Is there anything better than fresh fruit on a warm, sunny day? We think not. But, of course, we believe in kicking things up a notch as we’ve done with our rich and flavorful “Very Berrylicious Spinach Salad” recipe. Created with the summer season in mind, this one’s bursting with health-promoting nutrients and even highlights the patriotic colors red, white and blue making it the perfect addition to your Memorial, Independence or Labor Day cookout.
Light, refreshing and amazingly filling, it’s an easy-peasy, sweet and savory blend that comes together in less than 15 minutes.
THE BALANCING ACT
Our Very Berrylicious Spinach Salad is essentially a healthier version of a fruit salad. You’re probably thinking, a fruit salad is already “healthy,” right? Though fruit salad can offer a bundle of nutritional benefits, it has a shortcoming in that it only contains fruit. Most types of fruit contain large amounts of simple sugars, which tend to digest quickly and are well known to contribute to weight gain and related chronic conditions when consumed in excess.
This is not to say that eating fruit is a bad thing. Fruit is actually one of our “Five Bowl Basics“ so we’re fans of fruit. When it comes to eating fruit, That Salad Lady always recommends pairing it with quality fat sources like nuts, seeds and their butters, as these foods help slow the rate of digestion and stabilize blood sugar levels. Fat also helps the body better absorb many of the phytonutrients and antioxidants housed in fruit, and veggies too.
Our Very Berrylicious Spinach Salad is not only rich in berries and spinach, which are among the best of the “five-a-day” staples, but it’s also chock-full of healthy fats and well-dressed in a yummy strawberry vinaigrette dressing for even more fruity flavor. The bold glorious colors of the fruit and other ingredients make this one of our most festive salads. It’s like a celebration of fresh flavors, great textures and good nutrition to fully commemorate the summer holidays.
Let’s talk more about what’s in our Very Berrylicious Spinach Salad recipe and why.
Perfectly Sweet Berries
Our Very Berrylicious Spinach Salad recipe includes blueberries and strawberries, both of which are deliciously sweet, packed full of nutrients and just plain old good for you. Choose the ripest blueberries and strawberries you can find, as they’ll be the sweetest. Perfectly ripe blueberries take on a deep blue-indigo color, while the ripest strawberries will be red through and through.
If you prefer using other berries like raspberries or blackberries instead, by all means do so. They’re all naturally high in vitamin C, flavonoids and other antioxidants. These nutritional qualities berries especially beneficial in both the prevention and treatment of common chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
The Subtle Goodness of Spinach
As hinted by the title, we suggest spinach as a base for this recipe. By itself, spinach is quite bland – that blandness creates the space for all the other ingredients to shine. Though virtually tasteless, spinach is packed with fiber, vitamins and a powerful cocktail of antioxidants, making it among the most nutritionally beneficial leafy green veggies you can use in any salad.
Spring mix usually contains some spinach, so feel free to use it if that’s what you have – and before it goes bad. Here at That Salad Lady, we aim to avoid food waste!
A Craveable Fat Combo
To bring out the best in the berries (and the spinach), our Very Berrylicious Spinach Salad recipe calls for the rich, savory, downright craveable flavors of pecans and avocado, which is also actually a berry fruit. Both are dense sources of monounsaturated fat, which is generally referred to as “healthy” or “good” fats. From heart health, to blood sugar control, to cancer protection, they’ve been shown to offer a number of health benefits.
For an even bigger flavor explosion we include optional steps for candying pecans. We emphasize that this process is totally “optional,” as it calls for using cinnamon and brown sugar, which’ll increase the overall sugar content of the recipe. If you choose not to candy your pecans, you can toast them instead. Whether candied or toasted, pecans bring great flavor and texture to the recipe. If you don’t have pecans, you can substitute equal amounts of walnuts.
Goat Cheese for a Tangy Twist
For a tasty, tangy twist and a good dose of quality protein our recipe includes goat cheese, which is one of That Salad Lady’s favorites. The tart, earthy flavor of goat cheese really sets it apart from cow cheeses – and it’s more easily digestible. Besides being rich in protein and probiotics, goat cheese offers more calcium than cow cheeses (visit our “Nutrition Glossary” to learn more).
If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, you can easily substitute it for Gorgonzola, blue or feta cheese, or even a plant-based goat cheese alternative for a vegan-friendly blend.
Bittersweet Dressing for the Win
For even more berryliciousness, we round out the recipe with That Salad Lady’s homemade strawberry vinaigrette dressing. With ingredients like apple cider vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil and honey, it’s a bittersweet blend that brings all the flavors together. If you choose not to make it, a simple berry-based or balsamic vinaigrette will suffice. It’s all about building your bowl, your way.
Cooking is only required for the pecans. For toasting, just heat up the oven to 350 degrees F and bake them for 5-10 minutes. That’s it! Doesn’t get any simpler than this. Candying requires a bit more hands-on time, but the process is pretty straightforward. Just combine some brown sugar and cinnamon in a skillet with a little water and then add the pecans. The total cooking time is less than five minutes (see recipe card).
If using the strawberry vinaigrette dressing, start by simply adding all the ingredients to your blender or food processor. With variable speed units, start with a low speed and then gradually increase it to a higher speed until the mixture is perfectly smooth.
BUILD YOUR SALAD BOWL
When you’re ready to build your bowl, simply slice your avocado into wedges and your strawberries into 1/4-inch pieces. Whether you use our strawberry vinaigrette or another type of vinaigrette dressing, we recommend tossing your spinach with dressing just prior to preparing the salad. In a large bowl, simply coat the spinach with dressing and toss it using salad spoons, tongs or your gloved hands.
From there, divide the spinach evenly between 2-4 salad bowls or plates, add the avocado and strawberry slices, blueberries and crumbled goat cheese, and then throw in the candied or plain pecans. That Salad Lady also encourages us to top off our salad bowls with chia seeds as well so use them if you have them. In addition to boosting nutrition, chia seeds can actually enhance the fat burning potential of any salad.
All put together, our Very Berrylicious Spinach Salad is large enough for four generous servings. If you’re planning for leftovers, it’s best to add dressing to each individual salad bowl as opposed to mixing it in with the whole salad blend. The veggies and fruits will quickly get soggy, and you won’t be as happy with your creation the next day.
Add Your Finishing Touches
To boost the protein content and overall filling effect of your salad, throw in a handful of shredded salmon, chopped chicken breast or even roasted extra-firm tofu. Visit our Nutrition Glossary for more ideas, as it’s all about making YOU confident in building YOUR bowl.
SHOW US YOUR BOWL
That Salad Lady wants to see your bowl! If you like it, which we are sure you will, drop a comment below and tag pics on Instagram with @thatsaladlady, #thatsaladlady and #buildyourbowl. If you love it, pin it on Pinterest and share it on Facebook and Twitter using #thatsaladlady.
Very Berrylicious Spinach SaladCourse: Appetizers, MainCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
Light, refreshing and filling, our Very Berrylicious Spinach Salad is an easy-peasy, sweet and savory blend that comes together in less than 15 minutes!
- Base Salad Blend
6-8 cups fresh baby spinach (use more if you wish)*
2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 ripe avocado peeled, pitted and sliced into wedges**
1/2 cup raw pecans (raw walnuts also work), halved or chopped, toasted or candied***
1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles (Gorgonzola, blue of feta cheese crumbles also work)****
2 tablespoons chia seeds (optional)
- Base for Candied Pecans (Optional)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 pinches ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon water
- Strawberry Vinaigrette Dressing (Optional)
1 cup strawberries
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Candy the Pecans (Optional)
- Combine all the base ingredients in a skillet and cook them over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble (1-2 minutes).
- Throw in the pecans and cook the mixture for a few more minutes, stirring continuously to fully coat the pecans.
- Remove the candied pecans from the heat and spread them out on parchment paper or foil until they completely cool.
- Prepare the Dressing
- If using the strawberry vinaigrette dressing, start by simply adding all the ingredients to your blender or food processor.
- With variable speed units, start with a low speed and then gradually increase it to a higher speed until the mixture is perfectly smooth.
- Our dressing can be substituted for a simple berry-based or balsamic vinaigrette if you wish.
- Build the Salad
- Coat the spinach with dressing and toss it using a pair of salad spoons, tongs or your gloved hands. You can store any extra dressing in a tightly covered container for up to 10 days.
- Divide the spinach evenly between 2-4 salad bowls or plates, and add the avocado and strawberry slices, blueberries and goat cheese crumbles.
- Throw in the toasted or candied pecans and top off the salad with sprinkles of chia seeds (if using).
- *A 50/50 mix (baby spinach and spring mix) can be used instead of spinach.
- **Avocado tastes best when freshly cut so slice it up just prior to serving the salad.
- ***Toast pecans by simply baking them on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees F for 5-10 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Check the pecans frequently as they burn easily and quickly.
- ****If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, you can easily substitute it for Gorgonzola, blue or feta cheese, or even a plant-based goat cheese alternative for a vegan-friendly blend.
- To boost the protein content and filling effect of your salad, throw in a handful of shredded salmon, chopped chicken breast or even roasted extra-firm tofu.
- Depending on your eating style, you can double your portions and eat less meals or store the basic blend in the fridge and eat multiple bowls over the course of multiple days.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.