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

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




Carrot, ginger, and tahini dressing

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Salad! Do your kids eat it? M will inexplicably stuff his face with raw kale sometimes and then turn around and gag on anything leafy or green. The dressing is a factor. Also, if he gets to mix the salad, he is much more likely to eat it. I recommend putting your salad bowl on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any greens that escape (read: all of the greens) and letting the little ones have a go.

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Since M is currently SO PASSIONATE about sushi, we've eaten at A LOT of Japanese restaurants lately. Sometimes that ubiquitous carrot and ginger dressing is a revelation, but more often, it's watery or too acidic. This version is neither of those things. There's a fair amount of liquid and acid in this recipe, but the load of carrots and the little bit of tahini mellows the vinegar just enough and adds a touch of creaminess.

I won't lie: It's a little chunkier than your average salad dressing, but it coats the lettuce beautifully and instead of just being oil, you're sneaking in some extra goodness in what is essentially a condiment. So if your toddler deigns to eat a mouthful, they're eating EVEN MORE VEGETABLES.

Also, this dressing is sweet and tangy, but happens to be free of gluten, dairy, and sugar. And it lasts FOREVER. Pretty sure I'm still eating a batch that I made three weeks ago. But, you know, use your judgment.

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Creamy carrot and ginger tahini dressing

¼ apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp tahini
2 extra large carrots or 4 medium/small carrots
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ white onion
1 large clove garlic
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup olive or avocado oil
salt
pepper

Place all ingredients (except the oil) in a blender or food processor. Start blending and slowly pour in the olive oil while the machine is running. Blend until you've reached your desired consistency. If the mixture feels too watery, add another tablespoon of tahini. If it feels too thick, add one tablespoon of water and blend.

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Halva Hamantaschen

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I meant to post this recipe yesterday, but after turning my kitchen into a veritable Hamantaschen factory testing different dough recipes, I had to take a break.

I love love love a good hamantaschen, the traditional cookie of Purim. When done right, the cookie part isn't terribly sweet and hovers somewhere between tender and snappy and, most importantly, lets the filling shine. My personal favorite is plain old apricot jam, but I was inspired by Molly Yeh's sprinkletaschen and knishentaschen to make my own frankentaschen with a halva filling.

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I'm always intrigued by halva, but never really like it. The dry, chalky texture really throws me, but I like all of the ingredients, which is what leads me back time and again. Instead of making actual halva or using a store-bought version, I just used the basic ingredients (honey, tahini) and added some other favorites like lemon zest and pistachios. I also threw in an egg and the tiniest bit of flour and baking powder to make the filling more batter-like.

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The real trick was finding a dough recipe that I liked. I nixed all of the cream cheese-based doughs because reviewers complained that the dough often doesn't hold its shape in the oven. I also thought the tang would compete with the filling.

Helpful!

Helpful!

Next, I tried Bon Appetite's and Smitten Kitchen's hamantaschen doughs. I liked them equally, but I ultimately prefer Smitten's because the technique (with some of my lazy-person changes) is quick and easy.

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Internet research led me to fiddle with oven temperatures and try resting the formed cookies in the fridge for 20 minutes before baking, but ultimately, neither significantly changed anything for the better. My cookies aren't going to win any beauty contests, but the all more or less stay together.

Halva Hamantaschen

For the dough:
4 Tbsp butter, melted and slightly cooled
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 heaping tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Heaping ¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 ¼ cups + 2 Tbsp flour

Melt the butter in a large mixing bowl in the microwave until just melted. I like to melt the butter about 2/3 of the way and then stir it to let the heat from the melted part take care of the rest. Let cool slightly, about 3 minutes.

Add the sugar and vanilla extract and whisk to combine. Let the teaspoon runeth over slightly to add extra vanilla flavor.

Add the eggs one at a time and whisk each one until fully combined.

Add the salt and baking powder and stir with a spatula.

Add 1.5 cups of flour and stir until just combined. Add the other 3/4 cup of flour and stir again. Add the final 2 Tbsp and, either working hard with the spatula or using your hands, mix until just combined. The dough should feel very dense and not sticky.

Divide the dough into two discs, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and chill for 20 minutes in the freezer.

 

For the halva filling:
1 cup raw, shelled pistachios, toasted
¼ cup tahini, well mixed
5 Tbsp honey
1 large egg
¼ tsp baking powder
1.5 Tbsp flour
Zest of 1 large lemon

Preheat the oven to 350. Toast the nuts for about 5 minutes or until they become fragrant and slightly darker. Transfer to a food processor

Add the other ingredients and pulse until the mixture becomes a paste. Some of the pistachios will remain whole or in large pieces, which is absolutely fine. The batter will seem too loose, but don’t worry: This is about to chill in the fridge while you roll out and cut your cookie dough and will tighten up quite a bit.

 

To assemble the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350 (if not already done when toasting the nuts).

Roll out your cookie dough on a lightly floured surface or a piece of parchment paper until about 1/8 inch thick. You want the dough thin-ish because it puffs up in the oven, but not see-through because it will become crunchy.

Cut out 2 ½ inch circles. Each disc of dough should yield about 24 circles. I would discard the rest because it will likely be overworked and have too much flour after being rolled 2-3 times.

Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place 1 SCANT tsp of the halva filling in the center of the circle and then pinch all three sides together to form a triangle. Pinch the corners tightly so that no seems are left and a fair amount of the filling is covered by dough to avoid spillage during baking.

Sprinkle the tops generously with coarse sugar (demarara or turbinado work best) and bake for 110-12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. You are looking for light browning on the corners and a puffed up, dry-looking center. These cookies go from perfectly cooked to overbaked quite fast, so if your oven runs hot, you may want to check them at 8 minutes.

Yield: 48 cookies

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Sweet potato peanut noodles

I love love love peanut noodles, sesame noodles, and basically any noodle with a creamy, nutty, salty sauce, as does my child. He likes to pretend he can use chop sticks (he's actually pretty good, considering) and make a huge mess. It's adorable.

But peanut noodles don't exactly make a "feel good" meal. So I swapped out the soba or lo mein noodles that are the usual base for this dish and used swoodles instead and they're fantastic. A little bit crunchy and just a tiny bit sweet to balance out the salty sauce. Yum. The toddler agrees.

I like to saute the noodles briefly with a little olive oil and a hot pan. Really, you just need a few minutes to take away the rawness of the sweet potatoes. I don't look for any color, just a slight opaqueness. You aren't really cooking the noodles, just making them not raw, if that makes any sense. I'm guessing you could eat them totally raw and it would be fine, I just haven't done it. I also feel like swoodles beat zoodles in a "could this pass for pasta" contest, hands down. And vegetables! If you don't have a spiralizer, you could just use a vegetable peeler to make long, thin noodles. 

I've tried many different recipes and have winged it many times in making peanut noodles, but I always come back to Smitten's recipe. It's a little lighter than your typical peanut sauce because Deb swaps in some tahini for peanut butter. I always want to add tahini to this dish, but never seem to get the right balance when adapting other recipes. I add one more Tbsp of peanut butter and use an even 4 Tbsp of soy sauce because I really like peanut butter and salt. I also use half of the sugar because the sweet potato noodles are already sweet, but other than that, I use the recipe as written. I love it.

This base is also perfect with just some crisp cucumbers on top, but you could also add edamame, leftover protein, dried seaweed, toasted sesame seeds, and ANY other raw, steamed, or roasted veggies. You could kind of use this as a base for a noodle bowl. This is also the perfect accompaniment to turkey dumplings.

Sweet potato peanut noodles

1 extra large sweet potato (about 1 lb), peeled and spiralized
1 Tbsp avocado or other neutral oil
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp peanut butter
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
½ Tbsp brown sugar
1-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove

Heat 1 tbsp of avocado or other neutral oil in a pan over medium flame. Add the sweet potato noodles and sauté for 5 minutes until the potatoes are slightly opaque. Flip the noodles and cook for about 5 minutes more. Let cool.

In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients from sesame oil to the garlic and blend until smooth.

Toss the noodles with the sauce and serve. Also, this dish lasted for quite some time in the fridge and maintained its crunch and freshness for at least 1 week.

Yield: about 4 servings