sunny and simple

when i came up with this recipe, i was fresh off a long weekend, where i soaked in the sun in chicago. definitely not your standard weather for a february trip to the midwest, but i'm not complaining. my family took a trip together to celebrate birthdays and promotions, and we feasted all weekend! i've never been the kind of person who would walk into a delicatessen and load up on smoked meats, cheeses and fresh bread, but this trip may have changed that.

in september, the last time i visited chicago, matt, eric and i wandered through the zoo and botanic garden, saw shakespeare improv (hardest i've ever laughed in my life - i'd go every weekend if i could), and had the greatest cocktails of our lives at the office. this past visit, we walked countless miles - the bulk of them being through the chicago institute of art. i had no idea what a massive museum it is! we needed to get all of those miles of walking in though because we kicked the day off with another kind of work of art...a corned beef sandwich from manny's that was nothing short of statuesque. i never knew a sandwich piled high with corned beef and horseradish, complete with the biggest potato pancake i've ever seen in my life, would be the breakfast of my dreams (and a nightmare to my arteries), but it wins for being among the most memorable. 

even beyond the food though, chicago is seriously an incredible city. i've only been there now three times since my brother has moved there, but each time i feel like i'm exploring an entirely different neighborhood and there's STILL so much more to see.

chicago skyline || planting my roots
chicago institute of art || planting my roots
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another work of art || planting my roots

the past two times i've gone to chicago, i've visited publican and gene's sausage shop, and been re-inspired learn how to smoke meat...or at the very least learn how to put together a solid charcuterie and cheese board. 

upon returning home though, my body was craving something fresh and veggie heavy. as much as i'd like to dine on endless meats, cheeses and forbidden root flights, i can't run enough miles a day to keep up with that kind of eating. and that is why this salad is a hearty mix of all things healthy. it's got the perfect mix of crunch (thanks to toasted walnuts and juicy apples), in a bed of warming roasted sweet potatoes, avocado and leafy greens. 

leafy greens salad with apples, roasted sweet potatoes, dates, toasted walnuts and maple balsamic dressing || planting my roots

this salad is a breeze to make (i feel like there's a windy city pun in there somewhere...) and is perfect for when you need to hit the reset button. not only is it packed with fruits and veggies, but meal prep goes fast for this once since you can roast the sweet potatoes and toast the walnuts ahead of time, separate out the leafy greens into single serve containers, and dice up the apple (but give it a hit of lemon juice to keep from turning brown).

leafy greens salad with apples, roasted sweet potatoes, dates, toasted walnuts and maple balsamic dressing || planting my roots
leafy greens salad with apples, roasted sweet potatoes, dates, toasted walnuts and maple balsamic dressing || planting my roots

leafy greens winter salad with apple and dates

serves 2
what you'll need:

for salad
2-3 large handfuls arugula or spinach (or whichever leafy greens you prefer)
1 large apple, diced
2 small sweet potatoes, diced
4 dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 large avocado, diced
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste

for maple balsamic dressing
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1, 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp course dijon mustard

what you'll do:

for roasted sweet potatoes

  1. in a large sauce pan, dump in diced sweet potatoes and cover with water. heat water to 160° fahrenheit. keep this heat consistent as you cover and set aside for 1 hour.
  2. while sweet potatoes rest in water, place oven racks in upper and lower middle positions. preheat oven to 400° fahrenheit. drain sweet potatoes, then pour into large bowl. toss sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper, adjusting for taste. pour sweet potatoes across two rimmed baking sheets and roast until bottom side is browned, about 30 minutes. remove from oven, turning each potato so that each can brown on the other side. this should take about 20 minutes.
  3. transfer cooked sweet potatoes back into a large bowl. let cool and set aside.

for rest of salad components

  1. place small saute pan on stove on medium heat. pour in chopped walnuts and heat for 7-8 minutes, tossing occasionally to toast. remove pan from heat and set aside to cool.
  2. meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk all balsamic ingredients together. set aside.
  3. in large bowl, toss together leafy greens with chopped apple, dates and toasted walnuts, and cooled sweet potato. drizzle over balsamic dressing. serve immediately.