Autumn Harvest Salad with Spicy Pepitas and an Apple Cider Vinaigrette

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Anybody who knows me well knows that I absolutely loathe wasting food. Remember those pumpkin bowls from a couple posts ago? Well, I couldn’t bare to simply throw them away after Dan and I used them to eat our chili out of, so I thoroughly rinsed them out and roasted them in the oven after we were done eating. It’s amazing how creative you can become while attempting to put leftovers to good use, and this salad is a prime example of that. It was when I was trying to figure out how to use my leftover, oven-roasted pumpkin when this salad came to life. While I eat salads pretty regularly, I’ll be the first to admit that salads this inspired are few and far between. This salad would be perfect for a very hungry individual, but more ideal as an elegant side dish at a fall get-together (Thanksgiving dinner, anyone?).

First, let’s talk about the dressing. It was beyond. Like, beyond in the sense that my roomie was eating it off of a spoon. Anyway, I always make my dressings from scratch, and I do so for several reasons. For starters, I like to know exactly which ingredients are going into my food. I figure, if I’m going to make nearly everything else from scratch, why not salad dressing? Which brings me to my second reason: making your own salad dressing is so easy to do that I don’t see a reason to not make them from scratch. You simply throw the ingredients into a blender, and BOOM! You’ve got yourself a delicious, yet unique salad dressing that can be made in under five minutes. Lastly, I like to concoct dressings that I know will make me crave salad. I used to be an oil and vinegar gal, but that got old… fast. I’ve come up with three dressings that I regularly rotate, and I love them so much that they make me opt for salad over other, often more unhealthy food. Is it a surprise that this apple cider vinaigrette will soon become the fourth dressing on said rotation?

Next, let’s talk about the pepitas, which, in plain English, means “pumpkin seeds.” I went with “pepitas” only because it has a nicer ring to it, and it makes me feel like I’m actually putting 5+ years of Spanish classes to use. Anyway, oven-roasting pepitas is something I’ve always wanted to do, but it also comes back to me not wanting to waste any food whatsoever. Because I like food with a kick, I made mine spicy with chipotle pepper and cayenne pepper. Aside from being used as a component of this salad, they make for an awesome snack; they are not only crunchy and addictive, but also provide many health benefits. Specifically, pepitas provide the following benefits: magnesium for heart health, zinc for immune support, plant-based omega-3 fats, anti-diabetic effects, and anti-inflammatory effects, among many others.

PART 1: APPLE CIDER VINAIGRETTE

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup EVOO
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • Himalayan salt to taste
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

What you’ll do:

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender
  • Blend until smooth
  • Pour into the container of your choice

PART 2: SPICY PEPITAS

What you’ll need:

  • The seeds from two small pumpkins
  • 2 tbsp. EVOO
  • 1 tbsp. chipotle pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp. cayenne pepper

What you’ll do:

  • Preheat the oven to 300°F
  • Thoroughly rinse the seeds using a colander; transfer to a small sauce pan, halfway filled with salted water, and bring to a boil; once boiling, turn the heat down to its lowest setting and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Strain the seeds and transfer to a small mixing bowl; thoroughly coat with the EVOO, chipotle pepper, and cayenne pepper; transfer to a baking sheet and spread them out so that as many seeds as possible will be directly exposed to the heat from the oven
  • Cook in the oven for 10 minutes; next, remove the baking sheet from the oven, give the seeds a good stir, and spread them out in the same manner as before; cook for an additional 5-10 minutes
  • Allow to cool for 30 minutes; then, transfer to a mason jar

PART 3: AUTUMN HARVEST SALAD

What you’ll need:

  • 1 small pumpkin, halved with the pulp and seeds scooped out
  • 2 tbsp. grape seed oil
  • Himalayan salt to taste
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • 4 cups spring mix
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 apple, cored and cubed
  • 1 avocado, pitted and cubed
  • 2 large radishes, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup smoked cheddar, cubed
  • 1/4 cup spicy pepitas
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinaigrette

What you’ll do:

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F; then, place the pumpkin halves onto a glass baking dish, brush with the grape seed oil, add desired amount of Himalayan salt and cracked black pepper, and cook in the oven for 25 minutes
  • While the pumpkin is cooking, begin to assemble your salad by laying down a bed of lettuce, and placing the remaining ingredients on top in neat rows (be sure to leave an empty row for the oven-roasted pumpkin); feel free to add more or less of each ingredient, as the instructions I provided are only a guideline
  • Once 25 minutes has elapsed, remove the pumpkin halves from the oven; once cooled off, remove the skin (it should peel right off) and discard; next, cut the remaining pumpkin flesh into cubes, and add 1/2 cup to the salad; the remaining oven-roasted pumpkin can be used for future salads, or whatever else you’d like to use it for!

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2 thoughts on “Autumn Harvest Salad with Spicy Pepitas and an Apple Cider Vinaigrette

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