When it comes to the weather, I’m completely biased. I grew up in the land of sundrenched afternoons, living in bathing suits and flip flops (because it was too hot to wear anything else!) and 75-degree winters. I’m not used to trudging through snow, wearing mittens or shivering in my double-layered Long Johns. I’m a winter wuss!
That’s why I’ve been craving a dose of spring, and so this salad was born.
It’s a great lunch to bring in between classes (or if you’re tethered to a desk at an internship): Just assemble the salad the night before, except for adding the dressing and oranges. Bring those separately with you, and pour ’em on when you’re ready to eat!
Utensils needed: baking sheet, oven, two resealable plastic containers (one for serving & one for preparing), spatula, oven mitts
– low-fat raspberry vinaigrette
– one boneless, skinless chicken breast
– one bag of baby spinach/mixed greens salad
– baby carrots (small handful)
– 1 fruit cup of mandarin oranges
– 1/2 cucumber (optional)
(For a week’s worth, use the whole bag of salad — or two bags, depending on how big of a lunch you like; a whole bag of carrots, five chicken breasts, a six-pack of oranges and two cucumbers)
Time commitment: 20 minutes to cook the chicken, 5-7 minutes to prepare the salad
Steps (prepares 1 lunchbox salad):
1. An hour or so before you plan on cooking, place the chicken in a resealable container and cover it in raspberry vinaigrette. This serves as a marinade. (I usually make 4-6 pieces at a time, so I can easily pull another breast out of the fridge and make a quick salad instead of repeating this step unnecessarily.)
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. While it’s heating, rinse all your vegetables, including the lettuce mix. (My grandmother was once hospitalized for unclean lettuce, so even if it says “prewashed,” why risk it?)
3. Next, place the marinated chicken on a baking sheet, and stick it in the oven for 15 minutes. In the meantime, chop up the cucumbers and carrots.
4. Once the timer buzzes you out of your happy chopping reverie, check on the chicken. If there’s any pink in the center, cook it a few minutes longer. The chicken should be an opaque white when it’s ready.
5. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it cool. If you have enough resealable containers, pre-prepare your salads for the week, portioning out the lettuce/spinach blend, the carrots and the cucumbers.
Tip: Don’t add the oranges or dressing just yet! It’ll make everything soggy.
6. Then, when you’re ready to eat a salad, drizzle on the vinaigrette. Pull a chicken breast out of the fridge and use your (clean) fingers to shred it before adding it to the salad. If you like warm chicken, just pop the shredded chicken in the microwave for 30 seconds before putting it on the greens.
7. Finally, open up a cup of oranges and drain the excess juice out into the sink. Sprinkle on the mandarin oranges and you’re ready to eat!