A great way to enjoy apples at their peak, Spinach Salad with Apples and Vanilla Poppy Seed Dressing combines nutrient-rich baby spinach with crisp apples, candied walnuts, and dried cranberries (or cherries). It all gets drizzled with a tangy, yogurt based poppy seed dressing! A perfect fall side dish…
And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.
~~ Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum
Throughout history, apples have symbolized many things – from the “big apple,” New York city, to the desire for knowledge and subsequent sin of Eve in the Garden in Genesis. In Greek mythology, the apple represents discord, while it represents rebirth and beauty in Norse mythology. An apple is recognized world-wide as the logo of one of the world’s largest technology companies. This time of year, however, the apple represents the season perhaps better than any other food. Apples are at their peak in fall, and with this in mind, I find myself planning meals around them. Apples in season are crisper, juicier, and more flavorful than those that have been in cold storage for months. They shine in this simple spinach salad with vanilla poppy seed dressing.
While I love a granny smith apples in a pie or in Slow Cooker Pork and Apples, I prefer a sweeter apple in this salad. Look for honeycrisp, fuji, pink lady or other sweet, crisp apple. I don’t use gala, jonathon, or delicious varieties unless I have no alternative. I love pairing walnuts with apples, and they found their way into this salad, along with craisins. You could substitute pecans for the walnuts, and dried cherries for the craisins if you’d like.
I make my own salad dressings almost exclusively. If you’ve ever read the back of a commercially prepared salad dressing, you’ll find many unhealthy and less-than-appealing ingredients. Salad dressings typically require only a few ingredients, they come together quickly, and they taste as fresh as the salad they’re poured on… Why spoil a fresh salad with a bottled dressing? I hope you will give this a try, and better yet, stock your pantry and begin making your own dressings regularly!
Spinach Salad With Apples and Vanilla Poppy Seed Dressing
- 1/2 cup vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. unfiltered cider vinegar*
- 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp. salt to taste and ground pepper
- 1 tsp. poppy seeds
- 1 tbsp. white sugar
- 1/2 cup walnut pieces*
- 8 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
- 2 apples honeycrisp, fuji, pink lady or similar, cubed
- 1/4 cup craisins or dried cherries
- Combine dressing ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
- Tear a piece of foil about 12" long and set next to the stove.
- In a saute pan over medium-high heat, melt sugar. Watch carefully! When sugar is caramel colored, and no white grains remain, add walnuts. Using a silicon spatula or wooden spoon, stir until walnuts are coated.
- Scoop walnuts on to the foil. While caramel is still soft (if possible), sprinkle with salt. Set aside to cool.
- To a large salad bowl, add the baby spinach. Top with cubed apples and craisins.
- If you've used walnut halves or large pieces, chop a bit. Sprinkle over the salad.
- Toss dressing with the salad just prior to serving.
*I like Trader Joe's Unfiltered Cider Vinegar. Any good cider vinegar will work. If you need to use a different vinegar, rice vinegar or white wine vinegar would probably be best.
*Pecans would make a fine substitute, though I love to pair walnuts with apples.
Macronutrients (approximation from MyFitnessPal): 223 calories; 5 g protein; 21 g carbohydrates; 14 g fat.
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