Mega filling spinach salad with roasted butternut squash, chicken, pecans, apples, golden raisins and cinnamon maple cider vinaigrette – a super nutritious entree salad for lunch or dinner!
I’ve been making huge salads for lunch lately, and I have to say, this one’s a real gem. Crisp, fresh, satisfying, jam packed with flavor and texture…it’s one of those meals that leaves you feeling so grateful, you sit and wonder to yourself what else you could possibly need. That’s right, meals like this bring self actualization…I’m convinced of it!
Did I tell you I’ve been eating more protein lately? I was under the misconception that women don’t need much protein, but after reading Roar, a book on sports nutrition for women, I realized I had been far undershooting my protein macro. While I used to save my animal protein for dinners, I’ve been eating it at every meal. Not in huge quantities, mind you, but I find a continuous source of lean protein, lots of vegetables, and slow burning carbohydrates helps keep my energy level high, which in turn helps me stay focused.
If you are how I used to be and you find yourself falling ass over tea kettle into the afternoon lull every day at work, you may consider upping your lean protein ante and making sure you’re taking in quality carbohydrates like winter squash or sweet potato (rather than processed, quick burning carbs). Obviously, take this unsolicited advice with a grain of salt..what makes me feel peppy and strong may have the opposite affect on you, so as always, personalize your own nutrition, m’dear!
With one day until the official start of winter, I thought why not give you this fall-inspired harvest salad, packed with all the autumny delights? Not that any of the ingredients in this salad are packing up and shipping out
Baby spinach is our base for some epic fiber, magnesium, vitamins, etc. We have roasted butternut squash, yielding comfort carbs and awesome volume and texture. We have roast chicken, which is just the easiest to make (it requires only 4 ingredients, meow!), yielding filling lean protein. We have crunchy crispy apple and golden raisins for the sweet balance, and again – awesome texture. And finally, crunchy pecans for the intoxicating nuttiness.
The salad dressing? Swoon-worthy. It’s made with simple ingredients: olive oil, cider vinegar, pure maple syrup, cinnamon, and sea salt. The perfect vinaigrette to tie all the deliciousness in a smooth, sweet blanket of tang.
This salad can easily be made in parts and meal prepped out. You can roast the chicken and butternut squash up to three days in advance, and similarly, you can make the vinaigrette up to 5 days ahead of time. If I worked outside of my home, this is the exact meal I would prepare in bulk for work lunches
The chicken is such an easy source of protein, and it can be added to other salads, stir fry, or you can munch on it as a snack.
Mix everything vigorously in a ginormous bowl and you have yourself a super filling, well-balanced meal, packed with your essential macronutrients and micronutrients. Seriously, though…what more could you possibly need? Okay, okay, maybe a Christmas cookie or two.
For the Chicken:
- 1 pound boneless chicken tenders (or breasts)
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil, see note
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
For the Salad:
- 2 teaspoons avocado oil, see note
- 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- 1/2 cup raw pecan halves
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1 large green apple, cored and sliced
For the Vinaigrette
Prepare the cider vinaigrette:
- Add all ingredients for the vinaigrette to a small blender and blend until thick and completely smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Roast the butternut squash and chicken:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Spread the butternut squash over a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and cinnamon. Toss everything together using your hands until everything is well coated.
- Place the chicken in a casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil, dried oregano, paprika, and sea salt. Use your hands to mix everything together so that all tenders are well coated in oil and spices.
- Roast the butternut squash and the chicken in the oven for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the butternut squash is golden-brown and soft on the inside, and the chicken tenders are cooked through (internal temperature of the chicken should be 160 degrees F.). If the chicken is not finished cooking after 20 minutes, turn off the oven and leave chicken in the still-hot oven 5 to 10 minutes, until all the way cooked.
Prepare the Salad:
- Divide the baby spinach between 4 bowls. Top with pecans, golden raisins, roasted butternut squash, chicken, and apple slices. Drizzle desired amount of vinaigrette over each bowl and serve.
*You can replace the avocado oil with almond oil, olive oil, or grapeseed oil.
Nutrition InformationYield 4 Serving Size 1 grams
Amount Per Serving Unsaturated Fat 0g