Pancakes, cookies, and cannoli--oh my! I have really been on a caloric blogging kick lately, haven't I? It's just that sweets and treats are so darn fun to make, not to mention that fact that they photograph beautifully. Well for today's post, in honor of those of you who have courageously given up sugar for Lent, I am offering up a something nutritious, light, and healthy. I can't make any promises about my next post though.
Despite what my dessert-heavy blog archives might lead one to believe, I have always maintained a very healthy diet. I also try to work out every day. Lately I have noticed that my workouts have not been as effective as they used to be. Being a creature of habit, the problem is that I tend to do the very same treadmill workout every single day. Consequently, my muscles have gotten used to this lack of variety, and they have become bored.
So this morning I decided to shake up my exercise routine by attending a class that my friend teaches called "Body Pump." (should be called "Body Torture." ) This class is designed to work all of your core muscle groups by doing a series of movements while holding either lightly weighted bars or weights. You work on one muscle group per song, and you do the movements over and over again for the entire song. We're talking 100 squats, 80 lunges, 75 curls......you get the picture. Sheesh! Some of those songs just seemed to go on and on and on. I mean how many times do we really need to hear the chorus? Oh, and those "lightly weighted" bars that I previously referred to? I felt like I was lifting a small car by the end of the songs. I. Am. Sore. And I will likely be even more sore tomorrow. But it's a good sore, and you can bet my Body Pumped booty that I am going to go back for more. I highly recommend it for anyone who is up for an, um, adventure. The classes are taught at gyms nationwide.
Feeling extra-healthy and energetic post-workout, I was inspired to create something on the lighter side for lunch. As cliched as it may sound, I really did put this together from ingredients that I found after rummaging around my fridge and pantry. Roasting vegetable is my favorite method of preparation because it helps to bring out their natural sweetness. From the butternut squash to the chickpeas to the peppers, this salad is rich in Superfoods, and it makes for a filling dish. The goat cheese adds a creamy-tangy aspect, and the sweet and spicy dressing brings it all together beautifully. Here are a few extra tips for making this cheery colorful chickpea salad:
- Instead of using butternut squash, you can use peeled cubed sweet potatoes, golden beets, or acorn squash. The sweet potatoes might require a bit more roasting time.
- The chickpeas cans be replaced by black-eyed peas or your preferred type of bean. You could also do a combination of a few different beans.
- The easiest way to peel a butternut squash is with a carrot peeler. Paring knives tend to cut away too much of the vegetable's flesh. Cut off a bit of the end of the squash so that you can stand it up as you peel.
- This salad is best eaten within a few hours of preparation, but it will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for 2 days. Enjoy the salad chilled or at room temperature.
Chickpea Salad with Caramelized Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese
For the Spicy Maple Vinaigrette
1/3 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the Salad
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 cups drained and rinsed canned chickpeas
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
Prepare the vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, maple syrup, orange zest and juice, and red pepper flakes. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until well incorporated.
Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. Toss the cubed squash with the olive oil and scatter on the baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the cubes for 25-30 minutes, until the squash is lightly caramelized and tender, stirring the squash periodically so that the cubes brown evenly.
Carefully scrape the warm squash into a large mixing bowl. Add the chickpeas, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, thyme, and parsley. Toss the mixture with 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the salad with the crumbled goat cheese and serve!