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Smoky-Sweet Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Salad

Sarica Cernohous

Thanksgiving feasts in America are widely-recognized for their over-the-top qualities—platters of turkey, various bread-based stuffings, white-flour rolls, gravies, cranberry jellies, casseroles of assorted varieties, rich salads, mashed potatoes and candied yams grace most tables across America for this national holiday. Followed by pecan, pumpkin, and numerous berry pies, it’s a meal that often leaves one in a stupor for the remainder of the day! As an attempt to balance some this richness, I offer this salad—it is sweet and smoky, a little tart, and definitely filling in its own right.

The roasted sweet potatoes and acorn squash offer a natural sweetness, and the chipotle gives a warm, smoky flavor that is enhanced by the toasted walnuts and turkey bacon. In fact, if one wanted to make this a vegetarian dish, omitting the turkey bacon would not be a huge sacrifice in flavor, though I do like to include it to increase the protein and fat content of the dish, thus tempering the carbohydrates’ glycemic effect in the roasted vegetables. This dish will make a distinctive side for the Thanksgiving smorgasbord, but it will also do well as a main dish, especially if served with greens (such as chard or kale) and a bit of sliced onion, sautéed in clarified butter and sea salt.

Smoky-Sweet Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Salad
Serves 6 as a Side, 4 as a Main Dish

3 cups each Garnet Yam and Acorn Squash, peeled and cut in 1′ cubes
2 medium Shallots, chopped finely (reserve 1T for dressing)
1 cup Freshly-chopped, Organic Walnuts, toasted until just fragrant
3 Slices Nitrite- and Nitrate-Free Organic Turkey Bacon, chopped and cooked
2 T Clarified Butter or Unrefined Coconut Oil
¼ tsp. Sea Salt

½ tsp. Ground Nutmeg
½ tsp. Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp. Chipotle Powder
1/3 tsp. Cumin
1 T finely chopped Shallots
2 T Unrefined Sugar (Sucanat or Rapadura) or Xylitol Crystals
½ tsp. Sea Salt, or to taste
2 T Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
2 T Balsamic Vinegar
4 T Organic, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Place all ingredients in a cruet and allow to meld together at room temperature for at least 1 hour before spooning over roasted vegetables.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a flat cooking sheet near the top 1/3 of the oven. Sprinkle vegetables with sea salt and drizzle with butter/oil. Remove cooking sheet from oven once it has reached its cooking temperature and spread vegetables over its hot surface, which will cause the oiled vegetables to sizzle, so be careful. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and turn vegetables. Return them to the oven and cook for another 30-35 minutes, until the vegetables have begun to roast on their edges. Allow to cool slightly, shake dressing in cruet, then spoon seven or eight teaspoons over the roasted vegetables, tossing them gently with a wooden spoon to coat all the vegetables, but not so much that the vegetables are resting in pooled dressing.

This is a very nutritious dish, inspired by the interplay of sweet, sour and smoky flavors of southwestern United States’ cooking. Sweet potatoes are a terrific source of Vitamin A and fiber, and their sweet flavor is actually a healthier carbohydrate choice for those with diabetes (when eaten in moderation), as they support spleen and pancreas function. Acorn squash is rich in potassium, fiber, magnesium and Vitamins A, B and C. Shallots give a great richness to the roasted vegetables, and they are full of sulfur, a benefit to the joints and the skin. Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, and studies have shown their role in combating systemic inflammation, boosting cardiovascular health and improving cognition (and they add a great crunch to the recipe!) Nitrite- and nitrate-free organic turkey bacon gives more protein to this dish; I especially like Applegate Farms version:

You can find this at most natural foods’ stores. Be sure the turkey bacon you choose is nitrite- and nitrate-free—these curing agents have been shown to have a strong correlation with cancer.

(Read more about this topic at Balsamic vinegar adds a depth of flavor not found in apple cider vinegar, rounding out the sharp tang of the other vinegar. Xylitol, compared to other natural sweeteners, has a lower glycemic index, can be used in a 1:1 ratio in place of sugar, and actually has been shown to have good effect in combating tooth decay and candida overgrowth. Chipotle pepper and cumin add a warm, distinctively southwestern flavor to the salad; chipotle is also full of Vitamins A and C, and cumin is a significant source of dietary iron and manganese. Nutmeg and cinnamon further ‘warm up’ this dish, bringing two of the most common spices of the American Thanksgiving meal to the table. Nutmeg has an interesting property—studies have shown it has an effect in stimulating the brain—as well as having anti-inflammatory properties, cardiovascular and respiratory benefits. Cinnamon has been shown to have a notable benefit in regulating blood sugar, and that is much-needed during the holiday season! Finally, extra virgin olive oil is a very good source of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, both of which have been shown to have positive effects on cholesterol and heart health.

Sarica Cernohous, L.Ac., MSTOM, is a licensed practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, living and practicing Japanese Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine and Nutritional Counseling in Peoria, AZ.
The information listed above is not intended to treat, cure or prevent illness or disease.

Sarica Cernohous

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