A few of my favorite things in one big bowl— arugula, crisp apple slices, sharp white cheddar cheese, candied pecans, and a simple balsamic vinaigrette. Plus, read on for tips on how to prep salads in advance for fast and easy meals.
Now that James is 8 weeks old I’m officially buckling down to lose the baby weight. Ugh. It’s definitely my least favorite thing about having a baby. I’m watching what I eat and getting back to a regular exercise routine, and sloooowly seeing results.
It’s pretty easy for me to plan ahead for a healthy dinner, but lunches are more tricky. I’m so busy that it’s often mid-afternoon before I realize I haven’t eaten and I’m so hungry I’m just grabbing whatever I have nearby. Prepping salad stuff ahead of time has become a lifesaver and it ensures I have something healthy and satisfying to plan on and look forward to.
Right now this salad filled with arugula, apples, white cheddar and candied nuts is my favorite salad combination. It’s light and fresh with just a hint of fall flavors. I will sometimes add grains like quinoa or farro or some shredded chicken to make it more filling, or I’ll have a piece of crusty bread or toast on the side. The balsamic candied nuts are fantastic and a little indulgence that I’ve found helps stave off sweet cravings later in the afternoon.
There’s no right way to make a salad, so feel free to play around with this as much as you like. Also, read on to find my tips on how to prep salad ingredients ahead of time.
baking tip:How to prep salad ingredients ahead of time
I prefer to prep and store salad ingredients individually in containers, rather than assembling single-serving salads. Here are a few tips to help you plan ahead and save time on busy days.
Greens— Wash, dry and cut greens ahead of time or buy pre-washed greens from the store. Store in the fridge— I like to use this OXO GreenSaver.
Fruits and veggies— Hardy veggies like carrots, peppers, and cucumbers can be chopped and stored ahead of time. Others like tomatoes and avocado and most fruit will need to be sliced the day of. I also like to roast veggies and store in the fridge.
Protein— Cook chicken, beef or pork ahead of time, slice, and store in fridge. You can also hard boil eggs and store peeled or unpeeled in the fridge.
Grains— Pre-cook rice, quinoa, farro and other grains and store in the fridge.
Nuts, cheese and other mix-ins— To save on time, shred cheese and toast nuts and seeds. You can also have toppings like croutons, olives and dried fruit stocked to mix in.
Dressing— One batch of dressing should last for weeks. Most vinaigrettes can be stored at room temperature, but any dressing containing dairy products should be stored in the fridge.
Apple Arugula Salad with Cheddar, Candied Pecans and Balsamic Vinaigrette
- 4 cups arugula
- 1-2 tart apples , sliced (see Note)
- ½ cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
- Candied pecans , recipe below
- Balsamic vinaigrette , recipe below
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup whole pecans
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 clove garlic , minced
To make the candied pecans:
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the pecans and toss to coat.
- Transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 325°F oven for 10 minutes. Cool completely.
To make the balsamic vinaigrette:
- Add the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, pepper and minced garlic to a small mason jar. Screw the lid on tightly, then shake vigorously until sugar and salt are dissolved.
To assemble the salad:
- Toss the arugula with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Add the apple slices, shredded cheese and candied pecans. Serve immediately.