Happy new year, friends! How are your resolutions going so far? Drinking only green smoothies and eating only salads? Working out every day? Cutting out carbs and drinking less booze? Reading a book a week?
Me? I am not much of an official resolution maker. Sure, every new year, I like to look at things with a fresh outlook and pretend that I have a clean slate to work with, but I’ve never been one to say things like “I resolve to lose 20 lbs by March” or “I resolve to work out five days a week” or “I resolve to eat better.” I’m not knocking such resolutions. More power to you! Whatever keeps you motivated! I tend to look at the new year, however, in a more generalized sense. Resolving to be better all around. For me, this often involves things like working on my seriously lacking patience and challenging myself in the kitchen or attempting a new activity that scares me or working on being a healthier individual (rather than being focused on achieving super toned Jillian Michael abs…I’ve made peace with the fact that it just ain’t gonna happen). More overarching GOALS, shall we say. Sure, more salads and green smoothies inevitably make their way into my life this time of year, but that’s an effect of my general overindulgence through the month of December, not so much weight loss or toned ab goals.
At the beginning of 2015, I was in such a state of upheaval that I don’t remember making any new goals for myself. I was just coming out of a three-month-long maternity leave stint and returning to my previously full-time job as a part-time employee (a huge adjustment in and of itself), all while battling new-mom exhaustion and ongoing breastfeeding/pumping struggles and…well… the list kind of goes on and on. The truth is, I had no idea what was going to make 2015 a “better” year for me because I had no idea what was going on at that time. A “state of upheaval” really captures what I mean. My only goal at the time was getting from one day to the next and keeping it together…for the most part. I was coming to terms with my new mom identity and trying to make sense of how the “new me” would fit in with my old life and vice versa. Trying to figure out how I, a long-time perfectionist, could be “perfect” at so many different things all at once (Hint, it’s not possible).
I kind of lost my way a little bit there in the beginning of 2015. It was a wonderful but crazy year and definitely had its fair share of challenges, new and old. I started off feeling kind of lost and unsure of myself and gradually found my way back to normalcy. Or at the very least, figured out the new normalcy. Actually, I’m still kinda figuring it out. The difference is that I am now OK with the fact that I don’t have it all figured out. That was probably the biggest and hardest lesson for me in 2015.
So, this year, I’m on a major goal kick. And I’m determined to keep them realistic. I want to grow this blog. I want to de-clutter my life, literally and figuratively. I want to try bullet journaling. I want to re-evaluate a few of my priorities, both personally and professionally. I want to invest in my relationships more. I want to revisit my long-lost love for yoga (I miss it so!). In the more cliché vein, eating more salad is also on the list. And delicious beauties like the one I’m sharing today sure will make this an easy goal to keep up.
Here’s the thing about me and salads: they have to taste good in order for me to eat them more than once. Not exactly rocket science, huh? But what I mean is that a salad needs to have enough going on to keep me interested, to keep me wanting more, in order for me to stick with the salad habit. Otherwise, I get bored and depressed and are far more inclined to eat a burrito or something laden with melted cheese. My crisper drawer can back me up. Many a wilted green have lived out their final days in those drawers, usually as a result of boring salad choices. Ya feel me? I’m sure ya do.
So, to keep things interesting on the salad front, I require multiple components. This, by default, often makes my salad recipes a bit high maintenance. Sorry? I just want good food! Even when I’m eating healthy! It HAS to taste good or I’m just going to nosedive right back into that bag of potato chips. TRUTH.
For this awesome (read: absolutely interesting) and delicious salad, my high-maintenance ways start with marinated and grilled chicken breast (I blame the 70-degree weather we’ve had the past two weeks for the “grilled” part). Followed by roasted beets, one of the messiest (aka, high maintenance) foods out there. Followed by a homemade salad dressing. Followed by greens, juicy pear, toasted nuts, aaaannnnd….cranberry-crusted goat cheese.
Is this cheese a thing in your parts? I can find it, along with several other variations like blueberry-cinnamon (OMG) and honey-fig, at my local grocery store. I love to buy these “fancy” goat cheeses and use them on cheese boards (did that like five times in the last couple months of 2015) or in salads (helloooo, 2016). Not only do they make me feel special, but they obviously taste fantastic. This salad totally warranted the fancy cheese. I mean, if I’m going to go to all the trouble for the chicken and the beets, I may as well top them off with something equally as awesome, right? Right.
Can’t find cranberry goat cheese in your local store? Plain goat cheese, or even crumbles of feta, will work juuuust fine. No worries.
The thing I love about this salad in particular is that there are so many differing flavors and textures going on that all seem to work seamlessly together. The orange balsamic vinaigrette is freaking delish. I want to put it on everything (and I just might).
And despite all its high-maintenance parts, this salad can totally work in your busy life. Marinate and grill the chicken breasts, roast the beets (or buy them pre-cooked/peeled from the store!), and make the vinaigrette in bulk over a weekend. That way, when it comes time to throw together a quick meal for a busy weeknight, it’s just a matter of putting everything in a bowl and giving it a good toss. Quick and easy.
I think we could all use more of that this year. Here’s to a fantastic 2016!
1 lb chicken breasts
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 large beets, trimmed
Salt and pepper
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons orange marmalade
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
12 cups mixed baby greens
1 large pear, diced
1 cup toasted pecans
4 oz cranberry-crusted goat cheese (or plain goat cheese)
Place the chicken breasts in a large resealable plastic bag. Mix together the garlic, mustard, vinegar, and olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken breasts. Seal and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours.
Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on the grill. Grill for 5-7 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your chicken. Remove from grill, tent with foil, and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Wrap the beets in foil packets and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the beets are tender.
Allow to cool in the foil packets before rubbing the skins off with paper towels. Cut into desired shape.
Whisk everything together and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Toss the chicken, beets, greens, pear, and pecans with the dressing. Top with the crumbled goat cheese and serve.
Often times, to cut down on the prep for dishes like this one, I buy the prepared (already cooked and peeled) beets from the produce section of my grocery store. Saves a ton of time and is a lot less messy! Taking a little help from the store can make a recipe like this more manageable on a weeknight.
Cranberry-crusted goat cheese is available to me at my local store. If you can find it, use it! It’s delicious. If not, plain goat cheese will work just fine! Maybe throw in a handful of dried cranberries for good measure.