Originally posted August 28, 2014. Updated June 2015.
Here in southern Arizona, we basically have two seasons: summer and fall. Springtime sticks around for about a month before launching into summer and winters are so mild, it often feels as if the entire season passes us right by.
With all of this sunshine and heat, crisp and cool salads are a staple at mealtime in my home. Fresh greens and a combination of brightly colored vegetables not only look gorgeous on a plate, they deliver a high dose of nutrition. These foods naturally deliver powerful plant chemicals that keep our immune system strong–which is incredibly important right now as everyone is heading back to school and a ton of pesky little germs are flying around everywhere!
To keep salads from becoming humdrum and boring, I love mixing in fresh and/or dried fruit with my vegetables. Diced fresh apples, dried figs and dried cranberries are a few of my favorites. They add another dimension of flavor and texture that you just don’t get from all-vegetable salads.
Dried cranberries are especially delicious in this spinach salad recipe. This slightly modified recipe from The Cranberry Institute calls for a combination of dried cranberries and cranberry juice in the dressing. Heating the fruit and juice together intensifies their flavors and adds an extra boost of nutrition to this (already) super-healthy dish! If you needed any more convincing about the health benefits of cranberries, check out these facts:
- Scientists have shown that flavonoids give fruits, like cranberries and vegetables most of their antioxidant properties and flavonoid-rich diets may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Drinking 8-16 ounces of 27% original, low- or no-calorie cranberry juice cocktail each day is recommended to maintain urinary tract health and prevent urinary tract infections. As little as one cup a day can make a big difference in your health.
- Dried cranberries are a good source of fiber with 2-to-3 grams per 40 gram serving (10% of the Daily Value).
- One-quarter cup of dried cranberries is equal to 1/2 cup of fresh fruit, according to MyPlate.
In addition to adding cranberries to this amazing salad, try adding them to garbanzo beans and carrots, mix them together with orange slices and chopped broccoli, or add them to sliced cucumbers and feta cheese for a little sweet and savory mixture. Get creative and enjoy!
Special thanks to The Cranberry Institute for sending me these interesting health facts about cranberries and for sending along a bag of delicious dried cranberries that I used to try out this fabulous recipe!
Cranberry Spinach Salad with Avocados
- 4 tablespoons cranberry juice
- 2 tablespoons dried cranberries and 1 tablespoon for garnish/topping.
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 cups fresh spinach leaves
- 1 small head Artisan Romaine lettuce (or any variety of lettuce), about 4-5 cups, chopped
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- Place cranberry juice and dried cranberries in a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Stir in vinegar and Dijon mustard. Gradually whisk in olive oil so ingredients combine to become a dressing.
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Rinse spinach and romaine lettuce leaves. Pat leaves dry with a clean dishcloth, paper towels or use a salad spinner.
- Remove thick stems from spinach and cut larger lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces. Add avocado and onion slices.
- Gently toss salad ingredients with the dressing and serve. Garnish with additional dried cranberries.