A simple Thanksgiving salad loaded with roasted butternut squash, fresh baby spinach, candied almonds, feta cheese, and dried cranberries. The salad is dressed with an easy three-ingredient balsamic dressing.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH: preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and chop the butternut squash into small bite-sized pieces. Place on a large sheet pan and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper (to taste; I add about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper). Toss the squash and put in an even layer on the tray. Bake for 15 minutes then remove from oven and toss. Return to oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes longer or until tender (not mushy!). Set aside and allow to cool for a bit before adding to salad.
DRESSING: combine all the dressing ingredients in a mason jar and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Shake to combine. Taste and adjust to personal preference (add more honey if you like sweeter, season with additional salt as desired).
ASSEMBLE: add spinach to a large bowl. Remove any large stems and rip large pieces if needed. Drizzle half of the dressing over the spinach and gently toss. Add roasted (and cooled to room temperature) squash, almonds, cranberries, and feta cheese. Very gently toss the salad ingredients.
SERVE: serve salad onto plates and drizzle on the last bit of dressing on individual plates. Enjoy soon after being prepared, this salad doesn't sit well with the dressing and ingredients. If you want to save leftovers, only dress and combine the ingredients that will be eaten the same day.
Note 1: if you prefer to use a squash that hasn't already been peeled and chopped, you'll need 1 small to medium sized butternut squash and that will yield about 4 heaping cups of cut squash.
Note 2: I buy the "salad ready" honey roasted almonds for this salad. To candy your own almonds combine 1 cup sliced almonds with 1/3 cup white sugar a large skillet. Place the heat to medium-high and stir near constantly. The sugar will begin to melt and become a sticky liquid and then stick to the almonds. This takes about 3-4 minutes -- watch carefully and stir constantly to avoid burning the nuts. Dump the candied almonds onto a sheet of parchment paper and let harden. Break apart and use in this salad :)