With a bit of planning and beginning of the week meal prep, your mid-week lunch can be a fresh tasting and totally fast to make bed of fresh spinach salad topped with make-ahead chicken breast and sliced avocado, tossed with everyone’s favorite salad combination of beets, goat cheese and pecans.
While I can often be found finishing off the leftovers of recipes you’ll find here on the blog, more likely than not, what you’ll most often find me eating for lunch is going to be a version of this salad, right here.
And yes, I totally agree, this spinach salad does look “so good”. I’m pretty dang happy with it too.
If you’re like me, this is one of those salads that once you hit midweek you feel pretty chuffed about and praise “hallelujah” for having a bit of forethought to do some basic beginning-of-the-week meal prep, because usually by the time Wednesday rolls around, my resolve is beginning to dissolve.
I cleaned out my fridge on Monday and this is a sampling of what survived the scourge (pecans, spinach) plus a few of the things I meal prepped (pickled beets, salad dressing and baked chicken) to be ready for a lunch situation just like this .
How Do You Make a Spinach Salad?
I’m defnitely a fan of the famed wilted spinach salad with warmed bacon dressing, but that’s more of a style I prepare to accompany dinner rather than serve as dinner, or in this case, lunch.
So this is how I do it…
For this salad, it’s more a game of gauging how many you’re making it for and whether it’s a main meal or not. Measurements here do not need be specific, just go with your cravings.
The spinach: We all know you can eat raw spinach leaves and the benefits of eating spinach are long—it’s high in folate, vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, and potassium just to name a few. So why aren’t we subbing in fresh spinach leaves for regular lettuce and enjoying leafy greens like this strawberry avocado spinach salad with chicken and this summer berry spinach salad with tuna more often? I say, make it a habit to start now.
I buy my spinach as baby leaves, pre-washed and ready to go for several lunches. It’s the easiest route to take.
The avocado: Choose an avocado that’s still pretty firm to the touch and leave on your counter overnight.
: tip : How do you tell if an avocado is ripe? If the brown nub from the stem flicks off easily and shows green underneath, you’re ready to slice. If it’s brown, you’re going to find an avo that’s mushy and browned and has lost it’s loving feeling (thank you Hall & Oates).
Slicing avocados is one thing I DON’T meal prep, because brown avocados = no bueno.
The chicken: Nearly every week I bake a few chicken breasts to have on hand for lunches like this or to use for a quick dinner. Some weeks I roast a whole chicken and some I bake only the breasts—and I most often bake them bone-in with the skin on, because they really are the best baked chicken breasts. Totally delicious and flavorful. Ever.Single.Time.
The beets: To me, the sign of a good salad bar is when pickled or roasted beets are included. I’m a beet lover through and through. Sometimes I roast them and add straight to the salad but most often I pickle them for even more tang.
Follow this recipe for my favorite pickled beets, or, simply roast them then pop into a super simple brine of equal parts water, vinegar and sugar that’s been boiled then added to the beets with a few cloves and a few peppercorns. Refrigerate for a few days for flavors to meld, and keep for up to 3 months.
The pecans and goat cheese: Toasting the pecans adds a depth of flavor you won’t want to skip. Ttoast in a dry skillet over medium low heat until you can smell their nutty aroma. I usually toast a bunch at once because if I’m prepping for one meal, may as well prep for a few more.
Goat cheese crumbles deliver that unmistakeable tang that goes so well with beets, pecans and salad.
The dressing: This salad dressing is part of the arsenal of sauces and dressings I always have on hand. You can interchange vinegars for what’s in your fridge, but rice wine vinegar is my favorite. The dressing is totally easy to make and can you easily swap the dried tarragon for fresh tarragon depending its in season.
More Salads That Make a Meal
These salads are colorful, healthy, filling, and easy to meal prep and prepare.
- 30 Days of Healthier Salads That Make a Meal
- Citrus Shrimp and Avocado Salad
- Thai Quinoa Salad (add a protein if desired)
- Strawberry Avocado Spinach Salad with Chicken
- Ahi Tuna Poke and Mango Salad
- La Scala Inspired Chopped Salad with Marinated Chickpeas
- Crab and Shrimp Seafood Cobb Salad
- For the vinaigrette
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon tarragon leaves (dried or fresh)
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- For the salad
- 6 cups baby spinach leaves
- 2 cups sliced roasted or pickled beets
- 1 baked chicken breast, sliced
- 1 avocado, pitted and sliced
- ¼ cup goat cheese crumbles
- ¼ toasted pecans
- Add all of the vinaigrette ingredients to a small jar fitted with a lid and shake to blend. Taste for seasoning and all more sugar if you'd like.
- Toss the spinach, beets, and chicken with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette in two serving bowls or one bigger bowl. Top with sliced avocado, goat cheese crumbles and pecans and drizzle with more vinaigrette and sprinkle with more kosher salt and pepper if desired.
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