Autumn Apple Salad with Poppyseed Dressing
Rain, you guys. So much rain.
I realize California really needs rain, so I have absolutely no right to complain, but I need to take a moment...and then I'll move on. Promise.
You guys, I feel like I have been living in a cold, wet, dark cloud for the past three months. I'm pretty sure I've touched on seasonal depression here before, but just in case I haven't, let's just say I don't respond well to lots of dark and damp weather (aka winter). Just like regular depression, seasonal depression (or, seasonal affective disorder) leaves me feeling sad, hopeless, lazy and super super irritable. My mom suffers with it and so do I.
To my surprise, I am actually handling the current weather conditions in California much better than I have in past years; this year less sadness and crying (the worst), but still more irritability. I'm not sure what or who I have to thank for this seemingly minor shift in my overall attitude toward life (if you've suffered with depression or anxiety, you know how big the shift can be), but I am thankful.
I have also tried to feed my body with clean and healthy comfort foods- lots of vegetables, soups and salads. Not always, of course (I love me some buttered bread and pizza), but I try to keep a balance, especially in the winter months.
Why am I sharing all of this here? I have no idea. Sometimes I start writing about one thing and get distracted. Or, maybe, I'm hoping this will serve as a reference for future years when I'm struggling and don't know how to get out. No matter how I got here, I do know this- I need some sunshine. It doesn't need to be hot or even warm, I just need some sunshine. Preferably for longer than 24 hours before the next set of storms come in.
I'm not the only one, either. Sacramento is practically under water.
Ok, end rant. The rain is coming, deal with it.
Along with eating tons of soup, I've also been eating lots of fresh salads. I may crave soup in the winter for warmth and comfort, but salads remind me of warm summer nights and help me feel full without feeling heavy.
While clicking around on Pinterest the other night I stumbled upon this Autumn Crunch Pasta Salad from Chelsea's Messy Apron. I wanted it, immediately. This salad is perfect for parties or as an easy, healthy dinner. Lots of sweet fruit, fresh greens, earthy nuts and a light vinaigrette. To keep it easy, I decided not to add chicken or any other protein, but next time (maybe a little closer to grilling season), a great big sliced chicken breast will be the perfect addition.
Stay warm, friends :)
Autumn Apple Salad with Poppyseed Dressing
Prep Time: 15 min / Cook Time: 8 minutes / Total Time: 20-25 minutes
Yield: 6-8 (as a side)
Yield: 3-4 servings
Type: Salad | Pasta | Vegetarian
10 ounces fresh baby spinach (or other favorite green)
1 1/2 cups uncooked pasta - go with your favorite, just not noodles :)
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 medium apples (I used Fuji), cut into thin slices
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup pecans
1 (15-ounce) can mandarin oranges, liquid drained
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
salt, to taste
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook noodles until al dente (fully cooked, but with a small bite so that noodles are not soggy).
While the noodles are cooking, prepare the dressing. Place all salad dressing ingredients (EXCEPT the poppyseeds) into the bowl of a blender and blend until fully immersed, approximately 10-15 seconds. Gently stir in the poppy seeds and set dressing aside until ready to serve (if preparing ahead of time store dressing in an air-tight container in the refrigerator).
Check the pasta. When ready, drain the pasta and immediately run under cold water to stop the noodles from cooking further.
In a large mixing bowl toss together the chopped celery, cranberries and pecans. In a smaller bowl, mix together the apple slices with the lemon juice (the lemon juice prevents the apple slices from browning). Drain lemon juice from the apple slices and add to the celery, cranberries and pecans. Gently mix in half the pasta with the mandarin oranges and, when ready to serve, toss with half the dressing. Add spinach and gently toss with remaining dressing.
Best served immediately.
Recipe inspired by Chelsea's Messy Apron