serve immediately.

If reheating this, place the servings you’ll need back into a 425 oven for about 5 minutes (or as long as needed) to re-crisp.

Yield: about 3 cups of sprouts, or 4 servings.

 Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty and a great way to get your kids to eat veggies. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables
 Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty and a great way to get your kids to eat veggies. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables

Meatless Monday: Black bean dip

 Black bean dip | Me & The Moose. This quick dip can go in tacos, quesadillas, and nachos for a hearty and fast meatless meal. And who doesn’t love dip for dinner? #meandthemoose #meatlessmonday #vegetarian #blackbeans #texmex #dip #dinner #lunch #lunchbox

Hear me out: Let’s serve dip for dinner tonight. Or in your kids’ lunchboxes tomorrow. And credit where it’s due: This recipe is cribbed almost entirely from M’s dad as black bean dip is one of his signature party dishes.

This gloop is primarily black beans, with just a smidge of cream cheese for richness and some onions, garlic, and spices to make it aromatic. Add in a dash of lime juice for acid, a smattering of shredded cheese on top that gets all melty and crispy in the oven, and you have a quick and hearty dish in about 30 minutes. AND, you can make it an even faster meal if you a small cast-iron or other oven-safe saute pan.

 Black bean dip | Me & The Moose. This quick dip can go in tacos, quesadillas, and nachos for a hearty and fast meatless meal. And who doesn’t love dip for dinner? #meandthemoose #meatlessmonday #vegetarian #blackbeans #texmex #dip #dinner #lunch #lunchbox
 Black bean dip | Me & The Moose. This quick dip can go in tacos, quesadillas, and nachos for a hearty and fast meatless meal. And who doesn’t love dip for dinner? #meandthemoose #meatlessmonday #vegetarian #blackbeans #texmex #dip #dinner #lunch #lunchbox

The taste and texture of this dip remind me of refried beans, but better.

You can scoop it into tortillas with some fresh veggies for a meatless dinner that’s full of protein. Or add shredded rotisserie chicken or other leftover proteins from the weekend for an even heartier meal. OR squash this concoction between tortillas for a dinner or lunch quesadilla.

Also, M is very keen on chips and dip as dinner, but I don’t want him to burn out on guacamole as it’s one of our go-to’s. And beans are an excellent source of non-meat protein, so if he’s suddenly off of meat, which toddlers often are, this dip helps to fill him up for a good night’s sleep (hopefully).

 Black bean dip | Me & The Moose. This quick dip can go in tacos, quesadillas, and nachos for a hearty and fast meatless meal. And who doesn’t love dip for dinner? #meandthemoose #meatlessmonday #vegetarian #blackbeans #texmex #dip #dinner #lunch #lunchbox

Black bean dip

1 Tbsp olive oil
½ large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp cumin
½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp coriander
¼ tsp oregano
2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup cream cheese
½ tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp lime juice
1-2 Tbsp water
1-1½ cups shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 400. (I don’t use the broiler for this one because I want it to warm the dip while it melts the cheese and the broiler is a bit too much heat, too fast.)

In a small skillet (bonus if it’s oven safe! You’ll only need one pan!), heat the olive oil over a medium low flame. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute until fragrant. Add the spices and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly while you prep the rest of your ingredients.

Place the cooked onions, garlic, and spices in a blender or food processor. Add the drained and rinsed black beans, cream cheese, salt and lime juice. Pulse several times until the ingredients are well broken up, but not liquified, scraping down the sides as needed.

Continue pulsing while you add the water 1 tsp at a time until you’ve reached the right consistency. I like this dip to be somewhere between chunky and liquidy. There is definitely some texture, but no “chunks’ of beans.

Put the mixture back into your oven-safe skillet or into a small casserole dish. The wider and shallower the dish, the more surface area you have for cheese, so pick accordingly. Top with the shredded cheese and bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and begins to crisp on the sides and bubble in the middle.

Yield: 4 cups of dip

 Black bean dip | Me & The Moose. This quick dip can go in tacos, quesadillas, and nachos for a hearty and fast meatless meal. And who doesn’t love dip for dinner? #meandthemoose #meatlessmonday #vegetarian #blackbeans #texmex #dip #dinner #lunch #lunchbox

Purple carrot soup with za'atar

 Purple carrot soup with za’atar | Me & The Moose. This carrot soup is a warm, hearty, and healthy lunch or light dinner. #meandthemoose #carrotsoup #purplecarrots #za’atar #glutenfree #vegan

Is purple my new favorite color? I don’t know. Maybe. I seem to be drawn to purple foods lately. Maybe they feel kind of witch-y and seasonal. And that’s primarily what I aim for in my cooking.

Anyway, I find purple carrots endlessly intriguing and therefore, have used them in this soup. Unfortunately, the end product doesn't stay purple, so if your kiddo might be put off by the initial color, rest easy. This soup is also delicious made with orange carrots.

 Purple carrot soup with za’atar | Me & The Moose. #meandthemoose #carrotsoup #purplecarrots #za’atar #glutenfree #vegan
 Purple carrot soup with za’atar | Me & The Moose. This carrot soup is a warm, hearty, and healthy lunch or light dinner. #meandthemoose #carrotsoup #purplecarrots #za’atar #glutenfree #vegan

And added bonus: carrots are a great base for introducing new flavors to your kiddos. Carrots are familiar, mildly sweet, and almost entirely inoffensive, so they’re not intimidating when you mix in some za’atar and tahini, two things that, on their own, might prove too much for a developing palate.

 Purple carrot soup with za’atar | Me & The Moose. This carrot soup is a warm, hearty, and healthy lunch or light dinner. #meandthemoose #carrotsoup #purplecarrots #za’atar #glutenfree #vegan

I like swirling it with yogurt and sprinkling on some za’atar, which is a spice that should earn a spot in your repertoire.

If za’atar intimidates you, take heart. I was also a bit hesitant at first, but it’s a simple mixture of thyme, sesame seeds, salt, and sumac, which is a common middle eastern spice that has a bright, citrusy flavor. I feel like it’s the cumin of the middle east.

This soup is also a good way to introduce some new spices and flavors while incorporating an old favorite. M even requested a bowl of this with his dinner the other night, so I, obviously, felt extremely smug.

 Purple carrot soup with za’atar | Me & The Moose. This carrot soup is so easy to make and a great way to introduce new flavors. #meandthemoose #carrotsoup #purplecarrots #za’atar #glutenfree #vegan

Purple carrot soup with za’atar

2 Tbsp olive oil, butter, or ghee
1 medium onion, minced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Aleppo pepper or paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp coriander
1 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 ¼ lb carrots, peeled and diced into small pieces
4 cups low sodium stock (vegetable or chicken)
3 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Yogurt (dairy or non-dairy)
Za’atar

Heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, or until fragrant. Add the spices and ½ tsp of salt and cook for one more minute, until fragrant.

Add the carrots and cook for one or two minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the carrots are fork tender.

Transfer to a blender or food processor and add the tahini, lemon juice, and the other ½ tsp of salt.

Yield: 6½ cups or about 52 oz


 Purple carrot soup with za’atar | Me & The Moose. This carrot soup is a warm, hearty, and healthy lunch or light dinner. #meandthemoose #carrotsoup #purplecarrots #za’atar #glutenfree #vegan
 Purple carrot soup with za’atar | Me & The Moose. This carrot soup is an easy way to add interest to your kids’ lunchboxes while serving up some veggies and introducing new flavors. #meandthemoose #carrotsoup #purplecarrots #za’atar #glutenfree #vegan




Sheet pan dinner: Sausage and purple cabbage

 Sheet pan dinners are the easiest way to get dinner on (and off) the table. Purple cabbage, potatoes, and chicken or turkey sausage combine for a universally appealing dinner. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #purplecabbage #potatoes #sausage #Oktoberfest

Is there anything better than October? Everyone has settled into new routines, the weather is (generally) cooler, the leaf peeping and apple picking are in full swing, and it’s finally acceptable to buy enormous bags of candy and maintain the fiction that they’ll last until October 30th.

KIDDING! I would never pretend that that candy is making it to the end of the month.

 Thick cuts of cabbage lead to crispy edges and softer interiors. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #purplecabbage #potatoes #sausage #Oktoberfest
 Purple cabbage is magical. Look at that purple! #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #purplecabbage #potatoes #sausage #Oktoberfest

But really, we are trying to maintain a modicum of healthy eating now that we’re super busy again with school and activities and the faster pace of non-summer months. That’s where sheet pan dinners like this one come in handy.

 Dijonnaise is a simple combo of dijon mustard, mayonnaise, and magic. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #purplecabbage #potatoes #sausage #Oktoberfest
 Sheet pan dinners are the best and easiest way to get dinner on the table and cleanup done quickly. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #purplecabbage #sausage #potatoes #Oktoberfest

The combination of sausage, cabbage, and potatoes with a mustard-y sauce feels very Oktoberfest, which is obviously on-brand for this month.

Also, I haven’t yet found a vegetable that wasn’t made more delicious by roasting and purple cabbage and potatoes may be among my favorites. Find the smallest potatoes you can, or halve anything larger then a golf ball.

 Roasting at high heat with plenty of olive oil and salt leads to a delicious, quick dinner. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #purplecabbage #potatoes #sausage #Oktoberfest

If you leave off any bread on the side and check your labels for the sausage, this dish is also gluten-free, dairy-free, and Whole 30 compliant.

A quick note about the sausage here: We always pre-cooked sausage. The timing gets tricky when starting with raw sausage and the chicken/turkey varieties are usually pre-cooked anyway.

SPD: German red cabbage, potatoes, and sausage

1/2 small head red cabbage, ¾ inch thick slices
1 lb small potatoes
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
1 lb pre-cooked turkey or chicken sausage (we use Wellshire Farms turkey kielbasa)

Dijonnaise

2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

 

Heat oven to 425.

Thickly slice the cabbage into ¾ inch thick steaks. Spread out on your baking sheet along with the small potatoes. Brush or spray with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Cook for 20 minutes or until the cabbage starts to singe in the sides.

Remove the sheet pan from the oven and tuck the sausage in with the potatoes and cabbage. I have cooked the sausage from frozen and when already defrosted, and it takes about the same amount of time.

If desired, smash the potatoes slightly with the bottom of a mug or measuring cup and spray or brush on more olive oil for a crispier, crunchier potato.

Return to the oven and cook for 10 more minutes or until the centers of the cabbage steaks are fork tender.

Yield: dinner for 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children (with possibly some leftovers depending on how much your kids actually eat.)

 Sheet pan dinners are the fastest, easiest way to get dinner on the table and clean up done quickly. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #purplecabbage #sausage #potatoes #Oktoberfest