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Lighten up holiday eating with this lentil and squash arugula salad

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With Thanksgiving last week, the holiday season is in full swing. During the time of year that’s known for rich, hearty meals and plenty of sweet treats, this recipe is a wonderful way to keep your diet in check. The lentils provide a boost of cholesterol-lowering fiber, minerals, vitamins and protein – with virtually no fat. Plus, they make the dish more filling than your typical salad. The combination of roasted squash, dried cranberries and feta create a flavor profile that’s tangy, sweet, salty and earthy … perfect for the fall and winter seasons. Roasted squash seeds add a bit of crunch, and the arugula keeps it light and fresh.

Serve this salad as a main course for a light vegetarian meal, or have it as an appetizer to a more elaborate dinner. You could even double the recipe for a healthy start to your Christmas meal.

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup green lentils
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 acorn squash, large, peeled and cut into 1” cubes (about 4-5 cups)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Seeds from squash (plus, salt and pepper)
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup sage, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place lentils in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Soak for 10 minutes and drain.
  • Transfer lentils to a saucepan and add 2 cups of water and 2 bay leaves. Cooking over medium-high heat, bring the water to a rapid simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Lentils should be tender but firm.
  • Drain lentils. Rinse under cold water, drain, and set aside.
  • While lentils are cooking, roast the squash. Place squash in a large bowl and toss with 2 Tablespoons oil, cumin, paprika and salt. Spread seasoned squash on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, tossing after 15 minutes.
  • During the last 5 minutes of roasting, add squash seeds seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper to the baking sheet. Roast seeds to use as a garnish to the salad.
  • In a large bowl, combine lentils, squash and oil from the baking sheet with arugula, half of the feta, sage, vinegar and 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss.
  • Divide among plates and top with additional feta cheese, dried cranberries and roasted seeds.
  • Makes 4 servings.

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