And just like that, autumn is here. With cooler temps and nourishing food in mind, I’m sharing a delightful fall dish. Delicata squash and baked feta meatballs come together to create an unexpected (but totally delicious!) blend of flavors. You’ll want to add it to your weekly repertoire. This gluten-free, blood sugar-friendly fall harvest salad is the best of all worlds: herby meatballs, paired with caramelized squash, crunchy pepitas, and tender butter lettuce. Whether you’re cooking for a handful of friends, hungry family members, or doing your own weekly meal prep, this recipe is worth the fridge space.
Why you should eat with the seasons
Eating with the seasons—especially in the fall—has countless benefits. First and foremost, you get the most bang for your financial (and nutritional) buck. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are harvested at peak ripeness, ensuring they’re packed with the most essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Secondly, it’s an easy way to support your local farmers, thus reducing the environmental impact associated with long-distance transportation. Thirdly, eating with the seasons encourages variety, keeping mealtimes interesting and diverse. Last but not least, it encourages an appreciation for nature’s natural rhythms.
why add protein to your salads?
This delicata squash and baked feta meatball salad is two-fold: it helps keep blood sugar stable and packs a protein punch. Ultimately, incorporating protein into your salads is an excellent way to make them more satisfying, nutritious, and well-rounded.
Satiety: Protein is well-known for its ability to promote a feeling of fullness and satiety. Including protein in your salads can help you feel more satisfied after your meal, reducing the urge to snack on less nutritious options later in the day.
Balanced nutrition: Your body needs three macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats) to function optimally. A salad with protein ensures that you’re getting a balanced mix of nutrients in your diet.
Stable blood sugar: Including protein in your salad can help regulate blood sugar levels. It slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, preventing rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar—this is particularly important if you have hormonal imbalances or pre-diabetes.
Nutrient density: Protein-rich foods are often packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Adding protein to your salad not only boosts protein intake but also contributes to a higher overall nutrient density in your meal.
Versatility: Protein can be sourced from a variety of options, including animal-based (poultry, fish, cottage cheese, etc.) and plant-based (tofu, beans, seeds, etc.). Customize your salad to your dietary preferences or restrictions.
Flavor and texture: Protein-rich ingredients can add interesting textures and flavors to your salad. For example, grilled chicken can provide a smoky and savory element, while chickpeas can add a nutty and hearty texture.
Long-lasting energy: As mentioned, protein provides a slow, sustained release of energy, helping you stay energized and focused throughout the day.
How to make a blood sugar-friendly meal
Creating a blood sugar-friendly meal (like this fall harvest salad) is the key to happy hormones, stable energy, and better sleep. When prioritizing optimal blood sugar levels, the trifecta includes an unlimited amount of non-starchy vegetables, 4-6 oz of lean protein—grilled chicken, deli turkey, smoked salmon, eggs, tofu, or legumes—and healthy fats, like avocados, full-fat cheese, nuts, and olive oil. When combined, these components aid in satiation and a slow release of glucose. Depending on your health goals and lifestyle, you’ll also want to include a serving or two of starchy carbs.
When aiming for stable blood sugar, try to minimize highly processed and sugary foods. Instead, opt for low-glycemic sweeteners, like monk fruit, if needed.
INGREDIENTS IN This delicata squash and baked feta meatball salad
This recipe was born from a block of tangy feta, a pound of ground chicken, and a lone delicata squash. Its unsuspecting flavors blend beautifully, and I hope you enjoy it just as much as we do! While the ingredient list may seem long, this salad comes together quickly. And best of all, it makes for delicious leftovers.
For the meatballs. You can sub this for ground beef or ground turkey. If you use ground beef, no need to add the olive oil to the meatball mixture.
To help bind the meatballs (while keeping them soft and tender). If you don’t have almond flour, you can use all-purpose or oat flour.
This adds additional moisture and protein to the meatballs.
Crumbled feta adds a depth of texture and saltiness to the recipe.
Feel free to use any tender herbs: basil, chives, mint, dill, etc. The herbs elevate the whole dish!
This brings out the flavor in the meatballs and squash.
Black pepper adds depth and spice. Ideally, opt for freshly cracked black pepper.
This is for both the meatballs and the salad dressing. I love La Tourangelle’s organic extra-virgin olive oil.
Hello, fall! Delicata squash has a mild and slightly sweet flavor (it’s less sweet than butternut or acorn squash). Its tender, edible skin offers a pleasant contrast in texture and adds a subtle earthiness to its taste when roasted or cooked.
A small pinch goes a long way when seasoning the delicata squash. Turmeric is rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients (ideal as the weather shifts).
For a tender lettuce salad base.
For a bit of crunch and essential minerals, like zinc.
Adds creaminess and satiation to the salad.
A zingy freshness that pairs well with the caramelized squash and herby meatballs.
How to make this fall salad
1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, mix together meatball ingredients. Roll into balls and place on baking sheet (about 18 total). Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until the center of each meatball is cooked through.
3. While they bake, cut delicata squash in half. Scoop out seeds. Cut into half-moon shapes and place in air fryer. Season with salt, pepper, and turmeric. Air fry on the veggie setting (350F) for 12-15 minutes.
4. Assemble salad on a large serving platter: Butter lettuce, delicata squash, meatballs, crumbled feta, pumpkin seeds, and avocado. Drizzle with olive oil. Spread out lemon wedges for everyone to squeeze on their salad portion!
Don’t have an air-fryer? On a separate baking sheet, roast the delicata squash with the meatballs. Pop the delicata squash into the oven about 10-15 minutes before the meatballs.
Delicata Squash and Baked Feta Meatballs
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 2 tablespoons almond flour
- 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
- 3/4 cup crumbled feta
- 1/2 cup finely chopped herbs (mint, chives, basil, etc.)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 teaspoons sea salt
- Black pepper, to taste
- 1 medium delicata squash
- 1-2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Black pepper, to taste
Butter Lettuce Salad
- 5-6 cups butter lettuce
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta
- 1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1/2 large avocado, chopped
- 1 lemon, sliced
- Olive oil, to taste
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenehit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, mix together meatball ingredients. Roll into balls and place on baking sheet (about 18 total).
- Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until the center of each meatball is cooked through.
- While they bake, cut delicata squash in half. Scoop out seeds. Cut into half-moon shapes and place in air fryer. Spray with avocado oil (optional). Season with salt, pepper, and turmeric. Air fry on the veggie setting (350F) for 12-15 minutes.
- Assemble salad on a large serving platter, beginning with the butter lettuce. Top with delicata squash, meatballs, crumbled feta, pumpkin seeds, and avocado. Drizzle with olive oil. Spread out lemon wedges.