This post is sponsored by iHerb.
Did you miss me? 😉 I hope you guys enjoyed getting to know Emma, Mandy and Davida in the last three guest posts. They’re pretty awesome gals, don’t ya think?
My brain and body are a little on the confused side today since I’m trying to adjust back to Pacific time, but it’s been an incredible week off. I got home yesterday morning after taking a redeye flight back from Maui, and in a nutshell, Hawaii was beautiful, relaxing, jaw-dropping and exactly the reset I was craving. I don’t even know where to start with the highlights, so I’ll just save them for next week. (If curiosity is getting the best of you though, you’ll find some photos on Instagram!)
Today I want to get back to the topic we were discussing before I left, and that’s healthy, delicious and easy lunches for the office. Some of the most popular feedback I’ve heard from new readers is that they (and perhaps you) often feel uninspired to make the effort to pack lunches. As a result, you end up eating out a lot – or just making food decisions that are less-ideal than you’d care to admit. My goal is to help you overcome that.
A couple of weeks ago you may have caught this 6 hacks for make-ahead salad success post, along with 6 of my highly recommended recipes to get you inspired. Today I’ve got another great make-ahead, meal-sized salad – this time with a fall twist. If you feel like it’s too late for watermelon but too early for pumpkin, I think you’ll be totally into it.
Before we get to the recipe, I wanted to give one more make-ahead lunch tip. This is going to sound obvious, but when it comes to making the BEST salads (and best meals in general), I’ve found that using high-quality ingredients is key. Not only do they tend to keep better in the fridge and taste better, but I personally feel really great knowing I’m eating nourishing, nutrient-dense food that’ll keep me energized and focused for the afternoon. Yes, you might have to pay a tad more, but this is YOU we’re talking about and you’re WORTH the investment!
For this particular recipe, I did a little iHerb haul to stock up on some pantry essentials: nuts and seeds (awesome for adding crunch and healthy fats), dried cranberries, herbs and extra virgin olive oil. Produce-wise, the stars of this show are baby spinach, super juicy pears, celery and roasted sweet potatoes. Wild and brown rice help to add fibre and make the salad filling, while roasted chicken is the main source of protein. (For my vegan and vegetarian friends, you could certainly add something like white Great Northern beans or chickpeas instead or use a higher-protein grain such as quinoa.)
A few ingredient notes:
Extra virgin olive oil
I’ve been using La Tourangelle Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil since trying a sample earlier this year, and it’s one of my favourites for a few key reasons. Firstly, the taste is lovely! But perhaps just as important, La Tourangelle oils come in dark tins, and this means that they aren’t prone to oxygen and light exposure. These can damage the healthy fats, making them not so healthy. The tin packaging also means that the oil doesn’t risk absorbing chemicals from plastic, which is what many supermarket olive oils are bottled in.
Spices and dried herbs
My biggest recommendation here (regardless of what kind of recipe you’re making) is to buy only what you need to ensure freshness. If a spice doesn’t smell like anything before you put it into a recipe, it’s not going to magically come alive later! To keep it simple, I love using all-purpose herb seasonings like this one from Frontier Co-Op.
Pears, spinach and celery
These three items rank pretty high on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen, so if you’re making the choice between organic or conventional produce, I’d go organic. Since you’ll be peeling the sweet potatoes, there’s less risk of exposure to residue so I usually go conventional there.
…and a few prep tips:
In my last lunch making post I recommended sturdy greens and shredding them up, but in this case, I’ve found that the chicken and rice help to soak up that moisture so the spinach doesn’t get soggy. I recommend putting about half the dressing you’d normally use when making it ahead of time, then packing a little extra if you want to add more before you eat.
Roasted sweet potatoes + chicken
These guys use the same seasoning and you can roast them on the same pan. If you line your baking sheet with parchment paper, you might not even have to wash it!
Ok, you’ve got the game plan. Let’s start cooking!Print
Pear and Pecan Wild Rice Salad
This Pear and Pecan Wild Rice Salad is a delicious healthy choice when it comes to take-to-work fall lunches. Toss together a big batch and eat well all week!
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 40 mins
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings
- Category: salad
- Method: roast
For the rice
For the roasted chicken and sweet potatoes
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 400g boneless skinless chicken breast
- 2 cups peeled + diced sweet potato cubes
- 1 1/2 tsp all-purpose herb seasoning
For the rest
- 2 cups each shredded fresh baby spinach and thinly sliced celery
- 1 ripe pear, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup each pecan halves and dried cranberries
- 2 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds
For the dressing (makes about 1/2 cup)
- Preheat the oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Bring the rice, bay leaf and water to a boil on the stove in a large saucepan. Once boiling, cover with a lid and reduce heat to a simmer for 40-45 minutes. (This may vary depending on the kind of rice you use – check the package!) Stir occasionally, adding more water if needed. Once cooked, strain off any extra liquid and set the rice in the fridge to cool.
- Toss the sweet potatoes in a large bowl with half of the olive oil and herbs. Scatter them in an even layer on the baking sheet. Brush the chicken breasts on both sides with the remaining oil and sprinkle with remaining herbs. Set the chicken on the same pan as the sweet potatoes, and roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring the sweet potatoes occasionally.
- Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the salad ingredients as directed above. Combine them all in a large bowl.
- In a mason jar or other container, shake up the dressing ingredients.
- Stir the rice into the salad and drizzle about half of the dressing on top. Toss to coat. Serve remaining dressing on the side and add as needed.
As mentioned above, this post is made possible by iHerb, which was where I got a whole bunch of my ingredients for this recipe. I love ordering from this site because there’s SO much to choose from, and shipping (yes, even to Canada!) is super speedy. iHerb carries over 5,000 grocery products that can be shipped to over 160 countries, and provides customer support in 10 languages.
Customers can get $5 off their first order of $20 or more by clicking this special link. (Full disclosure: I get a few pennies tossed my way if you do.) If this recipe hasn’t got you totally convinced yet, I’m sure browsing around the site will. Then we can all enjoy healthy, delicious office lunches together… well, virtually I mean!
So tell me… what are your favourite ingredient combinations for fall salads? I’m all about the roasted veggies, but love a good crunch too so a good mix of fresh produce, nuts and seeds are must-haves in my opinion!