Food / Recipes

Arugula Salad with Avocado, Goat Cheese, Candied Pecans, and Dried Cranberries

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Is there such thing as a life-changing salad?

About seven years ago, on the date of my twenty-third birthday, I knew I had to make a change. I’d just eaten my way through a Brazilian steakhouse birthday dinner and felt terrible. I was heavier than I’d ever been and was just physically burnt-out. I’ve always been plus-size, but knew I wasn’t living well in that moment. Just a year and a half out of college, and living on my own for the first time, I was still learning how to take care of myself.

My friend/roommate Ina promised to help me. A fitness hobbyist and talented home cook, she spent the next few months teaching me the basics of exercise, food prep, balanced meals, and portion control. She demonstrated that food could be nutritious while also tasting good. I lost 30 pounds in just a few months and have (mostly) been able to keep it off since.

This arugula salad was what I began to take to work every day for lunch, instead of going out to eat or scrounging up random crap. The recipe comes directly from Ina, who showed me that salad could be dynamic and colorful and something to look forward to eating. It’s a little tangy, little savory, and a little sweet. Plus, the avocado adds creamy richness. I have since expanded my lunch salad repertoire, but this is the one that started them all.

Ingredients:

Salad

  • 1 bag of arugula
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 4 OZ goat cheese
  • 1/3 cup candied pecans
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 LB  garlic-lime grilled chicken (optional)

Balsamic Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 TB balsamic vinegar
  • 2 TSP honey
  • 2 TSP spicy brown mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Prepare the dressing first by combining the olive oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, garlic, and seasoning into a small food storage container. Shake well and set aside.

Wash and rinse the arugula and place in a large bowl. Crumble in the goat cheese, then throw in the nuts, cranberries, and chicken (if you’re using it.) Gingerly place the delicate avocado into the mixture. Add the dressing and toss gently, being careful not to mush up the avocado.

Try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting!

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