I usually try to make my lunches for the week on Sundays. It's cliché, but true, "a Sunday well spent leads to a week of content." It just takes the stress out of every evening, worrying about what to make for the following day's lunch. On the weeks where this doesn't happen, I end up getting a lot of takeout, which is not kind to my wallet or belly. This weekend, we met some friends in Newport for lunch, and I was inspired by a salad I saw on the menu. I was debating between it and the grilled veggie/hummus plate. I had the latter at the restaurant and decided to make the salad for lunch this week. It's a perfect transitional salad from Winter to Spring. In Winter, I eat a lot of cooked foods, to keep my insides as warm as possible (living in New England, that's not always easy!). And Spring = fresh new life. So this salad combines those two vibes. Roasted carrots + quinoa keep it a bit grounded, and the greens + cucumber bring in the lighter element. Pumpkin seeds + avocado are the bonus to add yummy fats and flavor! You could easily make substitutions depending on what you have on hand. (Roasted carrots for something else like butternut squash or turnips – something that has a bit of substance; pumpkin seeds could be sunflower seeds or pine nuts; quinoa could be brown rice, etc.)
WINTER-INTO-SPRING SALAD Makes 4 servings. I've included some of the shortcuts I use, as options, but if you've got the time, please go with the traditional!
1 pouch frozen quinoa or 1 cup dry quinoa; either option - cook it 12 carrots (I used rainbow for more color + fun), sliced into sticks or 1 small bag organic baby carrots 1/2 organic english cucumber (I find these are less burpy), diced 6 cups spring mix greens (or your favorite salad greens) 1 cup pumpkin seeds 1 avocado, peeled de-pitted (with a fork/spoon, not a knife!) and quartered 1 cup feta, optional 1 Tblsp olive oil 1 Tblsp coconut oil 1 Tblsp balsamic vinegar, optional Salt + pepper
- Preheat oven to 425°. Lay carrots on baking sheet so they're not overlapping (I used two) and scatter little dollups/chunks of coconut oil; don't worry if every carrot doesn't have some. Add salt + pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.
- In the meantime, assemble* the quinoa, greens, cucumber, pumpkin seeds and feta, if using, in a big bowl.
- Take the carrots out of oven and consolidate to one pan, or push together so there's some empty room (they can overlap now), drizzle on half the olive oil, and mix around the carrots so oil is all over. On the now empty pan/space, put the avocado quarters with a drizzle of quarter of the olive oil, salt, pepper. Put back in the over for another 15 minutes.
- Definitely take the avocado out after 15 minutes - the side that was on the pan should be browned. Depending on the size of the carrots and the strength of your oven (every one is different), the carrots should also be roasted at this point, but if not, put them back in for 8 minute intervals until they're a bit crinkled, a little browned; roasted. Add carrots to the bowl (not the avocado), and mix everything together.
- Divide evenly among 4 travel containers if you're taking them to work, or 4 bowls if you're serving to friends right away. Top with avocado chunks.
For my wife's two bowls, I added the remaining olive oil + a drizzle of balsamic vinegar because she likes salad more "dressed" than I do. I just added a few more hefty dashes of pepper to mine.
Take a deep breath and a moment to appreciate what you've just created, and are about to enjoy!
*Many people like to prep their salads with ingredients mixed up; others like each ingredient separated to begin. If you're the latter (like me), don't assemble all elements into one bowl. Instead, get them ready, and then put 1/4 of each ingredient into your 4 travel/eating bowls. That's what I did, and you can see the little piles of yums sitting on top of the greens. I mix it up when it's time to eat, but not before.
Survey time: how do you like to prep your salads? Mix ahead, or keep things in piles like I do? Tell me in the comments (near the title of the post)